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Entrepreneurs are flooded with materials and advisors on how to develop an effective brand. They advise that branding is important because it conveys to customers what they can expect from the company. They push entrepreneurial companies to design their brand as soon as possible. However, there are several assumptions at the base of that kind of advice, and some assumptions are misconceptions.
Here is an overview of the assumptions and misconceptions as well as the realities. If you understand the realities and base your brand design process on these facts, you greatly increase your chances of succeeding.
Get the timing right
Here, we have two misconceptions. In what I call the “Rite of Passage Misconception,” entrepreneurs often assume at the outset that their business is too small to start branding efforts. They think it is important to first test their product or service while they grow their company. The second incorrect assumption is what I call the “Lottery Misconception.” With this mindset, an entrepreneur thinks it is necessary to have a fantastic brand right at the beginning and hopes to get lucky and hit the mark.
Yes, it is important to develop your brand early on since your brand is foundational to your company’s success. But an activity that is crucial to success is first spending time identifying your target audience — that is, your ideal customers in your broad market.
What do you need to know about your ideal customers before branding? First, what problems do they need to solve, what needs do they have? Then, what motivates them? When you understand this information, you will know how to design your brand to convey why your product or service is better than your competitors’ products at meeting those needs.
Related: 9 Tips for Creating an Awesome Brand
Your brand must show how your company’s product or service is different from competitors’ offerings in the way it solves customers’ problems. Do not neglect taking the time to research not only your competitors’ products or services but also their branding and how they market their offerings.
If you understand your ideal customers’ needs and motivations, you can design your brand to convey differentiation based on how your customers will perceive the value of your product or service rather than how your developers see the differentiation. There is a big difference!
An example of effective differentiation
For example, take the Dyson brand. This British company has a customer-focused brand and, in 2017, the British public voted Dyson as the most reputable brand in the country.
Inventor James Dyson created the innovative Dual-Cyclone, bagless vacuum cleaner and, later, other products such as a bladeless fan that also cleans the air in a house. His first TV advertising campaign’s slogan was “Say goodbye to the bag.” Result: It became the fastest-selling vacuum cleaner in the UK. Why? Because he first researched his market and identified his ideal customers: consumers at home who wanted an easier, more efficient way to keep their homes clean. That branding slogan strongly connected with the target audience’s problem and needs.
So, back to the timing issue. I would venture to say that as soon as you know what you want to offer, it is time to identify your ideal customers and begin designing your brand with them in mind.
Get the brand image right
It is a mistake to design your brand based on the assumption that ultimately a good brand and a good product are the same thing and will result in growing your business. This “Product Misconception” is not correct. The reality: Your brand is much more than the product. Your brand defines why your business exists – your purpose and mission.
Think of a well-known person, like the actor John Wayne. You know his image so well that just saying or thinking his name brings to mind an image of his face and the spirit and integrity of his actions in various movies.
Consider your company’s brand as your company’s image. The image should suggest the spirit of your company and what customers can expect. Your brand image should convey your company’s values. Why? Because it will help consumers identify with your company, believing they share the same values as your company. Those values highlight why your company exists and what you want your target audience to believe about your company.
Going back to the earlier example of the Dyson brand, the company’s values were innovation, simplicity and reliability. Customers valued those same characteristics and realized the company’s products were built on that foundation and would give them what they wanted.
What about your logo, tagline, and other brand marketing collateral?
Here we have another mistaken assumption. I call it the “Identity System Misconception,” which refers to entrepreneurs who assume their development of a logo, packaging, website and other materials essentially creates the brand.
As you now know from what I explained earlier, you need to conduct considerable research to identify your ideal customers’ problems and needs before you create a tag line, logo, and other brand components.
Keep in mind that your tagline needs to indicate what you offer, and you need to convey that information in a way that addresses how customers will feel when they purchase your product or service. Your logo becomes your visible identity, your company’s image.
Both your tag line and logo must be memorable. By that, I don’t mean that it just needs to be easy for consumers to remember. I mean that it must speak to consumers’ feelings about the value of purchasing your offering. They know value when they see it, and they will remember the value.
I worked with a B2B company that made the glaring mistake of spending too much time upfront on developing its logo, tag line, website, and other marketing collateral. They undertook these creations without first conducting research to understand the market and how the company’s brand aligned with consumer’s needs.
They assumed they knew the market because the company leaders came out of the corporate world and assumed their own needs in that world were the same as other consumers in the market. Based on that mistaken assumption, they placed all the consumers in their market in one bucket and did not take the time to segment them according to their needs.
Once they recognized the brand collateral materials did not align with the ideal customers’ needs or solve their problems, the company discontinued the use of those materials. A costly mistake!
So do not react to pressure to develop your brand until you know you are not moving forward based on misconceptions that typically lead to costly mistakes or even failure. It takes time, but it’s crucial to first do your research on the problems and needs of your ideal customers, as well as competitors’ offerings.