As a small business owner you have plenty to keep you busy, from securing new contracts to managing suppliers, training your people and keeping a watchful eye on your cash flow. Whilst all of these operational aspects are imperative, one critical aspect of your strategy must be to spend time creating and building your brand, says Lawrence Flude, Managing Director, HKLM Middle East.
Don’t put off working on your brand until you have the time and the money. Great businesses were once small entrepreneurial ventures like yours, strapped for cash and without enough hours in the day. Many of those that focused on their brands rose above the rest to become winners.
The key to successful branding is to start immediately. If you nurture your brand it will return substantial value to you over time.
So, what is a brand?
Technically a brand is a name, term, sign, symbol and design (or combination thereof) intended to identify the goods or services of a seller and to differentiate them from their competitors. Simply put, a brand is a seller’s promise to deliver a specific set of features, benefits, advantages and services consistently to a buyer.
Why focus on building a strong brand?
1. Strong brands create competitive advantage. A unique, differentiated brand attracts attention and it sparks interest. It stands out from the clutter in the red ocean of bloody competition (reference a great book: Blue Ocean Strategy). Effective brands deliver true, sustainable competitive advantage for a business over time. Successes such as Facebook show how a simple, unique idea can become a powerhouse business and brand in a relatively short period of time.
2. Strong brands are recognisable; they build familiarity which encourages repeat business. A great example of this is Apple – it has built a cult following of devotees that will purchase products and services in any category the company releases products to, whether it is hardware, software, mobile, accessories or music.
3. Strong brands often command a price premium. Enough said.
4. They create credibility for new products and services. This results in faster take-up by buyers and therefore a quicker return on your investment. A strong brand immediately endorses your innovation. A brand such as Virgin is an excellent example of this.
5. Structured brand guidelines contain costs. Clear brand and communication rules remove wasteful regeneration of marketing material. It is good practice to retain your corporate memory from a consistency and cost perspective. This is critical if you operate in multiple territories and in numerous languages – once your brand is organised it can be adapted to the requirements of new regions in a cost-effective way.
6. Strong brands are compelling; they connect with customers and attract new ones. Branding initiatives give you the opportunity to stay relevant and remain top-of-mind. It is important to capture the hearts of employees and grab the attention of the market. Brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola and The Body Shop get this right.
7. It takes less time to implement marketing plans. A strategic, considered and robust branding programme should adhere to the strategic direction of your business. You don’t have to re-debate and re-create new campaigns every time opportunity knocks. The door is already open and you can act quickly.
Lawrence Flude is a Managing Director of HKLM Middle East. HKLM is an independent and integrated strategic branding group with offices in the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
Lawrence has specialised experience in delivering solutions in marketing, brand and communication strategy, corporate identity, packaging and brand activation. He has worked in numerous sectors including hospitality, financial services, IT and telecommunications, FMCG, industrial, sport and real estate with clients including SABMiller, InterContinental Hotels Group, Sun International, Emaar and International Cricket Council. He can be e-mailed at LFlude@hklmgroup.com