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Business branding is a key tool for growth in 2023

Branding in business: not a want, but a need.

Think about the last person you met. Perhaps a stranger with whom you encountered for the first time. Now, reflect on the initial impression that you walked away with. Are you jumping at the chance to schedule a coffee date? Or did their vibes make you want to run for the hills? In your personal life, someone’s “brand” is what either draws you in or pushes you away.

Businesses are no exception to the rule. A client's first impression of your organization matters, and when you prioritize building a strong emotional connection from the get-go, you are more likely to build brand loyalty.

Let’s scale back a bit before we really dive into why branding is essential to business. First, what exactly is a brand?

A brand is the sum total of your audience's thoughts and feelings about who your organization is. Your brand should represent your identity and communicate the following: who you are, what you value, and why you do what you do. When those messages are thoughtfully communicated, your desired audience will listen.

We’ve covered what a brand is, let’s talk a little bit about what a brand is not.

  • A brand is not a logo

  • A brand is not a tagline or slogan

  • A brand is not a marketing campaign

At the core of AOU, we aim to tell stories. And when it comes to crafting and articulating your brand, it should be built on a memorable theme that tells an authentic story. Done well, strong branding efforts can have a remarkable impact on business, from advancing social analytics to increasing overall revenue.

Since we’ve established what branding is, let’s talk about why it matters.

Branding establishes new customers

Just as a person has a reputation, so does a brand. When a business has cultivated a positive reputation, referrals tend to be close by. Why? Because when brands establish trust with their audience, they are also forming brand loyalty. And what do loyal customers do? In a digital world, they sing a company’s praises to the world (wide web).

Now more than ever, companies can create raving fans with the help of social media. Customers have the power to tag, share, like, post about, and engage with your brand in ways that just didn’t exist 20 years ago.

Take Duolingo’s rise to TikTok fame for example. Rated as the #1 app in education, the language learning platform skyrocketed in popularity as a result of its presence on TikTok. The brand, which primarily attracted a very niche audience, grew from a couple hundred thousand followers to almost six million in less than a year. They leveraged their brand ambassador, the infamous green owl known as Duo and created content that showcased the brand’s witty personality. In addition to attracting new users to the app, Duolingo increased its brand awareness and likeability factor online.

All of this to say, establishing a strong social presence is not the only way to generate new customers and establish loyalty. The language learning app leaned into their personality in a way that resonated with users online, and as a result, the outcome was pretty remarkable. At the core of the app’s visibility and high follower count, the brand spoke directly to its target audience. And that made all the difference.

Branding provides clear messaging guidelines

What to say, how to say it, and who to say it to are all important considerations when it comes to a company’s brand. There’s a common phrase in marketing, which speaks to the significance of identifying and understanding your target audience: if you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.

In order to create messaging guidelines that work, you must first understand who you are speaking to. First, identify your audience. I, a 26-year-old female living in South Carolina, am going to respond differently than a 42-year-old male based out of Oregon. Why? Because our needs and wants as consumers are vastly different. Identify who you’re targeting: gender, age, location, tax bracket, etc. Then, research the sh*t out of them. What does this group of people respond well to? What are they motivated by? What do they hate? Understanding their behaviors better will give you deeper insight into their consumer patterns.

Once you understand who you’re speaking to, brands can begin to identify how to speak to those consumers. What tone of voice will you use in your web copy and display ads?

Let’s look at the brand Liquid Death. The product? Sparkling water. Nope, it’s not the latest canned alcoholic beverage or even a trendy new health drink.

This product is not what was new to the market, think La Croix, Pellegrino, and Spindrift. Dare I continue? In order to stand out in a saturated market, the beverage company created a brand personality with specific messaging tactics that had not been seen in the space before. The language in all of the company’s marketing materials is intense. A quick scan of the website and you’ll see phrases like “don’t be scared,” “death to plastic,” and “killer merch.” The company describes itself as “a funny beverage company that hates corporate marketing as much as you do. Our evil mission is to make people laugh and get more of them to drink water more often, all while helping to kill plastic pollution.”

The brand uses dark language and color palettes to call attention to various environmental causes, all while appealing to a niche audience. You don’t have to use scary language, odds are, it would actually be pretty weird if you did. What you do need, however, is to identify how you want to speak to your target audience and then do it over and over again.

Branding helps identify the white space

What makes your company different from others working in the same industry? Your point of difference should be ownable – something that your company can own with conviction and authority. Liquid Death, for example, found whitespace in the language commonly associated with sparkling water.

According to Elle Morris, President and CEO of SnapDragon, “broad insights can drive design innovation by crossing the intersection between unarticulated and unmet consumer and category needs and products and services that don’t currently exist.”

In order to identify your white space, you need to have a strong understanding of your competitors. How do they talk to customers? How do they talk about themselves? What kind of visuals do they use? What photo styles do they gravitate towards? Once you gain this insight, your brand has an opportunity to stand out amongst its competitors.

When you hire a branding agency, they’ll likely conduct what is known as a competitive audit. Agencies will research your competitors and, yep you guessed it, audit their visual, verbal, and digital assets. If hiring an agency isn’t in your budget, no worries – here’s what you can do instead.

Over the next few weeks, set aside some time to do a thorough analysis of 3-5 companies that you deem competitors. Look at websites, social media platforms, and available marketing materials. More than likely, you will notice similarities among the messages those organizations send. Many schools, for example, advertise themselves as putting students first or teaching the whole child. While both of those messages are great to promote, every school district is saying it. What messages can you promote that no one else is sharing?

Strong brand visibility matters. Various markets tend to be inundated, so it is critical for profit, longevity, and impact for organizations to brand with purpose.

CTA: When you are ready to grow your business online, we are here to be your partner. Contact us at or schedule an exploratory call to get started.

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