advertising, business branding, business operations, growth strategy, marketing, small business, start-up
Sales and marketing
10 ways to boost the value of your brand
By Oliver Milman
Last week’s Interbrand report ranking the world’s most valuable brands may have been overshadowed by the death of the co-founder of one of the elite, Apple’s Steve Jobs, but it nevertheless provides food for thought for start-ups.
The report reveals Coke’s brand value rose 2% to $US71.8 billion in 2011, while IBM came in second with a brand value of $US69.9 billion.
Microsoft, Google and GE rounded out the top five, while Apple was in eighth place with a brand value of $33.4 billion.
So what can you do to boost the value of your own business’ brand? We can’t promise that you will be worth $70 billion any time soon, but these tips should help you along the way.
1. Recognise the value of your brand
The first step in increasing the value of your brand is to recognise its importance. Be aware that pretty much every decision you make, from the logo you choose to the products you sell to your website design, forms your brand in the mind of customers.
“The value creator for your business is its brand,” says Siimon Reynolds, start-up investor and founder of ad agency group Photon.
“It sets you aside from your competition, allows you to charge more and creates a desire among consumers to get your product, whatever the cost.”
2. Set out your beliefs
What does your business stand for? Not sure? If so, you don’t have a brand. You barely have a business, to be frank.
“You need three things – understanding why you’re here, what you’re passionate about and what your beliefs are,” says branding specialist Michel Hogan.
“Over time, you will build a brand. But the way you behave as a business depends on having a strong sense of where you want to go and the values you want it to have.”
3. Be consistent
A striking feature of the world’s most valuable brands is their consistency. You don’t see Coca-Cola or Apple radically change the way they present themselves to the world. You need to do the same.”
“You can’t be chopping and changing when it comes to your brand,” states Reynolds.
“Yes, be flexible. Yes, be tactical with your advertising. But the best brands speak to you in the same way, consistently. You know where you stand with them.”
4. Stay relevant
Whether it’s Apple, IBM, Google or Microsoft, it’s clear that tech companies have got a stranglehold among the most sought-after reputations in the world.
Part of this is down to the fact that they are relevant to the way people live their lives now. They have a freshness that your business also needs to capture.
“A brand isn’t about hanging your logo everywhere, it’s about being relevant to society,” says Reynolds.
“The sands shift constantly in tech, so it’s easier to stay relevant. But it can work both ways – look what has happened to Yahoo.”
5. Keep it simple
Your business model may be quite a simple one. You sell t-shirts. You’re an accountant. You develop app games.
Alternatively, you make have quite a complex proposition. Whatever you do, don’t try to over-explain this in your brand.
“Branding needs to be very broad brushstrokes,” says Reynolds. “When it all gets too complex, the memorability of the business goes down.”
6. Go extreme
Faced by the likes of IBM and Disney, it may seem impossible to take them on and dislodge them as a heavy-hitting brand. But as a start-up, you need to be focusing on niches, rather than building huge, sweeping brands from day one.
“Find a niche that the large companies can’t defend and become an expert in this area,” says Reynolds.
“Great brands are formed at the extremes. People forget how radical it was for Disney to open a theme park. Or how radical Google’s first search engine was. They took huge risks to put a new stake in the ground.”
7. Don’t just chase the cash
Ultimately, you want to build a brand to drive sales. But if you give the perception that you are fixated on customers’ money, rather than the customers themselves, you risk being sidelined.
“You have to stand for something more than just making money,” says Reynolds. “If you expand into every niche without taking your philosophy with you, your brand gets watered down.”
8. Realise it takes time
No business manages to fully define itself within its first year. Not only do people not know who you are, it’s likely that your offering will change as you discover that some things work better than others.
“I remember last year’s list had a top five businesses that were 400 years old, between them,” says Hogan. “It takes time to build a brand. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
9. Don’t make lots of empty noise
It can be tempting to stand out from the crowd by being controversial or staging various stunts. However, this works better for some businesses than others.
“Some very strong brands come from humble beginnings, so don’t feel that you have to be polarising or outrageous in order to build your brand,” says Hogan.
10. Be Steve Jobs
Okay, so that’s a bit of a tall order. But as good as your brand is, it will be let down if you don’t embody it yourself. Someone pass the black skivvy…
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