Why Small Businesses Need to Think Like Global Brands
What Global Brands Do Well
The average consumer is bombarded with hundreds of advertising messages each day, and the competition is steeper than ever to grab their attention. As a small business, your product or service offering is just the beginning of the relationship with your customers. Beyond that, your brand is what really sets you apart and allows your customers to resonate with your offering.
Branding is essential because it cultivates loyalty in consumers. When the latest Nike shoes sell out, it’s not entirely because they’re providing a great athletic shoe, but more-so because people identify with all that Nike stands for, and they want to embody those same core values; adventure, hard work, style, etc. Brands give companies a personality, and the brands that people choose to have in their life are like the group of friends they choose to surround themselves with. Your friends tend to have the same values as you, represent similar ideals, enjoy doing the same things, and often times even have the same style. This is called ‘tribalism’.
Once the mission and vision for a brand are established, it’s still easy for the brand to fall apart if it isn’t consistent. Maintaining the same brand messaging across your social media, website content, media, packaging, customer service, and more is paramount to establishing loyalty with your customers. How can you trust someone unless they’re consistently representing the same messages?
Global brands know how to do it well because the returns on investment are invaluable. When customers respond positively to your brand, it’s easier to introduce new products and sell additional product to existing customers. Conversely, if your brand is solid but your company encounters a hiccup in a product, it’s often the brand that helps you weather the storm. If your brand voice is unique and strong, it allows customers to easily identify your offerings and choose your business over competitors’.
Key Elements of Global Brands That You Should Have Too
Many entrepreneurs’ initial reaction to building a brand is to design the logo first. However, the logo and other tangible components aren’t nearly as important as the strategy and thought that need to come first. The best place to start is by defining your brand before trying to translate it to your audience in any way.
Corporate Mission and Vision
If you’re a small business with an established product or service, you already have a purpose, or the reason why your brand exists in the first place.
Your vision is what you want to accomplish with your brand. Sure, you’re trying to sell your product or service, but are you also trying to make a social impact? Maybe you’re unique in the sustainability initiatives you’re striving for, or want to bring together your local community in some way. It’s up to you to connect your offering to the overall goals you’d like it to achieve.
The brand mission is how you’re going to achieve your vision. In general, any brand’s mission involves creating a customer base, but it must also pull together your purpose and vision into a strategic direction. Your mission will give a clear focus on gaining and providing for your customer base, and it will also give focus and direction to your employees.
Within the airline industry today, Southwest Airlines stands out from other low-cost carriers. At at time when other brands are taking a hit, they’re a great example of how a strong brand mission cultivates an evangelic customer base. The Southwest mission is simply “dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.” At every level of its brand, Southwest has embodied this mission statement and presented themselves as a transparent, trustworthy airline that travelers can appreciate. Within their social media and TV advertisements, they focus on customer stories and passenger spotlights, while other brands stick with company news, updated planes and travel routes. They’ve also been transparent about the three key motivational values they make sure every employee has before they’re hired. Compared to numerous scandals involving other airlines’ poor customer service and outright abuse, Southwest’s brand feels more like a helpful friend getting you from A to point B.
Once your purpose, mission and vision are set, your brand should have a clear set of values that you want your products or services to represent. Your identity will present those values to your customers, and it will become how they view and think of you. Understandably, customers aren’t going to think of your entire mission statement or vision when they pick up your latest product. However, if you have a great brand identity, your products should be able to evoke certain emotions and represent different traits.
Your company’s identity should also be a strong niche that connects with a broad audience. Instead of focusing on a small, specific audience with one main interest, know that your customers have many different interests and nuances. Your brand identity will be successful if it connects strongly with a few interests that a large amount of people can relate to.
Take the example of beauty startup Glossier, for example. The three-year old company is currently worth upwards of $250 billion, and the founder owes it all to brand identity. Instead of choosing to market to a specific type of woman, the company chose to include diversity and simplicity in all of its marketing and branding. Because of this, consumers know that they can trust the products no matter their look or skin tone. They’re also able to resonate with the simple products and subsequent marketing that encourages all women to feel comfortable in their own skin.
The Long-Term Test
You’ll know your brand strategy is working when you can see long-term loyalty established with your customers. At this point, consumers will actually have an emotional attachment to the brand because of its strong identity they relate to. You’ll have a two-way relationship built on trust, and as with any relationship, it’s important to continue cultivating.
