You have business cards and a website to promote your business – that’s a great start towards developing your brand! But don’t stop there, because that is not all there is to building a brand. Simply putting the name of your business on your marketing tools (i.e., websites, social accounts) is usually not enough to get your brand established and more important, only to steer it in the direction you want it to go.
Why worry about “brand” building? Isn’t that just a fancy marketing term that marketing companies use to upsell you on their services? Isn’t all I have to do is name something and that is brand? Why would I need help with that?
First, you might not need a professional marketing company to build your brand, scores of businesses build their own brands. Second, brand marketing is not a one-size fits marketing category, but a combination of actions because the word “brand” itself has more than one meaning. American Marketing Association says marketing is:
[T]he action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising…. A “ brand” is defined as a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.
Entrepreneur.com also offers its own definition of brand marketing:
The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.
However, “brand” encompasses a lot more than even the above broad definitions.
Well-known and widely respected marketer, Heidi Cohen, wrote an interesting article in 2001 called “30 Branding Definitions.” As the title of her article implies, she compiled 30 definitions of “brand” from various marketing sources that are worth reading just to see how, even among professional marketers, “brand marketing” has no one catch-all definition and it means different things to different people.
How Your Brand Builds Itself
Building your brand will happen whether or not you are being proactive about it. When you sell a product or service, a large part of your brand’s identity will be built based on your consumers’ experiences and how they interpret your marketing efforts.
Two good examples of bad brand marketing campaigns are:
- Walmart - For the 2014 sales season, Walmart had a category online for Halloween costume sales for plus-sized women that was labeled “fat girl costumes.” The backlash furthered the negative brand that Walmart is insensitive but also fueled even more negative memes about the company. Google “People of Walmart” to see just how badly Walmart is controlling its brand reputation.
- Malaysian Air - Also in 2014, after Malaysian Air lost two planes in one month, they launched a brand marketing campaign asking people to tweet places they’d like to see before they die. If you are trying to convince people to trust in your airline and fly on your planes, you might not want to ask your customers to create a bucket list.
In both cases, a marketing campaign started the fire, and the branding of these companies took on a life of its own.
Your Brand Is Your Reputation
Brand marketing is about how people perceive your business and products – not just the packaging and name recognition. Everything you do (or do not do) in business tells something about you. Brand marketing and strategic advertising can help you make a good impression with people so that your brand brings to mind more than just a logo or product or jingle. You want your brand to also bring to mind quality, integrity, and a business that can be trusted.