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Business Questions, Branding Answers

By Neil Wengerd

We often have conversations with clients about what branding can do for their business. And often, the same four questions come up. Under the guise of creating a new logo or sprucing up their website, they really want to stand out, win customers, and make more money.

Thinking critically and carefully about what your brand is can have a big impact on building your customer base and growing your bottom line. Here's how branding can answer four of the most common questions we hear from clients.

How do we stand out from everyone else?

My wife often gives me a hard time because I buy groceries based on branding and design. If a product has especially nice packaging or an interesting brand, it’s hard for me to resist.

Because here’s the thing: there are a million choices now. And each and everyone of those choices is screaming at us. There are so many options that it’s hard to choose. People don’t know where to look. If you look and sound like everyone else, you look and sound just like everyone else. But what if you could make it easy for them to find and choose you?

To stand out, you need to be instantly recognizable and memorable. Simple, smart brand design is the best way to build that recognition. What if you tried simple when they go loud? What if you tried the smart approach when they go with the scatter shot tactic? What if it was clear that you were the obvious, irresistible choice?

I can’t say I proud of buying all that artisanal peanut butter and fizzy water. But I can say their branding works. And I can also say don’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach.

How can we make sure people take us seriously?

A couple years ago, we needed a new fence. Ours was falling apart and had never been painted in the 20 years of its existence. So, we started looking at fence companies. One company had a poorly designed and maintained website, a clipart logo, and only talked about what they did (“we make fences”). A second company had a clear website, simply stated the value they would bring to us, and seemed professional on all levels. That second fence company was also more expensive. But guess who we picked?

The lesson here? A strong, thoughtful brand identity adds legitimacy to your organization. This applies to all of us, no matter how big we are or what we’re selling. It isn’t “brand washing.” It’s taking the time to communicate that you care.

If you’re struggling with how make people pay attention, take a look at how you’re putting yourself out there. Are you coming across as a low-rent option, even if you’re not? What if you made sure your messages and design really say something about the value you’re bringing to the table?

How can we build and keep loyal fans?

Building a brand means building the right reputation. When your reputation suffers, your brand and business suffer, too.

Back in 2016, TimeWarner merged with Charter to form Spectrum. Along with the merger came a new brand. But the baggage of TimeWarner’s abysmal reputation didn’t go away. It’s still one of the most hated companies around for customer service.

Also in 2016, Wells Fargo came under fire for opening millions of accounts without the approval of their customers. It was a huge scandal. Wells Fargo has since become synonymous with how not to run a bank, despite attempts to use branding to climb out of the whole they dug.

In contrast, in 2016 Patagonia committed to contributing 100% of Black Friday sales to environmental organizations. This only served to reinforce their reputation of over 30 years: a company founded on protecting the environment. The Patagonia brand reinforces their social mission, and they remain one of the most customer-loyal brands on the planet.

The moral of the story is that you can’t hide behind a brand. Want to win and keep loyal fans? Know how you want to be known, and build your brand around that. The brands that last longest and have the most loyalty embody this perfectly.

How can we charge more and make more money?

When I was kid, I drove my parents nuts by demanding that I have name brand clothes. Nike, Starter, and American Eagle were the things to have. I have a big extended family, and I occasionally got some good stuff in the boxes of hand-me-downs from my cousins.

The biggest argument I got from my parents was that name-brand stuff was expensive. Why pay more when all you’re paying for is a logo? But it’s more complicated than that.

When you have a strong brand, you can command a higher price. You become desirable. Your name means something to people. Your brand comes to embodies quality and the reputation and values you stand for.

There’s a reason Apple can charge more for similar specs than Dell. Dell products have become commodities. Apple products have become desirable luxury items.

Want to be able to charge more and have people happily pay? Invest in building your brand. Brand and design are not magic tools. But in a world where we’re reaching parity on many aspects of products and services, it’s the companies that value design, simplicity, and sustainability that lead the pack.

So that's it. Four big questions that can be answered by defining and designing your brand. And that's where we come in. If you need help answering these questions, let's talk. We can choose to have our brand defined by our customers. Or we can choose to define it ourselves. Because if we don’t shape the future, it will shape us.