What is a brand? Over time the definition has become more cliches than nuts and bolts logic. A brand is more than a logo or an Instagram following. It’s the feeling your company evokes from your target audience. A brand must have meaning that resonates with your clientele. Ideally, a brand should give customers a sense of purchase pride and alleviate purchase anxiety. If your brand does none of these things, it’s not a brand; you have a logo that belongs to another plain old company selling widget X.
Think of a song you liked in high school, but you didn’t know a lot about the musician(s) or band. Maybe you can’t visualize what any of the people in the band looked like, or the band name or logo. You couldn’t point out their album cover. You liked the end product (the song), but have no affiliation with the brand (the band itself). Bands without brand fans fizzle away. Why? Because if you love the band, you buy the album first and listen to the whole thing before deciding if you like this one album. Otherwise, you buy a song you like or wait until several singles are out that you know you like before you trade money for the music.
Unfortunately, without records sold in store, it’s harder for bands today; music comes through digitally with no album to open or photo of the group to connect with. No brand ambassador via Tower Records. More likely than not, you hear songs in the background of social media videos, so you never get to know the musician and their brand. As a result, you have no loyalty to the band, even though you like the song and maybe would develop brand loyalty to the band if given the opportunity. The same thing can happen to companies; don’t let a great song (one time purchase) be loved but never become a point of real connection.
If you think your product is great, good for you; that’s the price of admission. Next, you need to engage in brand building to create loyalty so you can generate growth. You could do several things to enhance your brand and find your voice, but start with one single thing that stands out. Maybe you always wear a red polo shirt or sign your emails in a particular off-beat way; it just needs to be consistent and it needs to resonate with your target market. Off-beats email signatures might not be reflective of who you are if you are a corporate attorney. That’s okay. Shoot for something people would likely mention if they were describing your company to a friend (a.k.a. potential new customer for you).
It should start with something simple that everyone in your company does – even if they do it slightly differently – that can enhance the mythos around your brand. In our off-beat email signature example, it’s not vital that everyone’s email ends with the SAME off-beat thing; it’s important that it IS an off-beat thing. If that’s YOUR thing. Once that one thing is launched, find the next thing. Maybe your people always go the extra mile. Or you make mozzarella cheese on site every day. Whatever those unique bits are, own them.
For your target market, this is really world-building, not just brand-building. That might sound highly grandiose and self-congratulatory when referencing a local company like Andolini’s, but adding characteristics like these to your story creates an emotional pull. And that adds to purchase pride when someone buys from you, which simultaneously alleviates purchase anxiety.
Purchase anxiety is the feeling you get when you are about to buy something but you think, “Is this really worth it?” Or, “Is this going to be good?” Or, “If this doesn’t work out, what are my options going to be?” These are anxious feelings natural to a first-time buyer. Purchase pride is one ideal outcome of brand building, where your customers feel better about themselves because of the purchase. Think of the best construction company or home builder you know of. Think of the one that costs more than the rest, but you know that signing the work order with them means that your job will be done right with little to no oversight. That feeling you have – the “knowing” – is the brand that company has cultivated, speaking to you.
Reputation and word of mouth help build your brand (that “knowing” in customers’ heads) over time, but a visual presence and aesthetic that matches your brand promise is usually what gets people in the door the first time before years of accolades have done their work. A brand, then, is not simply a great logo, a jingle, or a social media post; it’s all of them combined, working in tandem, showing off the personality – the voice – of the people and company behind the brand.
The more you can add to your brand, the more it can help drive profit for you. People are sometimes hesitant to enhance their brand because they feel it’s pompous or self-aggrandizing. Don’t remain locked in the seventh-grade mindset of being a wallflower, not wanting to dance in the middle of the school gym floor, hoping to not make a scene. At this point, with the abundance of social media and advertising coming from 20 different directions, if you aren’t making a scene – you are a wallflower. Wallflower companies close.
Own the fact that your business is partly you. Break free of your mental hang-ups about making a (brand) scene, and get the results you and your brand deserve.
Mike Bausch is an industry leader whose restaurant, Andolini’s Pizzeria, is a Top Ten Pizzeria in the US as named by TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, and CNN. He is also the author of “Unsliced: How to Stay Whole in the Pizzeria Industry”, a World Pizza Champion, and a valued Crossroads client.