Is your branding up to the New Year?

As I write this it’s the first ‘working’ week of 2016 and I’m starting to think about what I, and the business, will be doing differently in the year to come!

2015 was quite a year of change for us, with lots of new clients coming on board, but the year also saw us part company with some old ones. Why did we part company? Often when a new Marketing Manager joins a client company, or staff change, it’s a ‘danger’ point in the relationship as the ‘new broom sweeps clean’. Likewise, as our contacts move on in their careers, if we’ve added value to their businesses and done a good job, they’ll often take us with them!

While it’s sad to see the end of a relationship – on a much more positive note 2015 saw a lot of ‘lapsed’ clients return – some of whom have become our biggest clients over the last few months! Why did they come back? Because they realised we offer a good, honest, creative service at a realistic price. That’s why we’re still here, in our 17th year in business! As the economy has started to recover and confidence has grown, those clients have decided now is the time to invest in their marketing while their competitors are still pulling in their horns!

The Christmas break and the start of a new year is always a time when business owners perhaps have time to contemplate where they’re going and what they want from their businesses. As a creative business we always have big ideas about how we might do things differently in the new year and how we can balance running the business efficiently and profitably against those more ethereal creative impulses and the freedom we crave to be able to work without the constraints of budgets, margins and deadlines!

For many clients, one of their new year’s resolutions is to review their branding.

‘Branding’ is a term that’s used more and more these days to cover a broad range of topics. In it’s simplest sense it can just apply to an organisation’s logo, the colours, typefaces and style of imagery it uses throughout its communications. A more comprehensive definition of a ‘brand’ covers the whole interaction of a business or a product with its target audience – how it’s staff behave and respond to consumers, how its customers and stakeholders feel about it, whether they want it, aspire to it, simply need it, or even despise it – as a reflection of the ‘brand ethos’ or its values. That’s where ‘branding’ really comes into its own. An organisation – even an individual – can influence those target audiences through more subtle messages as well as through traditional advertising and marketing channels. Look at the explosion in social media, for example. These days a business – or a person – can communicate their values, their opinions, their credentials and their approach to dealing with people to a global audience instantly, in ‘real time’ and much more cost effectively than ever before!

To complement these more intangible aspects of branding, does your logo, your website and your printed marketing material reflect those brand values? Take a step back and look at what you’re trying to get across to your potential customer. Why should they buy from you? What can you offer that others don’t? How are you positioning your own ‘brand’? Is it homely and comfortable?, is it high tech and innovative?, is it glamorous and sexy?, is it aspirational and luxurious? – or is it a necessity (such as insurance) that’s more difficult to differentiate in a crowded market? That’s where branding in the broader sense comes into it’s own. It’s all about how you differentiate your product or service and put it in the forefront of your potential customers’ minds. Think about what REAL benefits your product or service offers, how have you helped others alleviate a problem or solve a need, how does your product or service make people feel about themselves? Get these messages across every time you interact with your target customers. (And don’t forget to keep in touch with existing customers as they’re much easier to cross sell products and services to than going out and finding new customers!).

So, does any of this really apply to smaller businesses? I think so.

I mentioned that even individuals can use both traditional and more recently evolved tools to communicate their ‘brand values’. Many of our clients are sole traders or micro businesses where their personal branding is all important as an integral part of the marketing mix. All of us who embark on conversations on twitter, write a blog spot, or attend a business networking meeting are projecting our personal brand every time we interact with our peer groups through these channels. And the bigger the company, quite often the more important the personal relationships are. As I said, when staff change it can be a risky time for a business relationship – so make sure your ‘personal brand’ as well as your corporate brand is memorable so you’re in font of mind when your products or services are called for!

We’re looking forward to working with you to develop your brand in 2016!

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