Branding is an experience

Branding is often misinterpreted as a just a logo design, business card or nowadays, as a website. In reality, Branding is an experience. I have come across numerous business owners who are all set to make an entry into the market, but they are not sure whether they are marketing or creating a brand for their product. So firstly we need to discuss what branding encompasses, small business branding in particular, and later we will discuss how to seize the opportunities..

What is Branding for the user?

Web site design, the business logo, and color scheme – If you think that designing an aesthetically attractive website, and picking out the best hues or designing the most appropriate logo for a website are the steps which you need as the lighthouse for branding; then I must say that you are highly mistaken.

Being highly active on social media platforms is what you need for branding yourself, and your website as this will help to carve a niche.

You need to improve your SERP viability and go for rigorous advertisement campaigns.

If you think branding as all the aforementioned techniques, then you must fire your fact checker or strategy makers as this is not what branding is.

How will we distinguish between Branding and Marketing?

Many people confuse the differences between marketing and branding. Marketing is a strategy which is used to promote your business to gain returns. In this strategy, you make use of tools such as PPC, SEO, mobile, social media and numerous methods such as pamphlets, signboards, etc. to make your brand available to the users. Wherein, branding is quite different from it as it is the culture and is a message about your brand which helps to disseminate your business.

Then, what is Branding?

In relation to the above statements, it is crucial to give you a definition of Branding.

On that note, it should also be stated that a designer cannot “make” a brand – only the audience can do this. A designer constructs the foundation of the brand.

Why is Branding important?

Branding holds much more gravity in business than we probably think, therefore there is a lot of written discourse over branding. So, in essence, a ‘brand’ is a service or product which is personified as per the perceptions of the users/viewers.

This statement automatically raises eyebrows as now users are in charge of the complete brand formation and a designer has no role in it. This is not so, as designers are the ones who lay the edifice of building human branding.

Understanding the Mechanics of Consumer Memory

Consumer’s memory and the level of their attention plays a crucial role in the proper branding strategy of your business. Seeking the attention of the audience in return depends on the emotional connection and engagement factor your brand has – and its scientifically can be calculated by measuring the timing of the rhythms of neurons.

Furthermore, there is also a life span of every kind of memory, short memories have a life span of some milliseconds, but there are memories which last for hours, days or even several years, called long-term memories.

When it comes to creating a memory, it needs several interconnected activities in several parts of the brain. Which means in branding a company you cannot use just one advertisement – you need to create a memory space in users mind using a series of interconnected actions.

Scientifically speaking, there are different types of neurons for processing specific information. The flow of data takes place when one neuron sends a message to the other and this is what which makes the memory more fixed in the brain. This is similar to practice, the more you will practice a particular subject, the more proficient you will grow in it.

Likewise, the more signals you send, the stronger the connection will grow. We can deduce that memory space is created via recognition, but to increase the period of the existence of memory comes just by repeating the process again and again.

The more we experience a particular thing, the more we tend to remember it. As a product branding leader, what you need to do is carve your brand into the long term memory of your customers. Once you have done that, it is easy to make it stay there for a long time.

After the recognition test, it was seen that imagery and sounds which were important were recognized even after many decades.

This is certainly applicable to your brand with the message you want to deliver. There are several elements attached to a brand, and after breaking these elements, the brain starts to make a visual pattern and recall the previous experience encountered which is stored in the memory earlier.

When a human brain watches something, it immediately tries to recall the memory so as find out whether they have had experience before this. To rectify it, a test of MRI was conducted at ISMAI and the Technical University of Lisbon, in which they showed a group of logos (real and fictitious) to the users, and then they noted their brains activity from MRI.

After watching the real logos the additional part which contributes to the memory of the brain was activated, wherein it did not happen when the fictitious one was shown.

This reveals that the memory connections are built by repetitive exposure to the brand. Adding on to this there was another test of MRI, which showed that familiar brands also account to initiate signal of biological reward further activating the dopamine system which augments motivation and pleasure sensors.

