Six Things Branding Can (and Can’t) Do for Your Business
What is branding? There is certainly no shortage of lofty, esoteric definitions out there, but practically speaking (and at the risk of oversimplification), branding is simply the look and feel of your business’s image. It’s the collection of things that make up your business’s identity—your logo, your website, your business card, your menu or brochure, etc.
To be sure, there’s definitely some strategy behind it if it’s done correctly—at least there should be—because branding exists to accomplish and communicate certain things. For example, how are you trying to make people feel about your business or product when they look at your logo? What do you want people to know or believe about your business when they see your business card, or visit your website? What makes your product or service different and unique, and how is that expressed visually? That’s branding. All gnostic, business-world mysticism aside, it’s just good ol’ fashioned graphic design with some solid thoughtfulness behind it.
Here are six things that branding can do, and some other things that it can never do.
1. Great branding can give life to marketing
If one of the main goals of branding is to make things attractive, it’s easy to see why branding is so critical to marketing, which aims to put a product out there so people can see it. But if what people are seeing isn’t attractive—i.e., it doesn’t “attract” or draw in—you’re undercutting your own marketing efforts. It’s like cutting with a dull knife. Great branding, on the other hand, elevates marketing, puts a razor’s edge on marketing. It gives marketing wings and makes it fly. The time-tested combination of branding + marketing is powerful and effective.
2. Great branding can create a great user experience
When your product is great, great branding elevates the greatness of the experience for the user. Take, as a classic example, the iPhone. It’s so easy to use and can do so many different things and meet so many of your needs; it’s so smooth and shiny and bright and sleek, and your whole feeling while you’re using it—especially over those first few days—is, ‘Man, this is great!’ That would not be the case if your brand new iPhone looked and felt, for example, like a flip phone from 1998. It wouldn’t feel great, even if all the functionality and capabilities were the same. It would actually feel pretty un-great.
3. Great branding can create visibility
Of course, bad branding or no branding can hinder a good product from ever getting off the ground and getting to a point of established reputation. For example, no branding makes a product hard to see and causes it not to stand out—which makes sense, because you can’t see nothing. Branding can grab attention and make an impression on the mind and memory of the customer. It can distinguish your product from other products.
“Things that are not attractive do not attract. By definition they don’t draw in or create appeal. In fact, they repel.”
4. Poor branding can create distrust
Branding should be attractive, and things that are not attractive do not attract. By definition they don’t draw in or create appeal. In fact, they repel. In the same way, bad branding can hinder the credibility of your product or service because you don’t ‘look the part.’
In a very real sense, you are going in for a job interview every time someone sees your business card, or website, or product packaging, or logo. Now, your product might be the most qualified applicant for the position, but if you go into the interview with that wrinkled, mustard-stained shirt that you just pulled out of the hamper, you’re going to totally discredit yourself before you ever open your mouth.
Great branding can create credibility, but bad branding can undermine it and can actually drive people away.
5. Poor branding (or no branding) can’t kill a great product
Conversely, if you have a great product, bad branding (or even no branding) might hinder you a little, but it will never be able to sink your product. As a matter of fact, a fundamental rule of marketing is that if you put a good product out there long enough, people will buy it.
If you just look at how that plays out in the real world of business, a good product that’s on the market long enough will naturally build a great reputation for itself, and that will reputation will eventually function like branding. People will eventual identify your product with excellence, even if, for example, your logo or your website is ugly. In fact, ugly logos and ugly websites can actually take on a kind of beauty because of the power of a great product. It’s a lot like the well-known scenario of the person who isn’t a supermodel on the outside but who has a heart of gold on the inside.
6. Great branding can never save a bad product
Something branding can never do, however, is make a good product out of a bad one. A good product is at the foundation of everything you do, everything you’re trying to build. And everyone knows that you can’t build on a bad foundation. If you don’t have a good product, you’ll alienate and disillusion customers and build a bad reputation for yourself, which, of course, will discourage people from becoming customers in the future.
If your product is bad—if it doesn’t deliver on what it promises to do, if it’s cheap or unreliable, if it’s not there because you don’t consistently produce it—you don’t have a good brand, period. It doesn’t matter how great your branding is.
Great branding can accomplish a lot of things for your business in a lot of ways, but at the end of the day, you have to have a good product. That has to be the cornerstone of everything you do.