A brand is your logo, your website and your tagline. A brand is your color scheme and your brand usage booklet. It’s your building, your employees, your management team and your culture. It’s your products or services. It’s your pricing model and it's the way you do business. A brand is all of those things.
So, what is a Company's brand, exactly?
A brand is all of those things and then some. A brand is what makes your company your company. When it's done well, a brand changes the way consumers think about and interact with your business.
Having a good brand eliminates the need to compete on price alone. All things being equal, the company with a stronger brand will win any sale, even if they’re more expensive. Consumers will pay a premium to have brand name products.
Why do people fork over hundreds of dollars for a new pair of Nike shoes? They’re just shoes, after all. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the shoe. It’s the image of the brand. Nike makes you feel empowered. When you step into a pair of their shoes, you can do anything. Their tagline even says so: Just Do It.
When you buy a Harley, you’re not buying a motorcycle. You’re buying a lifestyle of uncompromised freedom and open roads. Hardcore fans even tattoo the logo on their bodies. Those extremists are called brand ambassadors.
When you buy an iPhone, you’re not just buying a cell phone. You’re buying simplicity and connectedness. You’re challenging the status quo. You also paid a premium for it. In fact, research has shown that iPhone technology is actually behind the industry standards. Yet, consumers are willing to pay a premium for sub-par technology because they love the brand. How’s that for loyalty?
Examples of Great Local Brands
Those were two examples of exceptional national brands. But can a small, local business really achieve that kind of loyalty and cult following? Not on a national scale, but in your local community? Absolutely.
Here are two of them.
This brand locally owns and operates convenience store and carwash locations throughout the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks communities. For those who live in the area, Valley Dairy is the only choice when it comes to convenience stores. With 13 stores, you’re never more than a few minutes away from one.
In fact, people will go out of their way just to patron a Valley Dairy store.
Why? I think it’s partly because they’re locally owned and operated. Consumers like to support their community when they shop. But also because Valley Dairy is known for their coffee selection and daily soup specials. If you haven’t had a bowl of hot soup from Valley Dairy, you’re missing out.
On a regional scale, Bernick’s epitomizes the concept of community involvement. If there’s an event going on, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Bernick’s is involved somehow. Either as a sponsor, donor, or supporter of it. As one of the area’s largest distributors of beverages, vending supplies, craft beer, and food products, they have saturated the market with their brand. It’s virtually impossible to not encounter a Bernick’s product when you’re out and about in Central Minnesota.
For Bernick’s though, it’s not about what they sell. It’s about their people, and creating a culture in the community of like-minded individuals who share their beliefs and values. The Bernick family has approached their business that way ever since the company was founded in 1916.
What do these Brands Have in Common?
There are a few threads these companies have in common, but the most important one is top-of-mind awareness (TOMA). That type of awareness can only be achieved if you have a remarkably memorable brand. If you live in the Grand Forks area, you’ve heard of Valley Dairy, and you’ve likely visited their stores. Bernick’s is a household name in Central Minnesota. Not because of what they sell, but how they do it.
Each of these brands is consistent in everything they do. Whether it’s their logo, website, culture, or marketing messages. Everything looks, feels, and sounds consistent. Consistency is comfortable. Consistency is trust. Consistency is key.
Start Building Your Brand
It isn’t easy to build a strong brand, but it sure is worth it. It’s also never too late to start. Even if you’ve been in business for decades, there’s no better time than today. Building a strong local brand takes time and consistency. If you’re willing to commit to those two things, you’ll be glad you did.To get started building your brand, download the first chapter of Chuck Mefford’s book about branding local businesses.