Four reasons why SMB need to invest in their brand
When you think of the word brand, you automatically think of the biggest businesses in the world: Nike, Coca-Cola, and Disney. You think of businesses making billions of dollars every year.
You may have the impression that a brand is not necessary for your SMB. That it’s not vital.
Let’s see four reasons why any small and medium businesses should invest in their brand, even though they don’t have a billion-dollar budget.
1. You win the differentiation game
What you offer is not enough to stand out and differentiate. Not when thousands of competitors are offering more or less the same product or service. How can you be seen as the right brand for your prospects?
In Making the Cut, a fashion competition reality show, the judges asked the designers what their brand stood for. They needed to know the point of view and the identity of the designers before awarding the winner a million dollars. They needed to know who they were.
Those who didn't have a strong identity confused the audience and failed to stand out. And they returned home without a million dollars.
It’s the same with your business: if you can’t differentiate, you go home.
When you develop your brand it gives you an opportunity to consciously hone in on what makes you different.
You build your identity intentionally. It’s like that saying about being yourself because everyone else is taken.
Apply it to your brand. When Instagram tried to be like TikTok by privileging video content, they faced uproar from their most loyal users. They didn’t need another TikTok, they wanted Instagram.
Having a strong identity makes you more resistant to competition. Because you add some uniqueness to your business. You are not disposable or interchangeable. You hold a specific place in their minds and hearts. You’re ahead of the race.
Take Hoka for example. It was created 13 years ago in France. It’s still a challenger brand on the running shoe market. But they decided to build their brand on design innovation, inclusivity and female empowerment.
As a challenger brand they had to create their own category through their values, identity and how they communicate. The goal was to compete with other mammoth brands.
When you build your brand you don’t have to compete on price anymore (unless it’s part of your strategy), as you provide an experience that extends beyond a transaction.
So when you build your brand, understand your differentiators, hone in on your strengths and don’t be swayed by fad trends like Instagram was.
For your business to stay on course, your brand has to stand out but it also has to engage with your target audience.
2. You build a strong connection with your audience
For your business to succeed you need to connect your product with your prospects.
But customers are not loyal. Not automatically.
They bought from you one time. It doesn’t mean they’ll come back. They might find a cheaper offer. They might not even remember your name.
Even if they come back only for the product's functionality, the bond is still fragile. At the mercy of a cheaper competitor.
You turn them into fans when they start associating values with your business.
And you turn them into true fans when your message resonates with their inspiring identity.
It’s not just about selling products. Building a brand allows you to connect with your prospects deeper, by sharing values and speaking to their identity.
Hoka for example, grew thanks to their loyal female fan base. The brand managed to speak to its identity. And now Hoka is the quickest-growing brand in the running shoe market.
Think about what you have in common with your friends.
Probably common values and beliefs? Shared point of view and the same perspective on life?
Customers connect with brands in the same way. Your brand stories should speak to who they are and the values and beliefs they share.
“Man is what he believes” Anton Chekov
We are humans before we are consumers.
You express your values and beliefs through your brand stories, so it resonates with the right crowd. And your customers will think to themselves.”That’s me. They get me.”
Think of it as the theme of a movie. Rocky is not just about defeating an opponent, but it is about realising your potential and taking a shot.
Just like Hoka is not just in the sneakers business. But it is also in the business of motivating, inspiring and empowering women to exercise.
And that’s what gives all of their messaging meaning.
According to Patrick Hanlon, author of Primal Branding “Once you look at a brand as a belief system, it automatically gains all the advantages that enterprise strives for: trust, vibrancy, relevance, a sense of values, community, leadership, vision, empathy, commitment, and more. (…) Believing is belonging.”
What is the theme and the underlying values of your brand story? That’s your emotional hook. That’s your competitive advantage.
3. Your brand supports your marketing
The right branding establishes your business in your prospects' minds. When your prospects become familiar with your brand, you gain brand awareness.
Brand allows you to connect with your prospects through values and identities, which generates trust and credibility. It builds a strong bond. Indeed, 89% of shoppers stay loyal to brands that share their values. (Fundera)
So when you launch a new offer or when you advertise, your branding will have done a lot of the leg work.
Because people buy from those they know, like and trust. If you don’t know your brand, you can’t clearly communicate your value. And when you can’t communicate your value clearly, you can’t motivate confused prospects to buy.
Additionally, a brand provides an emotional hook. Emotions are what move people to act and buy. It’s by using emotions that you gain loyal customers and build a tribe.
A strong brand encourages customers to come back. These loyal customers will become strong advocates for your business.
4. Your brand gives a clear direction to your business
- Stay coherent
When you figure out your brand, you are clear on who you are, what you stand for and what is your mission.
When you don’t fully grasp your brand, it’s like embarking on a hike, unprepared, without water or the right shoes. Knowing your brand is knowing your guiding principles. They act like a compass steering you in the right direction.
For example, Apple started as a computer company. But their products have expanded beyond just computers. Apple is now also known for its phones, music, TV and watches.
And yet they still remain coherent to who they are, because they were guided by what their brand stands for, their guiding principles and vision which is “to help change the way we think, work, learn, and communicate.”
When you don’t stay true to the essence of your brand customers don’t buy. In 2019, KFC a fast-food American chain tried to introduce healthier baked chicken sandwiches.
The initiative turned out to be a disaster. Nobody bought this non-fried product from the world's biggest fried food chain. They didn’t stay true to their brand. They tried to be something they weren’t.
Having a brand is having a strong identity and as a result, you’re able to provide a coherent experience for your consumers. Because everything that you do is inspired by who you are as a brand.
- Save time
Whether you are making creative choices, writing a piece of communication, or dreaming up a new service, you won't have to reinvent the wheel every single time. You won’t have to come up with a new style, colour palette or tone of voice.
When you know who your brand is, you save time.
Besides, presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%. (Forbes)
- Inspire your employees, your team
When you don’t know your brand, you can’t inspire confused employees to do their finest work. Knowing your guiding principles is also crucial to aligning and motivating employees.
If they believe in your vision and mission, it helps you build a strong company culture and gets everyone on board to give what they've got.
Now, does taking the time to create your brand sound like a safe investment with a positive ROI?
A brand is the reason why some businesses can command premium prices.
If the purpose of a bag is to carry things why can’t a $5 tote bag do the job?
However, you don’t need to sell luxury goods to have a brand. But you need a brand to stand out in your market and connect with your prospects.
Having a brand is not a luxury. It's a necessity and a wise strategy for the long-term success of your business.