The importance of business branding
Marketing consultant Hayley Simmons says that the correct branding is as important for small retailers as for big multinationals and explains how they need a brand that will resonate with their target audience
There is a big opportunity for retailers who take a more considered approach to branding. I’ve previously written about the importance of good-quality photography to improve how a business portrays itself, but the opportunity for improvement goes beyond that. Many independents don’t think of themselves as ‘brands’. The word ‘brand’ often conjures up thoughts of multinational retailers or the brands that they are selling in their showroom.
There are various definitions of what a brand is, but this quote by the famous marketer Seth Godin, sums it up nicely: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
It’s both tangible and intangible. Yes, branding includes your physical marketing assets – such as logos, websites, brochures, etc – but most importantly, it’s how these physical elements and how you deliver your services that combine to create a perception about your business’s products and services. This is just as important for small, local businesses as it is for national ones.
In fact, in areas where there is fierce competition and where KBB retailers are close to market saturation point, branding is even more important. Branding isn’t just a logo. It’s the colours, typeface, ‘tone of voice’, style of your marking materials and your showroom environment. For those who are sceptical about how important these things are, let’s think about how branding influences our decision-making on a local level.
Restaurants are a good example. The branding for a restaurant where you may go for a special occasion, fine-dining experience is very much likely to have a very different look and feel from the friendly bring-your-own-bottle place down the road. Neither is wrong, there’s a place in the market for both, but it does influence how we view the business and how much money we are willing to spend there.
Branding is important to every KBB business. However, the more emphasis you put on design quality over factors such as price, the more important branding becomes. Those businesses are not selling kitchens, they’re selling kitchen interior design. Attention to detail and branding that’s designed to resonate with the specific target market is imperative to accurately portray the quality of experience on offer.
While the business may be selling kitchen interior design, the customer is buying into a lifestyle aspiration. Rarely does anyone buy a kitchen that is
inferior to their previous one. We’re all trying to progress up the status ladder and indeed, the less price-conscious a customer is, the more branding plays a part in their decision-making. These customers are likely to be more emotionally driven.
Branding sets the tone and the expectations for the rest of the experience, so if the branding looks like it was created 20 years ago, what will the passer-by perceive about the team’s quality of design and knowledge of the latest trends? It’s also a benefit if a brand speaks visually to the tastes of the customers that they want to attract. For example, the business that tends to lean more towards classic shaker designs, branding that exudes timelessness and warmth, may work better than a minimalist, more architectural feel, which would work better for a business that specialises in European design.
Branding is not always about appearing premium, it’s about resonating with the customers that you want to target. The branding of the luxurious fine-dining restaurant is not going to turn the head of a hungry person looking for a low-key lunch. Two examples of independents I can use to illustrate this point are Day True and Olive & Barr. I have no affiliation to either business, but they stand out to me as retailers who know exactly who they are and whom they’re targeting.
The name Day True just sounds cool, the font looks modern and a little edgy and the projects they showcase are ahead of the curve when it comes to new trends. This type of customer is a trend leader, not a follower – or at the very least, they aspire to be. Olive & Barr uses stylish classic fonts and colours and promotes its artisanal UK manufacture. The branding feels quintessentially British and the projects it showcases reflect that style. It’s classic in a very intentional, modern way. Again, it all fits.
Strong brands don’t try to appeal to everyone. To quote Seth Godin again, “when you speak to everyone, you speak to no one”.
For both brands that I have used as an example, the constituent parts of the branding are simple and not difficult or expensive to create. It’s simply a case that the branding is consistent with their proposition and it carries through all areas of the business. Attention to detail matters and consistency builds trust. And remember, most consumer decision-making happens extremely quickly. They can rule out businesses from the most superficial cues, long before they come to need their services