brand strategy

What’s the Difference in Selling Your Product or Your Brand?

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 12.02.57 PMAs a business owner, you probably hear about the importance of branding all the time. However, I’ve seen many small business owners confuse selling their product with selling their brand. You already thoroughly understand your product, but since 30% of Canadians base their purchasing decisions on their trust in certain brands, it’s essential to note the differences between the two.

When businesses come to me wanting a better ROI on their lead generation, I often find the issue is not with their product, but with understanding the difference between their product and their brand. If we push one without the other, the results can be sales stagnation. Products and branding should go hand in hand. To do this, you’ll need to understand how they are different. I’ve outlined below what I feel are the differences between products and branding and why these differences are significant.

Product

Your products are specifically the objects or services you provide to customers in exchange for payment. They fulfill your customers’ needs. There are likely many competing businesses that offer the same or similar products that would also adequately fulfill their needs, so it’s your job to convince your target market that your products are the best. That’s where your brand plays a key part!

Brand

Your brand is how your target market perceives you. When they think about your business, what words come to mind? If your customer surveys and reviews are coming back with negative descriptors like “slow”, “unavailable”, or “no follow-up”, it might be time to rethink your brand. The goal is for your brand to resonate with your customers.

Your product may fulfill your customers’ needs, but your brand fulfills your customers’ wants. When you and a competitor have similar pricing and quality, the business with the better branding comes out on top; it determines which business they want to purchase from.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. Your brand clearly differentiates your company from your competition, so your audience will not only understand who you are but also clearly identify your value and the benefits of buying your product. Strong branding equals increased business results. Believe it or not, businesses have just as much personality as people.

A short and simple way to remember the difference between your product and your brand is this: You sell your product, but your brand sells you.

For award-winning help with your branding and help determining your brand’s personality and the direction it should take, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

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Rethinking Your Brand: When Your Audience Doesn’t Like Your Brand

Last week, Canadians were glued to televisions across the country as they watched The Toronto Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians in what became their final playoff game of the season. As exciting as that was for us Canadians, a separate story was emerging, focused on something other than the sport itself, specifically the name “Cleveland Indians”.

This team’s name has been involved in controversy for many years, but this year in particular it all came to a head. The term “Indian” is a derogatory term that just isn’t used anymore, as it is very insulting to our First Nations people. The Canadian public was so offended by the team’s brand that even an activist filed a request to ban the team from using their name and logo in the remaining games on the grounds of racial discrimination.

I draw your attention to this issue because as a marketer, it highlights the importance of a brand. The Cleveland Indians’ brand is obviously alienating people, and as public opinion influences buying decisions, this in turn affects the baseball team’s bottom line.

While this is an extreme case, the concept of rebranding to adjust to social values isn’t unheard of. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC in 1991 as health concerns around fried foods as well as rumours of genetically modified chicken were growing. By taking the words chicken and fried out of the brand name, it allowed them to distance themselves from these unpopular public opinions, diversify their product offerings and thereby strengthen their relationship with existing customers ad appeal to a new ones.

If your audience is weighing in on your brand, and it’s creating a negative buzz about your brand as it is with the Cleveland Indians, then it’s time to revaluate your brand strategy. The first step in doing this is conducting market research.

While your brand might not be offensive or politically incorrect, make sure it reflects the values your customers expect to see from your product or service. For example, if you’ve always been known as the leader of a certain product, check to see if your competitors have met your match, or if your loyal customers value the fact that you are a leader.

Hire a marketing agency familiar with your brand, or work with a research firm to conduct market research on your customers and find out more about what they value, why they choose you, and what your brand means to them. Getting feedback directly from your audience will allow you to not only identify who your audience is, but also the types of messaging and values that have meaning to them.

