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Knowledge

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or logo design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

Therefore it makes sense to understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.

The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:

  • Delivers the message clearly
  • Confirms your credibility
  • Connects your target prospects emotionally
  • Motivates the buyer
  • Concretes User Loyalty

To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact.

Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot.

A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It's important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It's a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without.

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Branding is your corporate identity in the marketplace, is yours saying what it should? Your company image is all about the appearance of your packaging. What is your company image saying to the marketplace?

It's important to realize that packaging always either has a negative or positive influence on the purchaser. A negative impression can detour a potential customer, just as a positive reaction can influence a customer to buy. A time to pay special attention to your packaging is when you are in the launch of a "new" brand. If you've already built a strong brand that others recognize often people may not pay as close attention to the packaging.

How can you package your brand so that it is an integral part of your business and represents a strong identity? Keep in mind that I am not speaking of packaging has only a box that contains a product, but as a vehicle that reflects your company's brand and image. Packaging can be judged and represented by the following common business tools:

What image are you putting across with these business tools that you use everyday? What are they saying about your company? Take a few moments and lets look at each one of these.

What are your business cards and stationery saying? Are they saying we are strong, we are confident, and we can succeed in helping you? Or does it reflect an image that says we are flimsy, our dynamics are minimal, and we will try but we cannot guarantee continuity?

What does your web site say about your company? Does it reflect professionalism, clarity, and show them that you respect and care about them? Or does your web site confuse viewers, project an untrustworthy image of your company and ultimately drive potential customers away?

What does your answering system and call return policy say about your company? Does it say we are here to help, eager for you business and will do what it takes? Or is it putting across the message that you are too busy to cater to new clientele, don't care about their needs, and wish they would just quit calling?

What does your email address say about your company? Does it suggest your role in the company, is it easy to remember, and does it something about you and your business? Or does it project a meaningless or generic emptiness?................it's time to change!!!!!

As you can see all these things speak volumes about your image and they either strengthen or weaken your brand. Your image is all in the packaging. Would potential clients take a second look or is your message getting lost? If you thought these things were not worth the investment or didn't matter, you were wrong. Clients and customers will make assessments of your company based on these things and while not always conscious, that customer appraisal says much about your business, your attitude and your priorities.

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Imagine you are about to embark on a trip of a lifetime. You've received brochures design for a luxury resort. The rooms are lavish; the grounds impeccable. Photos of the restaurant's signature dishes look delectable. You're sold.

You go to the hotel. The room is musty and a tad dirty. The food is barely passable. Service is brusque and spotty at best. When you complain to management, you're met with indifference, or worse, silence. You leave disillusioned and disgusted. For all the resort's slick marketing, they've fallen woefully short.

Branding goes well beyond marketing. It will not be successful without ensuring that all aspects of your business reflect and support your intended brand. One of your most valuable assets—your people—must be well-trained in articulating and delivering on your brand. This step is particularly important for service organizations that don't have concrete products. Their offerings are soft assets like knowledge, experience and people.

When employees don't deliver the brand, it can be the kiss of death for a business. Don't believe me? Visit a hotel review web site like TripAdvisor.com. Peruse travelers' comments and you'll likely come across more than a few who cite poor customer service for their negative hotel reviews. Conversely, employees who represent the brand flawlessly and consistently can propel a business to stardom.

Brand: The Sum of All Its Parts

Despite what many believe, brand isn't about your logo, tagline and glossy brochure. Instead, a strong brand integrates multiple components, all of them necessary, including customer interactions, employee communications, corporate philosophy and advertising/marketing efforts. Your brand extends to your employees, customers, the media and even the general public as the above story illustrates. If these components don't consistently reinforce your brand, customers will become dissatisfied. The negative impact of their perception, should they voice their opinions to other potential customers or even the media, could have a ripple effect on your business. This can erode your brand equity and create misperceptions about your company in the market, that in turn could lead prospective customers, employees and investors to pass on your organization.

On the other hand, brand consistency throughout all levels of the organization helps drive an organization to grow and prosper. Strong brands can drive an increase in sales. The company is better suited to attract and retain the best employees. Vendors can see value in your brand and look to establish partnerships with your business, while investors will see the business and your brand equity as a valuable commodity.

Branding Through Your Employees

Your employees are one of the most critical touch points for your customer. Here are several steps to ensure that they are representing your brand in the best light possible.

Develop a Company Philosophy.

A thoughtfully planned philosophy that guides how your company operates is the first step to reinforcing your brand among your workforce. The prestigious Ritz Carlton Hotel Company is an excellent example. They have created the following five "Gold Standards" for their business operations that reinforce the brand and detail an employee's role in delivering on this brand:

  • A vision to revolutionize hospitality in America by creating a luxury setting for guests and a credo that states the company's commitment to the genuine care and comfort of its guests.
  • A motto that exemplifies the level of service for its guests: We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
  • Three Steps of Service:
    A warm and sincere greeting that uses the guest name, if and when possible
    Anticipation and compliance with guest needs
    A fond farewell that uses a guest's name, if and when possible
  • "20 Basics" that outline the responsibilities and expectations for how the company delivers on its service (including #13—Never Lose a Guest)
  • The Employee Promise ("At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies & Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.")

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