Branding is in the world around us. Branding can make or break any business. Branding does a lot of things, but what does it matter to you if you don’t even know what branding is? That is where I come in.
What is a Brand?
A brand is the long term relationship and reputation that a company has built with the general consumer. Whether someone loves you are hates you, they know who you are. Your brand says everything about your company- who you are, what you do, your principles, what you stand for, who you associate with, your quality assurance, your connection with customers, as well as the general public, your goals, and the list goes on and on.
Branding is a lot of things rolled into one. The biggest thing that branding does is establish an emotional connection with people, while building recognition and trust at the same time. This is where most brands fail. Most brands create a logo and website and that’s it. They expect customers to flock to them based on their products, but no matter how great your products are, they won’t promote your company by themselves.
Branding is more than just products and an identity. Your company has to determine what they do best and leverage that service or skill to establish importance or dominance that market. Let’s take an example company, Target and look at their brand. Just by mentioning their name, what comes to your mind? Most will say “the bullseye” which is their logo. When I think of target, I think of every Target I have ever been in. Everything is laid out in a simplistic manner. The aisles are clean and free of clutter. I think of the dominant “Target Red” throughout the store. It is painted on the floor, it accents the walls, and adorns the signage. The buggies are their signature red, and you can spot a Target employee a mile away.
You might also think of what you will find at Target. You’ll find good quality, uniquely designed home goods. You can find nice, minimal furniture that is a decent quality, and many different products adorned with designer patterns. The entire store speaks quality, as if each product were hand-picked. It is obvious that Target thinks a lot about design. Whether you prefer Target or another large company, it is tough to deny how Target has established themselves. You can buy quality home goods at an affordable price. During College years, many college students prefer Target for their well designed products and space savers for dorm attendees.
Think about their competitor, Walmart. They aren’t know for quality, as much as they are known for quantity and rollback prices. They used to use the positive smiley face, but they rebranded a few years ago to the abstract solar symbol. Think about the last time you were at Walmart. The aisle are packed with stand alone racks and shelves with the latest deals. The stores aren’t as crisp and clean as Target’s typically are, and there aren’t wide expanses of open aisles. Walmart seems to utilize each and every square foot to market something to their visitors. They have leverages themselves as the ones with the best deals and prices. By including a grocery store, Walmart is a one-stop-shop packed with low price deals.
How do You Establish a Brand?
This is a deep discussion topic for the ages. The answer is that you have to combine strategy with proper execution and do this consistently over time. The main factor is consistency. Your stores, your uniforms, your core values, your actions, and everything else must be consistent and be executed in a consistent manner. Have you ever been to one business and had a great experience, and then visited another store owned by that company and had a completely different experience? That is inconsistency. Branding is about the customer experience as much as it is the look, the layout and the products that you display.
The truth is that establishing a brand can take years. Everything you or your company does is being watched. How you handle customers, the effect you have on the environment, how you treat you employees, etc., all reflects on your brand. Here is a perfect example of how you treat your employees affects your branding and the consumer’s perception of your brand. There was a company that is a billion dollar department store, who just recently decided to toss out everything that they’d done for the last 20 years. They had established themselves as a solid brand where you could buy clothing, home goods, shoes, etc., and pay a decent price. They had been known for sending coupons out to their customers frequently, which was a huge driving point for their sales. They did away with those, and decided to remove most of the registers from their store, except for in a few main areas. On top of all of these major changes, they decided to make one fatal mistake. They decided to mistreat their employees.
They started eliminating positions, which is a part of the corporate way of doing things. However, the one thing that they did that will definitely hurt their business is take away commission from its employees. This is a no-no. You could literally see the malice on each employees’ faces as you peruse through the store. They also had no problem letting every customer know about it as well. Your employees are your strongest brand advocates. If they hate you, your customers will too. The other aspect to removing commission is that it takes the incentive away from providing good service. Why should they care if you find the right size shoe? Why should they care if you can’t find something? They aren’t getting paid that well, and they don’t get anything extra for helping you. Consistency means that if you market yourself as a company that cares about people, but you treat your employees like gutter trash, consumers will lose trust in your brand.
Have you lost faith in a brand? What made you switch brands from one of your favorite products? Was it poor quality? Were you mistreated? Did the brand break your trust?