Branding essential to succeed

15 years ago

Image    Many small businesses think of “branding” as something done by only large companies, like Nike or Ski-Doo, or Harley Davidson. However, branding is done by all businesses, regardless of size. The only difference is how actively they do it. For small businesses, taking a proactive approach to branding is critical, especially during a tight economy, says Gemini Babla, director of creative services who oversees branding initiatives for Sony in the U.S.     Businesses manage their brand thru careful control over an image to create a favorable impression – and to differentiate themselves from the competitors.
    The things you’re known for, exceptional customer service, or a certain style or distinctive program, doesn’t change. What defines your business shouldn’t either.
    Conduct a brand audit. Once you’ve determined/defined your “brand.” Logos, business cards, signage, web sites, on-hold messaging and email signatures: keep your branding in the top of your mind – all the time. Sony places heavy emphasis on consistency, because consistency creates credibility in the minds of your audience, patrons, consumers. Define your brand. Ask people who interact with your business their perceptions of you/your business. How do they describe what you do? What do they think you do? How do you compare to your competitors? Is what you think about your business the perception with your target audience? Are there things your business could improve?
    Determine what your business stands for: this is your value proposition. This is what you make your branding mantra.
    Keep your business and your brand in front of everyone. The economy will turn around, and when it does, you need to be the first choice for those folks ready to buy.
    Branding is reinforced through social interactions. Have you thought about Internet sites? Blogs, forums, wikis, etc. to create conversations, or demonstrate the unique value you provide? Twitter? I still don’t see the point, but we’re going with it anyway. Check out our Facebook, and Myspace accounts. Too funny.
    I believe we must run our organization as if we are a small business. To me there is no differentiation. We must be responsible to the taxpayers of our community. We must provide our customers, clients, community a product and service they believe has value, at a reasonable and fiscally responsible manner.
    Four years ago, we began thinking hard about our annual events, summer festivals, and what is unique about Caribou which we can expound upon. We didn’t have monies per se to devote to this. We didn’t have any specific programs geared to the actual idea: Caribou Cares About Kids. But this phrase, or idea, someone more than 20 years ago coined, did set our community apart. We asked a great many members, business people who grew up in other communities etc. The phrase which was still kicking around, but not being used by anyone, on anything really anymore, was “Caribou Cares About Kids.” Then and there we determined that idea, that market, would be our primary branding point. Thus, the ensuing events, T-shirts, programs, logos, and targeted marketing. Do what you’re known for, do it well, and be consistent.
    We believe “branding” is essential, and helps to sharpen ones’ focus. Are there things we don’t participate in because we can’t support this/that/the other event (ie beer gardens, casino nights) since we’ve chosen to be “Caribou Cares”? Yes. It is all about choices. I hope you might take a bit of time and consider who, how and what you might like to “brand” yourself with.
    Wendy Landes, MPA, is the executive director of the Caribou Chamber of Commerce & Industry. She can be reached in person at 24 Sweden Street, Suite 101; by telephone at 498-6156 or via e-mail at wlandes@cariboumaine.net.