Strong brands stick around! According to a 2003 study by Business Week magazine, over 30 percent of the world’s leading brands were developed before 1900!
- Coca Cola (Founded in 1892)
- GE (Founded in 1876)
- Citibank (Founded 1812)
- HSBC (Founded 1865)
- Johnson & Johnson (Founded 1880)
According to Kristie Rimmele, Internet Marketing and Branding Expert, 75 percent of consumer buying decisions are based on emotions. This relates to the sales philosophy of “selling to the benefit.” This means that consumers don’t purchase a product or service per se but the benefit that product or service provides. The goal of branding for every company is to instill in the mind of consumers the perception that they alone can provide that benefit in a way that no other company within its niche can.
Starbucks is all about coffee as an experience and creating a “third place” for its customers; Wal-Mart is all about selection and cost reduction; Nordstrom’s places an emphasis on superior customer service; Honda seeks to produce quality automobiles at competitive prices. Each company generates both an image and feeling in the mind of consumers with regard to the products and services it offers. This image and feeling are a direct result of the company’s branding strategy.
Branding is about establishing your “unique value proposition” (UVP) within your niche. Your UVP is composed of both tangible and intangible factors that serve to set your business apart from that of other graphic designers. Tangible factors include your visual and verbal style, along with any marketing materials you create, such as business cards, brochures, Web sites, and blogs. Intangible factors include the specific niche you serve, methods of conducting business, services you offer, along with your company mission and values.
The goal is to develop a brand which will establish your core image in the minds of your target market just as Starbucks, Nordstrom’s, and Honda have established a core brand image in the mind of their consumers. The word “core” is important since it signifies that you will establish a consistent perception of your company’s unique value.
Overview of Steps in Creating a Branding Strategy
The following outline will guide your thinking in terms of developing a strategic brand identity that will serve to highlight your unique value proposition:
1. Define your business concept?
You must be able to create a concise and clear statement regarding the type of design firm you wish to start. What are the primary design services or products you will offer? Be as specific as possible. For example, rather than noting that you will start a graphic design firm, clarify that you will start a graphic design firm serving the needs of small business owners within the restaurant sector.
2. Who is your target market?
It is a well known maxim that, for the majority of businesses, 20 percent of customers provides 80 percent of revenue. However, when you have a clearly defined niche, this percentage is likely to increase significantly since your products or services will be tailored toward the needs of a narrow market.
The issue of a niche has been somewhat covered when you created your business concept. However, at this point you will go one step further to describe any particular demographic your design firm will serve. For example, will you be targeting a specific type of restaurant (diner, fast food, fine dining, Italian, Indian etc.) or will you focus in a specific geographic area?
3. Who are your main competitors?
From the market research you conducted during the preliminary planning stages you should have a good grasp of who your main competitors are within your niche. Carefully review their Web sites, blogs, methods of doing business, etc. to determine how you may distinguish your business from theirs.
4. Know your unique value proposition to your target market
This refers to the unique benefit your company will provide to clients that is not available through your direct competitors. For example, you may offer a greater number of “mock-ups” than do other graphic design firms, along with first round revisions included in the fee. You can also differentiate yourself in terms of the hours you work, extending your schedule to include a couple of evenings and/or weekends.
5. How will you market to new clients?
What will be your primary marketing strategy to obtain your first clients? You may choose from several strategies: Web-based marketing, social media profiles, pages, and ads, creation of blogs, ads in community-based newspapers, brochures, and business cards. Several of these strategies, such as online networking and the creation of a blog can provide a startup with cost-effective methods of getting the word out about your business.
A word of advice: increase spending on your marketing (including branding) during a recession! A 1998 Profit Impact Marketing Strategy (PIMS) study showed that those firms that increased marketing spending during recessionary periods actually realized a return on investment of 4.3 percent as compared to 0.6 percent for those firms that maintained their current budgets, with a -0.8 percent loss for those firms that cut spending!
Branding is fun and, as a designer, you certainly have the ability to think outside-the-box in developing a strong brand identity that will attract clients. Once you start to build a client following, the combination of your talent and client-centered approach will ensure their continuing loyalty!
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