5 Brand Myths That May Be Holding Back Your Brilliant Business Idea
By Maria Ross
You are brilliant!
You came up with an amazing business idea, found customers who are willing to pay for it, and are well on your way to giving this entrepreneurial life a whirl.
But in the haze, you started stressing about….your brand.
As a brand strategist, I’m happy you’re thinking about that. Too few people do, until it’s too late and then they wonder why they didn’t rise above the noise or attract the right customers or clients.
Or, they think they don’t have the big budget to “brand effectively.”
Like I always say, effective branding is not about how much money you spend but on how clearly and consistently you communicate the right message to the right audience at the right time. While dazzling branding is more than just pretty pictures, it also is something that is easily attainable, if you put the right thought and effort into it.
So don’t stress!
Let’s dispel five popular branding myths right now so you can get clear, focused and confident on your world-domination efforts:
Myth #1: Branding is hard
Branding is not rocket science. It simply requires focused thought about what you want your business to stand for and to whom, and then a commitment to communicate that message through everything you do visually and experientially. There are some key questions you can ask yourself to ensure your brand strategy is in place and guiding all of your efforts with ease. But once built, you are never “done” nor do you ever stop being a steward for your brand once everything is up and running.
You’ll want to audit your materials, business practices, customer service and messaging periodically to ensure your brand is clear and consistent. You also just need to commit to living your values so that customer and clients hear your brand in your actions more than your words!
Myth #2: Branding is expensive
Effective branding can be done on any budget. I’ve worked with $12 million dollar budgets and $1000 budgets. The real key to effective branding and small business branding tips is making sure you have your ideal audience detailed out and that your business messages speak directly to their needs and the benefits they value. Once you have those thoughts together, you can then work more effectively with a designer to put together your logo or website experience and a writer to craft your brochure and website messaging.
Consistency and clarity in messaging (visual and verbal) is what makes a brand effective and creates rabid fans and evangelists, not how much money you spend promoting it. So if you can only spend $200 on a logo, you can still ensure it communicates exactly what you want to whom you want. True, you may not be able to do multi-million ad campaigns or sponsor extravagant sporting events. But with clear, consistent and strong messages, you ensure that even those 3 or 4 activities you can afford to do are laser-focused.
In addition, since brand is more than just your logo or advertising, you can live your brand through aligned corporate policies. You can easily and cheaply craft a voice mail message or email signature that conveys the brand. Whatever you blog about, tweet about, speak about should all be in the same voice and vibe of the brand you want to create. And of course your product or service should be consistent with what your brand promises to the world. These are all actions you have to take in running the business anyway – might as well align them to a strong brand for maximum “oomph.”
Myth #3: Branding is Just Fluff
Brand equity can make or break a company. And if you think branding has no financial impact, just ask private equity firms who “buy” brands for billions of dollars, all for the brand cache or loyal customer base. There are studies that show companies with strong brands actually outperformed the market during the recession. It’s the reason people will pay more for a white t-shirt from Nordstrom than one from Target.
Brand translates into bottom-line sales when done effectively. You can’t deny that if you build a strong foundation and communicate it to the right people at the right time, you will have a warm audience ready to embrace your message and buy from you. In addition, a strong brand guides all the other marketing decisions that fuel your company’s growth: advertising, pricing, partnering – even hiring.
Myth #4: All Designers are the Same
All designers and branding firms are not the same when it comes to small business branding. While you can save lots of money thinking through a brand strategy on your own before you engage with a designer on communicating anything visually, some designers get it and some don’t. And sometimes, you do get what you pay for in this regard.
If you are talking to a designer who does not ask who your target audience is or what you are trying to convey to them through your visual elements – merely asking you what colors or concepts you “like” – you need to run the other way. While you might be spending $100 on them and think it’s a steal, you will lose more in sales and customers by not communicating the right message visually. Good designers understand how imagery, font, color and spacing impact the subconscious connections people will make about your company and what it offers. And they should be experienced enough to make some clear recommendations in that regard. It’s worth it to spend a bit more on this if you can and work with someone good who asks about your brand and your ideal customer.
Myth #5: Branding Works Immediately
Branding and direct response marketing are two different things. People need to experience your brand multiple times before it sticks. You will need to have it out there, present in all of your customer touch points, before being able to decide if it works or not.
Branding is about awareness and “mindshare” – what spaces do you occupy in people’s minds when they see your logo or hear your name. This takes time to build. The Nike swoosh did not have meaning within the first three months it appeared. Avoid the temptation to change branding every few months in an effort to chase quarterly sales growth. Yes, if you get feedback that things are not working, you should make changes, but hopefully, you will have put the upfront thought and effort into the brand strategy and messaging before implementing it, so that maybe only slight tweaks are required.
Branding and messaging can be refreshed over time – but not before customers get a chance to respond to it. And while you might be sick of your brand and messaging after 3 months, remember, your potential customers may not even have seen it yet, with all the noise that is in the marketplace.
Maria Ross is a brand strategist, speaker and author who believes cash flow and creativity are not mutually exclusive. She is the creator of Red Slice, a brand consultancy for startups and small businesses and author of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget, (2nd Edition) and a mini-eBook series, The Juicy Guides for Entrepreneurs, as well as her powerful personal memoir, Rebooting My Brain. Maria is a sought-after keynote speaker on both business and inspirational topics and has shared her wit and wisdom in numerous media outlets, including MSNBC, ABC News, The Huffington Post, Forbes.com, NPR and Entrepreneur Magazine. She lives with her husband, adorable son and frisky Black Lab in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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