Entrepreneur and author Guy Kawasaki defines branding as "what people are saying about you, not what you are saying about yourself."
So branding is really another name for a company's reputation. For example, when someone sees an iPad or one of Apple's other nifty gadgets, that person most likely immediately thinks "cool, hip, forward thinking, loyal customers" among other things.
Similarly, there are companies (who shall remain nameless) whose brands are severely tarnished by their actions, whether it's a reputation for poor service or products that don't work right.
While many local companies dismiss branding as an exercise for the big, Fortune 500 companies because they believe the only way to do it is with millions of dollars of advertising and media, the fact is that local companies can create a great brand within the communities they serve if they just put a little strategy and consistency to their actions and communications.
The rewards for this effort and execution will be increased customer loyalty and satisfaction, which in turn will drive higher profits and repeat purchases.
Many local companies develop their marketing materials in a vacuum without consideration to previously published materials, and as a result significant stylistic shifts occur. This is where the executive decisions come into play. Choose ONE logo. Choose ONE set of colors. Choose a voice for your company. Is that voice funny, serious, cute, or something else? Don't confuse customers by continuing to use a variety of different logos. These decisions are the foundation of any brand strategy.
Branding doesn't end with a company's marketing materials and the use of a consistent logo. As branding is really what a company's customers say about it, branding begins with every interaction a company has with customers, from the person answering the phone to the technician installing the furnace. If that technician shows up late, or the person on the phone is rude, a brand suffers.
In today's social media world, communication is no longer uni-directional or limited to a small number of people. Technology affords a company and its customers an opportunity to communicate to a large audience quickly and cheaply. Inconsistencies and mistakes, such as showing up late or answering the phone rudely, can cause significant harm to a company's reputation.
The best companies, whether it be Ritz-Carlton or Zappos, have built their brands based purely on customer service, and not necessarily because they have superior products (though they might). A key part of the Zappos.com brand is its customer service.
Its tagline is "We are a service company that happens to sell shoes." For Zappos.com, this is more than just a tagline. Anybody can call Zappo's toll-free number and ask where they can order a pizza in an off-beat place, and the customer service representative will kindly tell that caller where they can get that pizza. While seemingly goofy and a waste of time, little quirks like this are an integral part of Zappos' reputation.
An easy way for a service business to have a quick gauge on customer satisfaction is to call each customer after each job and ask them a series of customer service-related questions. Some example questions include: Did the technician show up on time? Did he take off or cover his shoes when he entered your home? Do you feel the price you paid for the work completed was fair? Are you satisfied with the work completed?
Many times customers will have nagging complaints that aren't large enough to warrant a phone call, but will prohibit further interactions with the company. By being proactive with communications, a company can quickly gauge customer satisfaction and rectify customer complaints without them becoming a major problem.
While branding is ultimately about what a company's customers are saying about it, managing a brand comes down to creating a consistent customer experience. Giving a little thought into the graphical representation of that experience by using consistent logos, colors, and taglines; along with how a company's representatives interact with customers, can go a long way towards creating a solid brand and corporate reputation.
What customers think about your company defines your brand.
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A GPS tracking solution can help protect your brand image by preventing unsafe driving behavior, eliminating unauthorized usage of company vehicles, reducing environmental impact and ensuring every customer has an excellent experience.
Understanding the value of your trademark is just the first step: Consult a trademark lawyer and pursue legal registration.