January 19, 2015
A brand is a name, symbol, logo or term that identifies a product or service and helps consumers differentiate among other product or service brands. It’s hard to build and maintain strong brands, but a well-branded product or service will deliver significant benefits that are beyond measure.
A brand is important because it delivers a promise. You know what to expect when you buy a burger at McDonalds, you order a Coke from a vending machine or you buy a pair of shoes from Nike.
Building a strong brand will provide your customers with clarity, reassurance, consistency and status.
Think about it: why do you choose a Coca-Cola over a home-brand soft drink? Why do you buy Nike shoes instead of Payless shoes?
You likely buy because you trust these brands to deliver and meet your expectations. You want to associate yourself with these brands because you enjoy what they offer.
Let’s look at three reasons why a strong brand is important to your business.
1. Your brand is memorable
Brands are identifiable names, symbols, logos and terms that are easy to remember.
But the McDonald’s brand represents more than just a burger-and-fries restaurant and the Nike brand represents more than a shoe manufacturer. A strong brand is memorable because it stands for something beyond the bare product or service it sells – it stands for the overall customer experience the company provides and the reputation that goes along with it.
All of your marketing efforts work toward building your brand. Hence, your brand is a marketing asset that you can use to connect with your target customers and create a sense of loyalty with them.
The best brands in the world are memorable because they have hundreds of brand advocates who are loyal, repeat customers that tell hundreds of friends, family and colleagues about the brand. For example, take a look at Black Milk Clothing. This brand is less than five years old, but has a loyal following of hundreds of thousands of ‘Sharkies’ who meet up with each other online and in real life.
2. Your brand differentiates your product from competitors
How do you tell the difference between a Hilton hotel and a local hotel? Hilton has built a brand that stands for a comfortable experience and great customer service. Hilton’s touts their “commitment to ensure every guest feels cared for, valued and respected.”
This same commitment is what you expect from every Hilton in the world, whether you’re visiting a Hilton in Sydney, New York or London, and that is why you might choose it over the local hotel.
You don’t know the local hotel; you don’t know if it offers a comfortable experience, friendly staff, fresh towels and soap. All you have to go on are recommendations from review sites or friends.
3. Your brand attracts a specific customer profile
Different brands attract different types of customers. Think about the type of customer that buys a Porsche compared to a Holden. Two totally different customer profiles, but essentially they are both buying a motor vehicle that can get them from point A to point B, right?
Wrong. Customers buy certain brands because they want to associate themselves with the brand. Whether it is the attitude the brand stands for or the perceived status that it carries, customers who buy Porches likely do not buy Holdens.
These two brands target two entirely different types of customers. A Porsche is a luxury car; it represents success, while a Holden represents a working-class car a regular Australian might buy as a mode of transport.
If Porsche didn’t have a brand, how would customers associate themselves with luxury and success? More importantly, how would Porsche justify the significantly higher price tag?
Your brand is a marketing asset that you can use to target and attract different types of customers.
4. Your strong brand can help you charge a premium
When you have a strong brand that is trusted by customers, you can charge more. For example, customers trust Toyota cars because they are reliable with minimal problems. Compare that to the Chinese-made Chevy’s, which do not have a strong reputation with customers and are known to have problems.
Toyota charges more than Chevy because customers trust the brand to deliver better a better product.
Let’s look at another example, this time in the management-consulting world. The McKinsey & Company brand is world renowned for its experience and ability to deliver outstanding results for corporate companies. McKinsey & Company has a reputation that helps them demand hourly rates upward of $1,000 per hour per consultant.
Your local Brisbane-based management consultant may well may the same experience as a McKinsey & Company consultant, but it does not operate under the McKinsey & Company brand. Hence, it will likely only charge you $100-200 per hour.
A strong brand carries a reputation; this reputation alone can help you charge a premium price for your products or services.
Your brand is a promise to your customers
A strong brand is important to your company because it gives you a way to communicate your promise to customers. A brand promise might be as simple as offering a consistent Big Mac across 100 countries around the world. A brand promise might represent a superior product or service that is different from competitors. Or a brand promise might be a way to connect with customers and give them a way to associate themselves with a specific attitude or status.
A strong brand is hard to build and maintain, but it is an essential component of any successful business. All of your marketing efforts affect your brand. Think about how you can build a brand that represents your products and helps differentiate your products from the competition.
Simon Dell is a former agency owner and managing director, and is now a freelance consultant under his own brand SimonDell.com. His goal is to help develop and implement strategic digital and creative marketing plans for clients delivering measurable results and fantastic ROI. He also writes for Fairfax Media, MYOB's business portal and frequently speaks at events and conferences around Australia.