Your brand is your most valuable asset.
Now you’re likely thinking, “But wait, Erica! I thought my products, services, customers, people, company culture etc. were my company’s most valuable asset?” Yes, you’re right. Those are all invaluable assets. But your brand is the glue that holds all of those wonderful things together.
Why is your brand so valuable?
In the simplest form, your brand is golden because it distinctly identifies your wares or “you” (i.e. personal brand). It sets you apart in the marketplace.
While you communicate your brand in a variety of ways via your product, logo, website, trademark, etc. these things are not your brand. I particularly like how HubSpot writer Lauren Sorenson sums it up: Your brand is “what your customers perceive about you, and how you make them feel. Chances are you’re not the only company out there selling your product or service.”
Legendary ad agency founder David Ogilvy, defined a brand as: The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.
Customers need to distinguish your company from a sea of look-a-likes. This plays out quite nicely by taking a deeper look at any industry.
For example, if you’re a shoe designer and you launch a shoe store, you will enter a $48 billion dollar footwear industry and seek to carve out a piece of the $20 billion dollar pie of annual footwear revenue. But this means you’ll need to effectively compete (set yourself apart) against an est. 29,360 pre-existing shoe stores if you were to take a national approach. (Source: StatisticBrain)
Impacting the Collective Consumer Mindset
So how will you effectively set yourself apart in the collective consumer mindset?
Through the development and stewardship of your very own brand.
Branding seems elusive for so many small businesses because (here’s the catch): You’re managing perceptions; your brand exists in someone else’s mind.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry. Here are ten insanely practical ways any small business or startup can work towards building a world-class brand.
1. Ask questions.
As soon as possible, start asking customers (and prospective customers) what they think when they hear your brand name, or visit your store? “What comes to mind when you hear ABC Widgets?” This is a question that you should ask often, because as we all know – perceptions can and will change.
2. Find your metaphorical voice.
What is your “Je ne sais quoi”? The intangible, distinct qualities that make your company unique? Sometimes this is hard to clarify, so often entrepreneurs will see good things about other brands and imitate them.
But as Todd Henry, founder of Accidental Creative, suggests: You can’t be a cover band (i.e. sing someone else’s songs) forever. Henry explains, “In fact, imitation is a key part of early growth and development. However, we cannot rely on imitation as a short-cut to success … In order to add lasting, meaningful value, we must – eventually – find our own voice.”
3. Create a brand statement.
Write down who you serve (i.e target market), define the market you conduct business in, share your brand promise and give readers a reason to believe in your company. For example, Toshiba, the engineering and electronics conglomerate, structures their brand statement along a similar framework.