Branding is one of those things that’s hard to define and measure, but is absolutely essential for building a business that will last. When people think of branding, what usually comes to mind is a logo, colors, maybe a catchphrase.
But branding goes so much deeper. It’s about how people think about you, why they think about you, and how often they think about you. That translates into how they talk about you.
Marketing is all about the resources you spend to tell people about yourself, and that’s measurable for the most part. But when you have a good brand, people do the marketing for you. It’s not measurable, but it’s invaluable.
Here I’m going to describe 4 examples of how intangible forms of brand recognition leads to continued product use and, well, basically sales. So that we’re all on the same page, I’m going to highlight some of the biggest global brands, but these scenarios can easily apply to your own small business.
1. Your Brand is Synonymous with the Product or Industry
At work, you might have the Xerox machine break down. So you jot down a note with a Sharpie on a Post-It to let someone know to fix it. After work, you go to the grocery store to pick up some Pop Tarts, Chapstick, and Kleenex. Then you stop by the post office to drop off a package that you’ve packed with a Styrofoam and Bubblewrap.
You know what? None of those things are generic nouns. They are trademarked brands. But they’ve so dominated their market that the brand becomes part of everyday language.
So with virtually no marketing, these brands are getting their name mentioned every single time we talk about that product.
2. Your Brand is the Default Option
When you want to meet up with a friend or business partner for coffee, you go to Starbucks. If your favorite musician drops a new album, you’ll listen to it on Spotify. And if you’re going to make a slideshow presentation for your next meeting, you do it in Powerpoint.
Sure, there are a lot of other choices of brands. But when a brand becomes a household name, it’s just easier to go with it. It’s too much of a hassle to try something else, especially if most people are already using the same thing.
A strong brand makes the choice natural and habitual – you don’t have to market to someone to tell them to use your brand, they just do it automatically.
3. Your Brand is Used as a Verb in Pop Culture
When was the last time you told someone to “search for it on the internet?” Or did you use just use the words “Google it”? When you need a ride, do you “take a ride-sharing car,” or do you just “Uber” there? And when you want someone to digitally modify a photo, well, you just ask them to “Photoshop” it.
These brands have become so much the standard in their industry that they’ve worked their way into our vocabulary. So every time we ask someone to do something, we’re literally telling them to use that specific product. How do you put a price on that kind of marketing?
4. Your Brand Has Social Status Appeal
If you want to be the “cool kid” in class or with work, you use a MacBook and an iPhone. If you want to be seen as an actual athlete, you buy some Nike shoes and shirts. And if you want people to know that you’re serious about cooking and eating healthy, you shop exclusively at Whole Foods.
Sure, these brands have great products and that’s a big reason why people use them. But there’s an undeniable factor about identity and social status. People define who they are by what they use, what they wear, and where they go.
A strong brand is when people use you as their own brand. When they use your product as a way to communicate who they are, they’re doing the marketing for you.
How Strong is Your Brand to Your Niche Target Market?
I know these examples can be overwhelming. After all, you’re probably not going to be a Google or Starbucks (but who knows, you might).
But you don’t have to be. You don’t need to be a household name for the entire world. You just need to be the household name for your target market. Focus on the small sliver of demographic that you sell to. When they need that very specific product or service that you offer, do they think of you first?
Are you the default store in your neighborhood? Are you the recommended service in your local industry network? Are people proud and excited about using you?
Good branding doesn’t necessarily mean broad reach. Good branding is being on the minds of the customers that matter.