I'm fed up of hearing everyone talk about branding as though it's the one essential item a company needs before it suddenly erupts into the big leagues.
Branding is all about your company. What shape, size, colour your logo is, how you define your web site templates, the scripts you use (or not) when talking with your customers.
Brand consultants will tell you that branding is essential in your crowded market place.
It's not that either. The essential strategy is to provide great value, great service and innovate on those elements for your customers.
Because in the end it's all about providing a customer with a way that they can remember you and return to buy more from you.
Brand consultants and marketers will claim branding is what attracts customers.
Brands don't do that. Do they?
After all you're a customer.
Look at all the brands you come up against every day. Do you actually take that much notice? Unless you've had an unusually good experience with one of the company's and you're ready to buy what they selling.
No, you're interested in getting goods and services from whichever company delivers on their promise and provides a great service.
Microsoft wasn't branded before it started, yet IBM came to them and gave them enormous clout in the PC market.
Virgin wasn't a brand when it started in the music market, until they started to offer something their customers wanted.
What about Google? They weren't a brand. Yet now they're highly recognisable as probably the most used English language search engine.
That's what it comes down to. Giving the customer something they want.
If they like it they'll recommend you to their friends and colleagues. If you were MacDonald's when they started they might have said something like "yes the burger joint has a sign is like a big yellow M". And that's how you get branding.
It's your customers short-cut way of remembering you. So with Virgin we all know it's Red with the word Virgin in white and Microsoft is now forever tied to their Window logo.
Of course it's helpful if we can make it easier for customers to remember us when they talk about us. But in the end they choose what to them is a significant recognisable aspect of your company to help them recall you. And it may not be that highly expensive branded set of colours for your stationery.
So setting out on a long and expensive journey to create your brand is not recommended when you're a small company.
By all means if you're Coca-Cola, Virgin, British Airways or Ford you've got a vested interest in your brand for a different reason.
If you're that big you want to take what you now know customers recognise about your company and continually create Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) through advertising, PR and other marketing strategies. Just so that when customers think of a product or service you offer your TOMA strategy pays off and they immediately remember you.
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