By Ann Marie van den Hurk Lexington Herald-Leader.
Branding is an important aspect in the world of business, and it's so much more than simply how a brand looks. The visual representation of the logo of Nike, for example, is only the surface piece of the Nike brand. It runs deeper than that.
By definition, branding is about the process involved in creating a unique name and image for an organization. The aim of branding is to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the marketplace which attracts and keeps loyal customers.
A logo isn't a brand. A product isn't a brand. And a service isn't a brand. It is all of that woven together, creating a connection with your employees and customers.
For example, let's talk about Apple. It is an iconic brand known globally. The silvery apple with a bite missing is the company logo. Apple's products are personal mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. The Genius Bar is a service they make available to customers.
What makes Apple's brand is the cult-like devotion of users to their products and services based on their brand promise: every new product must deliver simplicity. A brand promise can be defined as a commitment connecting your organization's purpose, positioning within the market, people, and customer experience into one.
There are three things that make a successful brand:
-Projecting a consistent look. Think back to Apple and how when you look at any of their devices or materials, you know that is from Apple.
-Projecting a consistent tone in your communications. Apple has developed its own language and way of presenting its products.
-Projecting a consistent level of quality, demonstrated by consistent communications, consistent products and consistent services. Apple is built on a high level of customer and product satisfaction.
Developing your organization's brand is a process, which goes beyond your company's logo and letterhead. It is a public representation of your business. So how do you develop your company's brand?
There are six steps to building a good brand:
-Define why you are in business. A good start is to answer the following questions to get the ball rolling: what does your business do, what does your business do best, and what customer needs are you meeting?
-Think about what you want people to think when they hear your organization's name. Create a list of those adjectives you hope people think about you.
-Ask your employees, vendors, and customers what they think about your organization. If what they share with you doesn't match with what you think they should be thinking, then there is a disconnect that needs to be realigned.
-Identify the benefits you want people to associate with your business. Understanding what these benefits are helps you figure out the advantages you want to communicate with customers.
-Define your brand. Based on the above, you can define who you are as a business.
-Build your brand. Using your brand definition, you can create a brand that resonates and fosters loyal customer behavior throughout every representation of your business in the marketplace.
Essentially, branding is the practice of forming memories, emotions and relationships around your organization's brand in the customer's mind. Through building a solid brand, you can build a strong connection so that your customer takes on your brand as part of who they are. Once you develop your brand, then live it in very aspect. Soon your customers will, too. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Ann Marie van den Hurk, an accredited public relations professional, is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations and author of "Social Media Crisis Communications."