Tired of Competing Part 4: Be Your Brand

No matter the size of your business or the industry you operate in, branding is essential if you want to compete successfully. But the idea of devising a brand strategy can be overwhelming and confusing. Branding, after all, is a broad and complex area and knowing just where to start is half the battle.

With this in mind, our final instalment of the Tired of Competing series will concentrate on just one facet: How to be your brand.

What does this mean?

To put it plainly, it means to put the YOU in your brand. It’s about getting your name so associated with what you do and offer, that you are the go-to (or even the only) source people will consider. Think about it, who comes to mind when you say fried chicken? How about cyclone vacuums or a certain type of smartphone?

When it comes to building brand associations, it’s not just about the things that you do that can differentiate your business from its competitors, but as Colonel Sanders, James Dyson and Steve Jobs show, personally endorsing  the things that make your business unique (the recipe, the technology, your specific USPs) can really put your business ahead of its competitors. And, considering that few markets are so small that there’s only one supplier, building brand associations could be the difference between your business thriving or stagnating.

However, that’s not to say you should just promote what you sell; rather you should see branding as a way of communicating what your business is all about as well.

How you communicate this is also important. When you are your brand, you put a human face and voice to your business. Not only can this help build trust, but it helps to drive home your values and company mission too. And in some cases, take Lush Cosmetics, for example, customers can identify so much with these that what started as one company’s mission, can grow to be a movement all of its own.

How to build a brand

Beyond the visual elements, the marketing and the other attributes that make up a robust branding strategy, you should also consider incorporating one or more of the following:

  • Reputation: Take a look at the things your target market value most. Do they prize quality highly? Perhaps it’s a company’s eco-credentials? Or, maybe it’s simply price. Identify whatever matters most and be sure to weave this into your brand strategy.
  • Innovation: If you see your product or service as the next Fitbit, Dyson or Ugg boot – it is the first of its kind– then speed is critical, both in development and in getting it to market. However, for this to work effectively, you need to establish your reputation and gain critical mass before you do anything – it’s not enough for you to say you are the original, it’s a status that you must be able to substantiate, and your consumer or user base endorse.
  • Endorsements: Building social proof and authority has a fundamental role in your branding. You could do this by collaborating with influencers or celebrities. Alternatively, your own customers and clients make a good choice, especially if you want authentic case studies to which your target market can relate. Another option is to partner with brands in your network – a strategy that offers mutual benefits
  • Buzz: You don’t have to go ‘viral’ to make an impact. A modest campaign on social media, for instance, can generate enough chatter to get your business noticed by the right people.
  • Interaction: As being your brand goes beyond aesthetic qualities, you should also give some thought to how you engage with your customer base and in turn, how they engage with your business. As you are the primary representative, the face, it makes sense to do this on a personal level. Again, social media is an ideal tool, so reply to followers’ comments, answer their questions and pay close attention to the pain points they talk about and offer solutions.

However, while each of these elements has a role to play in your strategy, remember, branding is ultimately about perception. That is, how your audience perceives your brand. So, while you have a certain amount of power to define this perception, what your customers say and think about your brand could carry more weight, and you should not take this for granted.

The ‘affordable jewellery’ chain Ratners, found this out to their cost after their CEO’s jokes at the Institute of Directors annual convention prompted shares to plummet along with the brand’s reputation. It is a cautionary tale because when you are your brand, it pays to think before you speak – or Tweet.

This article was the final instalment in our Tired of Competing Series. If you missed it, you can read part one here.

Have you applied any of our tips to your own business? Let me know in the comments below.

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