Brands are so much a part of our lives that we forget how much we depend on them. We use brands as shorthand to make our trips to the grocery store easier; we use brands to reassure us about our purchasing decisions; we even use brands to define ourselves in society.
A brand is a promise. A kept promise. With a brand, you set customer expectations. When someone buys your product or service, they count on those expectations to be fulfilled.
The components of your brand promise are based on:
Consistency of experience.
This is the absolute critical component in building a brand. Whether I go into a McDonald’s in Boise or Beijing, I expect my french fries to taste the same, and I expect to see those golden arches.
At the most basic level, to build a brand you must develop a strong brand image. You know you are in a Starbucks even if you don’t see the name over the door. Consistent look-and-feel extends to your logo, colors, typefaces, decor, employee clothing, and more.
It’s not enough to deliver a consistent experience to your customer. The experience must also be of a certain level of quality. McDonald’s french fries don’t have to be the best french fries in the world, but they have to be good french fries and they have to be fresh every time.
Distinct competitive position.
A brand must stand for something and differentiate you from the competition. Three strong brands of superstores have very different competitive positions: Wal-Mart, low prices; Target, hip discount. These positions make it easy for a consumer to choose the brand that suits them.
To remember your brand, customers must hear it or see it over and over. Of course, building brand awareness takes money, and that’s a challenge if you are a small company. The key is to clearly and narrowly define your target market. Then, make sure those potential customers see you many times by repeatedly advertising in the same publications and attending the same networking events.