Everyone should appreciate how important brand is, sadly not everyone does.
I define brand as being a group of feelings and ideas that your customers have about you. The stronger and more positive those ideas are, the more they’ll buy from you and the more loyalty you will have.
Big companies invest huge amounts to build their brands and the ones who do it best tend to last longer and make more profit. Samsung may have huge revenues, but Apple – with a stronger brand – is much more profitable.
Due to brands being made of ideas and feelings, they can be tricky things to control. The best brands have an almost natural feel, whose meaning grows organically over time. They’re the soul of the company, not a fake entity created by advertising agencies or brand consultancies. A great example would be a brand like IKEA, eccentrically true to its Scandinavian heritage.
Branding can be a bit more difficult for big companies. Many big organisations seem to have no soul – particularly those that have grown through mergers, or have expanded beyond their home country or original product, or have hit hard times. They also have to get thousands of employees to conform to the brand and to be consistent globally in the experiences it gives its customers. That means systemising the brand, writing rules, policing everything. Imagine how hard it is for a company such as Tesco, for instance, to rebuild a damaged brand across thousands of stores.
Small businesses however, are ideally placed to build the best possible brands. Often they’re founder-led or family-owned, which makes the company a very personal thing. Values tend to be woven into the business. All those things to do with tone, style, beliefs, purpose, perceptions – which create the brand – aren’t artificial entities, they’re just part of the atmosphere.
So why doesn’t every small business have a brilliant brand?
Here are four things small companies sometimes get wrong – and an idea on how to put them right.
- Not thinking about the brand
Many companies just don’t think about their brand at all. They focus on the day-to-day, internal aspects of their business: their craft, their product, their technology – not on the ideas and feelings in people’s minds.
Answer: every three months step back from the day-to-day issues, bring some customers in, listen to them, find out what they value most about you.
- Big spenders
Others think they can build their brand just by improving the website, tweeting and running adverts. But the ideas and feelings in people’s minds are influenced much more by reality than by communication.
Answer: switch your spend from advertising into creating an amazing experience for your customers, online and offline, from the moment they first encounter you. In your advertising give people useful content, not empty sales talk.
- Not communicating the brand values to employees
Many small companies fail to spread their brand. The soul of the company is completely clear to the founder but less so to their employees. The founder gets frustrated because their people are doing it wrong and the people get frustrated because they don’t know what the right way is.
Answer: write down your brand values in 100 words or less.
- Failing to innovate
Often, small companies stay with a successful formula, even when it’s no longer successful. They don’t innovate and they gradually become outdated. Brands are remarkable things: they depend on consistency and predictability so that customers know what to expect but they also thrive on novelty.
Answer: every six months, try something new. Get a new service, product or message out into the world. Think of it as a prototype and learn from it.
These four suggestions can help any small company feel like a big brand.