According to Rich Gorman, the concept of branding is an important one in marketing circles, and indeed, if you spend any duration of time talking to marketers, you will doubtless hear this term bandied about. Common though the term branding may be, it is not one that is widely understood by marketing novices. Small business owners, in particular, may wonder just what branding encompasses—and whether it is truly necessary.
Those are the questions addressed in a recent article from Small Business Trends. The article tackles such questions as what branding is, what advantages it offers, whether it is necessary for small business owners, and how small businesses can afford to brand themselves effectively. Rich Gorman has offered some comments on the article, and some insights of his own, in the paragraphs that follow.
Rich Gorman Addresses Small Business Branding
As the Small Business Trends article notes, branding is not a term that comes with any one simple, easy, agreed-upon definition. There are, rather, innumerable definitions floating around out there, enough to make any small business owner feel a bit vexed! The most eloquent and helpful way to think about branding, however, may be to say that a brand is whatever the mind of the consumer tends to associate with a particular product of company. Branding is the practice to facilitating or cultivating those associations in the minds of consumers.
This is a helpful definition, but still a broad one, as there are many things that might stand out in a consumer’s mind as he or she thinks about a particular product or company. In some cases, it might be a logo, a picture, or a set of colors. The Coca Cola logo is one that is highlighted in the article; its curvy font and red-and-white color scheme is recognizable everywhere on earth—surely an example of branding success.
“Or perhaps it is the company’s approach to customizing its product,” the article continues. “Mention the name Starbucks and immediately coffee comes to mind. Now, I don’t even like Starbucks coffee… but when traveling I will always look for a Starbucks. I know I can expect a certain level of quality. The coffee will be fresh — not a stale witches brew.” Additionally, the Starbuck’s brand conjures the notion of having coffee made exactly as one wishes—with just the right amount of cream, skim milk, or whatever else.
“Branding can mean many things, but what it boils down to is that you are creating an identity for your company,” comments Rich Gorman. “You are setting the public perception for your company or your product—essentially dictating what you want your corporate reputation to be.”
Rich Gorman on the Value of Branding
That explains what branding is, but what about its benefits? Some companies invest very little into branding, but others sink thousands, even millions of dollars into branding each year. The question is, is it really worth it to develop a brand identity for your company?
According to Rich Gorman, there are several benefits that businesses receive when they get serious about branding. One is customer loyalty. “Go back to the example of Starbucks,” he notes. “People drink Starbucks coffee not just because it is readily available, but because of the strong, positive associations with the Starbucks brand. Starbucks is associated with getting high-quality coffee, gussied up just the way you want it. You know that you are going to get a consistently good product every time you go to Starbucks—and that’s partly due to quality control, but also due to branding.”
Meanwhile, Small Business Trends affirms that branding is also important for raising awareness. “In a world of infinite choices, branding that helps people remember YOUR company is more important than ever,” it suggests. Explains Gorman, “In a world of infinite choices, how do people decide on which products to buy? They tend to go with brands that stand for something specific—brands they know they can trust.”
Branding for Small Businesses
The benefits of branding are readily evident, then, but what about the costs? Certainly, small business owners can give ascent to the idea that branding is helpful, but that does not mean they can necessarily afford to spend a great deal of time or money branding their products or their company. According to the article, however, there are several small but powerful steps that companies can take toward establishing brand identities.
The first step offered is for small business owners to clarify exactly what they want their brand to stand for. “What is the one thing you want your company to be known for or associated with, above all else?” comments Rich Gorman. “Do you want to be the company that provides the speediest service, the most authoritative stance in your industry, or simply the best product?
“Think it through,” the article suggests. “If you or your team are confused about that ‘one thing’ that sets your company apart, customers probably will be, too.”
A second tip is for small businesses to audit their marketing materials. This means surveying all Facebook content, brochures, and sponsored online ads, ensuring that all of it reflects that “one thing,” or that lone facet of the brand identity.
A third tip: Show, don’t tell. Says Rich Gorman, the most effective branding shows what a company is all about—what its “one thing” is—through stories. “Case studies, testimonials, or online videos—all of these tools can help you establish your brand,” he affirms.
A final tip from the article is to be consistent in the use of colors, symbols, and other visual elements to reflect a brand’s identity. “Visual elements are important clues that trigger other associations and help customers remember your business,” concludes the article in Small Business Trends.
“The bottom line for small businesses is that branding is never something that happens by accident, but only through strategy and discipline—and taking the time to work out your branding efforts is very much worth it in the long haul,” says Rich Gorman.