Small is beautiful in the corporate world, but small can also be an excuse for sloppy business practices.
In particular, branding often takes a back seat for SMEs who plead lack of resources or time as the reason why they have avoided bringing branding centre stage to their businesses.
Yet, branding can be a vital element in propelling a company in to the consciousness of the consumer.
Here in the region, think of Patchi, chocolates that have created a luxury lifestyle brand, or Sugar Daddy, cupcakes with a real home baked feel. Then there’s Just Falafel, the region’s own fast food chain that has combined international practices with local ingredients, or Wild Peeta, another low-cost food chain, this one focusing on innovative shawarma recipes.
All have an original message and all are doing extremely well with their unique selling proposition.
What often repels the novice is the use of branding buzz words – brand vision, brand promise, brand delivery, and more. But with a little bit of research, the whole science of branding can rapidly make sense, and can be applied to any business with startling effect.
A good starting point is to look at the three key elements of branding best practice, covering vision, promise and implementation.
- Understand your customers’ expectations and values in order to target your brand vision to the appropriate audience;
- Develop a brand promise that is deliverable … if you purport to be the ‘fastest’ or the ‘best’, ensure you are what you say you are;
- Do not stray off message. A consumer will remember your name only if your brand vision is implemented with consistency and clarity through the use of the same images and messages.
It is essential for any SME to understand that first impressions are vital, in the corporate world as well as personal encounters. How you present your company to potential clients is as important as how you present yourself … but probably rather harder.
A second area for consideration is internal communications.
Employees need to know what their company stands for, the DNA of the brand promise. In this way, everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, and it is far easier to transmit the personality of your company to potential customers – and remember, it is the staff that deliver and are critical in maintaining brand consistency.
Overall, brand is an ongoing and organic part of any organisation, and should not be consigned to singular development of a logo or website.
But, simplicity is of the essence. It’s a big, fast-moving world out there, and consumer confusion should be avoided at all costs.
Other crucial points to remember are:
- The brand defines the business, and all elements of that brand should be part of your business – therefore, branding must also be part of all your communications, advertising and services;
- Quality control at all times. Once a brand name is damaged or associated with a negative viewpoint from the consumer, it is all but impossible to re-establish a connection with that buyer;
- Branding is ongoing, with the brand itself changing to reflect new market segments and opportunities;
- Branding is not marketing hype. A large part of brand is trust, that consumers believe in the brand strongly enough to develop an association. False presentation of a brand will not be successful long-term.
To evaluate the success or otherwise of your brand strategy, communicate with your customers. It is only in this way that you can learn if they have enjoyed the experience promised by your brand.
In fact, discussing issues with disgruntled customers can be extremely beneficial since it enables you to learn how your business failed to meet their expectations – honest, even negative, views can help in enabling development of your brand image and delivery.
And, to reiterate the basic message, this is not all about the Apples and Microsofts of this world.
A strong brand image can prevent the erosion of market share, ensure higher growth margins and cement customer loyalty to prevent them switching to the brand promise of your next door competitor