As a business owner, it can be easy to neglect the visual aspect of your business. Whether you’re stepping into an established business with an outdated look or launching your own venture from scratch, there are enough costs and moving cogs in that process that branding your business (or rebranding in some cases) may not seem like a priority.
But a business without a brand is like a person behind a mask. There are no distinguishing features, nothing to tell you apart from any other company. Nothing that1 says what you’re about at first look, and nothing to give customers a reason to trust you. If you don’t invest in developing your company’s face, customers won’t give you a second look. Before we look at specifics of why branding your business matters, let’s define what a brand is.
Defining a Brand
In the simplest terms possible, your brand is the personality of your business. It encompasses everything from how your look (your logo, colors, product design) to what your company values and how you advertise. It seems like a tall order, but branding your business doesn’t have to be complicated. At Red Arrow Marketing for example, our brand is bold and direct, with an emphasis on capability and confidence. Our red and black color scheme is energetic yet restrained, and our logo communicates a digital cursor zeroed in on a target. We get results through targeted advertising and building clean, intuitive websites tailored to your business. That’s who we are as a team and a company, so that’s the face we put forward as a business.
With that in mind, let’s look at how brands actually affect your company.
In the simplest terms possible, your brand is the personality of your business.
1 | Brands connect with customers
Because a brand is essentially a personality, it lets you connect with your consumers on a more emotional level. Just because people are searching for the same product doesn’t mean they respond to the same signals. Customers banking with Wells Fargo may appreciate the warmth and regal appearance of their red and gold brand, while customers banking with Chase may appreciate the seriousness and stark technological bent of their blue and black image. That’s why knowing your audience is crucial to building your brand—you can’t attract everyone, but you can identify some elements that your customers will have in common. Build a brand that shares those values, that they can respond to and engage with.
2 | Brands build trust
A brand is more than a logo. When you develop a full brand identity for your business, you’re making a promise to your customers to present a consistent experience whenever they interact with you. If McDonald’s suddenly painted their walls purple and started offering fine-dining options, they’d create mass confusion among their customers. That’s not what people have come to expect from their brand, and that’s not what their customers value about them. Having a plan in place for how your company conducts itself makes it easy to stick to the guidebook. It’s ultimately that consistency that allows your customers to build confidence in your business and keep coming back. You might remember the recent upset over IHOP teasing changing their name to IHOB. Whether they sold more burgers because of it or not, it confused and upset their customers on a nationwide scale. If your brand is breakfast food, burgers shouldn’t be your next leap.
3 | Brands keep customers
If you provide a consistent experience to your customers, you can start building brand loyalty. One of the biggest ways to do this is through word of mouth referrals. While it’s technically possible to build customer loyalty without a brand, it’s extremely difficult to get customers in the first place, much less convince their friends to give you a shot. If you do automotive repairs and promote yourself as Jim at 555-0123, you’re trying to compete with every Pep Boys, Meineke, and Christian Bros in town on just a name and your good word. But if you build a brand around the fact that you’re honest, fast, and locally-owned, you can become Local Jim’s Fix-and-Go Auto Shop. It’s easier to refer people to a business than an individual, especially if you have a website where they can scope out your services first.
4 | Brands are a form of advertising
The visual side of your brand is often the first impression you make to potential customers. This is where your logo, colors, and font choices can make a huge difference in how you present your business. Since you know the most about your own business and clients, it can be tempting to design your own brand. There are plenty of services that make it possible, and they’re often cheaper than hiring a designer. But there’s real value in collaborating with creatives who develop logos and brands for a living.
Even when you know exactly what you want your haircut to look like, you’d wouldn’t consider reaching for the scissors yourself. There’s a reason we use stylists, and there’s a reason we use designers. There’s a whole psychological and technical side to the design industry, and doubly so when it comes to the human aspect of brand identity design. You may be able to build a logo that looks great, but when it comes to connecting with your audience and selling them your company, consider hiring someone who knows good design. You want to put your best foot forward, and your brand is often the first chance you get at doing so.
5 | Brands get recognized
Finally, the biggest reason branding your business matters is to create recognition among your customer base. Whether you’re a team of twenty or a one-person-army, an un-branded business will only get you so far. Customers may forget your name, but they’ll remember brands. Companies like Apple, McDonald’s, Nike—you can likely picture their logo, their products, and name a few qualities of each business just by seeing their name. Of course their brand recognition didn’t happen overnight. That success is the result of decades of consistent business decisions, subtle logo changes, and building customer loyalty. But having a brand is about playing the long game. When you give your customers something to expect, something that aligns with their needs and values, something recognizable, they’ll remember you. And they’ll keep coming back.
In closing, your customers don’t see any of the work you do behind the scenes of running your business. They only see what you show them. Branding your business is a way for you to control how your company is perceived and what type of customers you attract. Keeping that brand consistent and recognizable will help you keep your customers in the long run and earn their loyalty. Because your brand is so important in portraying your company, consider hiring knowledgeable design professionals experienced in brand identity design. Good designers will partner with you to understand both your business and your customer base, and help you build your brand to be the best it can be.
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