Think Coca Cola and you’ll probably be thinking red and white. Starbucks and you’ll have a bit of green, whiff of coffee and young people serving you with a smile. These two are great examples of how a brand can impose itself into your psyche without you even realising it. And that’s the holy grail of branding for even the smallest of companies.
Whether you own a small boutique in the Dubai Mall, or are an accountancy practice serving the whole of EMEA, do you know what your brand stands for in the minds of your customers? Do they instantly think of your logo? Or something more intangible, like your great/poor customer service?
Getting your branding right is a key part of your marketing efforts. So the first step is to find out what your brand should stand for, and then discovering what it actually means right now to your customers. The two points could be further apart than you imagine.
A brand isn’t just your logo (although with Coca Cola that’s often the first thing people think about). It is how people perceive your business, how they feel when your business name is mentioned. If you’re a restaurant it will be the food you serve, but also the experience they have while eating in your restaurant.
Understanding how people feel about your business gives you the ability to change aspects of your customer facing business. You can enhance the positives and make necessary changes to the negatives. A little market research should bring back the answers to how your customers feel about your company. And its how they experience your business, not what you think you are doing, that matters to a customer.
The main questions you need to ask customers are:
Do you deliver on your promises?
The online society allows customers easy access to other companies who offer the same products and services that you do. This is why it’s essential a customer feels their demands are satisfied when they choose you over another provider.
Are you offering the right product/service?
No industry exists in a vacuum. What was desired and needed ten years ago could be outmoded now. Do your customers feel your products and services are still relevant to their lifestyles or business needs?
Is your brand easy to understand?
Do your customers know what you stand for? You may feel saying that “accountancy services” should cover it, but do you specialise in certain areas? As a boutique do customers immediately think of you when they want a new dress, or do you offer a confusing range of clothes, jewellery, home wares and knick knacks that make them likely to visit another store instead? Understanding how your customers make decisions will help you position your company more easily in their minds.
Is your business easy to recall?
Unless you are the only company in the world selling one particular item, you have to distinguish yourself from the competition. It’s very difficult, and expensive, to become the market leader, the Coca Cola of your industry, but having a well-designed brand and a reputation for being good at what you do, will help keep your company’s name at the forefront of people’s minds when they need the product/service you sell.
Do your customer’s feel emotionally engaged?
Do they love your product/service? Is there a particular salesperson who makes their day when they get in touch, or serves them over the counter? Is your presence on social media making them happy, or annoying them? Emotional engagement can take many forms, so ask your customers what it is about your business that makes them happy. And, of course, what doesn’t!
Discovering what your customers feel about your business will help you understand what your brand stands for in the world outside. But don’t forget your employees. Ask them the same questions – their experience of working for you will help you gain a more rounded understanding of your brand.