Don't Forget Branding -- Your Reputation Depends On It
Branding is an essential component of any effective marketing strategy. Your brand image is intimately connected with the public perception of your company and feeds into your organization's overall reputation.
Over the years, there have been scores of examples of branding initiatives that made a good first impression... and a few that didn't go so well. For instance, the FedEx logo has been a stalwart branding element for the company for several decades and continues to contribute to the mail service's image. On the other hand, the clothing company Gap attempted to redesign their well-established logo back in 2010 — and were promptly criticized for the "tacky, ordinary" result.
The point is, you should never forget the importance of branding and everything that goes along with it, to your company's reputation.
First Impressions Last Forever... Well, Maybe Not Forever
Branding has been defined as: "All of the ways you establish an image of your company in your customers' eyes." In other words, your brand is a representation of your company in the mind of the customer. It involves how customers view your business, how they feel about it, whether they trust it, and whether they would recommend it to family and friends.
With that in mind, it's easy to see why a "brandless" or inaccurate representation of your business will reflect poorly on your organization itself, and on the products or services that you offer to consumers. Research indicates that fewer people than ever believe that "most people can be trusted" — and in marketing terms, we could say that fewer and fewer consumers believe that "most companies can be trusted." The only way to break through this "trust barrier" is to focus on branding — and particularly on branding in an honest, transparent manner.
The reality is, trust is often a key difference-maker in whether customers purchase from a specific business or not. For instance, one study found that 81% of consumers have to first trust a brand before they're willing to buy from it. When you consistently maintain a strong brand presence, month after month, this in itself conveys your trustworthiness and stability to your consumer base. Moreover, when you are authentic in your branding efforts, customers will take note — and their trust will gradually grow.
The bottom line? If you've made a good first impression on your consumers, you need to constantly reinforce that positive image of your company; and if you've made a less-than-favorable first impression, you can still "right the ship" by investing in a solid brand-building strategy.
You Get What You Pay For
Brand-building has many moving parts: logo design, message development, color scheme selection, distribution channels... the list could go on and on. Most business owners aren't marketing professionals, but many look at the price tag of hiring a creative agency and decide to go the DIY route. Unfortunately, in many cases, the poor results of their branding efforts are clearly visible, even to the casual observer.
While graphic-design tools like Canva and freelancer sites like Fiverr offer inexpensive (or even free) pre-built logo designs, the old saying holds true: "You get what you pay for." It's important to remember that your branding is attached to everything you do — and the last thing you want your branding to do is to give an impression of professionalism.
In addition, it can be much more difficult to maintain a consistent brand image and message without assistance from experienced marketing professionals. For example, from the 1970s to the 1990s Michelob's catchphrase changed multiple times — and this lack of marketing clarity no doubt contributed to the brand's falling sales.
While the upfront costs of hiring a creative agency may seem high, the long-term benefits of doing so will likely outweigh any initial investment that has to be made. If branding is not one of your core competencies, then it's wise to seriously consider the pros and cons of outsourcing some (or all) of your marketing processes.
Remember Branding for Sustainable Success
In summary, branding is a crucial part of developing any company's reputation. One false step in your branding efforts can damage your organization's image, and failure to take any action towards building your brand could be even worse.
If you want your business to stand out from the competition, then branding is a must. If you want your company to build credibility and trust among your target consumers, then branding is a must. If you want to enjoy sustainable success and generate momentum, then branding is a must. Of course, working with a trusted agency can ensure that you are directing your branding efforts wisely.
The bottom line? Don't forget about branding, no matter how full your plate already is. If you stay focused on building your brand day in and day out (or hire someone else to do so), then your business will experience wonderful benefits as a result.
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