There are certain brands that are ingrained in every consumer’s mind: Coke, Colgate, Apple, Toyota, Pampers, etc. Every one of these brands was carefully designed with one thing in mind: to build a brand that lasts. Smaller, non-public companies can learn a lot from the branding techniques of larger corporations. Follow these guidelines to build a brand that really lasts:
Rule #1 – The Brand Is in the Consumer’s Mind
A lot of people think that the brand is in your logo, your slogan or your marketing materials, but that is not the case. Your brand, your real brand, is in the mind of your consumers.
One great example is Kia, the car manufacturer. For most people, Kia in their minds is “the cheap, not very good car.” It doesn’t matter that Kia runs thousands of commercials every year “branding” their cars as adventurous, reliable, etc. Their real brand is still that, the cheap, probably not very good car compared with others on the market. But if it is all you can afford, then it is still a brand that people are willing to consider. Now think Lexus. Luxury, a high standard, and so on. Yet it is made by Toyota, certainly not one of the most ‘glamorous’ or high-end car brands.
The whole point of branding is to deliberately construct the associations your customers have when they think of you and your company.
Rule #2 – Be Known for One Thing
Don’t try to be a generic brand and number one in everything.
Let’s use the auto industry as an example again. The auto industry would be extremely difficult to get into. It would cost so much money at such a high risk to try and build a strong enough new brand to generate sales in the auto industry that just about no one does it.
However, when Tesla Motors came along, they didn’t try to build a number one car. They didn’t try to compete with any of the large brands. Instead, they set out to do one thing: to create the best luxury or sports 100 percent electric car. Shortly after they launched, every Tesla dealership was backlogged with orders. Their S car was recently named Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year, no mean feat for a brand that many people have never even heard of.
There are many examples of being specific to a niche to help build brand. For example, “Miller Light” was a number one brand when they didn’t try to be a generic beer, just the number one light beer. The list goes on and on.
Rule #3 – Be Consistent with Your Brand
A brand that changes every year, or even every few years, is bound for obscurity. A brand whose logo conflicts with its message, or a brand whose color is inconsistent with the brand’s emotions, is also bound for obscurity. Your brand needs to be consistent throughout every part of your business. The logo, the typography, the tagline, the “feel” of the commercials, the corporate culture and so on, should all be streamlined to one coherent message.
Coca Cola is a great example of this. Their brand is that no matter where you are, or who you are, even a polar bear, it’s cool and fun to drink Coke.
McDonald’s is a poor example of this. They have tried to position themselves as healthy by adding salads and running commercials about what a healthy choice their happy meals are, but everyone knows they are not health at all. They try to position themselves as the place to take the family, but many parents now tell their kids not to eat at McDonald’s. They have tried to compete with Starbuck’s via McCafe’s complete with lounge chairs. McDonald’s has a confused brand, which has hurt their sales.
To create a brand that lasts, make sure you know what your message is. Make sure that one message is clear and concise. Then make sure all your advertising materials and everything else about your company matches up to that branding message.