By Raksha Mahabeer (The Beat), co-founder of Summertime
As an entrepreneur, you need to be a Jack of all trades. In addition to being a subject matter specialist in your area of expertise, you’re also running a business which demands that you maintain involvement in everything from administration and accounts through to marketing and client relationship management.
You’re constantly pushing to grow and develop your business, engraining its position and reputation in the market. But how are you doing that? And how effective are your efforts? Are you throwing your hard-earned funds towards failed attempts at marketing? Maybe you’re really happy with your business? Maybe you feel that it has a strong foothold in the industry and that your current efforts are serving you just fine? Perhaps you’re simply reading this in the hope of extracting one nugget of wisdom to help you fine-tune your already successful initiatives?
Regardless of how long you’ve been in business or how large your company has grown, one of the most important things you need to get in place is your branding. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve hear it a thousand times: branding will help build your business.
So the big question you have to ponder is “Do I have a brand?” and in order to do that, you need to keep reading and find out what exactly a brand is (and how it differs from marketing, which you may already be doing).
Your brand can be seen as your promise. It’s a set of symbols that alludes to what people can expect when they deal with you. Think of Standard Bank, what do you think? “Moving forward”. Think of Cola-Cola, what do you think? “Happiness”. Think of Chesa Nyama, you think “flamegrilled”… The question is, what comes to mind when your customers think of your business? Do they think anything at all? Do different customers associate different ideas with your brand? Do you even convey a consistent brand to your customers at all?
I thought that’s marketing?
If you’re confused about how branding and marketing differ, you’re not alone. We often help small and medium business owners understand the differences at SummerTime, the vibrant creative studio specialising in design, branding and marketing which I co-own.
If branding can be seen as the crafting of your promise, what people can expect from you and what they experience when they engage with you, then marketing is the act of creating awareness about this brand or promise. In other words, marketing is the act of advertising your brand, creating awareness about what people can expect from you, your products and your services.
So is branding the chicken or the egg?
To yield the maximum benefit from marketing campaigns, you need to have a well-defined, fully developed consistent brand to market. Branding can thus be seen as the egg (from which the chicken grows). Branding precedes marketing and also underlies your business as a whole.
It can be seen as the push factor, showcasing what your business stands for and what differentiates it from your competitors. By contrast, marketing is the pull factor, taking the message and promise of your brand to your target market and leading them to buy your products or services.
How do I know if I have a brand?
To figure out whether you have a brand, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- What does my company do?
- What are we saying/conveying about what we do? How are we saying/conveying it?
- Do we promise our customers a specific experience? What is that promise?
- Are we consistent on what we promise? Are we consistent about what we communicate around our brand? Do we deliver on our promise?
- Do we have a set look and feel? Do we have logos, taglines/slogans and colours that differentiate us? Do we consistently incorporate this branding collateral into our communications and dealings with customers in order to convey a unified and consistent promise and experience to them?
If you can answer ‘YES’ to all of these, then congratulations, you’ve got a brand! If not, you really don’t want to be spending a great deal on marketing efforts (unless you want to confuse your market). Instead, be on the lookout for the series of blogs that I’ll be penning over the next couple of months. Delving deeper into the world of branding and marketing, the blogs will cast light on what actions you can take to create a successful brand, how you can entrench that brand in your business and, ultimately, how you can leverage your brand to inform and drive your marketing endeavours and in turn catapult your business success.
So until my next blog on “How do I create my brand?”, may the (branding) force be with you….
Raksha Mahabeer, or ‘The Beat’ as she is known, is a proudly South African entrepreneur, she co-owns SummerTime, a vibrant creative studio specialising in design, branding and marketing. She is a connector, a communicator, a purpose-driven, inspired inspirer! She prides herself in partnering with SMEs in establishing new brands with a view to create jobs in South Africa and the African continent. Believing in business actualisation through conscious creativity, Raksha is a marketing and brand strategy expert with a keen strategic, creative and business mind focused on assisting SMEs in their endeavour to formulate effective marketing strategies that highlight tangible value and meet real human needs. On a personal level, she describes herself as a finger-tapping, drum-beating, music-making, cloud-watching, pixie-prancing, tree-hugging, fire-walking, soul-dancing, Yoda-quoting, oneness-embracing, effervescent, hippie-at-heart!