What is branding, really?
In the case of branding, looks are everything.
When you walk down a street and you see two restaurants side by side, one looks fancier than the other, the front looks more modern & polished, the waiters look more educated and friendly, the menu looks excellent and all of the furnishings are top design.
The other one looks a bit old, the waitresses are rude and the style is quite outdated. You would naturally go for the first one, but what you didn’t know is that the food was way better in the second one. But it doesn’t really matter, does it?
One could argue that because we live in such a technologically advanced society, that someone would definitely look up reviews about both restaurants and decide accordingly. But a counter-argument would be that everything looks better at the nicer restaurant. And because posting your location and every move on social media is crucial to dominate in the ‘popularity contest’ of social media, you go to the nicer one. 🤷♀️
It's both fortunate and unfortunate that looks are everything. In this particular case, it works out for the more aesthetically pleasing restaurant. But as for the one of higher quality, their branding definitely needs some work. The way they are perceived, advertised, etc. are all crucial to the first impression they make on their viewer. Are they going to be remembered?
If you’re just getting started, and need some vital information to help you pave the way toward a great branding strategy, we’ve constructed a list to help make things easier for you.
When it comes to the branding of large companies, what you’re essentially buying is someone’s genius.
And when it comes down to a specific person, one individual, the way they dress, carry themselves, speak, etc., is what advertises them to the world. Often an unconscious thought, every move made says something about you.
So, does this mean every move, whether professional or personal, has to be calculated? No.
It means everything has to be authentic. Whether or not someone understands or agrees, they’ll know it’s real. And that’s what matters.
Why is it so important?
Some may argue that by saying a few words or displaying a cool graphic to advertise your brand is enough to get your message across. But humans aren't that dense. People know when true effort and emotion were put into something to make it great.
So, if you launch a mundane campaign with no purpose or authenticity behind it, it won’t stick.
Your first impression of something stays with you forever.
Opinions of people and ‘things’ can change, sure. But in the long run, the feeling you received during your first interaction with them resonates with you. And subconsciously, your brain forms an opinion about them before you intend to (read ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell, you’ll get what we mean). And that feeling always lingers, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise.
Take GoPro for example. They pride themselves on the fact that their focus is on the user. Everything they create, market and launch is completely for their users’ benefit. Authenticity is a huge attribute to this. They could claim to be ‘all about their customers’, but how do they show it?
They post user-generated content all over their social media pages. It’s essentially free advertising for them, and a win for the customer, too: their work is displayed on huge platforms. That factor aside, the company’s revolutionary devices are all used for exactly what they were intended for. Skiing down a mountain, jumping out of a plane or biking through tricky terrain… the list goes on.
Now that is a win.
How to ensure you made the right choice.
Well, if your branding is helping you sell your product to your intended audience, it might be safe to say you made the right choice.
But, in order to do a more in-depth analysis, ask yourself a few questions.
What feeling do you convey as a brand?
Verbal and nonverbal language. The words that you include in your marketing and advertising campaigns matter. But what you don’t say matters the most. A huge percentage of communication is non-verbal. In fact, the consensus among researchers is that “... 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal” (Smith, 2021).
So, with that in mind, you must remember that despite what words you may release into the world, consider what feeling you’re going to convey via context and emotion. Think of colors, images, shapes, sizes and everything else that has to be chosen when building a brand.
Does it feel authentic?
Intuition and gut feelings.
As previously mentioned, all it takes is a few seconds for someone to form an opinion about you. Whatever the branding may be, or intend for, people will always trust their intuition over what you promise. We discussed using vulnerability and sensitivity to strive for authenticity rather than perfection. Your audience will appreciate honesty and identifying room for improvement rather than inauthenticity and perfection.
Use your customers as your number one utility for improvement! Take their feedback and use it to make your product or service the best it can be. After all, it is all about them.
With this knowledge in mind, continue to create and share honest and real stories and campaigns.
Next, (though this could arguably be the first step) is to get in touch with your audience. Send out surveys, questionnaires, follow-up messages, ask them why they didn't end up using or purchasing your product. The best way to understand why your product did so well, or badly, is by going directly to the source.