How to know that your Brand has occupied the long term memory?

To know whether your brand has occupied a long term memory slot in user memory, you need to carry an audit as this is an everyday affair in marketing which is given by analyzing elements such brand imagery, strategy, adherence received across different places and channels. This stereotypical process does not focus much on matters about the memory of the users.

To focus on memory, you can follow the following steps:

Stage 1 – Keep a track of the customer’s journey

To make an audit of your brand keeping memories as the center stage, you need to start with consumer understanding. You need to know about your users’ background, their likings and their intention to purchase into your brand.

This will further lead you to follow the more generic process of spreading awareness, purchase, and repurchase, or it can also be molded into specific interaction stages and sales cycles.

Stage 2 – Make a connection with the user’s lifecycle and their memory

There is no gainsaying that managers do test awareness of branding, which helps to understand the ability our brand has to set foot in customers memory. But what we miss is the ability to get those instantaneous moments that occur daily which evokes the identity of a brand.

Hit the iron when it is hot!

You need to understand that there are various factors which affect the mindset of users through every decision-making phase of the purchasing lifecycle. You need to know their mindset as soon as they come down to you to purchase a product. You need to know their comparative analysis and why they have opted you and left your competitor. What are the units which embark on a purchasing process? Here you need to understand what all sentiments evoke a customer to start making a purchase.

Stage 3 – How to deliver indelible imprint of your brand

"Ideas are easy, implementation is hard".

What is the right way to Brand?

Before jumping into the marketing phase of branding, you need to consider particular branding prerequisites.

To begin with, you need to answer some of the most fundamental questions behind your product or service. There are a few things you need to think about before planning your online marketing strategies, such as:

  • Make a definite plot of your existence: The very first step is to elaborate the reason for your survival. You need to jot down a mission and vision for yourself.

  • Select your means of spreading knowledge: The next step is to know in which sector you aim to provide valued services. This will help you to understand the genre of your brand and will help you to come up with luminary values, messages, and ideas for branding.

  • Cultivate a conducive work culture: It is necessary to cultivate a conducive work culture and more importantly speak about it in public. The lifestyle you possess helps you to foster the right brand image.

  • Share what you have to offer: This is the phase of branding where you need to maneuver to market your brand. Here you need to spread your brand and create a need to use it. 

Why You Need a Brand Audit (and How to Perform One)

Consider your brand a living thing. It has a unique personality and characteristics you can’t fully control. Over time, you can watch it grow, nurture it, and guide it to fit its environment perfectly. But sometimes your brand begins to deviate from the factors that support it, and your strategies start to suffer as a result.

Of course, your branding is a lynchpin for your overall company strategy. It defines your identity, both to your internal employees and your external customers, and dictates the messaging and actions you take to move the company forward. Allowing your brand to deteriorate, or failing to update your brand in response to new environmental factors like changing demographics or new products, is a major mistake that can cost you your loyal customers and prevent you from finding new ones.

A brand audit can prevent this from happening by analyzing your current position and providing new insights into your brand.

What Is a Brand Audit?

In the most general terms, a brand audit is a detailed analysis of your brand in its current state. By determining which qualities of your brand are currently useful and which ones are not, you can restructure your identity and your messaging goals to produce better results. That’s the corporate-speak way of saying it. The precise way to say it is this: you’re giving your brand a makeover, but first you need to find out what’s in style.

Throughout your brand audit, you’ll take a look at your current branding, which includes, among other qualities:

  • The standards of your brand image and voice

  • The demographics of your target audience

  • The mission and strategic objectives of your company

  • The strategies you use to reach your goals

Since brands tend to become less relevant gradually, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when a brand needs to be updated. It’s even harder to notice dwindling audience numbers or unfocused messaging when your objective data does not indicate a single identifiable instance of disinterest. Still, it’s essential to be as objective as possible during the brand audit. You need to base your analysis on measurable metrics, not subjective opinions.

