What is branding? It isn’t a new concept; it isn’t even a centennial concept. In fact, it started back in the ancient days of Babylon, Greece and Rome, when men wore dresses (sure, they called them togas) and the term “Spartan” was coined.
Potters carved their initials, symbol or recognizable mark in their handiwork. Gold and silversmiths marked their work; papermakers left watermarks. Cattle and other livestock have worn literal brands since 2000 BC, if not before.
Why? What did a brand mean to our ancestors?
For cattle, it was a mark of ownership. Their unique brand made it easy to recognize a rancher’s livestock (because all cows look alike, you know) in the event that the livestock strayed or were stolen. If they sold good milking cows or healthy livestock for food, that unique symbol became a sign of trust. You always know you have a good milking cow if it wears the XYZ Ranch brand.
Marks made by the crafter of a product were used for the same thing plus some. For example, Josiah Wedgwood was a master potter who sold high quality work. British nobility bought from him, as did an Empress of Russia. Josiah’s pottery brought high acclaim and several reproductions. Many people tried (and still do) to replicate both his work and his mark – because Wedgwood pottery means high quality.
So what does all this have to do with you? What does it have to do with modern day branding? What does it have to do with your products?
Branding Still Carries the Same Weight
In ancient days, that unique mark meant more than, “yeah, that’s my cow”. It also meant:
- “I made this product.”
- “I’m responsible for this product if something goes wrong.”
- “This product has passed my quality assurance test.”
- “You’ve used this product before, liked it, and now recognize my brand as one you can trust.”
Isn’t it amazing how brands have carried over the same ideas today? They’re valued for exactly these reasons. A brand is more than your company logo; it incorporates everything you want consumers to feel about your business.
Lessons in Branding
Josiah Wedgwood taught more than how to make high quality pottery. He also taught life lessons that any marketer or business owner should pay attention, such as finding marketing opportunities everywhere. Building on success, in other words.
After selling a set of pottery to the queen, he began calling himself the “Potter to Her Majesty”. He changed the product name from “creamware” to “Queen’s Ware”. What happened? People bought the Wedgwood Queen’s Ware because royalty bought it, never mind that it was also beautiful and utilitarian. The man was a marketing genius.
Here are a few more branding lessons you might want to keep in mind:
“Branding” is interchangeable with “reputation”.
When you say, “I’m building my brand”, what you really mean is you’re building your reputation. What does your reputation say about you?
Branding happens whether you mean it to or not.
Just by running a business and selling a service/product, you’re developing your brand. If you don’t plan and work towards building a positive one, you end up with whatever your buyer or – oh horrors! – your competition defines for you.
Colors say something.
Oh my, yes, it’s true. Rather than try to add more to the content mill about branding and colors, let me point you toward Your Brand’s True Colors. Even though it’s not a new article, the information is still highly applicable.
This doesn’t mean cry and blubber because your brand got a bad review or so-and-so said they don’t like you. This means create an emotional connection. Don’t just pretend to understand your consumers’ pains… really take the time to try and understand.
“Okay, I’m the consumer. I step in my house and it reeks. My carpet is dingy, spotted and smells like dirty feet. I can’t get the smell out of my nose. I really need a carpet cleaner that will take care of the smell and bring back the brighter colors without the carpet matting up.”
Ad: Tired of smelling dirty feet when you walk in the house? Bring back brighter colors and a fresh home with Clear Colors Carpet Cleaner – guaranteed to have your carpet looking (and smelling) brand new.
Mona Lisa your branding.
I came across this very inspirational article. It’s about creating curiosity with your brand, process, product, etc. Any article that starts out with “Have you mistakenly trained your branding to fall over and play dead?” is a must read in my book.
Take time with your brand. Decide what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. Much like when branding cows, you’re pretty much stuck with the mark you make on the buying world. Taking this part of your business lightly is a good way to find yourself singing for your supper.
Building a Brand Strategy When You’ve Already Started Growing
So you have put a lot of time and energy into your business, and it’s starting to grow at a steady pace. Although you might think the hard part is over, it’s not. Gaining exposure and getting more customers is only the start, and it’s always important to search for new ways to improve your branding strategy if you want to enjoy long-term success.
