Business bible Forbes recently released its eponymous list of the world’s most valuable brands, and while the big names on there are in a branding superleague all of their own, can smaller businesses learn anything from the sharp practices of these industry goliaths?
Sitting comfortably in first place is, and try and disguise your shock here, technology firm Apple, proof that naming your company after a fruit that has absolutely nothing to do with any of its products is not a ridiculous idea.
So first off: Make sure your company name stands out from the rest.
Apple does so well mostly because of it’s high quality, beautifully designed products that are marketed as both aspirational and essential. On the road to mega success, having a distinctive name and a memorable logo to match did no harm to the company. It shows that your company name can be off the wall, so long as you can provide a high quality service or product. People will remember you, and the brand will begin to establish itself.
This brings us on nicely to…..
Are you a special snowflake?
This one is very important. You must be unique. There is no point spending money, time and energy into creating a perfect name and logo if someone else is waiting in the wings with an Intellectual Property lawyer on standby. Even BIG brands fall foul of this though. A classic example is Burger King, who on deciding to enter the Australian market, came up against a man from Adelaide who not only ran his own Burger King, but owned the trademark. If you ever visit Oz, you’ll find the home of the whopper there is called Hungry Jack’s. The same applies if the name or logo is very similar. So make sure you check what’s available before taking the plunge. (Incidentally, this also happened in the early days of Apple with a legal battle with Apple Corps only being resolved in 2007….you have been warned).
So now you have your name, your logo and your product, it’s time to…
Strive for positive associations
Some brands hold immense power over our emotional response. We associate them with happy times, feeling safe, confidence in the product and most importantly- trust. Number 49 on the Forbes list is nappy and baby product brand Pampers. Pampers does not produce the cheapest nappy or wipe in the market, but consistently outsells all others worldwide. When it comes to babies, parents want a brand they can rely on. Pampers has spent years and millions of pounds setting itself as a premium product that puts the welfare of children (specifically their bottoms) top of its agenda.
So how will anyone know how amazing you are if you’re just sitting there with the curtains closed watching daytime TV?
They won’t. You have to tell them.The key to getting across your USP (unique selling points) to distinguish your excellent brand in a very crowded market is to engage with customers, build a rapport and establish trust. Trusted brands can charge more and don’t need to do the hard sell so the hard work today will pay off tomorrow. We’ve identified the easy first steps you can take as a small business without a gargantuan marketing budget:
Social media: cheap, free, easy and direct engagement with the customer. Use it to your advantage; be chatty, helpful and friendly and answer all queries in a timely manner.
Have a consistently outstanding product or service: Do this and your brand will speak for itself. Word of mouth recommendations are likely to follow and this is how you build trust and establish the company. A good example is online supermarket Ocado- despite competing against huge retailers, it has a loyal and growing customer base due to it’s high quality products and excellent customer service.
Know your market: It seems obvious but it’s really important not to get complacent. Do your research, know your competitors and find out what they do better than you. There will always be something- I know, hugely irritating but that’s business for you. Also, talk regularly to your clients and find out what they think of you.
Finally, enjoy the process: Building a business and a brand can be one of the toughest challenges you will ever face, but keep in mind why you’re doing it all in the first place and don’t lose sight that the rewards if it all works out are beyond compare. Good luck.