Branding is of huge importance in marketing. Companies that own big consumer brands are worth billions of dollars, not just because of their plant and machinery, their intellectual property,or the skills of their workforce and management but because of the value of their brands. When we think of branding it is usually consumer brands that are the first to come to mind, but their is no reason why business-to-business marketers cannot use the same principles to power their businesses. Why bother? Because customers are willing to pay a premium price for a branded product compared to a generic one or a commodity.
But what is a brand? Most people think of a brand in terms of names, logos, trade marks or packaging. While these are extremely important for a successful brand, a brand is so much more than just facets of its outward appearance. Brand identity emanates from the totality of outward appearance, product or service attributes, character, personality, promise, recognition, customer psychology, customer emotion, and the history of the brand. The promise of the brand to a purchaser is a certain perceived quality and value.
The process of building a brand can be broken down into two broad steps.
The first step in the branding process is to thoroughly understand your business’ brand. Your organization has a brand whether you realize it or not, the question is, what are your brand’s values? How do customers’ perceive your brand? What about employees and management, how would they describe your brand values? In asking the question it may be better to not use the word: ‘brand’ as people will naturally associate the term with consumer products. Rather, ask what your business stands for, or how are your products or services different from those of your competitors. Ask how you would like your products or services to be different from competitors and what potential opportunities are to differentiate the business.
Having determined its brand values, a business needs to convey them effectively internally to management and staff and externally to its customers. Employees need to understand the brand and ‘live it.’ One aspect of the internal communication is formalizing, and communicating consistent brand elements. Since branding is so dependent on these design elements it is important to create and implement a brand identity that is professional and easy to replicate both off an on-line. This will include a logo, type style, style of imagery/photography type color and layout. Once implemented these elements must be faithfully used in all on-line communications (e.g. new Web pages, e-mails, and weblogs).
Customer experience of your business will obviously have a positive or negative effect on your brand over time. Branded consumer goods often do not have any service elements associated with them. For example, if I wish to buy a specific brand of baked beans, I go to the store and make the purchase. I do not usually have any direct interaction with the manufacturer of the beans. I may like the taste or respect the brand because my mother used to give me this particular product, but I do not buy the brand because the manufacturer provides an associated service. With business brands the opposite is likely to be true. Even with product offerings there is often an associated service element. How this service is delivered will directly effect my perception of the brand.
A major factor in brand building is marketing communications. The following are some of the many traditional methods at a business’ disposal.
Conferences and exhibitions
In addition to these, businesses have a wealth of Internet related communication opportunities:
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
Web based display advertising
Internet based public relations
Search engine optimization
Search is still the most important way in which people find information on the Web. Not only does a high position say something positive about your brand, but having a branded name means you are more likely that people will search for a branded name rather than a generic one.
SEO is a big subject by itself, however the following tips should go a long way in improving your search engine position:
Build rich and fresh content. Search engines want to provide useful results to their customers.
Analyze each of your pages and ensure that they contain the key words phrases that you are optimizing for.
Develop quality incoming links. Search engine algorithms rely on incoming links to gauge how popular a site is and thereby how useful it is likely to be for their customers.
Refine data that will appear in your search ‘snippet.’ Having got a good search position the snippet of information that appears in the results will largely determine whether some one will click through to your site.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
Search results divide into two categories: organic and paid for. in Google the PPC adverts can be seen above and to the right of the organic search results. PPC adverts also appear on a network of content providers’ Web sites. In the pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model, the customer determines several keywords or keyword phrases. When someone enters on of these keywords into a search engine that match your keyword phrase, your advertisement is displayed. You also enter the maximum amount are prepared to pay for each click.
Web based display advertising
With this form of Web advertising an advert appeared on a site and the advertiser was charged based on a cost per thousand impressions (CPM). Every time that a web page appeared that had your advert on it is counted as an impression. This can still be a great way of building a brand provided that the Web site that your advert is to appear on is targeted to your business area and the CPM is within your budget.
A blog or weblog is similar to a diary, but with capability of allowing visitors to add their own comments. Blogs are used for a multitude of purposes from personal diaries to political commentaries, but they also can play a major role in business marketing.
There are several reasons why a blog can help your Web brand. If your blog is regularly updated it can be a source of fresh new content. This should increase search rankings and hence brand equity. But visitors can also add content in the form of their comments. This increases the amount of information content on the blog with little effort on your part (apart from moderating out spam comment.
Public relations has long been an excellent way of promoting a business and hence building its brand. By submitting an interesting press release to a publication may result in your product or service getting an editorial mention. Not only does the editorial not cost, but it also has a greater credibility in the mind of a reader than an advert.
The exact principles also apply to the Web, but the Internet has been a great boon in helping business make the most of public relations. These public relations efforts also directly help the SEO function. Prior to the Internet all releases were printed and mailed or faxed to the intended recipients. The Internet makes it easy to submit releases to services that help distribute the releases.
In addition to the potential for being published or used by an on-line or off-line publication, if a news release appears in the Yahoo! or Google news services, the information will be indexed by their search engine spiders and will help your SEO efforts.
Social media is on the ascendancy and as a result many businesses are setting up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and LinkedIn profiles. Businesses need to think of creative ways in which to use these Web properties to be able to connect with customers and prospective customers. For example, some businesses have used them as a way of promoting special offers.
Email allows companies to easily send out targeted and timely messages to their customer and prospect bases. Such direct marketing have many advantages, including speed of being able to create, send and receive responses for messages, reduced cost compared with direct mail, ability to easily design e-mails that conform to the brand identity, excellent racking and analysis, and the ability to drive traffic to your Web site.