What is branding’?
It’s not as obvious as it sounds. Apple undoubtedly qualities, as do the likes of BMW, Avon, and Gucci.
But what about Emma Maembong? Or Azizan Osman? What about Lionel Messi, Facebook, TV3 or Hausboom?
Are you a brand?
To understand this, we need to get to the bottom of the brands because chances are we’ll spend most of our time working on it.
On the surface, we’re here to sell ideas, products or services, but our deeper mission is almost certainly to build brands. Even your business is just starting out.
We’ve all got an intuitive idea of what brand means, but putting that into words can be surprisingly tricky. Let’s look at three definitions that illuminate different aspects of this elusive issue.
1. When brands are knowns as names and logos
American Marketing Association makes an audacious attempt to define branding:
A name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
So for the AMA a brand is a means of differentiation. That’s certainly true, but it’s somewhat limited interpretation.
It works well enough for consumers items like cereals or mom’s baking powder, but where does it leave the likes of rabid fans of ‘Bossku‘?
In many cases, logo equation lacks real explaining power.
2. Your brand is what you do and how you do it
Here’s the definition of brand according to Interbrand:
A mixture of attributes, tangible and intangible, symbolised in a trademark, which creates value and influence.
It looks like we are heading in the right direction here. The implication is that a brand is more than a logo, it’s also an attitude, a way of doing things, an aura of a person, place of thing.
Interbrand’s definition suggest that, with the right presentation and management, more or less anything can become a brand.
So the answer to the questions posed in the opening paragraph of this article is a big YES – all those entities either are or have the potential to be a brand.
Put it like that and it’s clear that ‘brand’ is a flexible concept, able to embrace almost anything.
Siti Nurhaliza doesn’t have a logo as such (not in the same way as Coca-cola does), but no one would deny she’s a mega-brand (we thought so).
3. Your brand delivers promises and expectations
Hang around with brands for long enough and you’re sure to hear the phrase, ‘A brand is a promise.’
It means you tend to have certain expectations of your purchases, thanks to the endless marketing messages you’re obliged to digest.
You may drive BMW because the slogan ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ resonates with your driving preferences.
Or you may quench your thirst with the 100Plus isotonic drink because of ‘The Great Stay Thirsty’ tagline.
These slogans are claims, but they’re also promises. They’re saying, ‘Buy me and look what you’ll get!’. You expect to get what you are expecting.
But what if happens the brand’s claim get tested in real life, which turns the promise into an experience, either good or bad.
Suppose you agree that your latest BMW is the Ultimate Driving Machine, it’s now incumbent on BMW to make sure the next model is outrageously good, if not better.
In the next five years, you decide to trade a new BMW with the current one but you find out that the new model is a Moderately Good Driving Machine then the promise has been broken.
The one who owns the brand
It is crucial to understand that, strange as it may sound, the brand owner doesn’t own the brand. Customer does.
The brand’s reputation, their promise, their perception – is 100% in the hands of their audience. There is a thick line between how we describe ourselves and how others describe us.
You may hear this famous quote by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon on the importance of branding:
‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.’
The point is, whatever definition of brands you are trying to look here, brands are more than the logos. They are largely about intangible appeals, and their audiences wholly own them.
So if you are a brand or working to build your company’s brand, understand that your brand is how your business presents itself to the world. It’s about what and to-whom you’re communicating.
This brings to the question on:
How to create a powerful brand
Simply put, you need to make your brand visibly known. It should be seen in term of logo, design and visual identity. It should be heard with consistent brand language.
I’m not willing to delve into logo design and visual strategy here (other experts cover about this), not because I don’t want to, but because of the lack of discussion over the brand’s language.
When it comes to branding, it’s about moulding the kind of relationship with every single customer to keep them coming back after the first sale.
The language and the words you use, intentionally or strategically, should contribute to the success through writing about the brand in a way that encourages attraction.
So how we do this? How do we turn an ordinary brand into a loveable brand, one for which audiences feel real affection?
Make a personal connection with audience
It is often said that ‘people buy from people they know.’ In other words, what closes a sale is a man or woman making the pitch, not the mute product or a revenue-hungry chatbot pitching the sale.
A sale is the result of some human-to-human interaction – that means involving emotion.
This connection allows people to identify – whenever someone describes themselves as ‘an Apple fanboy’ or ‘a Naruto anime addict,’ that’s the type of individuals we are going to speak to.
That’s why the language to support this interaction involving using the language those people use – whether to join the club, to purchase a product, to sign up for a newsletter and so on.
The voice of the personality
The actual words use to communicate to your audience or some called it the tone of voice, comes from the personality being created in writing.
It is the way a brand makes it known by imbuing the appropriate characteristics that reflect the brand’s values with the captivating words to attract the right audience.
Look at what you offer and the audience you want to attract. Is the voice of tone should be serious? Professional and technical?
How about the casual tone? Friendly and laid-back style? You know what’s right for you.
When you can bring up with the right tone of voice, your brand can build strong, emotive connection with customers, which resulting the brand experience.
This is how a customer feels after interacting with your brand:
Do you consistently over-deliver?
Do customers often feel delighted after interacting with your brand?
Does a customer walk away from your outlet feeling down, disappointed, or frustrated?
