A name, an image, a logo, a symbol, a word or any other feature that distinguishes one seller’s product from those of others. A brand is the specific perception in a customer’s mind concerning the qualities and attributes of your product or service, your brand is what creates a lasting impression in the minds of customers. It is what prospects think of or feel when they hear your name. Your brand is your most valuable asset and is what keeps customers coming back, recommending you to others and ultimately makes your business successful. It takes many years to build and it is therefore just as essential to protect your brand image as it is to create awareness.

Branding has been around for a very long time; it started more than a century ago when cattle famers used branding irons to ‘mark’ which cattle were theirs. This ‘mark’, eventually made its way onto products, with the widening array of products, producers found the need to distinguish the source of their goods. In the late 1880’s the infamous Coca-cola product started what is seen as today’s first branding: distinguishing coca cola from other soda’s in the market.

Building a brand is more than just making sure your product is distinguishable, functional, searchable and available. Building a brand is making a promise to your customers that they can expect long-term security, a competitive frame of reference and consistent delivery of functional as well as emotional benefits from using your product or service. Branding has thus far surpassed just the physical and functional nature of your product or service, it includes how the customer feels when they use your brand, the customer experience, the customer journey, the customer satisfaction and the customers willingness to continue to use your brand and refer it to others. Everything your brand touches or is associated with is a reflection of your brand. From your premises, your employees, your culture and values, your business operation policies to the manner in which your delivery trucks drive are all factors being accounted for when customers form perceptions of your brand. Hence why brand image, customer service, reputation management, brand partners need to be carefully considered. One unsatisfied customer has the potential to really cause great damage to your brand. The internet is not only your biggest tool as it can reach customers far and wide 24/7, it can also be your most dangerous one. The internet has given the consumer power and a voice, consumers now research you, compare you and read other customer testimonials, they can complain more easily about you and share experiences they had with you with millions of people immediately. The notion that the customer is your businesses most important asset is becoming more true everyday.

Building a brand, requires you to have certain key tools.  Your  brand building toolbox includes your brand’s identity, the visible elements of your brand, your product design,colours, logo, slogan and imagary . Constantly ensureyour brands image is always consistent and always adheres to your corporate identity.

Brand communication, the different channels a customer uses to interact with your brand, your website, social media channels, your store partner stores etc. Brand awareness, the extent to which your brand is recognized by customers, you need to reach the right customer, at the right time on the right channels.  Brand loyalty, how likely are customers to use your brand again, the right customer constantly needs to see or hear your product,  you can also build brand loyaly by ensuring your customers leave you satisfied, this way they will tell others about your brand. When a customer is familiar with a brand or favours it incomparably to its competitors, this is when you  have reached a high level of brand equity. One of the ways to see that your brand is growing stronger is when your customers start referring to it by something different from its brand name, think of Woolworths, everyone refers to it as Woolies or coca cola referred to as coke.

Brands are everywhere and consumers are constantly experiencing them in their daily lives so it is vital to protect, grow and reinvent your brand all the time.

Written by, Bronwyn van Dyk. Bronwyn joins Prana as a Marketing and Branding Consultant, working on specialist projects. Bronwyn has a B.Comm Business Management, a diploma in Marketing Management and a certificate in branding. Bronwyn started her career at FNB as a graduate for 5 years and is now an independent marketing consultant. She has worked her way to be a specialist in her field. Bronwyn has worked across a 360-degree marketing sphere in digital marketing and as well above and below the line advertising.