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What makes a good business? The quickest answer would be – the product or service! What your business sells is what makes it great! Well, not quite right… While the product surely is crucial for a company to run, there is something more to it. You can be the best consultant the world ever saw or the most skilled carpenter ever and no one would come knocking at your door. The answer to that problem is branding! The way the people perceive your company can often be more important than the things you offer! Despite that, not a lot of people see that. In this article, I will present some of the most common misconceptions about branding, that take away the significance of this vital marketing strategy.
1. “We don’t need to be special, let’s fit everyone”
Let’s suppose you’re a speaker in front of two different crowds. The first one is massive, you can’t really see where it ends or begins. You start speaking, but suddenly there are a lot of other people speaking the same things as you do. Some have microphones and others have massive amplification systems – not a lot of people can really hear you and their attention is constantly being disrupted by the other speakers. The second crowd is small, but when you talk to them, there is no one interrupting you – they hear your voice perfectly. This is exactly what branding is all about. You don’t need to appeal to everyone in order to be successful. Keeping your message sharp and focused as well as settling for a niche market are much better ideas that will make you stand out in a crowd.
2. “Branding is just a name and a logo”
Actually, a brand is so much more than a name and a logo. While these two are undoubtedly important for your business, they are just a part of a bigger story. Branding is all about the feelings, features and emotions associated with your company. Let’s think of examples. Wetherspoon – UK’s most prominent pub chain with over 1000 franchises all over the country. The name is kind of important (often shortened to ‘Spoons), but the feeling inside each of the pubs is what makes the brand successful. There is no music, so that the customers can talk naturally, there are carpets on the floors, the drinks and food are cheap – basically, this is the go-to spot if you want to feel the atmosphere of a proper British pub! As you can see, this has been achieved with much more than just a name and a logo. The entire business design, from the choice of venues, to the menu and the interiors – these are all the components of Weatherspoon’s amazing branding!
3. “Customers only care about the product/service”
Actually, customers care a lot about choosing a brand that appeals to them and are able to connect with. A stuntman or a fan of extreme sports is more likely to pick a Red Bull energy drink over, for example a Monster. That’s because Red Bull promotes themselves among these groups of people. Or, imagine walking into a drugstore looking for a toothpaste. Which one are you more likely to pick? The one you saw an advertisement of (it shown footage of smiling people with perfectly white teeth) or some other random paste you’ve never heard about. Well, obviously the first one! According to Malcolm Gladwell: “Buyers make most decisions by relying on their two-second first impressions based on stored memories, images and feelings” (Gladwell, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) – that means, an advertisement you saw some time ago is now embedded in your brain and will impact your choices! No matter how good the other toothpaste is, or how bad the first one might be, you will most likely choose the one you are familiar with.
4. “Branding is not the job of the CEO – the marketing department should be responsible for that”
A massive part of success of companies like Apple, Testa or the aforementioned Weatherspoon is the leader persona. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Tim Martin all share the same trait – they embody the features of their companies. Sharp and minimal Jobs, innovative and smart Musk, and to-the-people Martin. All these adjectives could have been used to describe the businesses they have built. A strong leader persona is someone customers will associate the company with, someone to look up to or to read articles about their morning routine. While obviously marketing is responsible for creating advertisements, promotional actions etc., the CEO is the embodiment of the company’s values. And customers need that sort of personal reference point when making a choice.
5. “Branding will not make me any money”
That’s true, it won’t. The sales of your product or a service will make you money. But branding is what will make the customers choose what you offer instead of what somebody else is offering. So like, in the long run it will make you money!
6. “Branding is only about the product or a service”
The CEO example, I wrote about above already cracks this premise. However, think of customer service – the experience you get when getting your problem solved by a company representative can largely impact the way you perceive the entire structure. True – the products or services are what drives your company forward, but it’s all about the aftertaste that a transaction leaves. Brand equity can be largely impacted by the quality of customer service.
Most of the misconceptions, I listed in this article claim that branding is something insignificant for a business. However, its power lies in being closer to the people than the actual product or a service. In fact, branding is all about people, their stories, inspirations and interactions. Branding makes businesses much more than just an entity producing something or offering some kind of services. It humanizes companies, gives them context and this in return is more likely (than your fantastic product) to actually convince people to choose you!