It’s an all-too-familiar dilemma for small business; with budgets and time tight, founders and owners are usually so busy getting things going and focusing on the day-to-day tasks that they have no time for the larger issues, like promoting themselves. Building the brand often gets pushed aside.
However, brand building is crucial to small business growth. Here’s why:
#1. Brands tell a story
A compelling narrative will separate you from your competition. When venture capitalists and angel investors finance a business, they support people and stories, not just ideas and products. Like The Beatles, your brand is more than the sum of its parts. It forms a comprehensive package that includes the product itself, as well as style imagery, connections and more. For example, eyeglasses superstar Warby Parker took conventional old frames and made them hip. The company then built upon its success to include give-back programs, establishing the socially conscious brand as more than a style, but a way of life. Company co-founder Neil Blumenthal claims that more than 50 percent of sales are through word-of-mouth marketing, showing that the brand is what drives customers to buy from them.
As Catherine Kaputa wrote in the Harvard Business Review blog, “Whether you’re an established or aspiring small-business owner, the best apply a bold and powerful simplicity to the branding process.” Pointing to Spanx founder Sarah Blakely, Kaputa shows how smart, edgy branding turned an innovative hosiery company into an industry leader.
#2. Products have life cycles; brands are timeless
The market has forgotten Google Wave and Google Buzz, but everybody still knows Google. Ever hear of the Ford Edsel or Pinto? Both products are shorthand jokes for failure. A strong brand can withstand the failure of specific products. Although Google and Ford are giant corporations, small businesses can also benefit from branding.
If your first product is a success, that’s great, but where do you go when it’s time to build upon that? With a strong brand, you already have an introduction into the market for subsequent products and features. All the groundwork is established if people accept the values and quality of your brand. When customers trust your brand, they will even give you a few mulligans if you produce a flop or less than stellar launch.
#3. Science (& Metrics) Prove a Brand’s Strength
Back in the 1980s (and revisited since), Pepsi launched a giant campaign called The Pepsi Challenge, where people blindtaste-tested Coke and Pepsi and declared their preference for Pepsi. Coca-Cola, however, perpetually outperforms Pepsi in actual revenue and consumption. Why? Marketers attribute this success to the value of the Coca-Cola brand. Coke’s colors and logo are iconic.
In a study by Baylor College of Medicine, neuroscientist Read Montague used fMRI to track brain activity associated with branding and found that the brain makes strong associations with brands, such as perceived quality. Their study illustrates that when you take time to build your brand, you are investing time into building relationships with your customers, using psychology and marketing strategies.
Small businesses need to focus some of their energy into establishing brands if they want to be in business for the long term. Without a brand, your small company does all the hard work without any of the long-lasting benefits of being a known entity
Invest the time and resources that your brand deserves now, and your business will see the benefits for years to come. From building brand awareness, to establishing brand loyalty, the intangible quality of your brand will have long-lasting impact on your success.
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