The Importance of Branding

“Products are one dimensional in a social media enabled world, brands are Russian dolls, with many layers, tenents, and beliefs that can create great followings of people who find them relevant.” ~  Forbes

You have a date this weekend, and you think it warrants a new shirt. Do you fire up Google, type in “good-quality shirt for sale,” and sift through the billions of results? No, you choose between Brooks Brothers, H&M, or Banana Republic. I would bet your mind fills up with a whole bunch of brand names. The same thing can happen if you want to get fit for summer.  Do you join CrossFit or YMCA? Or if you need a computer… Do you choose between Mac or PC? (SIDE NOTE:  The answer is always Mac.) What if you need a haircut, office supplies, groceries? As a business owner, your goal should be to have your brand pop up first in people’s minds.

Not only should your brand pop into people’s minds, but your brand should also promise something. Products are just products, but when attached to a brand, they mean something.

Do you ever wonder why people post so many selfies holding Starbucks coffees? It’s because Starbucks knows how to brand so well that just holding a Starbucks coffee cup has become a status symbol. Coffee is just coffee, but Starbucks coffee…now that’s something totally different.

\A crucial part of developing a brand strategy is to think about what you want your brand to mean to people. Your brand can mean anything from reliable, delicious, comfortable, or efficient, to healthy, convenient, inexpensive, or innovative.  When you see the name Patagonia you think, “durable, eco-friendly clothes.” When you see the Golden Arches, you think consistently “delicious fries.” When you see a Forbes quote, you think “intellectual information.”

Really good branding isn’t just about explaining what a product is; it’s about explaining what the product will do for you. This idea is why Nike sponsors athletes. If you see your favorite pro athlete wearing Nike, you start to believe that Nike will make you a star athlete. A popular trend on social media is for companies to give free products to social media influencers (aka people who have a lot of friends) so that they show off those products on their pages. The idea is: These influencers are beautiful and popular. Therefore, if you buy the products they use, you will be beautiful and popular.

Once you have decided what you want your product to mean to people, you need to create brand recognition. Remember, your goal is to have your product’s name pop up first in everyone’s mind. So, create a symbol, an icon, the “Nike Swoosh” or “Golden Arches” of your product, and stick with it. If you buy a billboard, post a picture, create a store sign, send out a pamphlet, shoot an email, or print a business card, your icon is there. Your icon needs to draw people’s minds to your product, which draws their minds to what your product means – your brand.