Business analysts assure us it’s not the size of an operation that’s important. What matters, out there in the marketplace, is that its brand has a solid name and pleasant associations, so it becomes sought-after, now and in the future, within its targeted niche.
The verb ‘to brand’ dates from at least 1400, when criminals were imprinted with a telltale hot iron mark that signalled to all and sundry the crime they had committed. The noun used at the time was probably a variation of ‘firebrand’, and referred to a burning implement that created such marks. Torches were later used to stamp ownership onto a wide variety of items and possessions, from furniture and cookware to the pelts of livestock. Over time, in fact, purchasers understood that a brand on pottery and ceramics, for example, provided information as to who had produced those products as well as durability to be expected.
Today, if you ask a friend or colleague what the word ‘brand’ conjures up, they will more than likely describe a well-known logo (e.g. Nike’s swoosh) or recite the jingle (e.g. ‘Lunch Bar, the much more munch bar’) of a service or product that’s become a household name. But: brand identity can be something far broader than that. In these times of social media communications and short attention spans, visibility is equated with credibility and memorability. So, anything that creates a buzz, has a high profile or grabs the attention is typically linked to or correlated with a brand.
For business owners, it’s ideal if your brand identity helps you to build a community – across social media platforms, your website and any other print or digital media exposure – out of the consumers who love your product and/or regularly use your service. Never underestimate the importance of putting yourself out there, even via word of mouth within your own network, as you set about making your brand meaningful and customer-centric among its target audience.
Remember, you should always take cognisance of how users perceive your brand – what they associate it with; the emotions it draws. Because these can swing between positive and negative – and all the way back again – often without your control, it is important to take brand ownership by planning and managing how your clients are experiencing, or should ideally experience your business offering.
According to Mellanie Jenkins of Sporting Images, a professional corporate branding supplier in Cape Town, “Give extensive thought to the consumer need your brand is meeting and then unify your team with a logo and service ethic which is visible on their clothing, your business vehicles and other specific advantage points – these are sure to make staff proud to represent your brand. This approach should also showcase to customers that you’re running a professional operation, are well established and customers are in capable hands when they entrust you with their work.”