Wednesday October 24, 2012

Do All Businesses Really Need to Worry About Branding?

Consider a small business owner who’s just getting started. We’ll call him Paul.  Branding might strike Paul as more of a Miller vs. Budweiser problem and not something that has much application when it comes to his company. He’s pretty confident that his business model is strong enough to stand on its own, and it’s not like he’s about to launch a national brand awareness campaign or anything.

So, on the occasion that Paul does think about branding, he considers the fact that his daughter works for him and that they’re good with the customers. Now he’s got his brand: family-owned small business with good customer service. Done!

This is a common way for smaller companies to arrive at a brand. Here’s the problem.

Branding Considerations

While it may be true that Paul’s is a family-owned small business with good customer service, the method in which he arrived at this brand fails to consider a number of factors. 

The most obvious issue is that there’s no thought to the brand being used by his direct competition. If his brand is indistinguishable from his competitors, he may be blowing a big opportunity to gain a serious advantage. There’s also no thought to a host of other considerations, including:

  • How his prices compare to his competitors
  • The size and scope of his company
  • Trends and data affecting his target market
  • The quality of his services/products
  • The convenience (or inconvenience) of doing business with him

Beyond the Logo

Along with considering what factors might affect your brand, it’s equally important to think about how a defined brand could in turn strategically influence aspects of your business. 

In the scenario above, Paul probably equates branding with bigger budget pursuits like logo design and widespread name recognition. However, a strong brand will also encompass the smaller nuances of how a company presents itself, and just like other channels, branding scales with budget. If his business is going to establish a fun, lighthearted brand, for example, that should dictate things like how his employees answer the phone, what his invoices look like, and how he delivers his service.

Value in the Process

When we perform marketing research and recommendations for our clients, we always build a strong foundation for informed branding recommendations – even if we have a sense, right from the first kickoff meeting, that branding is not likely to present a strong opportunity to compete.  

It’s easy enough to skip brand strategy by following the line of thinking that goes something like this: “I have the lowest prices in town, and that’s the only thing that really matters to my customers.”

In some cases, realities such as this will certainly be the case. Nevertheless, an educated approach to branding means doing a thorough analysis of your market, your competitors, and your own strengths and weaknesses. By following through with this process, you are gaining valuable information, even if you end up confirming that your original hunch was right on. And who knows – maybe the process will reveal that, in order to reach your customers to advertise those low prices, you need to zoom out on your market. Or perhaps you’ll discover that your customers can be segmented, and that branding is in fact important to one or more of these segments.

So, to answer the question: while not all businesses should focus on branding, that doesn’t mean that not all business should worry about branding. How much does your business think about brand? Tell us in the comments!

Charlie Nadler
Simple Machines Marketing

Written by Charlie Nadler | Tags: branding

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