What is branding and why does it matter?
Branding is a word that is used a great deal these days. But what does it actually mean? The Design Council defines a brand as: “a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation. These associations may be intentional – that is, they may be actively promoted via marketing and corporate identity, for example – or they may be outside the company’s control.” (Source: The Power of Branding: a practical guide. The Design Council).
The same research showed that businesses that see design as integral don’t need to compete on price as much as others (Source: Value of Design Factfinder, The Design Council). The research is revealing. Investing in the right kind of design and branding is good for business. But companies that neglect their branding are at risk of missing out.
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Branding: good news or old news?
While the value of branding is growing, many small businesses still overlook the relevance of its role in helping to increase leads and revenue. A recent LinkedIn survey showed that 37% of small to medium sized businesses still view a company logo as the main focus of a company brand, while 32% see branding as only relevant to large businesses (Source: Tomorrow People). So, how do these perceptions add up to the death of branding for business?
Much more than a logo
In an increasingly visual world, it’s surprising that so many businesses still view branding is being purely about logo. While a powerful logo is still important, bringing branding to life in business means ensuring that the look or design of a company matches its overall strategy. Linking brand and design with your overall value proposition and business strategy is the way to make it work for a business. Recent research has shown that every £100 a business has spent on design has increased turnover by £225. The same research showed that businesses that see design as integral do not need to compete on price as much as others (Source: Value of Design Factfinder, The Design Council). The research is revealing. Investing in the right kind of design and branding is good for business. But companies that neglect their branding run the risk of missing out. Branding isn’t dying, but it is in danger of being underused. So what can companies do to make branding work harder for them?
How can businesses bring branding back to life?
Almost half of UK businesses believe that design contributes to some extent to increased market share (46%) and turnover (44%) (Source: Value of Design Factfinder,The Design Council). So why is it that many companies continue to miss out on the full benefits of branding? Is it possible to build a company brand that actively connects with customers and delivers a real return on investment? The secret is not about having a big budget, but about taking a well considered approach. Integrating branding within an inbound marketing approach allows companies to achieve this because inbound marketing uses technology that allows companies to research the demand that already exists in their target market.
Why the branding agency is adding to the problem
Business-owners looking for a brand with commercial impact may ask a design or branding agency to do the job for them. But in return for their fee they often receive only a one-off logo or website design along with the significant level of consultation and cost associated with the rebrand. On its own this misses out on the bigger picture of branding, which is to make money for the company. Instead, it is very likely that the agency will focus on:
Good logo design
Great, you have a new logo, but does it reflect what your company stands for and your marketing strategy?
Good branding and design
Even better, your branding agency or design agency is focusing on creating a powerful, joined up brand and overall design. But before you go there, take a closer look at what these companies are offering. Do they link branding and design directly with Return On Investment (ROI)? With 7,099 design businesses in the West Midlands alone (Source: The Design Council), it’s important to select a design or marketing agency that actually aims to look at what your customers want.
What separates the branding winners from the losers?
Despite the popular myths, your brand, your logo and your company look and design is not intended for you - it’s intended for your target audience and, most importantly, aimed at generating visits, leads and sales. Here are some ways to build branding that actively boosts company performance:
- Make sure your branding is shaped around the demand in your existing market. Inbound marketing technology allows you to research the demand that is already out there.
- Align your branding with your company’s value proposition. This provides a better ROI and ensures that your branding shows what differentiates you from the competition. Combine the online research into your market with marketing persona research where you interview your existing customers, potential customers and even competition to find out what your target audience really want, what their business pains are and how your competitors sell.
- Use a range of resources. Why leave your entire brand in the hands of a design or branding agency when you can have access to a wider range of resources to make it work harder for you? From heat mapping that allows you to see the demand for your services to mystery shopper facilities, inbound marketing gives you the insight to shape and create a more meaningful and profitable company brand.
The big ask: three questions to get more from your business brand
Branding isn’t dying. But it is in danger of being misused. Here are three things to ask yourself to get more from yours:
Does my branding fit with my marketing strategy?
Is it just a shiny new logo - or an overall look that reflects what your customers will respond to and helps to create more leads and sales?
Is my brand, logo or website design being done to create ROI?
Does it just look good or is it looking good for your business? Has the development process included research into ways to attract more customers?
How can I get more from my company brand?
Done right, your company branding can actually create new business for you. Instead of just focusing on design, use inbound marketing approaches to gain insight into your market and your buyers. This will take you from guessing to knowing and help bring in more business.
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