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It’s a common misconception that if you have a company, you have a brand. But the truth is that you can have everything else for your company in place — the product or service you provide, the employees, the office, and so on — without developing a brand. Your brand is, of course, related to your company, but it’s an ineffable, intangible element, something that exists above and outside of the more grounded elements of the business. Think of it like your company’s personality, or its reputation. And though brand is decidedly separate from the business aspects of your company, it couldn’t be more crucial for your bottom line.
Of course, not everyone is so easily convinced that it’s worth it to invest in your brand. Here are five powerful arguments to build a business case for branding activities.
Perhaps the simplest argument is just to point to the most successful companies out there: Apple, Google, Nike, Target, and many more. All of these companies provide good products, sure, but there’s no doubt that you could find equally good electronics or software or sneakers elsewhere. What drives customers to these companies is the strength of their brand identity. Each of them has clearly and successfully communicated who they are, what they offer, and the mission that drives them, and this resonates with customers.
Of course, it’s not just the big names who know the importance of branding. In a recent survey, 77% of marketing leaders said that branding is critical to business growth, and 88% cited brand awareness as their most important goal, above even lead generation or sales. This is because smart marketers understand that while a sale or a lead can generate a unit of growth for the business, a strong brand can be the fuel that generates an order of magnitude of leads and sales in the future.
So we’ve established that top marketers prioritize branding. Now let’s dive deep on the why behind that. What do they know that others don’t about the power of branding? There are a few answers to that question, but perhaps none is more important than brand awareness. The idea is simple: if people don’t know about or remember your company, they’re not going to become a customer. In order for them to know and remember you, you need to have a defined and consistent brand identity.
Brand recognition refers to how well a person can recognize your brand without seeing your brand name. Think of seeing a sleek laptop case and knowing instinctively, just by its looks, that it’s Apple, or hearing a funny podcast ad for razors and knowing it’s Dollar Shave Club just by the personality of it. Brand recognition matters for your business, because when consumers can recognize and easily recall your brand, it keeps you top-of-mind. This is a big advantage over the competition when it’s time to make purchasing decisions.
Of course, gaining brand recognition requires an investment in branding campaigns. In order for people to remember you, you need to put your brand in front of them both consistently and frequently. Consistency is key, because if a brand looks different every time someone encounters it, how will they ever remember or form an opinion about it? In fact, brands that are presented consistently are 3 to 4 times likelier to gain brand visibility, and consistent brand presentation is associated with a 23% average revenue increase! And remember, you can’t just put out your brand message one or two times and call it a day: research shows that it takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand.
Brand awareness goes one step further than brand recognition, and really gets to the heart of why branding matters. Brand awareness means that people don’t just recognize your brand, but have also formed opinions and impressions about you. This matters a lot, because these impressions can mean the difference between gaining or losing a customer.
In terms of your branding strategy, this means that you need to really know who you are, and communicate that brand message clearly to the world through a targeted campaign. You can no longer just put out ads that tout the features of your product: you need to tap into your brand identity to sell something bigger, something human, something that evokes an emotion. In turn, people will recall this emotion when they think of your brand, and emotion drives sales.
We touched on this a bit with brand awareness, but let’s really get into it here. We’ll be straight with you: no matter how great your product or service is, it will not sell itself. It simply will not. Today, consumers are inundated with choices, many of which seem indistinguishable on the surface. The thing that ultimately tips someone from Option A to Option B is very rarely a specific feature of a product; it’s almost always that ineffable, intangible element, that emotional impulse. In other words, it’s the power of your brand.
If you think back on your purchasing decisions and the brands you’re loyal too, you’re likely to see evidence for this truth (did you like that sweater because it was a great sweater, or because you love the brand?). There’s also data to back it up: 65% of people feel an emotional connection with a brand, and 64% of consumers say that shared values are the primary reason they have a trusted relationship with a brand.
This drives home the point that your brand represents more than your products or services. It also represents your message, your mission, your values, and — perhaps most importantly — what it says about a consumer’s own identity when they make a purchase from you. It’s all those other factors that will make people feel connected and loyal to your brand in the long term.
Even the best companies sometimes have stumbles. The fact of the matter is, brands are set up for failure in the eyes of consumers. After decades of being fed misleading advertising and condescended to, many people are skeptical of what brands offer —in fact, 42% of consumers say they distrust brands! Combined with social media, this means that even a small customer service slip-up could become a PR nightmare.
Thankfully, there’s an antidote to this: strong, trusted brand messaging. People today crave authenticity, and generic corporate-speak will only further harm a company’s image (consider that 50% of consumers feel like most brand communication is irrelevant). Strong branding allows you to be in that other 50%, having built up trust and credibility with your audience. It enables you to respond to any public image issues in a manner that aligns with your brand identity, which in turn lets the public fall back into the bed of trust you’ve built with them. It can mean the difference between a major public catastrophe and a minor blip on the radar screen.
The final reason branding matters has not to do with how the public perceives you, but rather the strength of your internal team. Anyone with a mind for business knows that a company is only as good as its employees, so when you’re able to link branding to a better workforce, you’ve got an ironclad case for branding activities.
Fortunately, there are tons of stats that help to firmly tie those two things together. Let’s look at these numbers from LinkedIn:
These numbers make sense. People want to work for companies they can identify with, companies that share their values and provide a culture in which they feel comfortable. They may be interested in the product the company makes, but that won’t be what determines where they apply or accept a job: people care about how they feel, and brand is what makes people feel a certain way, rather than any item or service you can buy.
There’s no doubt that branding is an essential and core part of any business strategy. Still, perhaps because it doesn’t seem as directly tied to closing a sale, it can take some convincing to get everyone on the team on board with branding activities. Equipped with the arguments above, you’re prepared to make your case and start building a brand that drives the bottom line.
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