Unfortunately, many small business owners still believe that building a brand is only for big business. That’s false. Even a single individual has a personal brand that can and should be carefully built and nurtured. Small business owners often discover – sometimes the hard way – that branding is a surefire way to make or break a product, service, or company.
Every business can benefit from branding, including professionals and independent contractors working alone. It's vital to keep up. Buyers — either business or consumer — have shorter and shorter attention spans. Business owners must constantly recharge existing brands and devise new ones.
What Makes a Brand Stand Out?
So what makes certain brands successful year after year? With countless “pretty good” brands, how do some command fierce loyalty and how can a small or emerging business create the kind of brand that customers embrace and even get passionate about?
Here are seven brand “accelerators” that can help your business establish brand passion in today’s tough-as-nails marketing environment:
Target values, not age, race or gender: Brands that are able to generate a passionate following rarely target consumers in traditional demographic group ways, as in men or women 18-34. More often, they identify certain critical shared values and then illustrate how the brand shares those values in some way.
Differentiate with design: Consumers respond to clever, intuitive products — a well-designed idea is engaging and can trump other performance features. It becomes something we have to get our hands on it. In other words, how it looks does make a difference, so don’t skimp on design.
Hire passionate brand stewards for your business: Nothing sinks a brand more quickly than having employees behind it who are not really passionate themselves. You’ll want people who are more interested in building your brand than their own. Don’t take your consumers or their passion for your brand for granted. During the hiring process, seek out people who can be passionate about your brand and what’s behind it.
Know they know you need them: Thanks to social media, the Internet and easy availability of information in general, consumers are more informed and aware than ever before. It’s important to get and stay in touch with how people are thinking. Get out and watch people in bars, malls, grocery stores, movies, sports events, regardless of the category you’re in. Talk to them. Follow them while they shop. Engage them in person and in social media.
Democratize your brand: A brand today needs to live, change and grow. Let your clients or customers in on the process. The ability of the consumer to have it “my way” is a tremendous engine of ownership. Constantly seek feedback and incorporate good new ideas into what you do.
Respect your brand DNA: Brands with passionate followings have a heritage and they respect it. They know what’s in the DNA of the brand and how far they can and should go without putting their genetic code at risk. This doesn’t mean they are old and stogy, just that they know how their personality can legitimately evolve.
Brand the buzz: That doesn’t mean you should hire a bunch of 20-somethings to dress in black and ask for your product by name in clubs. This is about being genuinely interesting and engaging, being a brand that people want to talk about, gossip about, and share with friends.
These blogs on branding can offer great, ongoing advice: BrandingBusiness.com, SmallBusinessBranding.com, and BrandingStrategyInsider.com.
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