Helping clients overcome the fear that branding will somehow ‘cheapen’ their product.
(I have borrowed this image from Saatchi & Saatchi’s mostly failed concept of ‘lovemarks‘: brands that go beyond loyalty into passionate emotional attachment. Lovemarks never really got off the ground, but I still think this is an interesting way to look at branding in general.)
Last time we talked about how small business owners – especially ones who have already had some success and are looking to take their organization to the next level – can be reluctant to embrace the idea of branding their company (or their product/service) because they feel that brands are somehow fake.
I understand: No one wants to think they’re turning their professional services firm into the Kim Kardashian of consulting.
But, reality tv stars aside, branding really isn’t about fakery, because as a small business owner you can’t ‘trick’ anyone into having an emotional attachment to you, your company or your products. Branding is all about identifying the reasons people already feel strongly about you, then amplifying them so that it’s easier to spread the word.
In fact, your brand already exists – you just haven’t identified its components, articulated the message, and made it consistent.
How to get to a comfort level with branding
Okay, so how do you start to build a brand that’s a real reflection of what you’re already doing? Start with these steps.
1. What ‘story’ are you already telling about your company?
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve already been telling some kind of ‘story’ about your company. This may involve the strengths of the founder, how you got started, your philosophy or approach. As I’ve said before, branding is really just about telling the right story about your company. It’s hard to say your brand is fake when it’s based on a story you’re already telling.
2. Examine the brands you personally love
I do always think it’s funny when people tell me they don’t believe in branding – but then pull out their iPhone, make impassioned speeches about whatever haircare product they use, or say something like “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” But it’s a good opportunity to think about the notion that branding is somehow fake: If you really believed that branding was trickery, you wouldn’t be using these products.
3. Remember that branding is really just a way to help people navigate a sea of products and services
If you walked into a grocery store, and everything in it was in black-and-white packaging without any branding at all, it’d take you hours to do your shopping because you’d have to examine every single product in the store. Branding is really just a shortcut to decision-making, a way to help consumers/clients understand “Oh, this is what I was looking for!” When you look at it that way, branding is really more about helping the consumer than tricking them.
4. List your real functional benefits.
‘Functional benefits’ are the ‘factual’ ways in which you’re better than your competitors. They may include being cheaper, faster, having more selection, more convenient hours, better customer service, longest in the business, etc. Make a list of them, and be honest – only include the ones which are really different from your competitors.
If you’ve done a good job of editing, you’ll end up with a list of 2-3 key functional benefits which genuinely differentiate you from the competition.
5. What do your best clients say about you?
Most successful small businesses have a core of loyal clients who keep coming back to them again and again, and who refer them to other clients. If you don’t already know, ask them why they love you so much. Chances are, you’ll find their reasons have little to do with what you listed in #1. They may like that you have convenient hours, but love that you always give them good advice; they may think you have good customer service, but love that your staff doesn’t have much turnover and they can count on seeing the same faces every time they visit your office.
What your best clients say about you to their friends and family is the best place to start when building your brand – and it’s absolutely not ‘fake’.