VerticalResponse Blog

I was thinking about how people perceive brands these days from the biggest brands like Sephora to the smaller brands like Birdy Botanicals. The word “brand” is usually used for BIG companies so I started thinking; what IS a brand and how do you know if you have one?

Well everyone has a brand, but the scary thing is, you don’t own it! It is a harsh reality. So who does own your brand? Your prospects and customers that’s who! Your brand is their perception of how they interact with you, your products and your services.

Your People Are Your Brand

People Sounds scary right? But if you’ve got people working the front lines and they’re interacting with your customers, your customers will have a perception of the type of persona your company has. They will form an opinion of your brand.

I was recently at a trade show and stopped by a booth to ask a question about the company. Nice enough guy, but didn’t have a clue at what his company did, nor did he use the “I’m new” excuse. I thought wow, a company would spend all of this money to have someone here that clearly wasn’t trained on the most basic question. My perception about their brand? Not so good.

What’s your persona? Is it conveyed to your customers through the people that work at your company? What do they think of you? If they are face to face with prospects, what are they wearing? Are people tweeting about you on Twitter (using Tweetdeck it’s easy to type in your company name in the search and follow what people might be saying about you) or Yelping about an experience they had? If it’s negative, and hold onto your hats it could happen, you have the ability to change perceptions by changing the way people are interacting with you or your employees.

Your Products Are Your Brand

Products The products and services that you sell are also your brand. You may have a perception of a company like Apple as high-quality but they’ll cost a bit more where a company like HP offers lower quality, lower cost items. Both still have positive “brands” and offer products that appeal to certain people. Apple has taken branding to a new level by not only having a brand for their products, but they’ve done a good job of attempting to brand their competitor’s product line in their “Mac vs. PC” campaigns. The Mac being the cool kid and the PC being the older not-so-cool guy. This forced Microsoft to fire back with a great campaign “I’m a PC“.

One more important thing to remember: set expectations up front about your products and make sure that any product or service you sell is what you say it is. When you start over-promising and under-delivering, that’s where your brand might get into some real muddy waters.

Your Service is Your Brand

Services To this day when my husband orders a pair of shoes from Zappos on a Sunday night and they arrive on Monday morning he screams “I love Zappos, how do they DO that?”. Service plays a huge role in any company. From the Dentist who calls her patients on the evening of their root canals to see how they’re doing, to the person who gets answered in a live chat after only waiting one minute, it all makes a difference.

With everything going a mile a minute on the Internet, every business has to step up their game. So throw some lollipops into that next shipment to your customers with a hand-written thank you note and see how far that might actually go. Oh, don’t forget, get the shipment there on time!

Your Marketing Is Your Brand

Marketing How you communicate to your customers is your brand. If you’re advertising your law firm, your marketing better not be as edgy as a tattoo parlor. The way you write, the words you use, and your logo should say something about your brand. However you choose to advertise,  be as consistent as possible. If your email marketing campaigns start to look completely different from your website and any collateral you produce, people may get confused and think of you as a bit chaotic. An example of edgy and fun? Woot! Contrast that to Dell. You’ve got two very different and very good brands.

Do you have control of your brand? Kind of. If you care about these things that have an effect on how people think about you, your brand will follow.

© 2009 – 2012, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

  • Mair Alight

    Two words come to mind: Simple and Daunting. What you say makes simple sense. Implementing it all when first starting out seems daunting. Thanks for your work!

  • Local Search Engine Optimization

    Hi Janine,
    Good post and I thing Local Search Engine Optimization is also a more effective way for new small business marketing.

  • Mark V. Ewing

    Great article. I’d like to add one tidbit of additional insight that has been shared with me by my customers. Consistency of the branding message across all of these “delivery” platforms is crucial. Too often the message lacks continuity and therefore confuses the customer. If you can develop a harmonized, “institutionalized” message, it will resound in the customer community and bring you significant returns.

  • Sally

    This article is right on! This has been a hot topic in my office at Birdy Botanicals as of late. Each aspect of branding above is just as important as the next. If one falters then your business may falter.
    I read in a marketing blog yesterday that while we may have 99% of our branding in place it’s the last 1% that we may end up tweaking over and over again until we get it right. For instance, while I have worked to create a fun and silly vibe with my newsletters, there is a slight disconnect with the “all business” of my website.
    If we continue to think of these as separate issues they will continue to be separate and disconnected instead of working as a synergistic group where one backs up the other.

  • Anders blogger in direct mail

    I am a newbie in this industry but I have chosen to be a participant because this business area is not only interesting it is the international market place of today and tomorrow. From reading your blog I fully agree to most of your relevant observations especially about doing a proper homework or rather do a lot of analysis before making the final choice and that is very time consuming since the potential clients will be different and each market having their own rules that you need to know a lot about. And I almost lose my breath when I realize how many tools are available and how to make the best recommendation. A profitable DM campaign must be based on solid knowledge about the actual industry and a careful planning. What a job.

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