With limited time and resources, it’s often the case that small businesses don’t have the capacity to think much about their brand once they’re up and running. And yet, your brand – the way your customers perceive you – is just as important for a small business as it is for a multi-national corporation. So, what is a brand and how can you ensure your business creates a positive brand experience for your customers?
People use the word ‘brand’ every day. But like so many oft-spoken words, we often don’t stop to question their meaning. If you asked people on the street what the word brand means, it might evoke responses like ‘logo’ or ‘trademark’. People often associate a brand with its artistic representation, without realising that a brand, or brand recognition, goes much deeper than that. It goes to the very core of a person’s psyche. This is why branding is so important.
A brand is defined as a perception in the mind of a person. It is commonly described as the sum of all the individual experiences and impressions a person associates with a product or business. What people perceive – how they perceive a brand – makes it their reality.
This is because perceptions are made up of impressions. To create the right perception, every impression – from product, customer service and internal culture – needs to align to the way a brand wishes to be perceived.
New York vs. Florida
To better understand how a sum of experiences can affect our association with a brand, think about how you might picture New York, compared with how you might picture Florida. Thinking about New York, most people will envision a bustling and exciting business metropolis, a ‘concrete jungle’, a vibrant, cultural city. But thinking about Florida, it’s likely people will think of beautiful beaches, palm trees and sunshine. These images have been created through a lifetime of references – the sum of our impressions.
In the same way the names of these cities conjure up clear, yet very different images, a strong brand leaves a lasting impression – even if you’ve not experienced it firsthand. Strong brands are built by clearly defining who they are and what they do.
Ultimately, if a business stays true to its definition, it can deliver a consistent brand association across its desired market and audience segments. Conversely, the more broken up and different the associations are, the weaker a brand becomes.
Making a good impression
Most importantly, when a brand makes a good impression, it positively impacts the way we think about and engage with it. The more positive experiences people have with a brand the better their perceptions of it. Likewise, bad experiences cause negative perceptions.
Deciding on what perception your brand should create requires you to define what your business is, what you do and why you do it. Understanding this helps you align each touch point of your business to make the right impression – from your packaging to your customer service to your communications.
Branding isn’t just important for the Coca Colas and Nikes and Facebooks of the world. Branding is important for every business with customers, no matter how small! And understanding the basics of branding – that every single interaction a customer has with your brand creates an impression – helps you review the way customers react with your brand, allowing you to align these experiences to match your brand aspirations. By doing this, you’re heading in the right direction to creating a strong brand.
About the author
Dan Ratner is the managing director of branding and communications agency, uberbrand. He has more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, communications and branding and is passionate about branding as an enabler to fulfil organisational objectives. He works with well-known Australian brands across a variety of sectors including financial services, travel and education.