The loyalty of your customers will depend on the quality of your products and services, but the way that your customers remember you will also play a role. The following information will be helpful if you want to keep your business moving in the right direction.
No matter their background or interests, everybody loves a good story, and if you are not using storytelling in your branding strategy, then you might want to reconsider. Telling stories will inspire people to like you because it reveals your human side.
To connect with your customers, talk about how you started your business and the things that inspired you. If your goal is to encourage your target audience to connect with you, then discuss the roadblocks and obstacles that you faced in the beginning. You can go on to mention how those obstacles shaped you as a person and helped you form your mission statement.
If you want to increase your brand awareness, then you might be wondering where to start. Offering referral bonuses to your current customers can work wonders for your business. You will get free exposure, but providing bonuses will also build credibility. People are that much more likely to buy products or services that their friends recommend.
When you want to gain these benefits, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Try offering gift cards, discounts and free items to people who refer others to your business, and you can set up a system that keeps track of the number of referrals each customer sends to you.
Many business leaders view other companies in their industry as competition, and they are right in a lot of cases. But if you can work with an established business, then doing so will have a positive impact on your brand. If the company with which you want to form a partnership has built trust with their customers, then that creditability will be transferred to you.
Connecting with other businesses, though, does not happen overnight, but keeping your goals in mind will provide you with impressive results. Also, try to work with businesses that offer products or services that compliment yours to avoid direct competition.
Nothing remains static for long, and your business is either growing or failing. No matter how much you achieve, always search for creative ways to help your business expand, and you will continue to succeed. Never get so caught up in the technical aspects of running a business that you forget to consider the human element.
Letting your customers know about your vision, goals and struggles will compel them to view you in a positive light, and you will start getting more sales as a result. Social media, print advertisements and community events present the perfect opportunity to tell your story. Give us a call and let’s get started on your branding campaign and strategy.
Nice, thoughtful, engaging post, Jahnelle !
I’m a sucker (maybe just a fan) for ancient branding stories. And since I’m also a fan of good wine … did you know that there was a huge trade in branded wines in the Agean that started as early as the 5th century BC ? Chios, Lesbos and many other city-states had a state-sponsored “brand” or mark that went on every amphora that was exported. Huge quantities of this stuff was consumed by wealthy city-states like Athens (see Plato’s Symposium, Athenaeus Dino-Sophists, etc.).
You can see these brand marks in the museums in Athens (if you can thread your way through the riots.) Brands identified quality and taste and therefore supported substantial demand, and therefore pricing. (Karl Marx – eat your heart out.)
The Greek vines eventually found their way to a little Greek colony – now Marsailles – and we get the beginnings of French wine – from there to California — from there to my fridge 🙂
Thanks, Glenn 🙂 I’m glad you think so! I don’t know as I’m a fan, in particular, of “ancient branding stories” as I am so much a fan of ancient history. – But then, what you shared IS ancient history lol. Very interesting, and I really appreciate you sharing this example of how branding works, even way back when. A strong brand (i.e. one that says “quality”) = increased demand = higher pricing.
And to think, if those amphoras hadn’t been branded and hadn’t been quality, you might never have been able to find it in your fridge (very convenient, not having to go to the store for it 😛 ) Thanks again for your comment!
Ahh yes wine in a box, gotta love America! lol Not to get picky but Italians have over 5000 grapes while the French only have 12… Just saying 😉 Kisses & hugs from Italy.
Ha ! You’re showing your colors 🙂 (Hey… I’ve got a case in the basement too… but it’s not sideways.)
Never read Pliny but I’ve got a book (“Siren Feasts”) that says he’s the guy to go to if you ever feel the need to understand Italian wine history. Anyway – I do have a new theory — maybe bottles of Italian wine consumed is inversely proportional to Klout scores… some sober work to do when you get home 🙂
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I liked how you used the ancient days of Babylon, Greece and Rome to show how valuable a brand is. I didn’t know color played an important role in branding, definitely something to think about. I agree with all your points. More companies should take pride in their brand and try to always improve it.
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