Does branding really matter? Beyond the logo and colour palette
In an age of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, digital this and
online that, fake news and weird reviews, is there value in building a
brand, or is it enough to create some fancy artwork, place a few
strategic adverts, and get on with the job?
These are highly relevant questions for mid-market companies which must weigh up the cost of branding exercises against the value they are likely to deliver (and branding generally isn’t cheap). But, the experts say and produce evidence that yes, it does matter, and it does translate into a stronger, more competitive business.
Scott Weatherley, MD of marketing agency Blackfoot, posits that having a quality brand story isn’t just outward-focused. “It actually starts inside the company. A brand story enables you to understand your business, product and values. And that’s even more important, battling in a segment that typically has multiple competitors offering similar products or services.”
Establishing what your brand says therefore, is important. It should
also be backed by what your brand does: Rebecca Hamer, account
director at Dow Design, says ‘brands are what brands do’ (“We live in
a time where truth-seeking consumers want to interact with brands that
align to their personal values; brands have to practise what they
"Brands are what brands do"
Convenience is (still) king
Logos, colours and other elements of branding are all handy visual reminders, but there’s one factor to trump them all. Quite simply, you’ll do best by reaching customers at the right time (and this is where the support of appropriate business systems, like Customer Relationship Management, can make the difference).
What really works in branding is something every one of us appreciates every day in our personal and professional lives: convenience. You know this to be true of what you eat (for better, or usually worse). It’s the same for whatever you’re selling: be easy to buy.
These qualities are more ‘operational’ than they are ‘marketing’. But they strongly reinforce the notion of ‘your brand is what it does’. As Al Ries writes in Ad Age, perception is key to your brand (and also fiendishly difficult to adjust); action and not words is arguably how to generate traction.
To which Antonio Leone, ANZ Marketing Manager, OKI Data Australia,
adds: “At the end of the day, you're still trying to appeal to a
specific audience and elicit specific perceptions. Furthermore, you
are most likely not the only business offering what you offer so you
need to differentiate yourself and obtain the mind-share and
consideration to guide your customers and prospects along the buying
"Perception is key to your brand (and also fiendishly difficult to adjust); action and not words is arguably how to generate traction"
Relationships matter (in the hands of your employees)
It’s not news to anyone in business, that establishing and maintaining relationships with the people who matter the most to your business, is imperative. “Customer relationships are formed primarily through the 'personal' element of your business,” says Leone.
And this is where branding gets… complex… because it becomes part and parcel of what those ‘other’ most important people say, do and are, rather than just being a flash logo or the careful enforcement of pantones. We’re talking employees.
Leone says the attitudes of staff, whether customer facing or not,
can influence customer relations. “If positive, this strengthens your
brand. Listening, not just hearing what customers require, addressing
their pain points and challenges with the right attitude, has profound
impact. It's said that 'people buy from people' which is how
'relations' evolve into 'retention'.”
Establish YOUR brand (and accept it’s a moving target)
Branding, adds Weatherley, isn’t necessarily straightforward, “but by working through a series of steps it can be developed and executed very successfully. Whether deployed internally or with an agency, it must be done collaboratively with key stakeholders for a result which reflects your business’ place and aspirations.”
As for when to update, instinct is likely to play its part, because the rate of change for one organisation is likely to differ from that of any other. Beech says even with good brands, there is room to develop, “but sometimes a complete review is necessary. Quite possibly every 3 to 5 years.”
He cautions against spurious rebrands. “Keep elements of an existing
brand that reinforces the direction, but don’t be afraid to refresh or
even drop them completely if at odds with the business aspirations.
And constantly review and progress the brand, just as the company