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Branding – where to start?

Written by Claire Scaramanga

The brand sits at the heart of any business, regardless of whether it sells a product or a service. The brand goes a long way towards creating reassurance, tangibility and trust.

What is branding?

The brand sits at the heart of any business, regardless of whether it sells a product or a service. In fact, for services branding is even more important because the brand can go a long way towards creating reassurance and tangibility.

With a service, such as choosing a solicitor, you cannot know what they will be like until you actually experience their work.

If you are buying a new car, you can check technical specifications and take it for a test drive, all of which reduce the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding a purchase. You will also buy based on the manufacturer of that car – if you think of car brands, you will undoubtedly associate specific things with each. For example, Volvo means safety. It did also mean boring for a long time, but Volvo has been working very hard to change their styling so that Volvo can be credible in regards to their four brand values of: quality, design, environment and safety.

But back to services. Because you have to experience the service to know if it is good, this makes the purchasing decision a leap of faith. The main job of the brand is to reduce the anxiety and create confidence.

The brand is a shortcut method of telling the customer what you stand for and why you are best suited to their needs.

The brand exists at three core levels:

  • Values – the three of four words that, when you condense everything done to the very core, this is what the brand stands for
  • Messages – the consistent messages you use to describe them. It may not always be the same words used, but the message being communicated must be the same
  • Visual representation – the logo and associated design will visually represent the brand. Some think a brand is just about a new logo, but it does need to bring in the values, messages and positioning.

What else needs to be taken into consideration?

  • Objectives
  • Target market
  • Market positioning

The starting point of this journey should always be your business objectives, which then interlink with your target market and your desired market positioning.

The target market is very important – your brand needs to talk to them so they relate to it and want to engage with it. Virtually all decisions, even business ones, are at their core based on emotion. “A Mont Blanc pen says I’ve arrived”, “my boss won’t sack me for buying IBM”, “I weighed up all the options, but in the end this one felt right”.

Positioning is also important as it helps customers understand what you are selling, what value and attributes (including price) are associated with it. Microsoft is positioned as biggest and market leader, i.e. safe, low risk, whereas Apple is positioned as a leader of innovation. Personally I rave about my iPad, but have never felt the urge to rave about Office 2010! Avis has always made a positive about being second largest – it makes them try harder.

Supermarket positioning is fascinating – Waitrose vs. Aldi, Tesco vs. Co-Op. Each is quite clear about their target market, what they offer and at what price. People will choose a brand because they identify with it. They may also chose a brand because they identify it with something special – one at the higher end may be chosen for special occasions.

This is the result of careful planning by the brand owner, not just in its marketing communications, but also packaging, store layout, behaviour and attitude of staff, customer service ethos, to mention just a few.