Except you are the only one offering a particular product or service that people must either use or die, you must build a brand to be successful.

Brand, brand, brand… What exactly is this new rave of a phenomenon called brand?

There are two things that it is clearly not
1: it is not rocket science. It is easy to understand and implement
2: it does not work like magic: yes, it will improve your fortune if rightly done but it will not happen overnight.

So what exactly is a brand? What is branding? What makes a great brand? What are the benefits of branding?

The answers to these relevant questions will I be providing you in the coming weeks. Today we shall be looking at what a brand really means.


What is a brand?

A brand is PEOPLE’S IMPRESSION of something. It could be of a person, product, service, business, etcetera.

It is created by kept or broken promises communicated through visual and verbal identity.
Big English? Let’s break it down. Shall we first take a walk down memory lane?

By way of the fact I studied agricultural science back in high school, I got to hear of the word branding very early in life. My teacher explained it as the act of creating a symbol with metal, heating it up in fire and stamping it on the bodies of his livestock (example, cow) to differentiate his animals from that of other farmers in the open market.

My friend, many years later, I discovered that is how brands and branding actually began.

Back to our definition. Let’s imagine a real business for ourselves and let us name it Yox Farms. Yox Farms claim you can count on them for robust and healthy cows (that is their promise) and then they create a metal star (that is their visual identity), stamp it on all their cows and send the town crier to go round all the villages shouting “Yox Cows! Yox Cows!! Fat, sexy Yox Cows graced with the mark of the star are now available at the Kokiri farmers market (that is their verbal identity).

By way of this, people will go to the market with the IMPRESSION that Yox Farms is the number 1 company to provide them with well fed, healthy looking cows. When they get to the market, they will look for the cows with the mark of a star (Yox Farms logo), they will see fat, healthy cows, they will happily buy, they will go home and they will tell others that if they want robust and healthy cows, they should buy the cows with the mark of a star. Yox Farms have made a promise, they have communicated their promise and they have kept their promise. By that, they have created an impression in people’s mind and they have sustained the impression. Simply so, they have created a brand.

However, assuming on getting to the market, people find lean cows or they buy fat cows, take it home, eat it and then they suffer from mad cow disease, no matter how loud the town crier shouts FAT AND SEXY COWS, people will not buy because Yox Farms have successfully re-positioned their brand as ‘incompetent liars’. That is the impression people will now have about Yox Farms, their star and their cows.


What is branding?

I like to define this as the act of creating your desired impression in the mind of people. Yox Farms decides their brand (people’s impression of them) should be provider of robust and healthy cows. Everything done to create and instill that impression in people’s mind is what is referred to as branding. This includes naming themselves Yox Farm, designing for themselves a star as a logo, choosing their (fat & sexy) choice/tone of words, packaging all of it together and consistently communicating it through the medium of a town crier. www.businessdirectory.com defines branding as the process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme.

What Makes a Great Brand?
Four simple factors are involved Relevance, Differentiation, Credibility and Consistency

The service or product you offer must be able to meet the need of a particular set of people. It has to be useful for it to be desired. It has to be desired for it to be paid for. Let us once again make reference to Yox Farms. Assuming those residing around Kokiri market are all vegetarians, no matter how palatable they make their cows to look, nobody will buy them. As such, their business is of no relevance to that community. Before you start a business, do a proper research. Find out if there is a demand for what you are about to offer in the environment you intend offering it. Not all great ideas are good for business. We are currently on a mission to save our environment from further degradation and because of this, the electric car has been invented. Apart from saving the environment, this wonderful invention will also save our pockets from leaking excess cash on purchase of fuel. This is a great idea and in developed countries, that is good business. Now imagine the cars in a developing country where constant electricity is a challenge.

No one will dump a service or product they are comfortable with for another one that offers exactly the same thing the exact same way. You have to create a different experience that is attractive to your target market. If you start offering healthy fat cows, no one will leave the cows of our trusted Yox Farms and buy yours except if your prices are cheaper, your design and messages make ‘beef eating’ more attractive, you deliver the beef to their houses, etcetera. Differentiation doesn’t necessarily mean you have to create one miraculous element that can teleport people to Jupiter and back. A simple thing such as the manner your company answers phone calls or reply mails can make all the difference. As I always say, in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is a spy. Assuming this book has given you one business eye, the easiest way to differentiate your business is to study your competitors’ shortcomings and improve on it.

