Many businesses start off with an exciting idea, sufficient funds, and a great product — and yet, they fail to take off. In fact, about half of all startups in the US alone don’t make it past the first five years. The worst part is that many of them could have been ‘the next big thing’ if they’d built a brand that excites and inspires and for which people would be willing to pay a premium. But they didn’t, which led to their downfall — a mistake every business should avoid.
Around 40 per cent of marketers believe that their companies haven’t aligned their branding efforts with the rest of their operations, even though it’s essential for future growth. Instead of fixing this issue and benefiting from social media and branding, entrepreneurs focus more on building a product. And while that’s certainly an important task, the reality is that “people don’t care about your products until you make them care”, Jennifer Kem, a branding expert, explains. Solving this problem requires understanding the value of a strong brand and overcoming the perception that the product alone can propel the company to greatness.
No company can afford to ignore branding
It’s easy to consider branding as an abstract and hard-to-measure activity, since a brand is an intangible asset, unlike a physical product, office equipment, or cash. Some might even “see branding as fluffy, touchy-feely emotional stuff”, says Allen Martinez, the founder of the branding agency Noble Digital. But that’s the exact opposite of how business-savvy people think, as branding can help companies build trust, gain a competitive edge, and inspire loyalty in employees and customers alike. A strong brand triggers emotions in people who identify with it, and in return, they’ll become loyal customers who passionately recommend the company to their friends and family. And as 92 per cent of people trust recommendations from individuals more than those of companies, the effect on your bottom line could be significant. Getting to this point doesn’t have to take years, but it does take persistence and an efficiently executed brand strategy.
Developing and executing a brand strategy
A well-crafted brand strategy is the cornerstone of efficient branding operations. According to Martinez, such a strategy should define what the brand stands for, what promises it makes to customers, and what kind of personality the “brand conveys through its marketing”. For instance, will it convey the message of exclusivity and high social standing like Mercedes does? Or perhaps it’ll appear as a brand that cares and empathises with its audience like Johnson & Johnson? Whatever the case may be, a clear brand message is non-negotiable.
Naturally, such critical questions can be answered only with a profound understanding of your customers and competitors. To that end, companies are advised to create a ‘customer persona’, which is a detailed description of their ideal buyer, containing data such as their demographics, educational background, income level, job type, and shopping habits. Also, it’s important that businesses are aware where their ideal buyers live and whether they buy online or prefer brick-and-mortar shops. Finally, you should carefully analyse your competitors, as the last thing you want is to repeat their mistakes.
Defining your brand and its objectives with the right message
It’s essential to determine which problems your brand solves, how it makes customers feel, and why they should trust you. This will help you craft powerful slogans and marketing messages. To illustrate these rather abstract concepts, let’s look at the example of Dia, a plus-size clothing company for women. One of its taglines is “Clothes you’ll love from stylists who really listen.” As Martinez notes, this sentence “hits both the gain and the pain point in just one sentence”. Such simple yet powerful branding can only be created with a deep understanding of the target audience.
As Kem explains, “Brands evolve … The more you understand your messaging and audience, your brand will and should too.” In short, listen to your customers and cater to their needs. Even if they like your current products, chances are they’ll want something new. Be vigilant, observant, and ready to deliver.
Communicating your branding across multiple channels is crucial. Keep in mind, though, that 42 per cent of customers say they distrust brands. The authenticity of your content is therefore of the utmost importance, and the best way to appear authentic is by simply being transparent and honest with people. And to ensure your message gets to potential customers, you’d ideally reach out to influencers, develop social media campaigns, launch PR efforts, produce valuable content, and invest (time and resources) in a range of other marketing activities. If you remain consistent in your branding efforts, chances are that your business will be poised for success and growth.
How Brandless became a brand
Selling a range of private-label consumer products like food, kitchen supplies, and personal care on an e-commerce store might not seem like the most creative idea. However, selling a selected group of products for $3 each, eliminating the “brand tax” that covers advertising and retail cost, tending to healthy lifestyle communities, giving a part of the revenue to those in need, and still offering high-quality products is a recipe for success. That’s exactly what the e-commerce company Brandless did, raising $49 million in funding in just two years since its founding.
Brandless offers private-label goods under its brand at low prices as it eliminates retailers as an intermediary between producers and customers. Besides this, its offering is limited to around 350 products that it hand-picks through discussion with its customers. Plus, each time you purchase from Brandless, the company donates a meal to the Feeding America non-profit organisation. Lastly, the success of this company in “building a community around a private label brand” – which is “pretty much unheard of” – clearly illustrates the vast benefits of smart branding.
Navigating the business landscape with a sense of purpose
Having a strong brand and loyal customers is crucial in ensuring a startup can achieve long-term growth. Entrepreneurs that mostly focus on building a product while neglecting the branding of their business could hurt their bottom line. A recognisable brand builds trust with people and creates a competitive edge, powering companies to dominate the market. It enables entrepreneurs to navigate their business with a sense of purpose and use it to differentiate themselves from the competition.