coaching: Branding is important for businesses of all sizes

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

When I was a kid and my mother sent me to the grocery store, she would say, "Remember to only buy name brands."
Besides what I got from cowboy movies, that was the extent of my knowledge about branding until the past decade, when the concept flooded the business world. The reasons aren’t that different from those that inspired my Mom’s admonitions.
When she opened a can of soup that had a name brand on it, she felt safer. She felt the consequences of that purchase were more dependable; that she would get the quality she expected. That’s why people buy brands, because the consequences or results are known.
The power of the new and widespread form of business branding hit me recently. I was going to spend a weekend in Manhattan, and one of my daughters said, "Would you bring me a box from Tiffany’s … just a box?" What branding they’ve achieved, when just seeing that familiar robin’s-egg blue box holds excitement. They’ve made an indelible imprint on our minds. I’m sure you can think of a few other symbols, phrases, colors and shapes that trigger instant recognition. Any child recognizes the golden arches.
Probably most of the common brands are associated with mega corporations. But the thing is, anyone competing in a marketplace needs a brand. It makes the decision-making process easier for potential customers. It broadcasts that the consumer of our products or services can expect something extra and distinct-and something reputable. Small businesses, even solo professionals, need to connect with the marketplace through emotional triggers first. Logical, sound reasons for buying can confirm that first emotional connection.
After the brand connection – which might happen via the buzz about your services someone hears at a cocktail party, or an ad in a newspaper – prospective customers might move into experiencing doing business with you. They are still forming an impression. Was the transaction easy? Did they feel that you listened? Did they feel important? Was it fun? Did you provide evidence that other people – just as smart and classy, people the customer could identify with – are among your satisfied customers?
This new form of branding continues after the purchase as well. Did you continue to build confidence in your services or products, through after-care of the customer? Did you ask for feedback? Did you thank them in a distinctive way?
I bought a fountain pen during that recent trip to New York. When it was shipped to me, tucked inside the elegant box was a CD of classical music related to the name of the pen I had purchased. Do you think I’ll remember that?
Your logo is part of your branding. It carries your message in a snapshot of your company. It helps create the look and feel of all of the elements of your brand, and needs to be on everything from your Web site to invoices. The best ones are simple, visual icons, thoughtfully designed to take into account your target market. They announce your presence, like rose petals before the bride.
If your business is quite young, and you are creating your brand, you might start by listing qualities – even your own personal qualities – that you want your branding to convey. What can symbolize all those qualities? How can you impress upon your public that doing business with you will lead to psychological gains in confidence, self-esteem and the like? How do you demonstrate that they will be purchasing a more positive mental attitude, greater success, more satisfying results?
If your business is mature, you still want to pay attention to branding. I used to think once you had a logo and tag lines, you had better never change them. But now I’m coming around to agreeing with Andy Spade’s comment in the March issue of Fast Company:
"Brand consistency is overrated. The brand doesn’t have to look the same, but it has to feel the same. An element of newness and surprise is important for any brand."
There are many resources to help you create an indelible brand identity. You can contract with a savvy and courageous advertising or public relations professional. They are all about branding these days, and the branding they’ve created for themselves will offer you a clue to their effectiveness. Several good books are available, and I particularly like these: "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind," by Jack Trout; "Brain Tattoos," by Karen Post, and Martin Lindstrom’s "Brand Sense."
I relate this quote from P.T. Barnum (circa 1900) to the excitement that good branding can create: "You must gather a crowd, make traffic, then you must hold them in place. And, finally once they are calmed down, you can deliver the pitch."

Jo Hawkins Donovan has a coaching and psychotherapy firm in Whitefish Bay and can be reached at (414) 332-0300, or jo@hawkinsdonovan.com. The firm’s Web site is: www.hawkinsdonovan.com.

March 18, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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