Building a successful brand is not an expense – it’s an investment

Local businesses that we meet with often wrestle with the same challenges. They want more consumers to know about their products and services. They want to increase sales. They want to cultivate long-term relationships with their best customers. And they want to do it in the most cost-effective way.

Unfortunately, many of these businesses get caught up in the expense of branding and lose sight of the bigger picture. They just don’t understand the power of branding. They believe that branding is an unnecessary expense – but this is actually far from the truth. Yes, branding costs money. No doubt it takes money out of your pocket in the short term. But it’s an investment in your business’s future – an investment that if done properly, will pay you dividends for years to come.

So, what is branding?

Your brand is your promise to the world. It tells potential customers who you are and what you’re all about. And it lets them know what they can expect should they decide to do business with you.

Your brand originates from the story you tell about your business: your mission, the values you hold, your personality, the products and services that you offer and how your customers are transformed as a result of using those products and services. In other words, a brand represents a series of experiences perceived in the heart and mind of the consumer.

Every time a customer interacts with a company, their experiences grow. The more positive the interactions, the better your brand. But ultimately your brand will be built by what you do, not by what you say, and the experiences you deliver every day.

Are you the new kid on the block offering fresh ideas and product innovations? Or the trusty old-timer that always has just what the customer needs? Is your product or service a luxury? Or an absolute necessity? You can’t be both. And your business can’t be all things to all people.

Think of it this way: Your brand is your reputation. From the name of your business and your logo design to product packaging and the images on the home page of your website, everything that interacts with your customer is part of your branding.

Why is branding so important?

If you want to build a business that extends beyond the basic products and services that you offer, you need a strong brand.

Synchronicity between your brand strategy, brand message and brand appearance aligns consumer perception with what you want your brand to represent. In other words, consistency is key.

It provides your business with the foundation for your unique “voice” in every form of communication, from television commercials, print ads and digital marketing to in-store signage, social media platforms … even the way you answer your phone.

Proper branding allows you to position your brand to reach your desired target market and resonate with your audience. It differentiates your business from millions of others and makes it instantly recognizable.
Consistent branding builds a long-term relationship with your customers, encouraging brand loyalty and repeat business.

Every website, radio ad, social media profile or tweet directly impacts your business’s bottom line. If these things have the power to sell a product or service, then failing to brand them properly is self-destructive.

When potential customers consider purchasing a product or service, they think of the brand that left the biggest impression on them. It’s what is known as being on top of the mental shopping list. Sometimes, it’s accomplished simply by spending the most on advertising. But here in northern Michigan, that’s usually not an option. We must create a brand that is strong, compelling and works harder than brands that have the ability to outspend us.

A brand that resonates with us, is trustworthy and delivers on its promise is the key. That’s why you buy Coke® instead of another cola. And it’s why you call facial tissue Kleenex®.

Why is professional branding so important?

Creating a brand requires a clear understanding of your business strategy, your personality, your products, your services and your audience. Many times, this requires analysis of consumer surveys and/or focus groups, secondary research, owner and staff assessments, industry trends and future technology.

Developing a brand requires defining, articulating, asserting your messaging and then translating that message into channels where consumers can interact with your business.

It’s a lot of work. It can be uncomfortable. And it takes time. While it’s a common practice as a business owner to try and do it yourself, if you’re not a professional marketing strategist or graphic designer, chances are you’ll have to do it all over again. And regrettably – no matter how much money you spend on marketing – every penny of it will be wasted if your logo, website and overall brand identity are inconsistent and irrelevant.

Running a business is a full-time job. Do you really have the time to devote to your branding? Let the marketing professionals do what they do best – create, develop and execute your branding.

Great branding doesn’t cost money. It makes money.

Kevin Gillespie is the president of Greenlight Marketing. He is a 30-year marketing executive who is celebrating 26 years in Traverse City. Greenlight recently celebrated 15 years, having worked on numerous branding campaigns for clients locally, nationally and internationally.