2019 is an era of vertiginous changes in every aspect; from the ideological, social, and technological point of view. That is the reason why, when we take on the task of finding coherence from it as a cultural episode, we are automatically taking control of our situation, its consequences and the path to follow.
By joining the entrepreneur movement, your drive goes to focus on achieving specific objectives (to create and provide a solution), obtaining benefits in return. Thus, to innovate in any field, your primary resource should come from knowledge – in particular, a discipline that has defined the course of post-industrial societies and that now, in the digital world, continues to revolutionize the landscape.
Said discipline lies in Marketing and its inalienable dynamic, Branding – which gives reason to this guide (The Complete Guide to Branding). But before telling you everything you need to know to implement a successful Branding strategy, it is necessary to analyze this main branch.
1.1 An inside look at Marketing
In my book “Marketing Growth Secret: Growth Hacking, Marketing, PR and Brand Strategies to Lead Your Startup to Success,” I state Marketing is a “discipline focused on the analysis of the behavior presented by markets and consumers.” In recent years, marketing has become increasingly relevant in the digital field, from where it has provoked significant changes in worldwide behavior.
The latter is the main reason why the principles of traditional marketing (conventional or offline media) are not as well known or popular as those of its online counterpart. However, this model remains a fundamental basis and often a source of inspiration for Internet marketing.
As a specific example, and from which we will later develop at least half of the contents of this guide, we find the consumer or user. Previously, the consumer was limited to receive, digest and compare the available proposals of the market, this group – now identified as the consumer 2.0 – has evolved to get an active role in its relationship with brands.
This new user has the power to influence the decision of their peers, share thoughts and tell others or not about the benefits of a specific solution in the market, and even change their mind about it. As an entrepreneur or brand representative, your marketing objective will be to monitor that consumer experience in advance before submitting your offer.
Consequently, opting for a consistent approach to your digital marketing campaign will require every tool currently available. The challenge is to give a quick and accurate response when preparing these strategies. That said, it is valid to say that the marketing field is essential not only for the success of an initiative but also for it to exist. Without it, the offer couldn’t be established, therefore either the clients. In summon, marketing is the link between the consumer and the company, through which aspects such as “what, when and where and how,” are displayed.
1.2 The real winner is who the public chooses
Up to this moment, the scenario seems to be precise; your main priority is to satisfy the needs of the client, and you have all the resources to succeed in that goal. However, there is an obstacle that complicates this equation: your proposal is not the only one of its kind in the market, even if yours is a breakthrough product or service.
There is a multitude of companies and initiatives that have already seen a niche market within your target audience. So, how do you become the preferred option over the competition? The answer comes lies in Branding.
Your team must carry out a series of actions that give personality to your company, product or brand, as well as reflecting “unique” values that will fit into the psyche of the public. One of the best cases that exist today is carried out by Nike and its famous slogan “Just Do It,” which the team has been able to involve in social movements of equality and inclusion.
That example proves that unlike the marketing objectives mentioned above (what, when, where and how), the direct aim of a branding strategy is to make your solution stand out and reach the emotional response of the client. So, when a client finds your product in their Instagram feed, Facebook profile or while reading an article, they feel represented.
Starting from the traditional, we can attribute to the term Branding the essence of the most attractive advertising techniques. The complexity arises when we add the digital ingredient since some companies find it challenging to match the newest aspects of this practice with their business plans – especially when it comes to offline offers.
Fortunately, Branding covers an extensive set of strategies designed to position a brand in the market, to give it value, make it competitive and lead it to success.
1.3 Fundamentals of Branding
Once you have a developed solution, the priority shifts to appeal to the most intuitive perception, that image consumers see when they hear or think about the name, service or product of your company. Such an image is influenced by the values, words, and creativity that surrounding the offer.
Following these lines, the term “brand” can be summarized as a, constantly evolving element that mirrors the response of the clientele. Therefore, it is impossible to establish a good brand overnight; on the contrary, this will be the result of meticulous planning, development, and learning, which is why many startups neglect it without realizing the impact it has.
The correct way to find out what is the direction your branding strategy should take is to picture your company, product brand, not as an empty entity but as an individual. If this person could speak, what would they respond to questions such as “who am I?” Or “why do I exist?
