Branding is the emotional response your business evokes in a customer. It’s the accumulation of experiences customers have with your business and how that makes them feel about your company. This perception is a powerful tool, and used well, it can lift your business above your competitors, even if you sell pretty much the same product or service.
When you brand your business, you brand your audience
Branding is about searing your company in the hearts and minds of customers, taking them beyond simply the features and benefits of products and services.
Branding is broad and it encompasses every interaction your business has with its audience and with its competitors. It creates a personality and builds, or doesn’t build, trust and respect. It covers the full scope of business interactions, from marketing materials, advertising campaigns and social media, to charity work, your environmental track record, as well as your qualities as an employer.
Nike’s association with successful sportspeople such as Tiger Woods and Serena Williams, alongside their “Just Do It” slogan, gives people an image to strive for.
McDonald’s relies on the emotional impact of taking consumers back to their childhood or a special time. By using tools like playgrounds, toys and birthday parties, they can influence people from a young age, creating memories they will long to relive when they are adults and parents.
Marketing and advertising in and of themselves, aren’t branding. Logo designs, letterheads, email signatures, sign writing, a phone number on the side of a car – these aren’t examples of branding either. All of these elements exist within the wider concept branding and help reach your audience and connect it to your business.
The differences between marketing and branding
In essence, branding is a strategy, while marketing is a tactic to achieve this strategy. Marketing is about discovering a niche and pitching to it, branding is what will make this market loyal once it decides to engage with your company or make a purchase. Marketing is about promoting a particular message to a particular consumer segment while branding is about delivering the promise made in a marketing campaign.
Turn customers into advocates and evangelists.
Successful branding has been the basis of the ‘cola wars’ since the 80s and while marketing will give people reasons to choose Coke over Pepsi, branding connects on a deeper level. This battle isn’t about taste and ingredients or the merits of their similarly brown, similarly sugary beverages, it’s about how the consumers themselves wish to be perceived.
Branding evolves as companies grow, it is not something to “set and forget”. The measure of a good brand is how many loyal consumers and advocates that brand has.