When it comes to business success, what do companies have besides their branding? Branding is essential for the small entrepreneur. And it’s crucial for the professional, looking to make waves in their industry. The problem is that branding is hard to get right. Numerous experts have likened branding to trying to mold fog. So how can you achieve a great brand? Right now, there’s a heck of a lot of advice out there on how to go about it. The problem is that most of it is faddish, or total bunk. Here we are going to sweep aside the trash and get down to the details of what really matters in the world of branding.
It’s All In The Details
It’s no secret that Apple is a great company. But how did it ever rise so far? Was it because of the company’s cutting-edge technology? Probably not. After all, competitors like Asus, Samsung, Nokia and even IBM often have better hardware. Was it because it had a better OS, perhaps? Possibly, but there have always been high-quality competitors in this space. And iOS has not been without its faults.
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The defining characteristic of Apple, rather, is in its branding. Steve Jobs was reportedly obsessed with every minute detail of branding within the company. And he wanted users to have an Apple experience every time they interacted with the product. He loved the fact that the plug on a Mac was magnetic. And he liked how innovative was the design on everything from product packaging to Apple stores.
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Companies can learn a thing about what Apple did. Apple certainly wasn’t the first company to plaster its name and quality over everything it did. But it was a company that was in the right place at the right time to show how it can be done successfully.
British Airways has taken a leaf out of Apple’s branding playbook. They took something as simple as the log-in password for their Wi-Fi and turned it into a marketing drive. Passwords rotate between British Airways destination. One week it’s Malaga, the next its Cape Town. It’s a very simple thing when you think about it. But it’s also another opportunity to show off to customers the scope and scale of the company. British Airways flies to more than 180 destinations worldwide.
Rivals, as yet, don’t quite get it. Some are still using alphanumeric keys. Others are using aircraft model names, which is far less likely to connect with customers.
Thus, the key here is to recognize, as any branding agency does, that marketing success is in the detail. It’s about the type of gifts you give to colleagues. It’s about what you wear and how you lead your team. It’s about the way you sign off on your emails, and the design of the thank you cards you give. And it’s about your headshot on your site and the packaging you choose for your product.
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Show Off Your Wins
FreshBooks is a company that provides accounting services to businesses. But that’s not what makes the company interesting. What makes them interesting is how they built their business and their brand. Making accounting interesting is a tough challenge. It’s one of those necessary evils that businesses just have to put up with if they’re to remain compliant. In other words, FreshBooks has got a job on its hands if it wants to win customers over.
One way that it is doing this is by recording its wins directly on its website. On the features pages which describe its products, it includes quotes from customers. These quotes emphasize how different product features helped make the lives of business people better. To push the point home, FreshBooks includes pictures of its customer smiling. For the company, that represents a big win: business people who are actually happy with their accounting solution.
Many small businesses think that they have to come up with the cash to self-promote. But that’s rarely the case. Often the best strategy is to look to others to toot your horn for you. One way to do this is to get recommendations through social media sites like LinkedIn. According to Mitch Joel, author of Ctrl Alt Delete, your online profile delivers your first impression. When people want to find out about you, the first thing they’ll do is pop your name into Google. He argues that even when they meet you, their impression of you can be hard to change.
One way you can improve your LinkedIn profile is to seek out more recommendations. Recommendations are a powerful, free-market mechanism to improve your reputation. When other people recommend your services, it gives customers confidence that you can deliver. You can boost your recommendations in a number of ways. The first thing you can do is to approach thought leaders in your particular area. Ask them if they’d be willing to give you the nod. If not, ask companies that you have worked for in the past if they’d be willing to say a word or two about you. The more revered and respected a company, the better. You can also up the ante by backing up your recommendations by appealing to people with impressive titles like CEO or Founder.
Be Passionate About What You Do
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If there’s one thing that ties all successful brands across the world together, it’s passion. The people behind them love what they’re doing and creating. And this buzz rubs off on the rest of us. Sure, your business could do everything on the cheap, including branding. But that rarely pays off in the long run. Take Yes To, for instance. Yes To is a company that makes beauty products. It’s a crowded industry, and Yes To is a small player. But it’s managed to carve a niche for itself through the use of some clever branding. One thing that they’ve done is to give their employees a bit of personality through the products they use. It’s CEO proudly touts the fact that the company uses Apple computers and flies Virgin. But a lot of trendy beauty product companies do that sort of thing. So what makes Yes To different? It all comes down to the product. Yes To claim that their product is as good as the trendy brands, but a fraction of the cost.