A brand is a company’s perceived “personality,” or set of values that are associated with a company or product or service. A brand may be described as being dependable, fast, exclusive, expensive, or friendly. Unfortunately, some brands earn descriptors like dated, inefficient, sloppy, and unprofessional.
In effect, a brand is the sum of all the perceptions about your product or service or company that many different people have. These perceptions are a result of the way your brand looks, feels, and communicates, as well as the customer’s experience with the product itself and the service. All of these have to work in sync for a brand to establish positive equity with all stakeholders.
Simply put, brand management is about managing the perceptions about the brand that different stakeholders have. Stakeholders may include:
Once you know who your stakeholders are, it’s easier to break down brand management into 4 smaller steps:
Start-ups can develop their brand from the ground up by first defining the kind of brand they want to be seen as and then designing the brand’s personality accordingly. A stand-out logo, website, and marketing materials are critical starting points for branding your business, but don’t stop there and consider your branding finished. Your brand will be built on the overall product experience that your consumers perceive.
A start-up I consulted recently had a brilliant way of building their brand experience for customers. The start-up was a web-based premium fashion label. The packaging they shipped their items in was beautiful on its own, but they wanted to give the consumer a “Wow!” experience. After placing the clothing inside the unique packaging, they would spray the silk covering inside the box with a lovely, delicate perfume.
As a result, when the customer opened the package, she would get a whiff of the lovely fragrance, possibly reminding her of a high-end shopping mall and reinforcing the “premium” statement the brand made about their clothing. This is a great example of paying attention to the way your customers will experience your brand as a means to accomplish the goals of the brand.
Brand management is so important because a good, established brand name allows you the following advantages:
You may choose not to charge a premium and price your products or services on par with other brands, in which case you significantly strengthen the value-proposition even more.
If you are a good, known and visible brand, vendors and suppliers want to deal with you and are often likely to give you better terms.
You aren’t doomed to lazy or unqualified employees just because you don’t have an established or positive brand, but it’s much easier to attract the top employees when your brand is established.
The most likable brands create the most buzz. Make your brand likable from the start and you’ll build a community around your brand.
As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to identify and occupy the positioning and personality of your brand that will give you the most competitive advantage in the marketplace. Your brand is valuable to your business and should not be an afterthought.
For example, I’ve seen many start-ups rustle up a makeshift logo in their excitement to get started, saying the logo–the face of their brand–is a ‘work-in-progress’ and will be completed or redesigned soon. This is a problem because the ‘work-in-progress’ logo tends to end up being the ‘I guess this will work’ logo.
With trustworthy do-it-yourself free tools like LogoGarden (logos, websites, & business cards) and Canva (images for social media & marketing), it is incredibly easy for startups to create professional logos, websites, and custom images without breaking the bank or requiring design experience. Pay close attention to the way you present your business to stakeholders!
If you break the task of creating a likable brand for your business into smaller, more manageable segments, you’ll find the process much less daunting. Remember, although there is extra work involved in developing your brand’s “personality,” you’ll reap the rewards by improving the overall customer experience for the brand.