1marketingGreg Stine, founder and President of Polaris, Inc., a branding solutions company, explains in his whitepaper The Nine Principles of Branding that your brand is who you are — your strength, your integrity and your reputation. It’s not simply how your logo is displayed, but rather the emotional and intellectual response your logo elicits from your target audience.

Stand out or step aside

The success of a product, service, individual, business, organization, or even a city is based on being perceived as unique. “Look at any market leader and you’ll find they each own a place in the consumer’s mind. They have positively differentiated themselves from the rest of the competition”, Greg Stine states. “Branding is creating that individual niche in the consumer’s psyche and owning it. More than just marketing, branding is the entire effect that creates a memorable identity”, he adds.

Hence, effective branding creates a perception that there is no other product, service, organization or community quite like yours. Whether the distinction is a result of function, form, ease of use, price or prestige, the consumer believes you offer something exceptional. Factors affecting the brand of an organization can be both tangible and intangible, including e.g. office décor, personnel attire, organization philosophy, product/service quality, design of printed materials or value-added services, just to name a few. It’s everything people touch, see or hear that immediately sets you apart from the competition.

When people think of Starbucks, for instance, several images instantly come to mind, whether you’re a coffee drinker or not: designer coffee, casual atmosphere, one on every corner, green logo, etc. That these images flood our mind so quickly are no accident. These are brand qualities created by Starbucks to distinguish themselves from other coffee companies. Starbucks has created a consistent experience in every store, every ad, every employee and every cup of coffee they serve. Not only does this translate into sales, it validates the company’s most valuable asset: the Starbucks brand.

Differentiate your cow from all the other cattle

From a business standpoint, branding in the marketplace is similar to branding on the ranch. An effective branding program is designed to differentiate your cow from all the other cattle on the ranch, even if all the cattle on the ranch seem to look very much alike. A successful branding program is based on singularity, creating a consumer perception that there is no product or service on the market quite like yours.

As previously pointed out, Greg Stine identified nine fundamental qualities of a good branding program which I would like to share with you. In summary, he says:

  • Keep it simple: one big idea is best.
  • Mass-produced word of mouth (PR) builds brands.
  • Focused brands are more powerful than diffused brands.
  • Somehow, some way, you have to be different.
  • The first brand in a category has a huge advantage.
  • Avoid sub-brands at all cost.
  • Quality is important, but not as important as the perception of quality.
  • Be consistent and patient: building a strong brand takes time.
  • Put your brand definition in writing, otherwise you'll get off course.

Adopt a rigorous online branding approach

Besides these practical tips, keep in mind that your online brand is as important as any of the traditional forms of branding, if not even more important. In the competitive-age that we live in, your brand must be highly recognizable, relatable, and authentic, in order to succeed.

And since most customers today are tech-savvy and typically rely on a company's online presence as a validity test of its credibility in the market, online branding is crucial for each and every business.

In fact, consumers want to connect directly with business owners and hear their stories before they make a decision on whether to buy their products/services, therefore consider the following advice to effectively maximize your online brand presence:

  1. Be consistent with your branding strategy across all online channels (website, social networks, blogs, etc.) to create brand recognition and help to reinforce the brand. 
  2. Optimize your website, as it is one of the most important branding tools for any business. Website optimization for top performance on search engines is one of the first things companies can do to drive traffic to a website and improve the brand's visibility.
  3. Social media is one of the most effective and cost effective ways to enhance the visibility of your brand. Social Media Marketing (SMM) promotes visibility, brand loyalty, recognition, and can also grow your sales by enabling businesses to reach worldwide audiences.
  4. Creating and distributing quality content is the best way to gain visibility online. It is one of the most effective marketing strategies to promote your business and create brand recognition online.
  5. Press release distribution is a very effective and inexpensive way to enhance brand visibility and recognition. If it is picked up by Google News, your company will receive additional coverage for your brand.
  6. Benefit from video marketing (i.e., YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) by posting branded videos relevant to your niche. It is a very effective way to promote your business, drive traffic to your website, and get your brand noticed by a targeted audience.
  7. Blogging is one of the most effective ways to improve the visibility of your brand online, as it not only improves your search engine rank, but establishes validity in your brand and increases reach. Besides that, blogging helps to cultivate relationships with customers and other influencers.
  8. Last but not least: Always stay authentic. If you can be open and honest with yourself about your brand's value, you will be able to authenticate this value when creating your online brand presence.

So, brand yourself well and take control of your image. The next time your name comes up, it will conjure the brand qualities you created and achieve the desired perception in the mind of the consumer. That's the power of branding.

By Daniela La Marca