Answering these questions is extremely useful since, even if the brand develops in the same scenario as a more recognized one, you will avoid copying its actions. Instead, you and your team can build a new scheme based on realistic objectives.
The advantage of answering such questions is that you know in which field the “person” should unfold. So if you manage to give the brand’s identity and motivation “human” attributes, it will increase the possibility for the user to buy it and tell others about it.
1.4 The purpose behind the brand
In a highly competitive environment where products are perceived as commodities, the brand (of a strategic nature) serves as a guide to understanding the purpose of commercial objectives. It allows you to align a marketing plan (tactical) with those objectives and ultimately comply with the general strategy.
For potential customers, your solution should simplify their decisions, providing clear benefits. But in addition to that, you must generate confidence to the point where, just by choosing your product over another, consumers give a strong message to the rest of society about how they want to be perceived.
Therefore, the effectiveness of a brand must be determined before the purchase and continue to cover the entirety of its life. It is essential for you as a company to create a differential value that will result in a relevant identity for your segments. The way to solidify this profile is to generate a public opinion reflecting the excellent performance, quality and experience obtained after adopting your solution.
On the other hand, and as an additional benefit, brand management not only produces consumer loyalty but also makes all the people involved with the brand to believe and support it, a value that I am sure you want to recreate in your company.
A perfect sample of this ideal is visible in the brand management demonstrated by Apple, which over the years has managed to reach the public prompting an almost unanimous response. Think about it, is it perhaps the supremacy of this technological giant debatable?
1.5 The 5 keys to a successful branding strategy
After everything discussed in the previous points is clear that the company showing a consistent branding strategy (a promise) is set to win the customer’s “heart”, because they can anticipate what their experience with the company will be – what some people assume as a good omen it is merely the consequence of a tacit agreement between brand and customers.
Let’s summarize what we learned in 5 practical tips:
- Talent show: It’s about playing with the rules of the game. You are in a contest for the attention of your target audience, which can change in the blink of an eye. The image you project will determine whether you finish on top of the winners’ podium or, instead, the public’s opinion will forget you.
That is to say; if your product has superior quality over the competition, it is possible that it presents a higher price. Therefore, your slogan should appeal to the sector that prides itself on showing off the best and not mistakenly coining the label of being the cheapest option out there. Otherwise, your product will have a very short life.
- Crush at first sight: Think about it, what do you consider to be attractive traits?
Beyond the individual taste, we probably agree that an impeccable appearance, pleasant attitude, and good manners are positive values in any person. In this same way, we can also say that an ungainly presence, irritating personality and rude attitude are universal negative values that will force you to look away.
The same principles apply to your brand, where consumers respond almost instinctively to aspects such as web design, the response you give to your followers in social networks, the content launched and of course, the quality of the offer itself. This is how you should polish every aspect of your business until you reach a professional image that inspires immediate approval.
- Apples to oranges: Launching a product to an extremely competitive market means fighting for the favor of the public at any cost. If you mistakenly decide to emulate the branding strategy your rival is using with their product; you’ll be making it clear to the clientele that there is no reason to change their current option for yours.
That’s why your proposal needs to be based on everything that makes it unique. To the same extent that within a family group, each member has its own characteristics, there are always unexplored areas within each market niche. Creativity, therefore, will be your greatest ally, link your product with other values or usage circumstances.
- “Just keep swimming …”: “If it is not broke, don’t fix it.” This phrase is an anchor that has stagnated and sunk companies since time immemorial. Think of the Kodak case, for example; by refusing to accept that the future of the photographs was digital, they condemn the business to failure.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be clear the conditions operating a market are not permanent. Progress has marked history, so even when things go “very well,” you must explore new horizons to avoid hitting the winds of change and instead, use them as an impulse.
- Feedback: Besides doing surveys and concentrating only on the favorable opinions that prove your theories, taking into account the general feedback will be the essential key to consolidate your business. An impartial and external vision can be utilized as a resource that boosts your product or service.
It should be noted that, although branding is not a one big magic recipe, implementing it equals enduring in time aiming at profitability. Understanding all of this, I consider that you are ready to know all the techniques and mechanisms that Branding has to offer.