By: R. Lynn Burkholder
Typically, the term “brand” conjures up images associated with iconic brands such as Apple, McDonald’s and Nike. Every business has a brand, but many business owners have not given their brands much thought or developed strategies around them. Your brand is an inherent part of your business; it’s your business’ personality. If you’re a solopreneur (a person who sets up and runs a business on their own), it may be your personality, such as the way you think, act, or communicate. Most importantly, your brand is the promise of what your customers will experience from your business.
Your brand should help customers distinguish your products and services from those of your competitors. There are a variety of elements needed to establish and deliver the brand, but the basics entail uncovering brand support points such as why your company exists, molding them into a brand promise or positioning statement, and developing strategies and tactics for delivering the brand both internally and externally.
When it comes to brand positioning, it is important to position the brand in the minds of target customers. The brand can be positioned on three levels. At the lowest level, the brand positioning focuses on product features or attributes such as appearance and affordability. Since consumers are typically interested in what a product can do for them, it is better to position the brand on desirable benefits such as pleasure, prestige, and convenience. While many brands stop there, the strongest brands strive to go beyond features and benefits for a deeper connection with customers’ beliefs and values. Those brands that connect with consumers on a personal level are able to garner more loyalty.
The next level is your brand strategy. This includes how, what, where, when, and to whom you want to communicate and deliver your brand messages and values. It involves building a brand identity, which refers to what we see and what we are made to feel about a company and its products. A huge part of that is the messaging and brand statement, as well as accompanying graphic elements: logo, colors, fonts, photography, etc. Brand identity must be communicated consistently to ensure successful brand building and to heighten brand awareness.
The final level is brand equity, or the added value endowed on products and services when customers react favorably. It’s why consumers are willing to pay more for a brand product than a generic one. Brand equity is a measure of a company’s ability to capture and measure customer preference and loyalty. The underlying, fundamental asset of brand equity is the customer relationships the brand aims to foster. These relationships are built over time through trust and can last years, even generations. It begins with a thoughtful brand position accompanied by effective brand strategies. It grows through consistent communication and relentless delivery on the brand promise, ultimately driving steady repeat business.
R. Lynn Burkholder is president of RLB Marketing LLC, a business development firm specializing in strategic planning for the hospitality, entertainment, travel, and professional services industries.