What is a brand?
In today’s world, brands touch nearly every part of our lives. Are you thirsty? Reach for a can of Coca-Cola, a Starbucks latté, or a bottle of Evian water. Feeling under the blue? You immediately grab for a Klenex tissue or pop a Tylenol – never a foreign sounding “Paracetamol.” That being said, have you ever really asked yourself, “What is a brand?” If we copied a Jay Leno “Hits the Streets” segment and asked everyone we crossed that question, we would probably get back many different answers. “It’s a company’s logo,” or, “it’s a company’s image,” might be two of the main responses we would get.
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's product as distinct from those of other sellers, e.g. music." The word branding itself comes from the tradition of branding cattle with a distinctive symbol so farmers knew whose cattle belonged to whom. This concept was later spread to companies, products, places, and on from there.
This information is all great for starting to understand what a brand is, but it’s all a bit technical and dry. Here at SCG, we believe in a more simplified, comprehensive definition of a brand. To us, a brand is “a promise of value.” For a customer it is important to find out just what exactly that promise means and if that promise is held. A company’s promise of value is often its most valuable asset. What value promise does your company or organization communicate to your client base? How is it perceived by your client base? Moreover, through what medium is that promise made? Over the following weeks we will be running a series of blogs about “what is a brand?”. Through this series of blogs, we hope to work hand in hand with our good friends and clients to provide some food for thought and some important questions to ask about where your brand stands today. We believe that through this series of blogs you will be able to develop the tools and knowledge necessary to strengthen your promise of value, which can only lead to an increase in your business.
In order to determine how your promise of value is conveyed to and perceived by your client base, it is crucial to know the “8 P’s” of branding, also known as the marketing mix. In the early days of branding, the 8 P’s started out as the 4 P’s: price, product, promotion, and place. As branding and the business environment has changed over the last several decades, the 4 P’s have been expanded to include people, process, partners, and physical evidence. By understanding how all 8 of these elements come into play in your brand identity, you can move to strengthen your brand and as a result, your business. What is one of the main ways that the “8 P’s” of your brand are experienced by your client base? Your website.
Thirty years ago, your brand’s promise of value was conveyed through a brand media kit that could be easily distributed to prospective customers. In today’s world, this ambassador or mascot for your brand is embodied by your website. When a client is not on site in your storefront, the website is the strongest way to communicate your brand experience. As potential customers explore your website, they start to develop an understanding of what kind of value promise your organization offers. With that in mind, it is important to have a website that is captivating to its audience and draws potential and existing customers back for more. At this point, there is no turning back. When a modern consumer has a new business or service need to be met, they often turn to the internet to get informed. A strong website built for 2013 and beyond becomes a key investment for your brand for years to come. So, you need to ask yourself, “does my current website represent the best my brand has to offer to my customers?” In the 21st century, a weak website equals a weak brand.
How do you know if your website represents the best your brand has to offer? Here at SCG we have a rubric that helps us to analyze and understand the quality of your website and brand positioning. Take for example one of our recent web projects that we completed for Ultimate Sound and Installation (LINK). Not only do we think this site boasts a spiffy web-based brand experience, but it also rates strongly on every question on our rubric. When we analyze websites we ask ourselves some of the following questions:
-Does your website clearly communicate what you do in less than 30 seconds? If someone falls on your site and they don’t know who you are or who you target, you can guarantee they’re bound to jump somewhere else before long.
-Is there a call to action on this website? Customers want an interactive brand experience! What useful content do you provide to keep your customer’s interest. Do you have blogs or press that you update frequently on the site? This keeps people coming back and raises your position in search results. Ultimate Sound has a fantastic interactive app (go check it out!) that allows you to preview what your house after getting the Ultimate Sound treatment.
-Does your website design reflect your expertise stylistically and is it visually appealing to the customer? Have you noticed lately how many websites have become works of art? Website styles have changed more over the last two years than they have over the last 10. If your website has a dated color palette or a clunky navigation experience customers will be turned off. Your key content needs to be accessible within three clicks. What we love about the Ultimate Sound website is the bold grey and yellow color palette. It gives a distinct, reassuring feeling that really conveys a well-planned brand visual identity.
Make your website the strongest platform for a potential customer to discover the promise of value your brand brings. Make your website a reason for your current customers to come back. Raise your brand awareness.