There are countless success stories nowadays of well-branded businesses exploding in popularity. They have it down to the science — they manage to evoke the feeling of just wanting to be a part of it all. How can you reproduce this? Where do you start?
It often feels like a chicken-and-egg problem. It sounds reasonable that you should build your core business and then invest into brand. But what if brand is part of your core business? How would that mindset change your approach? What if your brand was one of the first things you invested in, rather than an afterthought?
A good brand will make it leaps and bounds easier to appear established and legitimate. How would that affect your business in other ways — customer acquisition, talent acquisition, good investor relations, and so on?
As the saying goes, you only have one chance for a first impression. Your first impressions, until you take a serious focus on brand, won’t be the best that they can be. Brand is a foundational aspect of your business, not something tacked on. Treating it as part of the foundation means that you’re investing in something that will give you better and better returns as time goes on. The benefits are cumulative here, and it all results in better growth of your business.
For many product or service categories, it’s growing more and more difficult to significantly differentiate yourself from the competition. Established players will have orders of magnitude more experience, resources, and money which means competition will be a near-impossible battle in most cases. And then if your only differentiator is price, that won’t be the case for long either. How do you win? You focus on brand. This isn’t to say that the product can be bad — it can’t. But having a great brand amplified by having a great product is an equation whose result is greater than the sum of its parts. You’ll put yourself in a much stronger position to connect with many more customers, you’ll appear more serious and legitimate in all respects, and you’ll be that much closer to the success and goals that you’re seeking.
There are many companies that don’t, and never have, focused on brand. That can partially be interpreted as a lack of care for what the market thinks about them, and how to connect with the market in today’s day. That lack of connection can plant a seed that causes growing and, at one point, irreparable problems with product-market fit.
A good brand doesn’t solely live in the visual assets that you show the world — like your logo or your product photography. A good brand also is felt inside the company and affects everything down to the interior decisions of the offices and the look of the business cards. Just like how a good brand can be nearly magnetic to customers, it can be similarly so to those who work to make the brand a business.
Particularly for generations like mine (not to use any overused buzzwords), we find brand to be one of the main factors of connection with a business. Advertising in the past would be literal and focus on the benefits of something. Today, we want to emotionally connect. We want to feel like we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves, even if its just the toothbrush we use or the shoes we wear. Good brands lead to good experiences — not only the experiences that the brands directly control (like a launch party) but how you live and coexist with that brand (like a favorite jacket that has been with you for a long time).
Ultimately, when you prioritize brand, you aren’t just making a pretty logo and choosing some nice colors and typefaces. You’re fulfilling the emotional imperative of a business to win not only the wallets but the hearts of the market. You’ve set the foundation well, and you’re building up from there. If you focus on brand, the rest will follow.