Decades ago branding was defined as a name, slogan, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these elements that identify products or services of a company. The brand was identified as one of the elements that differentiated the goods or service from the competition. Without a brand, the business does not have an identified purpose. Without a purpose how can you stand out from among your competition?

Today brand has become more complex, but even more important in today’s world of marketing. It is now the perception that a consumer has when they hear or think of your company name, service or product. The word ‘brand’ or ‘branding’ is a moving target and evolves with the behaviour of consumers. I think of it as the mental picture of who you as a company represent to consumers. It is influenced by the elements, words, and creativity that surround it.

Branding is not only about getting your target market to select you over the competition but about getting your prospects to see you as the sole provider of a solution to their problem or need. 

The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:  
*Clearly delivers the message*Confirms your credibility  
*Emotionally connects your target prospects with your product or service. 
*Motivates the buyer to buy 
*Creates user loyalty  

To succeed in branding, one must understand the needs and wants of customers and prospects. It is achieved by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact. Think of branding as the expression of who you are as a company or organization and what you offer. 

As consumers begin to identify with you, your brand will live within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions.

A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It is important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all, your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer.  

Your brand is a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without. Branding is strategic and marketing is tactical and what you use to get your brand in front of consumers. That is why it carries a great deal of importance within a business or organization as well.  

Brand serves as a guide to understanding the purpose of business objectives. It enables you to align a marketing plan with those objectives.  

The effectiveness of brand does not just happen before the purchase, but it is also about the experience it gives to a consumer.

Did the product or service perform as expected? Was the quality as good as promised or better? How was the service experience? If you can get positive answers to these questions, you’ve created a loyal customer.  

Brand not only creates loyal customers, but it creates loyal employees. Brand gives them something to believe in, something to stand behind.  It helps them understand the purpose of the organization or the business.  

Your value proposition must be relevant to your target market. This means your target market must be identified and clearly defined. It is important in this process to find the right balance when defining your target market in a way that causes your audience to recognize that you are talking specifically to them. This often requires companies to narrow down their target market, so that the message is strong, compelling and clear.

Regardless of your brand mission, identifying and gaining the devotion of your target audience is the necessary means to reaching your brand objectives. You will find that knowing your target market inside and out, you will have the information that you need to achieve your brand marketing goals. You can do this by conducting a market analysis. 

Depending on how much detail you put in the market analysis you have the capabilities of gathering enough data to learn what you need to know to reach your target effectively. Knowing your target audience, you solidify your message and increase your confidence in the steps to take to connect with that audience.

The power of your brand relies on your ability to focus and craft a marketing message that will convert prospects into customers. That is why defining your target market will help to strengthen your brand’s overall effectiveness.

CREATE YOUR BRAND VALUE

Developing a brand strategy can be one of the most difficult steps in the marketing plan process. It is often the element that causes most businesses the biggest challenge, but it is a vital step in creating the company identity.
Your brand strategy should identify the following three core components of your business and can then be used as a blueprint when it comes to developing your marketing strategy and tactics. 
*Purpose – Your business must have a functional and intentional purpose. 
*Consistency – Without consistency, a business will struggle to survive. 
*Emotional Impact – Emotion is what helps customers connect with you. A brand strategy helps you develop the emotion that you are going after. 
Your brand identity will be repeatedly communicated, in multiple ways with frequency and consistency throughout the life of your business. 

To begin the development of your brand strategy you must have an understanding of these four marketing components: 
*Primary Target Customer and/or Client 
*Competition 
*Product and Service Mix 
*Unique Selling Proposition 

By identifying these components of your marketing plan you have created the basis for crafting your brand strategy. An effective branding process will create a unique identity that differentiates you from the competition. That is why it is often deemed as the heart of a competitive strategy.
So, create your brand strategy by defining ‘who your brand is’, you create the foundation for all other components to build on. Author: Rajendra Kumar Sharma
Ex- General Manager (Maruti Suzuki India), Director (SIT)