Branding

How To Develop A Strong Brand Foundation

Branding is a marketing strategy that involves creating a differentiated name and image — often using a logo and/or tag line — in order to establish a presence in the consumer's mind and attract and keep customers.

When I’m consulting with owners of start-up businesses I find their perspective on various aspects of business to be very interesting, particularly when it comes to branding. The inevitable answer I get when I ask, “how do you plan to brand yourself” is, “I’m starting small with a minimal budget. Branding comes when you get established. I will implement a branding strategy when I generate enough money to do so.” Then I ask, “what if you had a branding strategy that’s low cost, fits within your budget, would you focus on your branding your business at the outset?” They respond, “How can I do that?”

In this article I will show you how to do just that. We will first listen to Denise Yohn, author of What Great Brands Do, and an authority in the area of branding. She espouses the concept of “minimal viable brand” as the approach to implementing a branding strategy when you start your business. Let’s listen to Denise, then I will demonstrate an example of executing minimal viable brand strategy.

Denise’s approach makes it very easy to develop a branding strategy that fits your business’s resources. Now let’s take a look at an example of executing a minimal viable branding activity. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as “a name, term, sign, symbol, or design or a combination of theme intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:

  • Delivers the message clearly
  • Confirms your credibility
  • Connects your target prospects emotionally
  • Motivates the buyer
  • Concretes user loyalty

Your brand should communicate business’s promise to its customers and define their expectations of the business.

Note neither the definition or list objectives site any requirement related to the size of your business or budget. The major criteria is whatever branding resource you are using it should clearly communicate your identity in the market and distinguish you from others. So, with that said, let’s look at a minimal viable branding activity that any business can implement.

One of the most impactful areas to brand your business is with the image, presentation and customer service of you and your staff. How you and your employees treat your customers speaks louder than anything your slogan says, the appeal of your logo or the inspiration of your color scheme. As the great poet Maya Angelou once said, “people may not always remember what you said, but they will certainly remember how you make them feel.”

Shirt Corner Plus

Shirt Corner Plus is a Philadelphia fashion institution.

For over 50 years the retailer has been the premier outlet for urban dress and casual wear in the city. When I approached the owner about featuring the store in this article on branding, he said, “feature Rome, he’s the brand.”

Rome is the top sales and style consultant at Shirt Corner. Without question he is the embodiment of the Shirt Corner Brand. Daily, he dons the latest clothing from the store’s collection, presenting a superb coordination of shirt, slacks, shoes, socks and accessories. His signature style and fashion sense translates the Shirt Corner concept into a living example and experience that the store’s customers and see, admire aspire to, and connect with. Here’s how

Rome’s image measures up with the aforementioned objectives of good branding:

  • Delivers the message clearly – Rome’s image says, if you want urban style, with distinction and a complete, well-coordinated look, Shirt Corner is the place.
  • Confirms credibility – Not only Rome’s look speaks of the brand, but him wearing the clothing daily says that he believes in the store’s products. Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban says (and I paraphrase) you have to show people you believe in the product by using it yourself.
  • Connects your target prospects emotionally – The crispness and attention to detail in Rome’s image defines the store’s prospects view of the impression they aspire to create when out on that special occasion or everyday look.
  • Motivates the buyer – Rome’s style and presentation creates an overwhelming desire in customers to act. The completeness of his look (coordinated slacks, shirt, shoes, accessories, etc.) drives customers to purchase complete outfits.
  • Concretes user loyalty – Once a customer is served by Rome, they stay with Rome. His customer retention, referrals and years serving his customers are legendary.

In summary, branding is a fundamental of good marketing. Effective branding does not require big budgets or big size for your business. A few simple activities, including you and your staff’s image and customer service, as a part of a plan makes real market impact for your business.

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