A brand with only a logo and a promise is missing out big time on opportunities to make a lasting impression. A brand without any of these is, well, not a brand at all – it’s just a business.
So in a nutshell, you need a strong brand voice, a spot-on personality that your customers will love interacting with, and solid copywriting that reflects it all.
That’s why we are going to do a brand positioning statement exercise right off the bat, shall we?
How to write your brand positioning statement
Understanding what your customer wants and what you can do for them.
You probably already have some general idea of who your target customer is, but when it comes to branding, we need to get detailed.
Basics demographic like income, education level, and where your customer shops are essential but when you write for your brand, it’s critical to dig deeper to the emotional level.
Whether you have a current customer base or not, let’s start by thinking about the following questions:
Question 1) What is my customer’s biggest problem and their pain point about your service.
Let say you are in the business of health and beauty, and you own the massage machine centre store called Jane’s Massage Chair. The owner, I called it Jane, might say that one of her customers’ biggest pain points is that they are busy and don’t have time to get massage therapy.
Write down at least three customer pain points. If you already have an existing customer base, go to them with a survey, an interview or look on the social media.
Question 2) How is my customer currently solving the problem?
It takes a bit of listening, but when you’re able to repeat your customer’s problem back to them – in their words – they’re yours for life.
Jane might say that her customer is currently solving this problem by turning to highly paid massage therapist at the specialised massage centre.
How do you believe your target customer has been/is alleviating or mitigating this problem of theirs? What’s their temporary solution (until they know about you):
Question 3) How does my business resolve this problem?
This is where you come in, waving your banners and singing your praise. What do you offer the customer that alleviates – or even better, eliminates – this pain point?
Jane’s Massage Chair provides affordable, soothing and invigorating spa treatment in a relaxing & conducive manner.
Okay, let’s hear about your solution. Write down the specific attribute your product/service has to offer. Embellish your write-up with scintillating adjectives like impressive, outstanding, time-saving and so on.
Question 4) What is the main unique solution only your product/service can offer that is better than the competitors?
This is the USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, the distinctive feature of your solution that is desirable to your customer.
With Jane’s Massage Chair, you get the most economical way to sooth the muscle pain with delightful, easy-to-use massage chair without waiting the long queue lines at the massage centres.
Jane’s Massage Chair is a one-stop massage centre that specialises in getting you a 15-minute massage at the cost you can afford.
Write down or list down your brand benefits that are unique and desirable to your target customers.
Question 5: What is the support for your key message or reasons to believe?
Now you have to back up your claims that you’re making in your USP statement. It’s simple, just tell your customers exactly how you’ll accomplish by mentioning the features of your product/service.
Jane’s Massage Chair makes it easy to get a massage because:
- No masseur needed – just sit in on a massage chair.
- Fully-automated head-to-toe treatment
- It has a timer to set the massage time
- Easy to set up at home or office as it is mostly preassembled
Write down as many supported key message as you can think of:
Question 6: What is the ultimate “So What?” you are offering?
Now you want to bring your brand to the world so your prospect can see you. Highlight what is your huge benefit you can offer. Which resonates most with your customers? Which solves their biggest pain point?
This is where you are trying to articulate what you are selling beyond the benefits of your product/service.
Master copywriter Clayton Makepeace has said that the copy you write should show how remarkable life will be with your product, not to show how awesome your product itself is.
Don’t write ‘the trading software helps you grab a 50% profit in just one week’, but write ‘the trading software helps you invest with greater confidence and sleep better at night.’
Don’t write ‘the carbon steel drill bit never wears out’, but write ‘the carbon steel drill bit eliminates the frustration for looking the right tool for the job.’
Don’t write ‘a beauty supplement that brightens the skin from within’, but write ‘a beauty supplement that skyrockets your confidence to go out for work and meeting people.’
Dig deeper to look for the emotional benefit that attaches to your product/service.
Jane’s Massage Chair helps you achieve greater relief from nagging muscle pains so you can play squash with your friend on the weekend.
Jane’s Massage Chair helps you revive lethargic muscle pains at the comfort of your home so feel fresh and energetic to go out to work everyday.
Write down how spectacular life will be with your product.
Question 7: What’s the tone or voice to be conveyed in your messages?
Now you have to decide who is speaking (the voice) and how are you speaking? (the tone)
It’s all about to whom you are writing for. Young graduates? Middle-class professionals? Baby boomers?
By using the Jane’s Massage Chair above, you are targeting to middle-class people as you have found out that the massage chair is suitable for their parents. You decide the tone of voice is practical and professional.
What voice makes sense for your brand? Imagine that your brand is a person, and describe him or her.
Compile all together
Now you have it – the brand statement that packs with well-written marketing messages for your product. Use it as a foundation and guidepost for your marketing campaigns.
Think of this as your reference whenever you are planning to:
- write marketing materials
- craft website content, blog, email or social media content
- master copy for your company profiles writing
The write-up can be filed into different main headings such as:
- Description of how the product works
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP) statement
- The product’s benefits
- The emotional benefits provided by the product
- The tone of voice
With a completed brand writing statement in your hands, you have plenty of great marketing messages to draw right off the bat.
You can quickly pull together marketing materials that deliver a consistent, compelling sales message.
No more anxiety, stress, or internal “fire drills” around promotions anymore!