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Brand awareness: making your mark

Brand building can be a powerful growth strategy for businesses of any size - large, medium, or small. The key is to understand what it is you do best and to use brand awareness to communicate that message repeatedly across your target market.

Benefits

The time and resources spent building brand awareness can be very rewarding. It can help to:

  • Position your product or service in the marketplace
  • Differentiate your product or service from those of your competitors
  • Create positive associations in the minds of potential customers/clients
  • Gradually reduce marketing expenditure
  • Ultimately increase revenue

Distinguishing mark

When farmers brand sheep they use an easily recognisable mark to distinguish their animals from those of other farmers. In the same way, when you brand a product or a service, you use a name and/or mark to distinguish it from those of your competitors.

Thus, the first principle of branding is that your brand name and/or mark, whether it is a word, a phrase, a letter, a symbol, or even a sound, should be:

  • Uncomplicated
  • Distinctive
  • Easy to recognise
  • Easy to remember

Marketing message

The brand also has to carry a message into the marketplace. Its full function is not just to distinguish your product or service from those of your competitors, but also to convey its superiority.

What is it about your product or service that is special, or even unique? Why should a potential customer or client choose you rather than one of your competitors? What is the target market or market segment for your product or service? What need does your product or service meet? What benefits will the purchaser experience? What statement are they making to others by using your product or service?

The answers to these questions will help you define your brand identity. The secret is to create a simple marketing message that conveys your brand identity and then to attach this message to your brand name and/or mark.

Your choice of words, graphics, colours, and even fonts can be crucial in determining the overall effectiveness of your brand, and you might want to seek professional assistance in this area.

Research

It is important to research your brand carefully before launching it:

  • Make sure your brand name/mark is not already in use and does not infringe any intellectual property rights
  • Check that your brand name/mark does not have any unfortunate connotations in your target market
  • If you will be trading overseas, make sure your brand name/mark translates well into the language and culture of the countries in which you will be trading

Building brand awareness

Once you have established your brand identity, the next stage is to start building brand awareness. Basically there are four stages:

  1. To begin with the brand has no presence in the marketplace
  2. Gradually, consumers begin to associate your brand with a particular product or service class
  3. Eventually the consumer recalls your brand without a visible or audible prompt of your brand name/mark
  4. Finally, your brand is virtually equated with the product/service class

Perhaps not every business can expect to reach the fourth stage, but most should be able to set the third as a marketing objective.

Building brand awareness is about repetition. Whatever methods you use - print/radio/TV advertising, mail shots, sponsorships, or sweatshirts, pens, and mouse mats bearing your brand name - the important thing is to establish as conspicuous a presence as possible in your target market.

Refreshing your brand

Brands are fickle things, susceptible to changes in fashion and perception. Recently for example, some seemingly robust brands in the UK clothes trade have found themselves sidelined through failing to anticipate changes in fashion or allowing themselves to be wrong-footed by overseas competition; and few of us will forget how a famous jewellery brand lost its glitter overnight through a careless remark by the MD!

Thus, brand building should be a continuous, fluid process. Although one of the key features of successful branding is consistency - conveying a consistent message and image to the marketplace - it is also important to let both the message and the image evolve and adjust to changes in fashion, perception, and so on.

If managed well, brand building can be a significant driver in the growth of your business.