It's the buzz around town these days... branding.
And no, I'm not talking about a college tattoo fad or something that you might see on a herd of cattle, I'm talking about the same thing the top exec's at Apple, Google, Red Bull, Zappos and, one of my local San Diego favorites, Rubios strategize about in their corporate boardrooms. (By the way, have you noticed Rubios now calls themselves Rubios Fresh Mexican Grill? That's branding my friends.)
You may be saying, "Yeah, but branding has no effect on my life." And to that I would say "Let's reconsider." Here's why:
Branding is everywhere, it's pervasive. It even works its way into your wardrobe, onto your bathroom sink, into your cupboards and into the hands & hearts of your kiddo's. Take a quick glance into your bathroom vanity -- behind the mirrored door -- and notice the brands that fill the shelves. Did you see them on TV? Read an ad in a magazine about them? Hear about their fabulous results from a trusted friend? Or did just like the way the packaging looked at the store when you were trying to make a choice between a hundred different types of hair gel or body lotion? Now check your closet. See any logos? Names sewn into your polo shirts? (Oops there's a brand right there!)
Okay, I'm being a bit silly, but the truth is, branding is serious strategic business. A good brand doesn't just happen, it's developed with careful focus, deep insightful thinking and lots of creative gusto.
The 10 Vital Things Branding Can Do for You (And Your Business)
1. Great brands build expectations.
Have you ever known someone that was connected to a particular kind of beer? Pizza? Sneaker? Golf club? Or tech device? It's not just about the performance of the "thing" -- it's about the expectation of performance. When you buy (fill in the blank) golf clubs and spend $2000 more than another set, it's because you truly believe you will have a competitive advantage (or at least look like you do. And face it my friends, appearance is 9/10th's of the brain-game.)
Bottom Line: You pay more, because you expect to gain more, and the same goes for business. Who strives to be the low price, generic option?
2. Great Brands build relationships, and connect the people that invest in them.
Brands are connectors. People who love a certain sports team, will feel more inclined to high five someone cheering for the same team.. it's human nature.
In business, brands build repeat business, an adoring audience, and raving fans.
People feel deeply connected to the brands they know, trust, and love. Many will drive to a special store that carries the special brand they are looking for, visit the hair salon that's a longer drive from their home because of the smiling face that's waiting for them when they arrive, or stay at the same hotel chain for business travel because it feels comfortable, and maybe they get loyalty points for staying there too (yes, that's also brand building).
3. A strong brand creates a roadmap for organizational success.
A clear brand statement provides a roadmap with checkpoints along the way for refreshment. Think of this part of your brand as a long journey that's been planned for months (or even years) in advance of jumping into the car. You have many of your hotel reservations made, some of the restaurant meals scheduled, and some sightseeing spots targeted along your route.
Of course there's always room for spontaneous side-trips and stops at the world's largest ball of twine exhibit, but you know your final destination, and you have a timeframe for arrival.
Key point: you must have a definitive time-based goal.
In business, this roadmap provides a checkpoint for the executive team to measure success, progress and points of improvement. It assures that each member of the team understands where they are heading, where they've been, and at what point they've reached their goal. It also helps employees feel deeply connected to why they come to work every day. Connecting with the "big picture" of where the company is headed -- and why it's going in the direction it is -- will be the gas in the engine of the car!
4. Great brands are culture creators.
At one of the many networking events I go to, I overheard a company owner say that, "they needed a culture because they didn't have one." To this, I would say, he absolutely has a culture, but it is so devoid of life, passion, direction and clear vision (or roadmap) that not only is it not helping his company, it could actually be de-valuing his company each day.
Culture is not an ambiguous thing. It's like a magnet -- one side attracts and the other repels. If you think that your company doesn't have a culture, then you could very well be sending the message that you are checked out as an owner or managing executive. In business, many times you will see a large shift in culture when there's a "shake up" in the management or executive team. The new team wants to create a sense of connection, collaboration, teamwork, employee acknowledgement and overall purpose. A clear brand tells your staff how to succeed, how to participate in meeting the company's goals and how to be a great ambassador of your company.
5. Resilient brands move with the times, but not too much.
Brand confusion is something you want to avoid. Too much testing, tweaking and revamping will confuse your audience of new & repeat customers. Stay true to the core of your brand message Remember my example of Rubio's at the beginning of this article? Although they tweaked their name, their logo, font, color scheme and most of the favorite menu offerings remained the same. Rubio's increased their brand value, and now attract a new generation of customers as opposed to losing their long-time fans.
6. People are brands too.. Yes, you are a brand whether you think so or not.
I could write a whole book about personal branding, but for the purpose of this article, we will stick with this one important concept: you are creating a personal brand each and every day.
First, second and hundredth impressions matter. People want to understand who you are, they want to feel that you are consistent, dependable and aligned with the brand of your company. Whether you wear purple from head to toe (because it's the color of your logo), or you dress like an artistic gypsy. I have a friend who does this.. large flowers in her hair, amazing hand-made jewelry and long flowing skirts. Her business is creating gorgeous custom made pieces of art. For her brand, she is completely in alignment with what people would expect a creative genius to look like.
Bottom Line: You are a brand ambassador for yourself as well as your company.
7. Good brands are interesting, but fantastic brands are viral
It's critical to stand apart from the crowd in today's global market. Be bold with the personality of your brand. Be unique. Create your own "voice" for the company and make sure it is evident in everything from your employee manual to your product packaging. In business, this is where you can have a lot of fun with interior design and branding of your space. Go beyond logos and paint colors and embrace unique, creative and innovative items that speak visually for your brand. Hint: This is where a great interior design firm can really make a big impact!
8. Great brands build wealth.
A strong brand builds value far beyond your asset list. The Google and Amazon brands far exceed the value of their furniture, equipment, property and warehouses. The brands have created a lifeblood of their own, and far exceed any balance sheet value.
Consider this: as a business owner, wouldn't you want to attract a top dollar investor, or purchaser of your business when you get ready to seek funding or sell the business? Looking like a succesful, up to date business who's invested in it's culture is key and your corporate design and branding will matter a great deal.
9. Great brands attract, retain & inspire the most talented staff.
There is a reason that the Business Journal has a feature award each year called 'The Best Places to Work'. High value corporations strive to be named on this list because they know it will help to attract and retain the best and brightest staff, which in turn, will further the company's goals of success.
Bottom line: People value feeling valued.. they like being treated like a company cares about who they are, what makes them comfortable and many dream about working for a company that actually makes their work environment an inspiring place to be for a large part of their lifetime.
10. Memorable brands generate referrals
People rave about great experiences. Listen to a group of ladies at lunch and you will overhear them chatting about their great experience at the hair salon, the vendor who saved the day buy fixing their garage door on a weekend, or the Real Estate agent who went above & beyond by recommending a home organizing service that transformed their cluttered garage full of boxes into a place of order and beauty. When you become a memorable brand, people will be happy to let their friends, social media connections, and Yelpers know what a great experience they've had.
At San Diego Office Design we relish in the challenge of creating and extending the power of great business brands into the spaces where people work, socialize, eat and perform their jobs each and every day. We believe it all starts where you and your employees spend 8, 10 or (god forbid) 12 hours a day working to make it happen in your office.
From my perspective, your team members and employees are your best ambassadors of your brand, great vehicles of your company's vision, and when you really think about it, the soldiers guarding your investment into the company you've built. Do you really want to risk a "who care's" attitude? I don't.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.