In most of the marketing literature, branding strategies are usually skewed towards large businesses. The nature of these strategies also demands heavy and sustained investment in brand promotion and brand equity development. Often such high decibel brand promotion strategies create an impression that branding is a game for large players.
One of the fundamental question before any marketer is whether to brand or not brand. Although marketing literature suggests that there is an option for no-branding, for all practical purposes a firm cannot escape branding. No-Branding decision is where the firm chose to sell its offerings as generic products or commodities. But even in such a scenario, the firms which are marketing such generic products are distinguished by their company name which should be considered as a brand.
For example if you are a salt manufacturer supplying to retail outlets, although you are not selling branded salt, your company name will act as a brand for your customer ( retailer). Even though such firms are not into selling branded products, they have a corporate brand. Through their sales personnel and transactions, these firms are already building their corporate brand.
One of the most important advantages of branding is that brands help to identify and distinguish the seller. Even when selling commodities, the buyer needs to identify the seller and developing a corporate brand helps in getting repeat business from the customer.
Commit to Branding
The first step in creating an effective brand is a conscious decision to invest in branding the business. Whether it is a corporate name or an individual brand name, the decision to invest in branding will bring in a big difference. Branding is much more than putting a label in the cover of the product. Branding is a long term strategy which involves development of a brand vision and creation of brand personality.
Branding need not be expensive
Investing in branding is not about the money set aside for brand promotion but the level of involvement of marketers in developing the brand consciously. Small and medium enterprises have the constraint of limited marketing budget which forces them to overlook the importance of branding their products/business. But when we look at the long term perspective, taking baby steps now will go a long way in establishing a powerful brand in the future.
Big brands are built over a period of time. It is possible for small enterprises to build powerful brand through a consistent investment in smart branding practices. It is advisable to set aside a small percentage of revenue for the purpose of brand development alone. Consider this budget as a Systematic Brand Investment Plan rather than an expense.
Develop and protect the brand elements
Once a decision is made to build a brand, the next step is to develop powerful brand elements.
Brand elements include name, logo, symbols, mascots, color schemes, taglines etc. These brand elements should be prominently displayed in every communication that goes out from the firm be it visiting cards, gifts, brochures etc.
The next logical step is to protect the vital brand elements like Brand Name, Logo, etc. This is very important to prevent plagiarism and to challenge the rip-offs and copy cats.
Explore promotional opportunities
The fragmentation of media is in fact a big blessing for small brands. The proliferation of media has given lot of low cost promotional opportunities for small brands. The competition among the media has kept the advertising rates low especially for second –rung media. Small brands can make use of regional media options in a much more effective way than large brands operating in a national scale. Local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV channels offer excellent cost-effective vehicles for small brand promotions.
Brand promotions through these low cost media may not give a substantial ROI or a significant impact in sales in the short-term. In the long term, such small media exposure will increase the visibility of the brand and benefits will start accruing.
Corporate brands which operate in a business to business environment should explore their brand promotions in a different manner. For business brands, sales professionals are the biggest promoters of the brand. It is important for small businesses to ensure that the sales force is communicating the right kind of message to the customer. Business brands should try to communicate their brand message through every possible contact opportunities.
Every business has some communication materials like brochures, pamphlets etc and these materials offer some amount of information about the company and products. When endeavoring to brand development, these materials are of immense value. These materials should communicate the core Brand Manthra to the consumers. It is commonly observed that these communication materials are only used as a product catalogue rather than a branding tool.
It is a myth that brand building is expensive. Brands are built over time and through consistent systematic investment. The new highly connected environment has opened up many cost effective promotional platforms which can be used by small business to build their brands.