By: Gordon Conner
What branding means
When you think of branding, what do you think about? For the longest time, and even in my early agency days, I felt that branding was some magic corporate thing that didn’t have anything to do with small business. But branding is really everything about business. If you are the owner of a small business, you are the brand. Everything you do and say, the way you look, the way you talk, your people, your premises, everything has a bearing on that brand and goes into making your brand. The good, the bad and the ugly. And it shows up right down on the bottom line.
Category of One
Category of One branding refers to an overcrowded market, which is very hard to break into. So what a Category of One company does is create a new category by being very unique and different from the current category competition. So now, the new brand is the only one in its category. As a rule, companies that reach a Category of One status are very successful. Today, Google is a great example. There are many search engines, but nothing like Google. Achieving a Category of One status isn’t accomplished just because you are a business owner. And, even though you are one doesn’t mean you have a Category of One brand.
3 customer rules
If you want to be a Category of One company, you need to follow three rules:
- You have to know your customer like the back of your hand and better
- You have to be closer to that customer than anybody in the market.
- You have to be emotionally connected to that customer more than
From Purple Cow
This phrase is right from the book by author, Seth Godin. This is what you need to consider if you wish to become a Category of One. Brown cows are boring. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But, according to Godin, a purple cow would be different. He defines a purple cow as counterintuitive, phenomenal, exciting and remarkable. People ignore brown cows all day long. But, be assured, they won’t ignore a purple cow. Of course, you can’t just paint your widget purple. Your cow has to be born that way to get any attention. Godin recommends that you follow the lead of companies that are outstanding with everything they do, because that explodes your word of mouth.
But does it matter that I’m a small business owner?
If you are the owner of a small business, you may not think that branding has any impact on your business. But how about the other small business owners that you know? What is your image of them? Whatever it is that you think of your small business friends is their brand. You may not have realized it, but you do have a brand. So it would behoove you to manage that brand, rather than ignoring the fact that it exists.
- Branding is critical. Remember, your brand is you and
everything you do and say is part of that brand. Good, bad or otherwise.
- A Category of One brand creates its own category. You are the only
choice in that category. Do what you need to do to become a Category of One company.
- You can always look at it like the Purple Cow. Brown cows are boring.
Purple cows are a sight to behold.
The brand is you
- Your logo.
- Your advertising.
- Your product.
You are the brand. Think about that for a minute. Your business has a brand image, whether you had anything to do with it or not. This applies to all businesses. You have a unique brand whether you tried to create it or not. Even though branding is kind of abstract, it is still critical for the overall success of your business. Branding isn’t a simple concept and sometimes takes a little explaining. The thing is, branding is going to happen whether we have anything to do with it, or not. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to take as big a role in your brand’s development as possible?
Your solo business has rules, whether you have them written down or not. If your rule is “I don’t have rules”, you still do. For example, if you are a karate instructor, here are your brand rules:
- Don’t talk poorly about your competition.
- Don’t talk like a salesman.
- Have self-control and respect.
- Be professional.
Numbers one and three apply to every business owner. Remember that customers don’t want to hear about how awesome you are and how bad the competition is. And people don’t like sales people. Never sound like a sales pitch. Number three and number four are about reputation. So, if you are a karate instructor, your job is all about self-control and discipline. And if I’m going to instruct kids about respect on Saturday morning, then I shouldn’t go out drinking at the corner bar on Friday night. If a parent saw me dancing on tables, she wouldn’t think too highly of my Saturday morning respect lesson, now would she? This doesn’t mean you can’t visit the bar. Just stay off the tables! This illustration is a perfect example of how powerful branding can be. In “Karate Kid” there was a good instructor and a bad instructor. The good instructor taught respect and discipline, while the bad instructor stood for “winning, regardless of the costs” and bad sportsmanship. And then there’s our local guy here. Which one do you want to teach your child?
Remember the age-old expression: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. This applies to all businesses and all industries. Here are some image enhancers that apply to all businesses. As you design your brand, keep these in mind. Project professionalism at all costs:
- Be on time.
- Be courteous.
- Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
- Take responsibility for any issues.
- Have outstanding customer service.
Be trustworthy, credible and professional with your customers and potential customers. Because you want their future business.
But how about my company name and logo?
They are important. But only as part of the overall picture. Don’t confuse the tangible tools with the intangible concept. Branding is the intangible that has to be considered from a different level. Both are part of your overall marketing strategy. But don’t confuse tangible marketing tools, with an intangible concept. Branding is an intangible concept that must be understood and used on a different level.
Branding is abstract and is all about reputation and perception. You can’t design trustworthy and credible. So, your brand is all about you.
- You are your brand, not your logo, products or advertising.
- Have rules.
- Remember these image enhancers when creating your brand. What do
you want to represent?
About the Author
Gordon Conner is a Branding Consultant/Coach and Copywriter who helps build killer brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing, branding and copywriting services for 39 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at Gordon@BranWorks.com, or www.BranWorks.com.