One of the first things taught at any business school or on any marketing course is the importance of ‘good branding’, but what is it, and why is it so important?
A strong corporate brand starts in the workplace, is instilled into employees, and then goes on to become a part of the company culture. From here comes the customer experience, which is based on the way in which they interact with your brand and what it represents. A corporate brand can come in a variety of forms and helps gives customers context in regards to the company that they’re dealing with, showing them what the company represents and the values that it holds. Some companies base their branding on doing good (like Toms), some prioritise design (like Apple), whilst some focus on an overall aesthetic (such as Hollister or Abercrombie). A brand identity helps to position a company within its set market, and helps it appeal to a specific set of customers.
What is a “Brand”?
According to Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, ‘A brand is literally what people say about your business when you’re not in the room’. This encompasses customers thoughts and feelings about your brand, and the importance of ensuring that they’re positive. People have different opinions over the term ‘branding’. To some, it is restricted to specific fonts and colours (similar to Coca-Cola or Cadbury with their iconic fonts and colours), and to others it encompasses everything that a brand represents. A typical corporate brand would involve a set design style (such as logos, taglines, fonts, colours, and specific packaging); the website, social media pages, and marketing; and the storefront. This can also then include the company ethos and service as reflected in their customer service techniques and corporate culture.
A strong brand identity helps to improve your credibility amongst customers and within your set industry. Building up credibility means that a brand is then able to improve recognition, loyalty, and become a more competitive name in the market. Credibility helps customers to feel more at-ease when making a purchase, and a positive experience increase the chances of word of mouth recommendations, further adding to the general credibility. Customers in general prefer to buy from brands the know and like, therefore if a brand appears to be more credible, customers are more likely to make a purchase. One of the key aspects of a corporate brand to improve (or decrease) credibility is the service that a customer received, whether they are meeting with a representative in person, or dealing with an online faction of your brand.
Identity and Ethos
Creating an established identity surrounding your brand helps both customers and employees to know exactly what to expect from the company and creates an appealing sense of consistency. From the brand ethos to the brand image, it is important that the style and identity of the brand remains as consistent as possible so as not to alienate existing customers, and to also build on the aforementioned credibility that will entice new customers. In order for corporate branding to be at its most effective, it should help to define the personality of the business and should help customers identify the attributes that they find most attractive in a company. The identity of a business is what helps like-minded customers relate to them and form a sense of attachment to keep them coming back.
Maintaining a consistent visual expression of your brand helps to spread awareness of your brands identity among customers, shareholders, and employees. This is the image of your brand that will stay in people’s mind, and it is the image that will help your brand stand out amongst a crowded market. Customers are then able to relate their positive experience with your brands image, helping them to remember your brand more easily when looking to make additional purchases.
Having a strong brand and corporate image helps to build customer recognition. This the means that when a customer is shopping for a particular product or service, they are more likely to have your company in mind and are also more likely to choose it, especially when comparing it to a less recognisable brand.
The power of familiarity is what keeps Apple customers hanging on for the next iPhone and what forced the likes of Tropicana and Royal Mail to revert to their original brand identities. Customers are much more likely to be drawn to a brand that they recognise on the shelves than they are to a new design or unknown name. Therefore, it is important that once a business has its brand identity in place, it sticks to similar styles in order to maintain the same image.
As has been a running theme through most of these points, the key to good branding is cultivating customer loyalty. A solid corporate identity provides a strong foundation for this loyalty and allows a company to build upon this to increase their market share. This loyalty affects a customers conscious and sub-conscious, increasing return businesses and work of mouth marketing. Once a brand has established a solid and recognisable image, customers will be more likely to associate the brand outside of the storefront or purchasing context. This further helps to build familiarity, especially when the brand image is heavily promoted (such as with branded merchandise and a recognisable logo).
Corporate branding is much more than just the colours and fonts that a brand chooses to use. However, the colours, fonts, logos et al are what makes the brand more familiar and recognisable and this combines with the customer experience to build an identity.