Once you have a good understanding of what’s currently right or wrong with your brand, you can create an action plan to readjust your standards and a marketing strategy to support it.

Can I Do This Alone?

No two companies are the same, so what works for one brand audit may not work for another. For a large corporation with a director of marketing and a team of people capable of performing marketing research, it’s entirely possible to execute a brand audit internally without any additional help.

However, for a small business with limited resources, the task is much more difficult. Don’t try to perform the brand analysis entirely on your own or you’ll run the risk of skewing the data with your own biased opinions of the brand (whether those opinions support your old brand or an overhaul). Instead, work with a team of individuals inside or outside your company that can help you execute tasks, gather information, and form a scientific conclusion.

Many firms specialize in market research and even more that specialize in branding, and for the most part, you get what you pay for it. If you invest in your brand by working with a team of real experts, you tend to get far better results than trying to shoulder the burden yourself without any outside perspectives. Executing your new branding and marketing strategy requires an even stronger level of effort to see a return on your investment.

Evaluating Your Identity

If you want to perform a brand audit in-house, or if you're going to get some preliminary ideas before working with an outside firm, the first step is to evaluate your current identity. Your identity as a company is composed of several interactive components, including:

  • Your company name and tagline

  • Your logo, signature graphics, and company colors

  • Sounds and styles that characterize your company

  • Your voice and tone of messaging

Hopefully, you know these elements of your identity well. The point of a brand audit is to determine how accurate they are, how effective they are, and what areas you can improve on without alienating your current audience.

Surveys are one of the essential tools you can use to accomplish this. Internal investigations, distributed within your company, give you an objective overview of your team’s opinion on the overall brand. External surveys, distributed to your current customers and potential customers, give you a better sense of your target audience’s perspective on your identity.

Some example questions to ask include:

  • How does this logo make you feel? What are your first thoughts when seeing it?

  • Does this tagline accurately and concisely convey the mission and identity of the company?

  • Is our written material appealing? If so, what do you like about it? If not, what turns you off?

  • What, if anything would make you like this brand more? What would make you like it less?

Asking open-ended questions like these and compiling the data can give you a general overview of your current position. Market research, executed at a higher level and with more quantitative data than qualitative data, can provide you complementary insights to your current demographics and what their needs are.

Evaluating Your Strategies

Once you have a solid understanding of where your identity fits in the present, you can look to your current marketing strategies for an objective analysis of your performance. Some of the metrics you should look at include:

  • Web traffic data, including how many new visitors you receive and where they’re coming from

  • Marketing channel statistics to compare the effectiveness of your different messaging platforms (e.g., various social media platforms, traditional advertising, etc.)

  • Return on investment for your various marketing campaigns

  • Brand awareness in your target demographic

When you start analyzing your strategies, you’ll also want to do a competitive analysis. Find out what your competitors are doing, who they’re talking to, why they’re talking to them, and how effective they are at it. Seeing your competitors’ recent efforts can give you a good sense of whether your brand is falling behind. Again, objective data is what’s important here—find out as much as you can about your competitors’ overall reach, sales revenue, and brand awareness compared to yours.

Making an Action Plan

Deciding what to do once you have all the information is the hardest part of the process. From a pure branding perspective you have three primary options:

  • Keep your identity the way it is

  • Overhaul your identity

  • Keep your identity, but refresh it to align with your company goals more closely

Most brand audits result in pursuit of option three: it’s a compromise that maintains your brand for your loyal customers but adjusts it to compensate for your changing environment. Once you decide for your brand, you’ll need to put together a full action plan for rolling out the changes, including an extended timeline and clear delegation of responsibilities both inside and outside your company.

Whether you opt for a full rebrand or just a handful of simple adjustments, it’s essential to follow up over the next few months and measure the results of your efforts. Only then will you be able to determine whether the rebrand was successful, or if further adjustments are necessary. Branding is a recursive process that responds to its environment regularly, so perform brand audits every few years to measure your identity and performance against your goals.