Branding is an integral part of the way you communicate who you are and how you differentiate yourself from your competitors. Whether you are a not-for-profit organization, an SME or a start-up, your brand and your attitude towards it can have a huge impact on how you grow and manage your business.
Attitudes to Branding
Many senior managers look upon branding as a cosmetic exercise. Instead they prefer to concentrate on the ‘more important’ issues of sales, cost-cutting, or restructuring etc. The brand is treated as a superficial trifle as opposed to a reflection of what the business is about and how it will deliver a competitive advantage. Public opinion is also fairly negative. When brand consultants reveal the new look for a high profile organization, the 2012 Olympics or BP, the focus is always on the £1 million fee that’s been paid out. The long-term potential of the brand and the additional million in fees paid to advisors, lawyers and accountants is ignored. This is because until a brand is established we do not consider it a good investment of time and resource.
The internet challenges these attitudes. The speed with which your product or service can be found means that your brand must not only be strong visually but it must convey a strong value proposition and ethos. Increasingly your website is where potential customers receive their first impression of who you are and what you stand for.
Why Branding is Important
Branding is all about perception. If the brand is seen to innovate and add value it is considered to be a good thing – it delivers more return for less risk. If the brand appears to take its market for granted, negative thoughts and attitudes appear. Once these set in they are hard to remove. This sense of perception applies equally to FTSE100 companies as it does to political parties and not-for profit organizations. For quoted companies brand perception can influence share-price, for political parties electivity and for the latter, donations and subscriptions.
Today, a large number of businesses consider their brand as an intangible asset that can be listed on their balance sheet. For Coca-Cola, the brand alone accounts for 51% of the company’s stock market value.
John Stuart, the Chairman of Quaker, knew what he was talking about when he said in 1900:
“If this business were split up, I would give you the land and bricks and mortar, and I would take the brands and trade marks, and I would fare better than you.”
Managers as Brands
Some successful companies use the brand as their central organizing principle and use their founder or Chief Executive as its central driver and promoter. The obvious example is Richard Branson who seeks to give the everyday man in the street a fair deal whether it is train travel, flying, financial services, media or music. Others may be custodians of the brand, such as Willie Walsh the Chief Executive of British Airways.
Whether you are the owner of your company or a manager, there is huge benefit to be delivered in promoting yourself within your brand or as part of it. It is becoming a part of our culture to develop people as a brand whether it is via the internet, a magazine, social network or a blog. Those that do it effectively use multiple forms of media in order to ensure that they, as part of the brand, are more prominent than their competitors.
This type of branding shouldn’t be confused with self-promotion, which is about seeking only personal reward. It is about having the confidence to use yourself to demonstrate to your customers how your brand can deliver better value. If the benefit to your business is increased turnover, you in turn receive a boost in self-esteem.