Once you have decided how to be relevant and how to differentiate your business, in all your communications and actions, announce it and be consistent with it. Assuming the price of cow food increases tomorrow, feeding the cow less and reducing their weight is bad business for Yox Farms. It is better they keep the cows robust and healthy as always and increase the price of the cows instead. They should also explain to their customers why they have to do so. They stand a better chance of keeping their customers that way. In any case, their competition has only three options 1: increase the prices of their cows, 2: reduce the sizes of their cows by feeding them less or 3: run the business to death by making loses. All options still favour our dear Yox Farms in the end.

Simply put, kept promises. Do not do a ‘buy one get one free’ campaign only for people to get to your store and hear that they must buy one for their father, one for their mother and one for their great grand uncle who is in heaven before they get one for free-after all, it’s still only one they’re buying. Such a thing will deal a great blow on your credibility. Let me tell you a true story. I once ordered for a ring from an online store (the lovely ring I used to propose to my sweetheart by the way). The invoice stated 30% payment upfront and 70% on delivery. 3 weeks later they called me to make final payment so they can mail my ring. I said “but your invoice says pay on delivery.” They said I should know that the delivery meant ‘delivery to them.’ Are you kidding me? Delivery to them as in…? Seriously? You tell me, did I read their invoice wrong or they tried to play smart and I have every excuse not to patronize them anymore? Whatever you say you will do is what should be done. That automatically means people can count on your words and that makes you credible.


Benefits of Branding

Here are my best five benefits:
Memorability, Loyalty, Premium pricing, Franchise and Reduced cost of marketing

1. Memorability:
Let us engage in a little exercise. Below are a number of elements. I want you to attach an existing company to it.

1. Red
2. Fruit
3. Three stripes
4. Beautiful football
5. Tick

They were not hard to figure out right? I believe you gave answers as follows;
1. Coca-Cola
2. Apple
3. Adidas
4. Barcelona
5. Nike

Now, that is what branding does for you. It keeps you in the mind of people. The tiniest of a thing that looks like you or relates to you will always remind the person viewing it of you. When you are constantly in the mind of a person, whenever they need a service relating to a product or service you offer, you are the first person they will think of contacting.

2. Loyalty
Let me tell you the story of these three boys who are sales attendants at the shop where I CONSTANTLY purchase paper for printing purposes.
I had been buying paper from another store till the day I found out that the arrogant sales boy there was actually charging me way above the usual price so I chose to try somewhere else. I happened to pass by this particular shop and the rhythmic greeting of these three boys (like they had known me since forever) ensured I entered the store. After paying for a rim of paper, one of them chose to help me carry it at no extra cost to where it was cut to the appropriate size. The next day when they saw me, they came up and asked if the job was nicely printed and also offered to help me package the printed job at no extra cost. A few months later, I needed to fold and fix 1000 Invitation cards into custom made envelopes I had designed and produced. The job had to be delivered to my client before the end of the day so speed was of the essence. The three boys decided to do it for me FOR FREE!
I have since been offered paper at cheaper prices by someone else but I am totally uninterested. You know why, because these three boys have successfully built a brand of superb customer service which I refuse to trade for anything else.

People will stick with you if they have an enjoyable experience whenever they come to you. They will also tell everyone who cares to listen about the experience. That gives you a steady pool of clients and those clients help you get more clients. If a new brand comes up tomorrow offering 1001 benefits, the possibility that your client’s will even try them out is slim.

3. Premium pricing
Since there is no secret leather existing only on Mars, I am certain Jimmy Choo are not the only ones producing things with the quality of leather they use. So why are people constantly buying their products at such high prices? That is what branding does for you. It puts you in a position above the competition. If you are deemed as ‘higher than the average’, people will be willing to pay more for your product or service and so you can set your prices as such.

4. Franchise
I once met a brand strategist at a social hangout in Abuja, Nigeria. In the course of our discussion, he showed me a magazine he publishes in Germany quarterly. As a brand enthusiast, my 1st question was, “why this name”? He said it is a popular foreign magazine and he bought the West African right to use the name at almost $50,000 per annum.
Having a brand puts you in a position where people will be willing to pay you just to use your name to do business. It helps your business to grow across regions without you spending so much money.

5. Reduced cost of marketing
Everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody. Give one person a lovable brand experience and they will keep telling others about it. As it is believed in numerous quarters, the best form of marketing is ‘word of mouth’. Where would you rather buy sweet bread from? The shop with the biggest sign board shouting “sweet bread available here” or the shop your friend told you he got the sweet bread he shared with you the other day?

In the beginning, you will have to spend some money to develop an engaging and compelling brand identity that will attract your first set of clients but once that is done and you are consistent with it, over time, people will not only be satisfied, but they will become confident of what they can get from you. Once that is the case, as time passes by, everyone around them will get to hear of what you offer and without you spending a dime you will have more people walking through your doors.

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