What is a brand?

By: Ashley Dougherty, Across the Horizons Marketing & Public Relations Intern

So you own your own business. Congratulations. I bet you know exactly what your business is about. You know what need your business can satisfy and who your customers will be. I bet you even know how you’re going to connect with those customers. But do your customers know what your business is about? If you call your business “The Pie Place” will your customers know that you specialize in Chicago style pizza? Or will they think that you specialize in pastries?

Branding Blog by Across the HorizonsAdam Arvidsson, a sociologist, calls brands “central components of the social fabric… by which identity, social relations, and shared experiences {are} constructed.” In other words, your brand is not just a name. It’s something that is a part of the fabric of your customer’s life. It is involved in their day to day, their friendships, their Facebook posts, their Tweets, their lunch conversation, and the image they construct of themselves on and off line.

To sit back and let your brand identity build itself is to head down a dark and dangerous road (are you hearing dramatic music yet). Ok, it’s not that bad. But again, if your customers aren’t 100% clear who you are and what you can do for them, your business will inevitably struggle. Consider the story of Red Bull. They were an energy drink company. Red Bull got to know their customer base by spending time with them and being completely up front in what they wanted. They visited countless college campuses. They asked “How can we appeal to you.” And they apparently got answers. Now Red Bull is firmly established as part of the extreme sports world. They sponsor a variety of racing teams (including Formula 1 auto racing), competitions, jumps, and even Felix Baumgartner’s “space jump.”

Here are some tips to help you build your brand:

1. Use the Internet.
Since you’re reading this web-based blog you probably know a thing or two about the internet. But some businesses still don’t have web pages. In a world where an experiment to live by only ordering things online was successful, a web page is particularly important. If you DO have a web page, take the time to get some feedback from customers and professional web designers.

2. Be active on social media
The sheer number of social media sites you can use can be daunting. If you have accounts on 10 different social media sites but never post, you’re not making good use of an incredible asset. Go for quality on one site rather than have several sites but nothing your customers will want to read or see. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your posts!

3. Don’t JUST use the internet
Be active in your community. Are you looking for families with young children to visit your business? Or college students? Find out where they are going to be and go out to meet them. Work with schools or parks or create a booth at a local festival. Contact your local Girl or Boy Scout troop and ask if your business can help them earn a patch. The more you get involved with the community, the more the community will be aware of your business and how you can satisfy its needs.

4. Know what you’re good at…and what you’re not
Do an identity audit. Or better yet, have someone else do one. Ask questions about your strengths, your weaknesses, why customers come back (or don’t). Write an elevator pitch. This helps you get to the heart of who you are and what you do. You may never use it, but then again you just might use it frequently.

Brand Identity is about the face you present to your customers and community. You may never get to the point where people are painting your logo on their cars, wearing jackets with your business name on them, and using your business as a verb instead of a noun. Keep in mind thought that making sure customers know who you are, how you can serve them, and why your business is better than the competition at doing can produce some amazing results.

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