Do you want to be googled or do you want to be Google?
That’s right, Google has never had the need to be searched online because the company itself solely represents Search.
That’s essentially the difference between working on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and establishing and then reinforcing your brand.
For example people don’t have to search for which supermarket they’re going to go to. They may or may not have loyalty to Coles or Woolworths or Aldi or their local IGA, but they know those brands and have made some sort of decision about what each stands for.
As a result of the marketing that reinforces the branding, they may shop at Aldi (ironically) because they don’t care about name-brand products or Coles because they have been convinced (brainwashed?) that prices there are down, down.
The same goes for fast food. If you decide you want a quick burger and fries, you don’t need to search online for ‘where can I get a quick burger and fries’. If you’re in unfamiliar territory, you might search for ‘where’s the nearest McDonald’s’ … but of course there’s an app for that!
How many kids ask their parents for a pair of ‘sneakers’ or ‘runners’ (or whatever we used to call them in the pre-branding days)? But how many want a pair of the latest Nikes or Jordan’s?
I know what you’re thinking. My business isn’t a big-name brand, so how does this apply to me? Surely I still need to use all the means at my disposal to get noticed, including trying to rank higher in online searches?
That’s a fair point – and I’m by no means advocating against traditional and modern methods of marketing your business.
What I am saying is that strong branding trumps all of those partly because it needs to precede all of those. Your advertising, networking, website, social media, word of mouth, SEO and even your bricks-and-mortar presence works far more effectively if your brand is well constructed and well established.
So how do you work on your brand?
There are several steps, but it all starts with a clear definition of what you do and what you stand for, because once you have that it informs everything that your business does, even the way your employees perceive and present themselves.
Just to clarify – because the meaning of the term ‘brand’ has evolved a bit and isn’t as well defined as perhaps it should be – we’re not talking about a brand name. A brand is much more than that, but also less tangible.
Nike, for example, is a brand name, as is Air Jordan. Apple is a brand name, as is iPad.
However the brand Nike or Apple is a sum of many parts, starting with what people think of when they hear the name.
Some of it is factual – what products the company sells, the packaging, where head office is based, what the logo looks like – some of it is emotional – identifying with celebrities who endorse or use the product – but in the end it’s in the mind of the customer or prospective customer.
So, in a nutshell, brand is very much about perception: what qualities and attributes do people associate with your brand name.
Do you want people to feel or believe something (whether it’s a provable fact or not) about your business?
Do you want people to see your products or services as being better quality than those of your competitors? Better value? More reliable? Easier to use? Better looking?
Do you want people to see your company as innovative or service-minded? Purchasing your products as aspirational or widely accessible? Using (or wearing) a product with your brand name on it as everyday or exclusive?
Once you have established your brand, you can build a brand strategy that fits, determining the how, what, where, when and to whom you plan to communicate your sales message.
How you promote the business and products or services, what you communicate – visually and verbally – where you advertise, when you are most likely to hit your target market and who are the people that make up that target.
Then, through consistent and strategic branding you start to build some true brand equity – in that the value of your brand (as opposed to your more tangible assets) increases.
It might take a while to get some initial traction, but the stronger, more established and better recognised a brand, the more quickly it is able to increase its brand equity.
None of this comes from being a ‘face in the crowd’ in your field or industry, because if people mostly come across you when they do an online search for something they want or need, the only ones who will form a strong impression of your brand are those who follow up and engage with you, by buying your product or service.
One customer at a time is a very slow and painstaking way to build brand recognition.
However if you conceive and present your brand well, you can make people think of you as an industry leader … and, as a result, often think of you first.
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