What is product branding, and why does it need to be the first thing you figure out before launching your business? Branding is not necessarily about who you are, it is about how people perceive you. As much as you would like to be in full control of your brand identity, it will all really depend on how your audience sees your brand. That is why it is vital to consistently check market perception, so you can constantly align your brand messaging and reach your targets. Big brands like Procter and Gamble, Coca Cola, and others recognize the importance of knowing their core brand identity, so that they can adjust their marketing plans accordingly and be most efficient when acting on them. Do not fully equate branding with logos, colors, and design– they are just visual expressions of your brand. Taking the time to truly have a deeper understanding of what your brand stands for and who your target market is will enable you to create and effectively implement a business and marketing plan that will help you reach your business bottom line quicker.
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This is Brand You. I’m inviting you to do this at any time. If you were to do this properly, you want to try Brand You first because it’s the foundation by which you can do all kinds of product development and have a big brand and build all of that. This is the foundational conversation about what your brand is about, who you’re talking to. You just want to make sure you have an idea about some of the best ways to go about building that brand. If you don’t have a brand already, this is the place to start.
What is branding and why do you need it? Branding is not who you are. Branding is how people perceive you. What do they think when they hear your brand name? What do they think about what you stand for? While some of it is you deciding and controlling what some of that market perception will be, the reality is that you do have to check it because sometimes what you’re putting out there is not what they think.
We have done a bunch of research and I’ve written a couple of articles on it. The interesting thing is there’s about 40% to 50% differential between what brands think of themselves, and these are big brands like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and all of those, and what the market thinks of them, what they stand for, and what they mean. It doesn’t mean they have any less sales or anything in that process, but maybe they could be doing better if there was a better match between their mission and what their audience thought of them. That’s what I want you to get, to set good groundwork when you’re starting a brand, when your brand building. You want to set a plan for where that’s going to go and what does that mean. I also want to define that when we’re talking brand, we’re not talking about logo and colors. Those are just a visual expression of your brand. We’re going down deeper. We’re going down to the meaning behind all of those things and a way in which you can either guide designers to create those things for you or have them be more meaningful to you as you choose them or meaningful to your brand. Those are the visual impact, the visual expression of your brand, and how people see you.
We’ve got to start with what our end game is. If we want to be a brand that is in the mass market on the shelf somewhere, and I’m going to talk about the channels in a minute because understanding your channel means a different market, but where do you see that? What is your business goal? It needs to match that because if your business goal is to be an on-the-shelf brand someday competing against many other big brands on the shelf, then you have to have an even deeper and more meaningful and more understanding of what brand you’re building. It’s best if you sit down and spend some time here. This is as critically important as having a brand plan as having a business plan. The two things can go very awry if you don’t have a plan for where you’re going and seeing what that end result is. You can make many decisions along the way that head you in totally the wrong direction.
Let’s talk a little bit about what some of those ends in mind be. It might be licensing, it might be you don’t care about the brand and the visual expression of it because at the end of the day, you’re going to sell that off and you want to get someone else to be the brand behind it, so you’re going to sell into a bigger brand. That’s great, that’s no problem. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to spend a little bit of effort on figuring out your brand because if you don’t get traction in early sales, you may not have the market proof necessary to get licensed or acquired. That is important enough to realize. It’s like, “How can I be positioned so that bigger brand want to buy me?” Have them in mind when you’re designing your logo. Make them feel like you fit them. That’s always a good way. It gives you a mission and a goal and a way to determine your brand messaging and your brand style.
If your mission is mass market, “I want to be on the shelf at Target and Walmart,” that’s great. Keep in mind though that they care just as much about their own core brand. It takes a lot to ramp up and get seen within their store. There needs to be as much quality synergy, like making sure that your product is a great match for the Target customer, understanding a Target consumer, or understanding Walmart’s consumer. When you get and understand who they are and your products and your brand resonate with them, then you’re more likely to be an acceptable match. In other words, thinking about it this way, let’s say you design this fancy high-end logo that was boutique and cool and maybe belonged at a very high-end beauty product that should be at Neiman Marcus behind the counter or something like that, and you were trying to sell that into Target. While it might seem logical to say, “Look what great perceived value I’m giving you,” it also might be such a mismatch with their audience that they wouldn’t even consider it and they would already rule it out based on that brand perception.
You’ve got to make sure that there’s not a mismatch between the quality level of your brand messaging and the visual that goes along with that and the types of products you’re creating or the market that you’re going to sell it, this channel that you’re going to sell it in. You also want to have in mind, if you’re going to go the eCommerce route, that for most part on an Amazon model, it’s just a name. There isn’t a logo associated with it. There’s no visual representation, but there is post sale. In other words, I buy something, I get it, and the box has branding on it. The product might have a logo and branding on it. There might be messaging within it. There’s a good place to have some personality here and attract people to your brand.
We have a great coffee company that we absolutely love. When they do it, they know that they’re going for coffee afficionados, people who care deeply about their coffee. When they go and they put out all of their materials, everything has that sense of like, “It belongs in a coffee shop. It’s like a flyer that I would see there.” Everything has that sense, the color palette, the feel of it, the words are worded in this nice soothing way. It resonates with their brand all throughout everything that they do and attracts more and more customers to them. You still have to pay attention to that even in an eCommerce model.
