In the context of marketing, branding is one of the most important things an organization can do. Your brand sets the parameters within which your marketing endeavours must operate. The images selected for your advertising, the media used for advertising, the tone of voice in the ad copy, the selection of new products and services, pricing, and many other equally important factors are all developed in keeping with the brand.
More important still, your prospective clients and existing clients need to understand what your organisation stands for, what it does, what it is that differentiates you from the competition, and how your clients should talk to other people about you. Your brand provides the answers to all these questions.
Purchasers, investors, and decision-makers of consumer or business products and services all follow the same decision-making journey:
- There is a purchase trigger, that is, there is a recognition of a need to be satisfied
- An information search occurs internally and externally. At this point, the decision-maker searches his or her memory for companies (brands) that will help him or her satisfy the need. Failing that, the decision-maker will seek information from external sources such as ‘expert’ friends (usually via social media), the Internet, marketing collateral, newspaper articles, and similar.
- The consideration set of solution providers will be narrowed to a decision set based on the selection criteria of the decision-maker. The criteria might be based on features and benefits of the product or service, or the psychosocial benefits of the brand, or a combination of both.
- The final decision is made, and the purchase or investment proceeds. Throughout this stage, the purchaser is assessing the experience and weighing his or her comfort level.
- The product or service is then consumed and again the purchaser assesses the experience. A successful experience will see the purchaser advocate for the brand by telling friends and colleagues about the positive experience, and then return for repeat purchases. An unsuccessful experience will see the purchaser loudly condemn the solution provider and seek a new solution starting at Step 1.
Ideally, your company’s or organisation’s brand will be known to the decision-maker at every step of this process. That means the decision-maker must be aware of your company / organization and what it does in advance of the purchase trigger, which in turn means you must be advertising your brand so it will be remembered when the need arises.
Not only that, but information about your solutions must be located in the places your prospective new clients will be looking. That means your brand must be on the minds of the key influencers with whom your prospective clients will be consulting. Your brand must be present everywhere on the Internet they will be seeking information: search engines, social media, websites, and blogs.
If you have been careful to maintain brand integrity correctly, your products and services will meet the expectations held by your prospects and set by your branding. If so, your new clients will find the purchasing / investment experience a positive one. Likewise with their consumption experience, which means you will advocates feeding positive information into the arenas other prospective clients will be consulting. A strong brand makes it easier for them to feed the right information, ensuring consistency in messaging across all media and information sources.
This is why municipalities, economic development agencies, and business organisations must have representative branding. Most regional economic development alliances (REDAs) will be seeking specific types of investors as they create economic clusters. Correct branding will provide value by informing prospects of what the REDA is offering, what value they can provide, and how their offering differs from other REDAs. Without correct branding, the REDA will be severely hampered in attracting investment and creating advocates.