Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Are Branded For More Than Just What You Sell.








You Are Branded For More Than Just What You Sell.

Branding is a nebulous concept for most. It's a term that is often confused for a logo or an identity. It's an art that is not as simple as painting a colorful shingle, hanging it outside the front door and calling it good.
Branding is a promise that you make to your suppliers, employees, and customers. It's following through on those commitments with everyone that interacts with your brand.
Hopefully, that includes your customer base. Holistic branding reaches out to that life-blood of your business, creating an encounter that embodies the entire experience of a purchase.
Establishing a brand and its promise is up to you. But ultimately, the customer decides what your brand means and what it's worth based on their experience with your business. Customers will give your brand tribute and build a relationship with your brand only when you deliver something unique, consistent and of high value. If your efforts aren't focused on setting your business apart from the crowd and providing a compelling experience then you are wasting energy. Your brand is a reflection of everything you do or don't deliver.

It's common for branding to only be a concern for those managing it or consultants trying to sell you on why it matters. But in today's hyper-competitive market no one can afford to be complacent. Your competition is working diligently on growing their brand; figuratively speaking, they would like nothing better than to steal your lunch and the customers that go with it.


Your Brand's Value

Brand value is likely more important and valuable than you realize. Whether you're aware of it or not, your brand actually has a monetary value. Some big name brands are in the billions – as in ten figures-plus. Not surprisingly, most are worth far less.

According to Interbrand, a branding consultancy and monitoring enterprise that rates brand value yearly, the top 2010 brand in the world is Coca Cola, worth a reported $70.4 billion. The highest rated foodservice brands in the top 100 are: #6 McDonalds at $33.5 billion ; #60 KFC at $5.8 billion; #83 Pizza Hut at $3.9 billion; and #97 Starbucks at $3.3 billion. To be clear, that is what their brands are supposedly worth, not the companies themselves; however, you won't find that value on their profit and loss statements.
Companies like the ones mentioned here focus on protecting and even growing those substantial values by consistently delivering on their brand promises to everyone they touch.
Suffice to say, the Coca Colas of the world have a lot to lose when protecting their brand, but they also have a wider margin for error. The smaller the company, the more vital the need to protect what brand value there is.

So where does a smaller enterprise start? It begins by assessing everything that the company delivers. Every business sells a product and with it an experience. Though most get caught up in selling the product, that is only half of the equation. It bears repeating that the entire brandable experience includes the bigger picture.

For example, you can work tirelessly to creating the perfect braised pork shoulder that you know your patrons are going to salivate over, but if you don't put equivalent resources and attention into the experience side of the purchase, you're only concentrating on half of the customer experience. Courteousness while taking phone call for reservations, the hosts' attitude when seating guests, the promptness of the wait staff attending to the needs of the customer, timing in delivering the food table side, delivering the check and thanking patrons as they go out the door, these all matter. It's the practice of treating the experience side of the purchase with as much attention as the product or service itself; that is what holistic branding is all about.

In piecing together the holistic branding puzzle, it's important to understand touch points. Touch points are anytime an aspect of your brand is experienced by customers, employees, the general public – anyone. Every touch point is your opportunity to add value to your brand or devalue it. Think about the quality and experience of the touch point and ask yourself, "Am I delivering on my brand promise or am I trimming away at its value?"

Keep in mind that there is nothing any company sells which a customer can't choose to buy someplace else or do without. Any purchase is the result of the experience of buying it. To a customer, it's often the quality of the experience that can be the deciding factor to purchase, repurchase or recommend your product to others. Your competition can attempt to capture your bread and butter with marketing, pricing or other tactics to win business, but the brand relationship that you create is nurtured and sustained on the experience side of the purchase. If you want to ensure repeat business you must be branded for what you sell and how you sell it. | John Hamilton

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