We live in a world where people are losing trust day by day. In a world of #FakeNews people are really cynical when it comes down to business leaders, journalists, and of course politicians. There is an ambivalence about building a brand among small business owners and independent hotels. I’m always astonished to hear a small business owner say that building a brand is for the BIG guys because they have massive budgets.
The problem is that most small business owners leave their company to fate, and create a strategy called ‘hope’. We all know that the ‘hope’ strategy gets us nowhere. It’s ironic that they leave it to hope, because it’s a small business that needs to leverage branding, and build a brand that is meaningful to the consumer. Research suggests that almost 50% of consumers consider becoming loyal to a brand during their first purchase.
In a world where we can get anything we want in a few clicks, it’s essential that we stand out if we want to win a loyal client. To stand out we need to go beyond a fancy logo. It’s important to mention that a professional logo is a must, I’ve seen some ugly logos in my life, and the worst part is that the business owners don’t see it as ugly because they are in the business, yet we are all emotional about our decisions and choices. It’s like children, every parent on planet earth will tell other people that his child is the smartest and the cutest.
We all speak about being different and making our customers remember us. But do we really differentiate ourselves? Ten years ago, if you had the tastiest burgers in town it would be enough to win the customer for a lifetime. Today, in this world, it’s not enough to be the best or have the tastiest burger in town. Today consumers are deciding with their minds, hearts, and wallets where they want to spend their money.
In fact, let’s look at the data, because data never lies. In a recent survey 88% of people said they would buy from a purpose-driven brand. That’s 88% of people– today would buy a product, and/or service from a brand that has a purpose. Before we go into a purpose, let’s take a step back and think of what is a brand? Is it a logo? Is it a company?
A brand is not just a logo or a tagline – a brand is the whole customer experience. A brand is a promise. A promise that we communicate to our customers and we keep that promise. In today’s world the masses accepted mediocrity, but now it’s easier to stand out (in a way) because so many brands are average, so when you overdeliver, and deliver on what you promised, the customer is going to trust you more.
A brand is all about the full experience – from visual designs and how they make your customers feel, to the way your phones are answered. Everything is a signal. Bad logo design – it tells people subconsciously that you are not professional.
It’s important to understand that everything about the customer experience represents your brand. Dirty tables at your restaurant? It’s a signal. Very friendly team member at reception? It’s a signal.
Let’s talk a bit about trust. A great brand creates trust in the marketplace. A professional appearance and well strategized branding will help the company build trust with current customers and potential customers. People are more likely to do business with a company that has a polished and professional portrayal. When your branding is spot on, it gives the impression of being an industry expert, and makes people feel that they can trust the company, the products, and the services it offers.
Great branding justifies the prices the company charges. There is a place that I go to sometimes to eat, but their prices are bit a high for a vegan place. I say the prices are a bit high because their place looks cheap. Their branding looks very cheap. Like an amateur designed their logo and their store. In my mind I don’t really want to go there anymore, because if they hire amateurs (or do it themselves) it means they hire amateurs to do the burgers, and who knows where the ingredients come from. So, for me it’s a no go, once something else similar opens that makes me feel good about the place, I’m going there. You see, there is an opportunity here for a vegan burger place. You know how many people would switch from the current company they are using to another company that makes them feel better? 88% of customers. More about it a bit later.
There is another brand I like called Huel, recently they sent me an email and informed me that they are increasing their prices. I read the email, looked at the article and said ‘fair enough’. Because their brand is spot on, their social media looks professional, their packaging is amazing, and I believe in their story, I believe in their brand purpose. But that’s another story, another article. Obviously, I love their product, which is the most important thing.
A strong brand guarantees future business and builds financial value.
A great brand builds equity. What is a brand equity you are wondering? This is how the American Marketing Association defines brand equity:
“The value of a brand. From a consumer perspective, brand equity is based on consumer attitudes about positive brand attributes and favourable consequences of brand use.
So basically, brand equity is how much value (positive or negative) a brand has. Here’s where people get confused – they think that it needs to be a huge brand, they think of brands like British Airways or Nike, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. We shouldn’t focus on the mass market because we are going to lose. The way huge brands were built in the past doesn’t work anymore.
Today, we need to find a small, a really small audience that will care about the same cause as we do. For example, a brand called The Humble Co, a small Swedish brand that creates sustainable wellness products. They are not huge, they are small, but they have an audience – loyal clients like myself that are their brand ambassadors.
Another great example is Starbucks; you can get a coffee from the shop round the corner for a £1, but if you want Starbucks coffee you will need to pay £4. You can get running shoes for a tenner from Johnny Shoes, but if you want Nike you will pay £100 for running shoes.
A more recent example – I want to buy a new pair of white shoes because my current shoes are becoming black shoes after wearing them for two years. I can probably get a nice pair of white shoes for £20 in London or online, but I want K-Swiss white shoes which are £90. There is a huge difference. Now, why we choose different brands is a different story, but the point is that the reason why we pay a premium for certain brands is because they have equity, brand equity.
What are the consequences if we don’t build a brand and stay a ‘simple’ business in the high street? Well there are many consequences, one is we will always compete to be the cheapest, and we are always replaceable. It means that our customers don’t have an emotional connection with a brand, and when somebody asks them for a place to go for coffee, they say let’s go for coffee, not let’s go to Starbucks.
The consequence is that we will be out of business very soon, because we become so focused on the bottom line that we forget about building a brand. There are certain patterns that you see and can predict right? For example, think Kodak moment, think Blockbusters, think Toys ‘R’ Us, think Thomas Cook, there are hundreds of companies that went out of business because they didn’t innovate, they were complacent.
If we want to build a sustainable brand, we need to focus on building a meaningful brand. A brand needs to accomplish the following;
- Communicate a clear purpose
- Communicate their promise
- Build an emotional connection with the audience
- Generate loyalty
- Showcase trust
- Inspire people to buy
- Inspire people to choose you over the competition
By building a brand, you establish your credibility and give a valid reason for customers to consider you before turning somewhere else. Research tells us, not me (Alexander), but research shows people prefer to associate with organizations with a credible and reputed brand.
Building a brand identity is the most effective way of giving your customers tools to spread the news about your brand. It is paramount that your marketing efforts, logo design, social media content, newsletters, website, and flyers are congruent with each other to create a great impression to your audience. If you use 10 fonts on your marketing material, what image does it portray?
I’ve given 4 keynote speaking engagements in the last month or so and the topic was ‘How emotions can help us increase sales’. There is an enormous amount of research that proves that emotions drive purchasing decisions and not logic. Yet most business people are focused on the latest offer they have to convince people to come and buy from them. If I don’t think that this product can help me right now, it doesn’t matter if it’s free – I’m not buying it because my time is more valuable than money.
Do you want to speak about brand loyalty? We are all emotional creatures, we crave stories, we crave concepts, and we crave human touch. Emotions score very highly when creating brand loyalty.
It doesn’t matter in which country we live, UK, Sweden, Cyprus, US, Australia, we as human beings want to be heard, we want to be connected, and brands have an opportunity to stand for something, we have the opportunity to make real change happen besides profits. Brands that are most loved by people use emotions, and have a clear purpose behind them.
If you are a small company, that has one location, you have a huge opportunity to stand up for something, and build a meaningful brand. I will leave you with this great clip from Steve Jobs explaining the mentality – philosophy about how Apple built its brand.
Let me know in the comments below your thoughts, I would love to hear them.