Branding is a popular buzzword in marketing circles these days. it's a very important concept for even small businesses to understand. So what exactly is branding and what is your brand?
Here's my definition of branding: A brand is a commercial image - particularly what customers and potential customers think and feel about that product, service and image. Branding includes components that you control that shape how your customers see you. The colors in your logo, the text you choose for your advertising, even the way you answer the phone are parts of your brand.
Think about McDonalds, one of the most recognized brands in the world. What is their image? Are they just a hamburger joint? They have a clown, playgrounds, happy meals. Clearly part of their brand is that they are a fun family destination. What does this have to do with hamburgers? Nothing, but by associating fun, relaxation, and a family atmosphere McDonald's has become the leading fast food restaurant in the world.
Imagine walking into a brand new Mercedes dealership to buy a shiny new car. The waiting area, cars and sales floor are spotless. Even the mechanics wear white lab coats. Now how would you feel if you walked into a restroom and it looked like a tornado hit a truckstop? Would that change your opinion of the brand? It would definitely change mine.
If you saw a fine French brasserie advertising half price wings and beer - would that make you uncomfortable with the brand?
Consistent brand messages are successful. Dick's Last Resort chain of seafood restaurants are intentionally designed to look like a dockside dive. Their waiters are comedically surly, the menus and advertising all reinforce the Popeye-like image of Dick as a surly-burly curmudgeon. Does it work? Sure.
This doesn't mean that lousy service can be your brand - there's enough of that to go around.
Talk to your customers - ask them what they think when they think of you. Talk to non - customers.
If you have a strong brand already - capitalize on it and bring all your advertising in line with it. Be consistent. If you have a weak or inconsistent brand - time for an overhaul.