Your brand must be aligned with your organization’s mission, vision and values, so conducting research with your customers to help with your audiences will allow you to create a brand identity that will benefit both parties.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. It represents your organization’s values and sets you apart from your competition. It is who you are. Rebranding your company to align better to the values of your customers is a big first step to improving the connection and relationship you have with your audience. And ultimately, don’t we all want loyal customers who value what we do?

Have a Brand Story? Share it!

Brand-StoryYour brand story is more than the story of your company. The narrative is more than what’s written on a website, the words in a brochure or the presentation used to secure new clients. Your brand story is the reason your business came to be. The brand story is a complete representation made up of facts, thoughts and explanations, which means this part of your story isn’t even told by you.

There are many ways to share your brand story. One way is to ensure that your brand exists in all parts of your business. Make sure your brand is entrenched in all marketing materials such as brochures, business cards and voicemail to name a few. The more a brand is shown, the easier it will be to remember. If customers land on your homepage or social media, what type of feel do they get? This is part of your company’s brand story. I’ve outlined a few key areas you’ll want to focus on to share your brand story:

Website
Your brand story, unique selling feature, needs to be front and foremost on the homepage of your site. Regardless if it is through customer testimonials, reviews, home page content, sliders, videos, or your company blog, when a potential customer lands on your homepage, they need to understand who you are, and what value you bring to them and their business/life.

Blog
A great way to share your brand story with the world is through blog writing. This gives you more control over how the brand story is told. A series of blogs can show the history of your brand and how much your business has grown over time. A great amount of detail or just a brief history can go into these blogs, this depends on how in-depth you would like your brand story to be.

Video
Use video to showcase your company’s history and how your business came to be can be. You could include customer testimonials as part of this video. After all, your brand story is as much about your customers as it is your company. This video should be displayed on your website and all social media platforms that your business uses.

Over 70% of consumers prefer to learn about a company through content (like a blog) instead of advertisements, so make sure your brand story is prominent in everything you do.

The Basics of Branding

fierce-brandingBranding is one of the most important aspects of any business, no matter what type of organization you run. Having an effective brand strategy can give you an upper hand in today’s competitive market. You may be asking, “What exactly does branding mean?” “What is a brand strategy?” and “How do these two things help my business grow?”

Put simply, your brand is a promise you make to your customer. Your brand tells customers who you are, who you want to be, and what they can expect from your products and/or service.

Are your services expensive and serve a niche market? Ask yourself, is your service high quality at a high-cost, or, low-cost but high-value? You’re going to have to choose, because you can’t be both. Who you are should be based on what your target market wants, and who they need you to be.

What is a Brand Strategy?
A brand strategy is the what, where, when, how, and to whom you communicate your brand messages with. A good brand strategy differentiates your offering from your competitors’. In thinking about your brand, try answering the following:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Brand Equity
Having a solid and consistent brand leads to strong brand equity (the intangible added value brought to your company’s products and/or services that makes it acceptable for your company to charge more for your products and/or services than what seemingly identical unbranded products charge).

Christian-Louboutins-red--007A great example of brand equity is high-end footwear designer Christian Louboutin. Louboutin launched his line of luxury, red-bottomed women’s shoes in France in 1991. The red-lacquered soles have differentiated Louboutin from other luxury shoe brands, and have influenced women all over the world into buying and wearing high-end shoes. People will pay more for the promise of luxury, quality, and the red-bottomed recognition that comes with wearing Louboutins.

Bottom line: the more recognized your brand is, the more real estate you take up in your consumers’ minds, and the more power you have to persuade your target market to buy your brand.

Defining Your Brand
Trying to define your brand is like a journey of corporate self-discovery. It can be time-consuming, difficult and at times uncomfortable – but in the end, it’s worth it!

Is your brand defined? Do you have a strong brand strategy in place? Do you understand the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers? Do you rely on what you THINK they know rather than KNOWING what they know? Comment and share your branding successes and failures with me. If you are looking to define your brand and/or develop a brand strategy, please feel free to contact me at 416-653-3053, or info@creativeworksmarketing.ca.