Coca-Cola’s 1985 New Coke blunder may be decades old, but it’s still a great example of the damage that can be done if a brand-consumer relationship is tested. Coca-Cola has always been in stiff competition with Pepsi, and at this time it was becoming apparent that consumers preferred Pepsi’s taste over Coke. Coca-Cola failed to realize how influential their brand was, and developed New Coke with an updated formula as well as all-new branding. The backlash was quick and strong, and Coke’s consumers were adamant about boycotting the product.
The lesson from New Coke is to trust your brand loyalty. Consumers’ attachments to brands means that new and updated products are often successful, but not if the entire brand identity is swapped out. How would you feel if a friend of yours changed suddenly overnight into someone with different values and traits? You’d probably feel pretty confused, and not sure if they could still be the same type of friend for you.
Where to Begin When Building Your Brand
Building a brand can seem overwhelming, but to begin defining your brand, ask yourself a set of questions:
- What do customers want to buy from you?
- What product or service features are most important to you?
- What qualities do you want prospects to associate with your business?
- What problems are you solving?
- What makes your business unique?
- What position do you want to have within your community?
- What personality and interest niches do you want to tap into?
While these questions can be a good start in determining the direction for your brand beyond the products and services you’ve developed, it’s important to stay focused on the difference between what you make and what you provide. The answers will lead to the type of messaging you need to be sending to your audience, which should reflect back on your mission, vision and identity. Take, for example, FedEx. We often think of FedEx as a shipping company, and yes…that is what they do. But what FedEx provides is peace of mind, security, and confidence that when you put your trusted docs in their envelope they will arrive at their intended destination on time. FedEx doesn’t build its brand around shipping, they build it around confidence and peace of mind.
How to Translate Your Brand to Your Customers
Translating ‘peace of mind’ into an actionable brand personality can be challenging. Fortunately, there are many elements to a brand. As a small business, you may only be able to do a few of these, or maybe you can do them all. However you choose to prioritize your brand activities, it’s critical that you do them well.
- Content: This will include everything from your web site content and social media channels to print material such as pamphlets, brochures, and others.
- Interactions: Employees should always be aware of your key messages so that any interaction they have with prospects and customers reflects your branding.
- Communication: Emails, voicemail greetings, reception, and even what your employees wear will reflect back onto your brand messaging.
- Marketing Material: A good idea is to develop templates for some of your more standard marketing materials that include approved colors, logo placement and other brand guidelines.
- Logo and Graphics: Your logo and graphics should be inspired from the brand guidelines you’ve already created, and they should all be consistent. While your logo needs to be appealing, it won’t necessarily be the first thing that pops into your customers’ minds.
Whether you intend to or not, every piece of these components is sending a message about your brand. It’s important to ensure the components are working together so that the messages you’re distributing will accurately convey your brand identity.
Branding Matters for Any Size Business
While global brands may have the capital available to go above and beyond, smaller businesses can scale down similar tactics into methods that work for their resources and abilities. A brand identity is just as impactful whether its resonating with members of a single community or consumers throughout the entire world.
As long as your brand has a solid set of values and an identity, you’ll be free to develop creative strategies for communicating with your customers. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box – your unique personality is what will make the most impact!
The benefits of cohesive, strategic branding ultimately go beyond an impressive product. A customer can enjoy products and services, but it’s the brand that they grow to appreciate and value. A few of the benefits of consistent branding for small businesses include:
- Warm Reception of New Products: When customers love and trust your brand, they’re more likely to take the plunge and try something new.
- Customer Confidence: Items that are clearly marked as yours will be viewed more positively, as long as prospects have a positive impression of your brand.
- Improved ROI: When prospects like and enjoy you’re brand, they’re already partially sold. Your marketing efforts will resonate with them and you won’t need to spend as much money per interaction.
- Boosted Awareness: If you have a great product, you’ll want everyone to know it’s yours. Branding can boost customer awareness and ensure your prospects know who you are and what you do.
- Improved Engagement: Customers are more likely to engage with and interact with a known and liked brand.
The Bottom Line
Having your prospects become interested in your offering only to lose them to competitors often occurs because they can’t see a difference. By taking a global approach to branding, you can be sure your business has a strong voice within your industry, and that your messages are resonating with your customers.