Branding? That’s so last century, right?
Branding used to matter because you didn’t always know what you were buying. It was a promise that the product or service you were forking out for would reach a certain level of quality. But now all the information you need about how good, reliable and trustworthy something is can be found in a couple of clicks. So you might as well sack your marketing team and simply spend their budget on making the product or service better.
If that’s what you think, I have one word for you: iPhone. The iPhone X sells from Apple at £1,149; the Samsung Galaxy S8 costs less that half that. Sure, there are differences in specification, but what you’re really seeing is a demonstration of the power of the Apple brand. And who wouldn’t like that power attached to their business? Who wouldn’t want to command that kind of premium price for their products or services?
The bad news is that brand can’t be retrofitted. The best, most powerful brands are built painstakingly over years. The good news is that the best time to start is as close to launch as possible, when you’ve got a blank slate and no stories of bad experiences just a search query away.
The other thing to remember is that brands are stories that we tell each other (and ourselves) about the products and services we choose and, in turn, what those choices say about us. Those stories will get told with or without your involvement. Social media has shown us that businesses can no longer control their brand stories (if they ever truly could) but they can still influence the narrative in their favour. So while you’re thinking about launching whatever product or service your latest acquisition has developed, you should also be thinking about the brand you’ll inevitably be launching alongside.
And while brand building is a long-term project, a strong brand will start to deliver value almost immediately, creating differentiation in the market
Strong brands have other advantages. They can inspire existing employees who, in turn, are vital in representing the brand to customers. Furthermore, they can build confidence in potential partners, recruits and later-stage investors.
A clear brand idea provides an important way of thinking about where a business goes next and what additional products and services it can offer. It also provides the underpinning for the rest of the marketing: from tone of voice to what topics the business has permission from its customers to talk about.
Social media has made brand building harder then ever. Whereas in the old days a big TV budget and a great idea was all you needed, brands are now built step-by-step; at every point of contact with the consumer. One false step is enough to create a social media storm and bring the whole edifice crashing down. That’s why brands need to be clearly defined and articulated as early in the business’s life as possible. And why? If your new business doesn’t have someone skilled and responsible for branding, your next move should be to hire someone who is.