A: I most certainly do. First, let's be clear about the concept. Gene Simmons, lead man of the rock band Kiss once remarked that while he liked being in a rock and roll band, he loved being in a rock and roll brand. What did he mean by that? Think about Kiss for a moment. What images and feelings come to mind? Probably that distinctive Kiss logo, the white makeup, the outrageous shows, the wild stories. Kiss carefully cultivated that billion dollar bad boy image and it's worth a fortune to them. That is what Simmons meant; having a band is great, but it's the brand that pays the bills.
What do you think of when you think about Rolls Royce, or Nike, or Apple Computer? Each business evokes very clear thoughts, feelings, and images. They all have a strong corporate identity, or brand, associated with their name, and it is no accident. These companies have spent a lot of money getting you to conjure up specific images and feelings when you think about their business.
So the idea of creating a brand for your business is really quite important. While it might seem that creating a brand is beyond your reach, that branding is a concept for the "Big Boys," think again. Branding is something you can, and must, do too.
Here's why: Boiled down to its basics, a brand is the essence of what makes your business unique. It combines your name, logo, and purpose into an identifiable whole. Are you the friendly lawyer, the holistic market, the geeky computer consultant, or what? Without a brand, you may find that instead of being all things to all people, you are nothing to no one. A brand is a hook to hang your hat on, so that people remember you, which is probably more important to a small business than anyone else.
You begin to create a brand by carefully thinking about what your business is, what makes it unique, who your customers are, and what it is they want. Deciding upon a brand is vital because many other decisions will hinge on this one. Your name, logo, slogan, even the location you choose and your pricing structure depend on the brand you are trying to create. A discount motorcycle warehouse will put things together far differently than a Harley showroom.
You want to create a consistent theme through your ads, pricing, logo, etc. which reinforces the image you intend to create.
But branding goes even beyond that. Since your brand is based both on how you want to be perceived, and how you are in fact perceived, it follows that the other half of brand building is creating positive perceptions based on substance as well as style. How?
1. Discover what you do best and do it, again, and again, and again: A brand is a promise which essentially boils down to: 'If you buy from us, and you know what you will be getting' e.g., Volvos® are safe or Atkins® helps you lose weight. The key is consistency.
2. Offer superior customer service: All your hard work creating that cool brand will be a waste of time and money if it isn't reinforced by happy customers. Customers should find it easy to work with you or buy from you.
3. Be a mench: Mench is a Yiddish word that basically means "a good person." If your business practices mench ethics, your brand grows. While good looks may get you a date, being a mench will get you a mate. Pay invoices on time. Do more than asked of you. Do things when not asked. Help out in the community. That also builds your brand.
Remember, the two keys to establishing a strong brand are developing a specific identity, and then communicating that identity consistently. Do that, and your small business will have a hook that is memorable.
Today's tip: Warning! You cannot get by on brand alone. That is the lesson of the dotcom fallout. Take Pets.com for example. That high-flying startup burned through multiples of millions of dollars, mostly because it focused far more on branding than it did on business. Its once-famous sock puppet was interviewed by People magazine and was on Good Morning America, but the company soon learned that creating an identifiable brand is not the same as creating a valuable business.