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Is Branding Overrated?

Branding is, by far, one of the most overused words coming into 2020 but is it overrated? Oversaturated... probably, but is it overrated? It’s an interesting question because “branding” is an intangible that is hard to measure, yet you know it when you see it. Let's frame this question another way - is personality overrated? Does personality contribute to success? Ask a hiring manager. It’s not everything but in terms of first impressions and placement - it’s a game-changer. Which goes further: an identity that someone can emotionally connect to or an identity that’s strictly transactional? Someone buying into who you are and not what you sell is infinitely more power - this is long term sustainability.


Your business is going to naturally develop a personality, whether you try to intentionally shape it or not. It’s like having a kid. By default, the business will have the creator’s personality attributes, but it’s not just that. It also absorbs attributes from the vertical itself, the location, and various other components. And like a human, your business can take on negative attributes that will make life harder than it has to be.

So when we’re talking about branding, for the most part, we’re talking about reputation. It’s important to note that our reputation isn’t always in under our control - sometimes it’s the sum total of what others think about you. You can only try to improve it over time.


How to build and attend to your brand?


Know Who You Are - Value Checks


Your brand is the identity that customers come to know. If you don’t know who you are, how are the customers going to know? Knowing who you are will allow you to immediately connect with the customers that resonate. Do a value check. Is your company adventurous? Innovative? Build this framework. If you want to learn more about this stuff check out the 12 universal archetypes, here's one on The Warrior Archetype.


Stop Selling - Give Value Away


The internet changed the game completely. It amazes me how people cling to traditional selling in the modern world. Yes, it does work. It just doesn’t last because it’s harder to build loyalty. If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner you should be playing the loyalty game. Buyers buy differently. Give away value, earn trust, build credibility, be helpful, and the sales will compound with time


Use Great Imagery


We are visual creatures. Humans can correctly identify images seen in as little as 100 milliseconds. That big. That’s information. That’s context, in a very short time. Literally a blink of an eye. Catch customers’ attention with great imagery that supports your brands’ identity. People will buy-in quicker. A picture says a thousand words. It’s the quickest way we can experience something without physically being there. A good image will influence someone’s decisions, expectations, and emotions before they even set foot at the location.


Make Your Brand Human - Start Conversations


This is one of the most important elements of branding. Humans are captivated by a good story. Starting conversations and humanizing your business provides the opportunity to do just that. Tell your story. When you tell your story people buy-in to who you are, not what you sell. It also creates an atmosphere where consumers feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions; which provides direction on where to improve. Talk about a relationship builder!


Truth is, branding is what gives your business value. People are willing to pay more because it’s Nike. People love the brand and what it stands for - they feel empowered by it. It’s not just an overarching theme. Their branding gets segmented in a way that they can intimately connect with a wide audience - from women to collectors to musicians. Is that overrated or smart? Let’s dive a little deeper into branding and effectively gauging where you are in the market. Planning to be somewhere also means understanding where you are in the present.




S.W.O.T Analysis


Strengths


Areas that you excel in. What do you do better than anybody else? What makes you stand out? Spend time thinking about what you’ve done well, what tasks are within your comfort zone, and any times you’ve exceeded expectations. This is something you can ask your customers to - start conversations!


Weaknesses


Identify areas of improvement. What has been difficult for your business, what are the areas you’ve been neglecting? Is it your website? Is it internal communication? What might be holding you back from reaching your true potential? Weaknesses should be things you have control over, things that you can put a plan in place to improve upon.


Opportunities


What are the areas you can take advantage of? Any weakness that you have are opportunities. Maybe there’s a training that will be really beneficial for your staff. It could be hiring someone outside the organization to button up your website. Opportunities can be internal and external factors that can help bolster your business.


Threats


Potential or upcoming obstacles that you should be aware of. This may be an emerging competitor, changes in the market, changes in laws, anything that would negatively affect your business. Most likely, you won’t have any control over your threats but being aware of them will lessen the blow. The punches that knock you out are the punches you don’t see coming. Develop a contingency plan.


Here’s a chart from Wordstream:



Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, you should analyze both internal and external factors. SWOT allows you to gain a thorough understanding of where your business sits within the market, as well as potential opportunities to explore. You should regularly conduct a SWOT analysis, here are optimal times:


Product or Service Launches


If you’re launching a new product or service, a SWOT analysis will help you develop effective positioning around that product or service. Looking at the strengths of the product or service, where the weaknesses lie along with where the opportunities and competitors stand. This will set up the product/service launch with the best chance of success.


Strategy Building


Evaluate your current performance, identify areas for improvement, and look for new opportunities.


Business Growth


Whenever you go through a growth period, you should take the time to conduct a SWOT analysis. Identify possible weaknesses that may become issues from your growth.


Marketing


Each product or service should have a dedicated marketing plan. Conduct a SWOT analysis for each service. Start by looking at your competitors to understand how you want to market your product/service. What do they do well? What are they doing to stand out?


Team Evaluation


Evaluate the strength of your team. This will come in handy when you’re looking to restructure or develop new departments. Identify weaknesses and opportunities to put plans in place to hire or train the team member. Remember a fish rots from the head down. Culture starts from the top. Form your team in the image of your business.



How to write a SWOT analysis


Start by asking, what’s the overall goal/objective we’re trying to achieve? Sales? Audience expansion? Brand recognition? New product introduction? Once you decide on a goal/objective then you can start to think about deeper questions related to:


  • Your customers

  • Your competitors

  • Your market share

  • Business growth

  • Availability

  • Price point

  • Online following

  • Customer retention rate

  • Budget restrictions

  • Suppliers

  • Company culture

  • Reputation


This is a good starting point but make sure to add more topics to evaluate. When I do my SWOT analysis I want most of this to be based in reality - that means you need analytics. Who you want your audience to be may be different than who your audience is. My favorite tools to use to gather data are Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Facebook Pixel - Facebook pixel and Google Analytics will do a pretty good job of identifying your audience. Google Search Console is a good SEO tool and "a must" folks!


The data I like to include:


  • Audience (gender, age)

  • Website traffic - page analytics, time on site, user flow (Quarters, MoM, YoY), point of origin, type of traffic

  • Location


Now you know where you stand and where you want/need to go. You should be able to provide evidence for all of the points in your SWOT analysis, in other words, prove that you are good at what you say you’re good at. Saying you increase your audience regularly is good but to know you’re increasing your audience size by 10% year over year is even better. Use measurable and quantifiable statements in your SWOT analysis.

 
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