Branding for ROI
Why does branding matter? What’s the point? And when will it pay off?
Allow me to paint you a picture.
You’re a business owner. You sell health supplements. You don’t just sell them though; you grow the plants yourself and bottle them in-house. And you’ve done well. You added a new warehouse this year. You have a small but loyal following of lifetime customers. Your operations are in the black.
Your logo sucks, however. In fact it’s so ugly, it’s become an in-house joke, one you try not to leak to anyone on the outside. But let’s face it. They know.
Your logo isn’t your only problem; the labels on your various product lines are so different, they look like they come from completely different companies. Colors, fonts, graphics — there’s no discernible “why” behind any of it, and no continuity.
One more issue. When customers call your warehouse to get support for an order, their satisfaction runs the gamut, because the service they receive runs the gamut. Some issues are resolved in one call. Some are bounced around first. Some are never resolved at all. That’s because everyone on your team handles calls in their own unique way, with no system in place to ensure a consistent experience.
In short, you’ve got a branding problem. And it’s driving you crazy. It’s embarrassing, frankly, and distracting: like irritating background noise behind everything you do.
You’ve tried ironing these issues out on your own, but they’re so sprawling and tangled, you’re not sure which thread to pull first. Anyway, bringing it up only adds to the chaos: many opinions, no answers.
You’ve thought about hiring a branding agency to come in, wave their magic wand (or whatever they do) and fix it for you. But what’s the ROI on that kind of thing? Your business is doing fine; does it really make sense to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a prettier logo? Isn’t that sort of frivolous? How is it actually going pay off?
Let’s think about those questions
Whether or not you happen to run a health supplement business, you may be wrestling with similar questions. If so, here are a few points to bear in mind.
1. Branding is the opposite of frivolous.
Yes, it has to do with aesthetic considerations, like a visually-pleasing logo. Yes, it means investing considerable thought into things like color and typeface. Yes, it’s a deep dive into the feeling, sound and intention behind every iota of the message you present to the public, from the words you use to the emotions you invoke.
That, however, is not frivolity. That’s being strategic. Branding is the ability to stop shotgunning your message — yelling random things, many of them unintentional, in random directions — and start getting really focused and goal-oriented about what you’re communicating and why.
2. A profitable business with a bad brand will never deliver on its potential.
Think of it this way: if you put a really great runner in a race, but first, you tie one of their arms to their side, they’re just not going to log their personal best. Sure, if the competition is slow enough, or if your runner is talented enough, they may still place well. But if not? They’ll fall behind. Even if they do place well under those circumstances, wouldn’t you rather see what they’re really capable of?
Bottom line, you will never know how successful your business can be until you give it a solid brand.
3. Where ROI is concerned, branding means playing the long game.
But first, let’s get on the same page about what a brand is, and is for.
What is a brand?
Briefly put, it’s what you want them to know about you.
“This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”— Steve Jobs
It’s the why. What are you trying to accomplish, big picture? Beyond the desire to turn a profit, why do you do what you do?
It’s the way forward. What are your short- and long-term goals? When you look at your horizon, what’s the point on which all your efforts converge?
It’s the how. What are your most important values, the qualities you want your team to demonstrate in everything they do?
It’s the difference. It’s not just a question of what you do best. What do you do really well, that none of your competitors are doing at all?
It’s the who. What story are you telling? If your brand were a human being, what sort of person would they be?
It’s the beauty. Your brand identity (colors, fonts, etc) should interpret your mission, goals, values, differentiators, and story in a way that’s both true and striking.
It’s the identifier. The backbone of your brand is your logo, the most distilled representation of all of the above, so a person can tell who you are in just one glance.
Unpacking the equity question
Back to ROI. Let’s be clear about one thing: branding is not advertising. It’s not marketing. Its purpose is not to sell products short-term. Rather, the purpose of a brand is to answer the question, “Who am I?” in a way that customers will respond to.
In other words, it’s not a tactic, but a strategy — and its objective is customer loyalty. A brand gives people a reason to see you, know you, love you and stick with you.
As a result, while the ROI of a marketing campaign can be measured pretty directly and quickly in dollars, the value of a brand is much less tangible.
Less tangible — no less important. The ROI of a brand is comparable to the ROI of having good financial practices, an excellent team and a smart five-year plan. You don’t invest in those things because they’re necessarily going to boost next month’s sales. You invest in them because they strengthen you at your core, increasing the fundamental potential that your business has to succeed.
Make no mistake, dollars do follow. Branding Magazine put it this way: “When a healthy brand and a wise marketer come together, consistent investments in long-term brand value can be made efficiently, thus creating the virtuous cycle that pays bottom-line benefits, as well.” That’s precisely what we strive to do with every branding project we take on at Madison Ave Collective.
Those gains won’t come, however, unless you proceed with patience: understanding that branding is a long game, in which long-term equity must be balanced with, and never sacrificed for, short-term profitability.
Profitability: a company’s ability to turn a profit.
Brand equity: the value that a company generates (or doesn’t) due to positive or negative consumer perception. In other words: how recognizable is it? How much do people like it? How loyal are they to it?
Brand value: in Seth Godin’s words, brand value is “merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.”
Long story short, if you want to maximize your company’s profitability in the long run, you’ve got to play the long game. By investing in brand equity, you can build brand value, which can then build your bottom line.
It can also change how you and your team feel about the work you’re doing in-house. That’s no small difference. When your company has a coherent look, feel and message built on a solid brand strategy, you’ve got something to be proud of. No more inside jokes about how ugly your logo is.
Replace that irritating background noise with a sense of pride and empowerment, and you can bet it won’t just inspire your customers. It’ll inspire you and your team, too.
This article is also published on Medium.
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