The last one I want to touch on is this idea of going VC, Angels, or equity crowd-funding. The case is that at the end of the day when you’re trying to get capital, they are consumers at the end of the day if they think your brand doesn’t look valuable enough. Here’s the very first article I ever wrote for Inc. Magazine, Million-Dollar Companies Don’t Buy $5 Logos. It’s not like I have anything against Fiverr and 99designs. You can get great designs there if you know what you’re asking for. The reality is that if you want to be perceived as having a valuation in the multimillions, then you better have a brand that can scale up to that. They better believe it from the beginning. It doesn’t mean that you don’t rebrand later or that you don’t spend some more money in it. It doesn’t mean you spend a fortune on branding. It means you spend some time thinking about it and making sure you’re putting good guidance into whatever designer you can afford to hire to create that visual expression for you.
Let’s talk about the essence of a brand and that is, “Who do I want to attract? What’s my message that is going to attract them and draw them in? We need to make it match.” Here’s where I see a lot of inventors and engineers go wrong. They’re all about features and consumers are all about benefits. When you have a mismatch in that, you think, “I need more charts. I need more expressions. I need more checklists that there’s all these features in this thing that will help it sell better.” It’s the reverse that happens because there’s less story. There’s less about what it’s going to do for me. There’s less benefits to me. I don’t understand it more that way, or it scares me off because there’s too much detail and looks complicated. Getting out of your own head and hiring a consultant is a good idea to make sure that the message that you’re delivering is copy written and written to resonate with the right type of audience.
We have a great guy who is going to be a Guest in the Membership Group. His name is Bill Stierle, and he has an amazing way of twisting and tweaking your messages so that they resonate with the right audience. I think I’m a good writer, but Bill makes me so much better. He’s always able to say, “You want to attract those visionary audiences. If you take out this word, then you’re going to attract them better because that word makes questions happen in their head.” A lot of times our words that we choose, because we feel comfortable with them, are blocks to the sale. I’ll post up an article that I wrote about him and you’ll get to see that. Please make sure you don’t miss Product Launch Hazzards podcast because you’ll hear an episode with him. Also go to the Membership Group so you can sit in on the Office Hour with Bill. He’s amazing at tweaking your titles, your sub lines, your subheadings, all of those things. All of those things can be helpful and you don’t want to miss someone like that in our group, and you’re getting him at the price of membership, which is amazing.
Going back to who you want to attract, now that you know who you are, who you want to reach, and you’ve got that messaging starting to dial in, then you also have to get to making sure that there isn’t that branding perception gap. Most often there’s a 25% negative differential, meaning that while there is a big difference that can be up to 50% difference between what your market thinks of you and what you believe you are inside, there’s actually a 25% negative. In other words, usually it’s more negative than you think you are. You’re more proud of your brand, you’re happy about how you’re doing and all of that than the market is. Not to scare you off about that, but that negative perception is something that you then have to look at your entire way you’re dealing with your brand. It involves customer service, it involves instruction sheets and package design, and all of those types of things that people read and touch and hear, and a video that they might watch of how to assemble if there’s an assembly video. Your Facebook posts, your live streams, all of those things have a resonant effect. If they do not have the same kind of brand synergy, and by that I don’t mean they look exactly the same, I mean they message exactly the same, they feel exactly the same, they are sending back the same messages to your target market, if they do not have synergy, then you’re wasting your money and adversely affecting your brand. You’re counteracting what’s going on with your brand in the marketplace. You definitely don’t want to do that.
There are tons of resources and lots of people who are great at various parts of branding. There are some of my favorite people like I mentioned Bill Stierle, another guest will be Wendy Lipton-Dinner. She’s amazing at impact brands. How can I have a brand that does social good, has social impact, can do more for the world? The reality is that if you focus on impact, statistics indicate that you will have a better business. If you provide more value, more resources, more services, and it does more for my life, I’m going to reward you with more business and more referrals and more recommendations and endorsements and all of that. It comes back and pays you dividends. That’s where having that impact business is so critically important. Wendy is great at talking about that.
Rick Cesari has been an amazing branding expert. He’s definitely going to be participating in multiple areas within our Membership Group, so you don’t want to miss that. There’s a 7P Branding Sheet, so there’s a way for you to decide what’s your passion, what’s your plan, what’s your people, and start thinking about it. We have our 7P Accelerator Plan here at Product Launch Hazzards, but there’s a way for you to outline that in a quick launch sheet so it doesn’t have to be a more formalized business plan or marketing plan. It’s a brand plan just so that everybody’s on the same page of what you mean and what you intend to express out in the marketplace.
There are lots of these things all over the place and I want you to take advantage of them. Make sure you’re heading back to the Membership Group at Product Launch Hazzards and make sure that you understand how you’re branding you.
- Million-Dollar Companies Don’t Buy $5 Logos
- Bill Stierle
- Wendy Lipton-Dinner
- Rick Cesari
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- Office Hour
- 7P Plan
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