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Tuesday
Jul122011

With or without you: why branding matters

The convenience of certainty works for all businesses

It’s a big word, branding. People often think it only applies to big business. I recently read a blog claiming that branding is a luxury for small business. It’s a common misconception.

Branding is about certainty and convenience. We buy branded goods because we know what we will get. That’s what a brand does. It takes the uncertainty out of the decision to purchase. 

Marketing 101 is getting the consumer to the point of purchase as easily as possible. You make it convenient by taking out the uncertainty.

The growth in Internet commerce can be sheeted back to the same notion. Point, click and pay. If it is not something that will land in your inbox in a few moments, it will turn up on your doorstep a few days later.

Price and the appeal of the product matter. But those factors are a different part of the decision process. If your product does what the customer wants, the easier you make it for them to buy it, the more likely they will.

There are several plumbers in my immediate vicinity. I use one. He always returns my calls and he turns up on time. That’s his brand. The others might be cheaper but I don’t know anymore because I don’t use them. I use my regular plumber because it’s convenient to do so.

Branding doesn’t mean you should rush out and sponsor a Formula One event. It means you should make your offering consistent at every level.

Consistency is a brand

I never went to McDonalds for the hamburgers. But when I had a car full of hungry kids and not much time and not a lot of change, it was the easiest decision because there was no uncertainty.

I knew I could easily park. I knew exactly what food was on offer regardless of the location. It would be quick. The kids would like it even if I didn’t. There was likely to be a playground, the staff would be friendly. Ordering was simple. I even knew what the counter staff would say as I approached the register. The decision had absolutely nothing to do with hamburgers – although to be fair, I usually pilfered the children’s fries. They were dependable.

Customer service begins with customer convenience. You brand your business by putting certainty into your product or service. That’s more important than many other concerns that people have about branding.

Take quality. Not everyone wants it. For many generic products, cheap and reliable are the key characteristics. At the luxury end you often get little traction out of heavy discounting. High prices are part of the brand.

Nor is it about cute logos or catchy names. Build up the certainty first. Whatever your logo is, it will become known for the certainty it represents. One odd suggestion is to not use your own name because it will narrow recognition of your product to people who know you. Try telling that to Henry Ford, or Coco Chanel 

Or my plumber for that matter.

Certainty is also the basis of goodwill. That has value. If you can write a manual for running every aspect of your business, it becomes easy to replicate in a new outlet in a different location or a franchise.

That doesn’t only make your product easy to sell. It makes your business easier to sell.

You may want to run your business forever, but you are mortal. When it comes time to exit, it will be a much more prosperous transaction if the firm can carry on independently. The ultimate test of a successfully branded business is what it is worth in the market, with or without you.

There is more about branding in the book, Recharge. You can buy it online here.

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