Some would say that the steps to building a strong brand include creating a catchy company name, promoting the brand to potential customers, and following it up with good PR that tells the world your brand is the go-to source. It is not, however, that simple or that granular.
When designing a strategy to set your business apart from competitors, examine what makes your business unique and attractive to your target audience. Your brand should incorporate these unique traits.
The benefits of a strong brand are many:
- It requires much less persuasion to convince customers to use your service or product as opposed to a competitor’s. The most powerful brands can sell themselves.
- It adds tremendous value to your company by earning customer loyalty. What’s more, loyal customers are likely to provide a highly effective free marketing service to you: referrals. Loyalty is fostered by a consistently communicated brand promise, backed up by performance.
- It builds a long-lasting customer relationship due to the trust in your service or product. It strengthens the recognition and reputation of your company in a cluttered marketplace.
- It leads to the ability to command a pricing premium for your service or product: “I have no problem paying $600 for a cell phone — it’s an iPhone!”
- It helps differentiate similar products and services in the marketplace. Customers will choose your brand over a product or service they have not heard of due to the perception of your stronger brand.
Developing a strong brand is crucial, but just as important is not damaging your hard-earned brand. Warren Buffett famously stated that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. Here are some branding pitfalls to avoid:
- Poor customer service at any level of the business. Have you ever called a company and the operator was rude to you? You could instantly be turned off, even though the operator may have nothing to do with the actual product or service. Every level of the organization can reflect on the overall brand and perception of what you are offering.
- Poor-quality products and services. The most powerful brands in the world will not compensate for a lousy product or service.
- Untrustworthy behavior by any member of the organization. Trust is the hallmark of any strong brand.
- Lack of concern for the public’s safety or health. Case in point: the recent E. coli outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants. The company’s “Food With Integrity” slogan/brand, which took years to build, has been enormously damaged by these outbreaks.
A strong brand will enhance your strength in the marketplace, but avoid any of the pitfalls that could destroy your brand overnight.
How to build a strong brand
Every product has a life cycle and a strong brand will easily outlive the life of each of your products. Why did Kraft buy Cadbury for over $19 billion? It didn’t just buy chocolate and factories. It bought the brand.
But how do you achieve a strong brand, while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls that could destroy your brand overnight? Here is some of what needs to happen:
- The consumer easily connects the name, design and symbol that identify your business’s service or product. Think of the most successful brands in the world, such as Nike, Microsoft or Coca-Cola.
- The consumer connects emotionally with your brand. This happens when the brands repeatedly provide what the consumer wants, desires or needs.
- You know your target audience. Your company’s brand should not be everything to everyone. You need to understand your target market and know exactly where you fit within the marketplace.
- Your brand creates a benefit for consumers that they don’t consciously know they need. Nike created a high-end performance running sneaker before there was widespread demand.
- Every employee knows your company’s brand and what it stands for. If this happens, customers will receive a consistent and clear message regardless of whom they are talking to.
The best brands are those built on a strong idea that your whole company can hold on to, commit to and deliver on. Your brand needs to permeate your entire organization. When everyone is clear on the brand and can deliver on its promise, your business will thrive.
Mark S. Carrow, CPA, MS, and Brett Dubin, CPA, are members of Citrin Cooperman’s Philadelphia office, which provides tax services, business consulting advice, valuation services and merger and acquisition guidance. www.citrincooperman.com. Contact Mr. Carrow at firstname.lastname@example.org and Mr. Dubin at email@example.com.