What is a brand? It’s not a name, logo, symbol or jingle—though all of these can affect and promote a brand, according to Seven Hughes, president of 7th Wonder, who during a May 1 presentation at the Covington Library offered tips for establishing and maintaining a business brand.
“Just as national and regional companies have brands, the smallest companies should have a brand as well. A brand is how you authenticate quality. A brand establishes a significant and differential presence in the marketplace that attracts and retains loyal customers,” Hughes said in his presentation Learn How to Work Your Brand.
“A brand creates expectations,” he said. “When you walk into a fast food restaurant that’s part of a national chain, you pretty much know what’s on the menu, what it will cost and how it will taste, because you know the brand.”
Although a company can work to establish its brand, the brand exists only in the minds of consumers, Hughes said. “It is the sum total of the impressions a customer has based on every interaction with that company. Two stores can offer roughly the same products at about the same prices, but some people will be loyal to one because they feel it offers them a more positive experience,” Hughes said. “Perhaps the question is not ‘what is a brand?’ but ‘who is a brand?’ A brand has a personality. Your potential customers are actually deciding who they want to spend time with.
“A brand elevates your product to more than just the sum of its parts. It’s more than a purchase, it’s an experience. A brand is a promise; at its core it’s a promise to consumers as to what they will get when they purchase a product or service under your brand umbrella,” Hughes said, adding that it’s up to the company to fulfill the consumer’s expectations.
Several elements come together to create the impression that becomes a company’s brand, according to Hughes. “When you look at a house, you see the design, the building materials, the landscaping, the location, all of which may influence your impression of the house. They may have come from different sources, but they are all part of the whole and if any one of these is not what it should be, it gives a less favorable impression of the house—it damages the brand. The same is true with a company; one negative element can damage the entire brand.”
He said business owners can damage their brand by undervaluing it. “This is hard for people who are new to business. Often, they don’t feel comfortable charging what their services are worth. Don’t let people talk you down from your legitimate price. If you don’t realize the value you bring to the table and price your products or services accordingly, people will take advantage of you and they won’t respect you.
“You don’t want to do business with people who don’t respect you. If you have a customer who calls you at 10 o’clock at night and wants you to do something in the next two hours and promises to throw $100 your way, you may think you need the money, but you really don’t need the money that badly. In the long run, you’re better off with fewer customers, but with customers who respect the relationship,” Hughes said.
“If you go into a luxury automobile dealership and the salesman shows you a beautiful car with fine accessories and invites you to sit behind the wheel and feel how comfortable it is, you will have expectations about the price. If he says, ‘We’re asking $13,500 for this automobile,’ you’d probably walk out. Your first thought would be ‘what’s wrong with it?’ You came there prepared to pay a premium price for a premium automobile; an absurdly low price makes you wonder what you’re getting,” Hughes said.
Branding, he added, is as important for nonprofit organizations as it is for businesses. “In a sense, there’s no such thing as a nonprofit. An organization may exist to do good in the community, but it can’t do good unless it makes money—unless it makes a profit. What people think of your nonprofit is going to influence their decision to volunteer for you or donate to you.”
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