If you're explaining your brand, it's too bland

Big ideas and brand positioning

Posted by Steven

Last updated on August 26th 2020

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What is branding?

Branding's what you do to stop your product or service dying an undignified death in the cheap-arse commodity price wars. But don't be fooled into thinking it's not advertising.

Bad agencies have called it the 'intangible emotional value' of your company. It's not. The value should be very tangible. You should see it in your bottom line. And the emotion bit of that description? A bit bollocksy.

Don't get me wrong, emotion is the key to selling more or selling for less. We're emotional. We're irrational. But describing branding as an emotional thing, ironically makes it too emotive and rubs people up the wrong way.

Everyone immediately starts thinking about zealous Apple devotes or Patagonia vegans.

Do all companies need copywriting and branding?

How to be an unprofitable plumber

But what if you have a plumbing business? Don't let anyone tell you a grumpy granny's going to have a deep and meaningful connection with your company vision next time she's worried about a dripping tap.

What branding is however, is the emotional priming that went on to make your customer choose your product. By emotions we mean little memory structures that trigger at key moments in the customer's buying process. Memory structures built by copy, design, ideas, pricing, your name, your logo. Anything and everything that, at the crucial buying moment, makes the granny go 'oh yes, I want Bob to come and check my pipes'. She doesn't even consider the thousands of other plumbers she could use.

Psychologists call this availability. What pieces of information are available to help you make the buying decision. We're usually not talking research here, we're talking instant info – we're really lazy. And by info, we're rarely talking new info – we're really risk averse, so we go with what we think we remember.

Mental availability refers to the ease with which a consumer notices and/or remembers a brand in a purchase situation.

If you didn't do brand-based advertising, you'd have no mental availability and emotional priming. You'd be relying solely on physical availability – being at the top of the search, being the closest plumber to the granny or being called Aaron's Plumbing in the Yellow Pages (or yell as it rebranded too) – and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just harder to grow that way and your revenue will always have a linear relationship with your ad spend.

What's a branding big idea then?

A branding big idea is an idea that's big, simple, universally understandable and memorable.

It's so big and memorable that it wedges itself in people's minds and jumps right to the fore when it's time to buy. It's the most effective way of being salient – having the mental availability that means you're much more likely to be the customer's choice.

That's all branding tries to do: make it implicitly and unforgettably clear why people should buy your product or service. The big idea can't be overthought; there's just not time. If you're explaining, you've lost. That availability is a split second thing.

That's why you need a big idea.

Sounds like only big companies who mass market need to brand

You need good branding to go mass market. But you don't need to go mass market once you have good branding.

Good big brand ideas make EVERY SINGLE PENNY you spend on advertising more valuable. You'll convert better on the short term and start lowering your acquistion costs in the long term.

What is corporate branding?

It's when you brand your company itself instead of branding the products your company sells.

Corporate branding is probably the best course of action if you're offering a service or have a lot of products closely related to each other ...or if you're fossil fuel company has too much money and you want to be cooler.

What is a branding strategy?

An expensive waste of money. You don't need a strategy, before you have a big idea.

That's not strictly true, but a branding strategy is basically just figuring out the best way to bring the big idea to market.

There's an argument to say that your big idea should be part of the bigger strategy. That's fair, but remember that with branding you're trying to trigger memory structures, so your big idea should be as closely related to your product and market as possible, then fit your strategy around that.

How does branding add value to smaller businesses?

As mentioned at the top - it stops you being a commodity. Branding makes you distinctive, allowing you to charge a premium or more importantly, just get more business. If you already advertise with direct response, stuff you should really consider branding to make it pay in the long term too.

Remember, every large business started out as a small business and it was probably a good big brand idea that changed that.

Let's chat about your branding

Getting a big idea doesn't require a big budget. You could be starting the next growth cycle of your business as soon as next month.

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