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Branding All Year Long: Why Your Story Matters

Branding-All-Year-Long-Why-Your-Story-MattersThere’s a common misconception when it comes to branding. Many think it’s a logo. Perhaps a website. Even letterhead and business cards. While each of these plays a supporting role in branding, the truth is that your brand is much, much more. Not only is your brand your voice in the marketplace but it’s also your proposition for disruption, according to Amy Cosper, Entrepreneur editor-in-chief.

“Branding is how you tell your story, and it is absolutely key to your success and your survival,” she writes in her editor’s letter for the April 2015 issue.

The challenge for most business owners, she notes, is that they launch a business with an idea, not a brand. “This idea can be so soulful and personal that it can be challenging to present and explain to others,” she says. “You think everyone should intrinsically understand it, as you do—but they don’t. And that’s why you need to develop effective brand messaging.”

It all comes down to how you tell your story. If you can’t tell the story of what makes your business special and why it matters to your target audience, then how can you possibly expect anyone to understand? Communicating the value of what you bring to the market, the economy and the world is absolutely paramount if you expect any kind of longevity.

“Branding is about knowing what you stand for and how you communicate the values and character of your product or service,” Cosper says. “For company founders, this is not so much a design choice as it is a leadership decision. Your job as chief is to know exactly, concisely and in context what you stand for. You are the lone author of your story, your mission and your reason for being. How you tell it is your job.”

When telling your story, you must first understand your audience. “If you want to be a brand, you need to understand the difference between what your customers ‘need’ and what they ‘want,’” author Jim Joseph writes in this article.

Needs are functional benefits—facts and rational attributes about the products and services your company offers. These functional benefits can be provided by you…and your competitors.

Wants, on the other hand, are tied to emotions, which give your business more connective benefits that resonate with your customers—and separates you from competitors. “When you reach an emotional level with your customers, you become a brand in their minds,” Joseph explains. “You’ve made and emotional connection that rises above functional features and that builds loyalty. It’s the ‘want’ that moves you from being and ordinary product or service to being a desired brand.”

As you work through creating your brand story and how you fulfill customer “wants,” look at all the ways that story can be communicated. Marketing collateral. Website. Social media profiles. Internal conversations with employees. External conversations with customers and prospects. Even the promotional products you choose to support your marketing efforts can play an important role in your brand story.

Bamboo-CoasterHow does this work? Let’s say a vegan restaurant whose brand story is built around its ingredients being provided by local farmers wants to increase take-out orders. One idea would be a coaster with the phone number to call in orders as well as the website, which has an online ordering capabilities. A leather coaster imported from China would completely clash with the restaurant’s brand story…and offend and alienate its clientele. On the other hand, a domestically manufactured coaster made from recycled paperboard and printed with eco-friendly inks better aligns and supports the company’s brand story.

To get the maximum impact from your promotional marketing programs, first think about the application—what you want the branded merchandise to accomplish—then choose the product than can best drive the desired action all the while appropriately supporting and consistently communicating your brand story.

And remember: Your brand story is never truly finished. It continues to grow and change as the market changes, customers want new or different things and you add products and services to meet new demands. So you’ll want to consistently review your brand story to ensure it accurately reflects who you are today.

Branding: It’s not a task that can completed in one afternoon, one day or even one week. Rather, it must be viewed as an ongoing mission that becomes a part of your business processes all year long.

 

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