Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business – yet it is very often badly done. Brands like Apple and Burberry seem to be masters in the image game, yet once upon a time this was not the case.
During the late nineties, Apple almost went bankrupt – but with some smart refocusing, the fortunes of the company changed. This included bringing back Steve Jobs and a shift from the original rainbow-coloured bitten apple logo to a monochrome design, which set the tone for the rock-solid brand we know today.
However, Apple’s image overhaul also had a lot to do with the series of slick, flawless and well-engineered designs that followed, including the iMac.
Fashion giants Burberry earned a negative reputation for a while in the nineties as their designs were favoured by, shall we say, a less than classy customer. But since creative director Christopher Bailey’s appointment, the brand has regained its appeal as quintessentially British: a sexy but quirky label with celebrities like Emma Watson and Kate Moss showing it off.
So how can a small business buff up its brand?
- Determine the existing ‘brand equity’ of the business
Before beginning a rebrand, you need to determine what the existing brand equity is – which is essentially the commercial value developed through consumer perception of the brand name.
Consider the business’ current reputation and customer base: is it strong? There is no need to completely remodel and change everything when rebranding – not only is it unnecessary, but you could damage the recognition that the business currently has.
Andrew Goldberg, Senior VP of marketing and strategy at Dialogic, draws upon this point in an interview with CMO.com. Goldberg says that there could be a negative impact on the business’ pricing position through an unnecessary rebrand; ‘This could result in an unexpected shift down market in terms of pricing strategies or the need for discounts to move inventory.’
What you can do, however, is use the business’ image but change it slightly and open it up to new customers.
A willingness to pay more for the brand name is because of the associated feelings and identity the customer has with that brand – which is what your business ultimately wants to aim for through your product or service.
- Promote your niche
‘Niche’ is the latest buzzword in many business owners’ vocabulary – and for good reason.
For example, there has been an increase in specialised food restaurants in London, which was for a while considered to be simply a fad brought over from New York. But the trend seems intent on staying; from Chicken Shop to Egg Break, these restaurants use one primary ingredient and create varied dishes.
But how can you make the most of niche branding?
Obviously, you need to make sure that your business has longevity – which it won’t if it rides on a fad. Niche branding focuses on connecting with your audience in a targeted way.
While this may seem like it could exclude potential customers, it will actually do the opposite. Instead it’s about promoting a unique opportunity – and that’s something irresistible to all audiences.
Big brands like Rolls Royce are a typical example of niche branding by only targeting multimillionaires and billionaires – while their appeal remains ubiquitous.
Of course, your brand doesn’t have to be quite so specialised, but it does help to be focused on who exactly is your target market – and promoting your niche helps with that.
- Reassess the market and innovate
Innovation should be paramount in a brand’s long-term strategy, and the best way to start doing that is by reassessing the market. The market is consistently changing and shifting, so you need to change and shift with it.
When Apple changed their branding, they reassessed the market and innovated new products alongside the new monochrome apple motif. Today, Apple is one of the most recognised big brands, known for their consistent innovation and trend-setting.
A brand is a representation of a whole package and as people were looking for slicker and beautiful technology as opposed to what was simply functional – the Apple brand became synonymous with this.
- Become a great storyteller
Consumers don’t just buy the brand now – they buy the story behind it too. In marketing your business to customers you also need to be able to tell them the story of how the product or service came to be: make the most of being a small business and sell it.
Tying into the idea of niche marketing, think about what makes your business (and story) unique. Tell that story and don’t use the typical marketing speak.
Most people, for example, know the story of Zuckerberg starting Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard, which is reportedly now worth more than $200 billion.
Using the story of how your business came to be can provide a tangible, human link to what might otherwise be perceived as an impersonal business.
- Make yourself a part of the community
Being part of your target market’s community is not only about talking to your current and potential customers, but also about better understanding the potential of your business and the avenues that you can take it down in the future.
A small business should engage on social media sites so that they can directly communicate with customers and integrate into their community. You could also encourage customers through various campaign strategies to share their experiences with your brand via the various media platforms.
TripAdvisor has recently integrated people’s Facebook accounts into their system, and have increased the interactivity on the site in recent years rather than only allowing reviews on the site. In turn this has created a community on the site, making its users incredibly loyal to the TripAdvisor brand.
So, in brief: don’t rebrand for rebrand’s sake, promote your niche, reassess the market, make your story heard and integrate yourself into the community. In no time you’ll have a buffed-up brand.
By Rose Hill, online journalist for BusinessesForSale.com, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis. Rose writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including PropertySales.com and FranchiseSales.com.