Or “Would a Pepsi by any other name still taste as sweet?”
It is often said that if you are about to start up a business, or are already running one, it is essential to consider your branding. However, thinking about branding can be incredibly time-consuming, especially if you are a small business, and often other concerns will take priority. Whilst finding basic “How to brand yourself” information is not hard (and we will of course be discussing this in later articles), fully understanding why branding is so important to any business is not often fully explained. In this article we hope to show you that branding, no matter what the size and scale of your business or what products or services you are offering, should always be at the forefront of your mind.
Nowadays almost every imaginable form of business has some form of online presence. The rise of the internet and popularity of online shopping has drastically increased consumers choice in terms of from which companies they choose to buy their goods and services. In turn, whilst this means that businesses potentially also have a much wider customer base, it means even the smallest company has to have some awareness of branding in order to attract and reassure their potential customers. When two similarly priced products or services are on offer, the company with the better branding will most likely win the sale.
A classic example of this is the ongoing “cola wars” between Coca Cola and Pepsi, when consumers taste-tested both drinks in non-branded cups more people preferred Pepsi. However, when the drinks are presented in branded glasses, cans or bottles, the majority prefer Coca Cola. This experiment has even been tried where consumers are given Pepsi in a Coca Cola glass and vice versa, and even the same drink twice in differently branded vessels. No matter what the participants are actually drinking, a majority prefer the contents of the Coca Cola glass.
Branding when done well, is not only about the products or services you offer, but also implies the level of service your company will provide (you know with Coca Cola and Pepsi you are getting a product which will taste the same no matter where in the world you buy it, and in both cases, their packaging hints at cool and refreshing products). Good branding, to some extent, also suggests to the customer what type of lifestyle they are buying into when purchasing your product or the type of people the product is aimed at (Coca Cola generally use more “family friendly” images in their advertising – nostalgic images of Christmas and a cartoon polar bear; whereas Pepsi go for the tagline of “For a New Generation” and their advertising often use celebrities and are more “action packed” and fast paced than Coca Cola’s).
Obviously, not many companies have the branding, marketing and advertising budgets of Coca Cola and Pepsi, but these implied messages are vital to consider. For example, next time you use the internet to find out some information, let’s say you are trying to find the solution to a minor computer issue and use Google to research the problem, consider which websites’ advice you end up using. You will probably get thousands of results and in most cases, you are more likely to click on a website called something along the lines of “Computer Experts” rather than “Computarz – I can make them work”, as the first one implies that there is a number of people giving advice on the site all of which have some level of expertise, whereas the second implies one person whose knowledge does not stretch to knowing how to spell the object they claim to be able to fix.
Without viewing the information, and with no intended financial transaction you have made a choice on which site to use and to trust based on branding alone. Theoretically, much like the “cola wars” discussed above, both sites could have the same information, the latter could even have better information, but you as the consumer have made your choice based on branding.
If even free information is judged by its branding, persuading a customer to part with their cash, without some consideration of how you are presenting your business to them is going to be monumentally difficult. Even if you are offering a niche one-off product, without any other online competition, you still need to persuade the customer that your business is trustworthy, and if they are going to give you money they need at least the reassurance that they will get the item and it will be delivered in a timely and satisfactory condition. In essence, branding is your first impression for your potential customers, and as the old maxim goes “you only get one chance to make a good first impression”
Branding is important, no matter what type or size of business you are.
Customers will make judgements about the products and service you provide based on your branding alone
Customers are buying into the quality of your branding as much, if not more so, than the quality of your products or services (although do note that if the quality of your products do not match the expectations of your branding you are unlikely to get many repeat customers!)
Your branding is your first impression for potential customers so it is vital to make it a good impression.