Branding: It’s More Than a Buzzword

You might be wondering why no matter how many actual marketing initiatives your company invests in and focuses on, customers are still not connecting to your brand.
Which brings us to the multi-billion dollar question is: do you know what your brand is about? And do you know what branding is about?
Let's take a minute to think about some of today’s most popular and successful brands: Starbucks. Coca-Cola. Apple. Nike. Google. Facebook.
The common thread among them all? When you mention their company names or simply see their logo, you immediately think about their product offering, some of their best ads, and might even have a sudden craving for a soft drink or feel the need to check your Facebook newsfeed.
The branding of the aforementioned companies is so tight and seamless, you know which company you’re looking at just by seeing their packaging or their corporate “colours.” (On a side note, since the age of 1 my daughter would yell out “Coffee! Coffee!” at the sight of the now iconic green mermaid at every corner. True story. What did Starbucks do to get it so right?)
The 5 “P”s plus a B
Branding is the piece of the marketing puzzle that anchors and guides an entire company’s marketing mix. You need to determine your company’s product offering and branding strategy in conjunction with focusing on all the other “Ps” (price, product, place, promotion, packaging – just in case you needed a refresher).
The other thing to keep in mind – everything is a brand. Celebrities are brands. Movies and books are brands. YOU are a brand. Consider your personal brand and how it impacts every decision you make, every tweet you send, every image you project. And then think about how this concept applies to companies and products.
The basics of branding
Here are some helpful definitions of the term “branding,” to help paint a clearer picture:
 “A brand is a reason to choose. “ Cheryl Burgess – Blue Focus Marketing
“A brand symbol [is] ‘anything that leaves a mental picture of the brand’s identity.’” – advertising legend Leo Burnett
“Branding is the representation of your organization as a personality. Branding is who you are that differentiates you.” Dave Kerpen – Likeable Media, Author of Likeable Social Media
“Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice-versa.” Jay Baer - Convince & Convert.
6 ways to improve your company’s branding:
1)      Consider what you want your customers to feel
With social media marketing and experiential marketing proving to be important pieces of a company’s marketing mix, emotional decision-making becomes a key piece of the strategy. There’s a reason why as a consumer, looking at a company’s logo makes your mouth water, causes you to covet a product (you know, when you just have to have that item!), or ultimately helps you choose one brand over another. Ever since the dawn of advertising (and as heavily depicted in episodes of Mad Men), advertising plays on emotions in order to guide our decisions and our spending habits.
When choosing one item over another, it’s rhyme over reason. Rhyme as in prose, creativity, and how the brand speaks to you – over a rational, logical choice.
Thanks to social media, there is a recent movement toward content marketing with many brands adding editorial content to their marketing strategies. A significant number of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies are going this route, as are retail brands like Target (with their blog), and luxury brands like Net-a-Porter and Tory Burch, with their content-rich websites and social media channels. Essentially, they are telling brand stories and developing rich content: this is a great strategy from both a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective as well as a branding one.
2)      Look into a logo redesign
Evaluate whether your logo needs a little refresher or a complete overhaul. It’s what represents your brand, so take a look and assess whether it’s worthwhile. It could simply be a matter of tweaking a font or colour to make your logo more relevant, and more in line with your brand.
3)      Conduct a survey
Launch a survey with a third party agency for external customers, and conduct an internal survey for employees as well. Do a corporate audit. Ask yourself: if your brand were a fictional TV or movie character, who would it be? James Bond or Walter White? Once you get all the responses (internal and external), establish who is the persona of your brand.
4)      Ask: what makes your company unique? Why is your product offering authentic?
Here is a success story illustrating a unique brand. Head phone company Beats is an amazing example of a company’s branding being so tight and so right, that it single-handedly reversed a trend and created a need since its 2008 launch. When it came to headphones, it was “the smaller, the better” for a long time, especially since Apple came out with its line of iGadgets (and customers would get their discreet ear-buds for free along with their iPhones and iTouch devices. )
Fast-forward to today, and Beats headphones are literally a status symbol. And there’s absolutely no shame in your headphone game – especially with the price tag of over $200. Dr. Dre launched the brand with music mogul Jimmy Iovine, and thanks to slick design, innovative packaging and enviable “word of mouth” marketing, Apple purchased the brand for over 3 billion dollars in 2014 — and every cool kid wants to be spotted rocking them.
5)      Focus on the priorities
When doing the internal audit of the company, make sure you and the rest of the team understand what the priorities are and cut away the clutter. Pinpoint several factors you would like to focus on and don’t lose sight of those.
6)      Create a sense of community
Think of branding as a holistic experience, which the entire company needs to embrace. It’s not the marketing department’s role, but rather every department – from distribution to sales – to ensure that the company’s brand is being represented correctly. It really is a 360-degree experience, so make sure everyone is on board and understands the new brand. This community feel is crucial internally, and of course externally, on social media.
Branding for your company is an exciting process, so make sure to have fun while going through the steps and defining your brand. And if you feel your brand is working wonders for you as it is, then focus your efforts on other marketing initiatives instead! Just make sure to recognize when your brand can use an update – and determine the scope before diving in headfirst.
Good luck!