| Branding

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Today’s post follows up on a topic that’s been discussed a number of times at VisibleLogic: the ways in which savvy use of social media and modern technology can help companies connect with customers in meaningful ways. Contributor Juliana Davies walks readers through what web branding is, as well as offers tips for making the most of the Internet tools available. Juliana is a business writer whose work appears in a web magazine about job projections for people studying business.

Building an Amazing Brand Doesn’t Require an MBA

The idea of “branding” is something that many businesses never completely understand, at least not at first. Branding as a practice is usually a bit different from simply designing a memorable logo, slogan, or product association. It’s about creating a market presence for a particular product or service, and tends to be more about feeling and general message than tangible attributes: one of the main goals is to build loyalty and recognition in an increasingly jam-packed marketplace. When done correctly, branding often has the potential to rocket unknown companies into international fame. Think Twitter, Nike, and Apple as examples—all started as simple ideas with basic logos and modest reaches. Today, even just the icons for these brands can generate a wealth of opinions, conversations, and instant recognition. Achieving this sort of success is not impossible for burgeoning entrepreneurs, but neither is it going to happen overnight. Getting started requires patience as well as an appreciation for the most common missteps.

 Some of the biggest mistakes businesses make with their branding happen because executives are too narrowly focused. The landscape has changed in significant ways over even the last five years. Most errors concern extremes: companies that are either too rooted in the scholarship and analytics of the past, or put too much stock in new, typically Internet-based marketing without taking lessons from long-established branding strategies.

 “The obvious danger is failing to keep pace with social media developments. But an equal, less obvious danger is getting distracted by them and losing sight of the fundamentals,” the Harvard Business Review said in a 2012 article. According to the Review, success is largely a matter of balance. “The companies that will succeed in this environment are exploiting the many opportunities presented by social media while keeping an unwavering eye on their brand promise, and they are judiciously revising the marketing playbook rather than trying to rewrite it.”

Flexibility is also key. Companies with great products and services can nevertheless run aground by failing to listen to consumers; overwhelming those consumers with offers or promotional material; or simply not noticing needed changes. “The development of new media strategies is currently more of a trial-and-error process rather than a science,” panelists at a 2011 branding seminar hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. According to most speakers at the event, modern branding defies logical parameters. It is a constant struggle that requires regular review, management, and often direct customer interaction. Entrepreneurs who find what they think is a winning brand but then never review the strategy or its real-time marketability are doing themselves a huge disservice.

The advice most branding experts give typically falls within four broad categories:

  • start small, be it with a logo or a product line;
  • consider the whole company when planning an advertising campaign or slogan launch;
  • always keep the customer and his or her needs and interests in mind; and
  • be willing to experiment, change, and fail—and never be afraid of picking up the pieces and trying again.

Building an amazing brand is often more about time, persistence, and attention than it is about genius or amazing wordsmithing. Success usually demands that companies invest both people and resources in the process. By starting small and growing with the market, savvy leaders often find just the niche they need to become a household name.

Juliana Davies can be reached by email { julianna.davies19@gmail.com }

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