Building a Business Brand

If you are like most businesses it is important constantly look for ideas to grow.

Building a Business Image or “Branding” as the marketing gurus call it is part art, part science, although there is more art than science involved. The art of branding requires you to create something contagious that infects people with enthusiasm, makes it easy for them to try it and enlists their help in spreading the word, and building a “community”.

To get this happening requires some essential elements.

Cool is the definitive quality amongst fashion-conscious consumers, especially GenY. Cool is also definitely contagious and works equally well for fashion, new technology and services. Look at the iPod as the defining example in the music industry.

At this point it is worth considering some theory – not academic theory from Universities or Business Schools, rather some theory from one marketing contemporary Guru – Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell states that while advertising will always remain an important part of branding, he asserts that the idea that a tiny cadre of connected people can trigger a trend. It is an enormously seductive concept– especially to cash-strapped entrepreneurs.

It is, in essence the premise of word-of-mouth campaigns: Reach those rare, all-powerful people, and you'll reach everyone else through them, basically for free. Yet building a buzz for a brand-new business takes real smarts, creativity and persistence.

Gladwell identifies a number of key factors that have the power to influence social epidemics.

1. Three types of people have disproportionate influence over the spread of social phenomenon, and without their aid, such dissemination is unlikely to ever occur. These three influencers are: “Connectors” (people with wide social circles who embody the maxim "it's not what you know but who you know?"), “Mavens” (knowledgeable people who have information on a lot of different products or prices or places and whose opinions are trusted) and “Salesman” (charismatic people with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing).

2. Ideas (if they are to spread) must have “Stickiness”, meaning that a message makes an impact and doesn't go in one ear and out the other; where the potential is for exponential growth over time.

3. Research suggests an individual can only have genuine special relationships with 150 people. Likewise groups larger than 150 are prone to fragmentation. Most hunter-gather villages, as well as military-style companies intuitively stay just shy of this number.

Apart from finding the right influencers, ‘positioning’ matters. Theorists like Gladwell say that when positioning a product, be highly focused and specific. Good positioning states its case unequivocally. It embodies such qualities as saving money, as well as loftier concepts such as luxury, indulgence.

The Toyota Prius is a good example of high ground positioning. The car gets 4.4 litres / 100 km efficiency (that's up to 50 per cent less consumption than a comparably-sized family car) by using a hybrid of an eclectic motor and a petrol engine. It’s not fast, sexy or particularly luxurious. But it is relatively inexpensive to buy and inexpensive to operate – highly distinctive positioning.

Or, consider two kitchen designers each of who could have totally different ‘positions’ – one could be “the most innovative designer of contemporary kitchen environment.” While the other could be “the most cost effective designer of traditional kitchens.” Which kitchen do you think you’d see in Vogue? Which would create a conversation?

Which brings us back to the essential elements – after “cool” - of a product or service that are essential to create any sort of buzz.

You can’t brand something that is not worthy of having a conversation about. People talk about their Apple watch, their iPhone, their Prius. What is worth having a conversation about in relation to your product or service?

A product that has a buzz has something distinctive about it. It leaves no doubt that it is different to the competitors’.

Buzz products have a disruptive aspect. They tend to be different form the status quo – cheaper, faster, better.

Buzz products make their owners feel good. Consider Prada and the impact on its owners. But even a modern-day vacuum cleaner can do this.

Building an image requires creating conversations about your product or service.

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