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Perception is Reality in Branding

Whether you know it or not, your company has a brand already. The question is: is it working for you or against you? People already perceive you as something; the question is, what?

Your brand is not your logo; it’s much more. Your brand is also not found in the physical attributes of your products. Your brand is how other people see your business. It is the perception of your company, products and services as seen through the eyes of your target marketplace. It is the perception that there is no company, product or service quite like yours. Branding takes your image, values, and philosophies and connects them with your logo, products and services.

Your brand is tied to the emotional reaction people have when they think about your products. Let’s say your child wants a “cool” bike, but as a parent, you want it to be safe, too.

You’re at the store and see a bike you think your child might like. How would you describe it? You might say that it has two wheels, a banana seat and a basket; it’s red, and there are streamers on the handlebars. So … what do you think about this bike? A bike is a bike is a bike, right? But what if I told you this bike was designed and engineered by top technicians at Volvo… now what is your perception? Is it still “just a bike?” Or is it now the safest bike you could buy for your child?

I know Volvo doesn’t make bikes … but what if they did? As a concerned parent, wouldn’t that make you pause for a moment when comparing a Volvo bike to another brand? The Volvo brand equals “safety” in the minds of consumers, whether it’s a car … or a bicycle.

How do you go about creating your brand? First, be clear on what you are in business to do; on what you stand for. What is your company’s role in the world, in your marketplace, in your community? What function do your products or services fulfill for your customers? How do they make life better?

Be clear on your vision for your business, on who you want to be and where you want to go. Know and articulate the values under which your business operates. Once you’re clear on these things, your business must live them, consistently and over time.

Brands are not just something you think about in marketing meetings; brands are the essence of the company itself. Everything that happens in your business has to tie into the brand.

Branding isn’t just the job of your marketing department; it is the responsibility of every employee from the CEO to the workers on the assembly line. Everything you do and how you walk the talk all help to build your brand!

How do you bring your brand to life? You do it by creating a buzz about your business, and that starts with a unique story or innovation. The story or innovation generates some interest where the market notices it, and where customers are excited about it and tell their friends. By walking your talk and living your values, you generate that “news-worthiness” you need to get people talking about you, and this becomes your brand.

Your brand is really created not through your direct efforts, but through third parties: those who talk about you. The money and energy you put into marketing and advertising is how you maintain the brand once it has already been created, but you cannot create a brand through advertising. Advertising dollars didn’t create the perception of “safety” for Volvo. The Volvo brand was created over time, through good public relations and word-of-mouth about the company and its safety-conscious cars.

The function of marketing is, then, to bring the brand to life once it has been established. Marketing tells your unique story. It shows off your products or services in a way that helps you maintain your special brand.

What is your brand? If it’s not clear, maybe it’s high time you focused on creating one. Then put your marketing efforts into making sure other people know what your brand is all about.

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