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Brand aid: how to build brand equity for your business

The way your business is perceived by potential customers can be the difference between making a sale or losing it to a competitor – and the key to controlling that perception is branding, advise RICH KIZER and GEORGANNE BENDER.

Branding is a buzzword that’s been around for a long time, and with good reason; your brand and its perception in your community are critical to your store’s success. But along with that branding buzz, there is also a lot of confusion.

The good news is that branding isn’t hard to implement – it is easy once you understand what it is, and what it is not.

Defining your brand

You may have spent hours designing the perfect logo for your store – or paid for someone else to do so – but that’s not your brand. You know the ‘swoosh’ that appears in every Nike ad? It’s a logo, not a brand.

Your brand is more than your website, your blog, or your presence on social media. It’s more than your ads, brochures, business cards, bags and everything else you use to put your store name out there. Your brand is even more than the name you chose to hang over your front door.

Each of these things are critically important to your brand identity, but they are the components used to build your brand, not the brand itself.

A brand is the emotional connection – the physical reaction – customers feel when they hear your store name, see your logo, visit your website or walk in your front door.

It’s the space you occupy in the mind of the customer, and the experience they can get only from you.

The best way to describe a brand was coined by Adrienne Weiss, CEO of branding and marketing business Adrienne Weiss Corp: “A brand is a country with its own unique language, customs and traditions.”

Using this definition, here is a checklist of things to do to help you build your brand.

Step 1: Write your store’s story

It’s hard to write about the things that got you to where you are today, but you have to do so. Start with why you decided to open a store, then write about what makes you and your store unique; talk about how you make a difference in your customers’ lives and in your community.

Make it a fun adventure people will want to read. If you get stuck, ask your family and staff – and maybe even customers – for help.

When your story is finished, spread the word about who you are through your in- store signage, on your website, your social media channels, marketing, advertising – anywhere and everywhere you can.

Step 2: Create an ‘elevator pitch’

We used to kick ourselves after someone asked us what we do and we’d reply, “We’re professional speakers.”

Afterwards, we’d think of all the ‘cool’ things we should have said. Now we say, “We are consumer anthropologists. We study consumers in their natural habitats and share what we find in our keynote and seminar presentations.”

If you’ve ever answered, “I own a jewellery store” when asked what you do, then you know that feeling of missed opportunity. Write a 60-second condensed version of your store’s story – known as an ‘elevator pitch’ – and you’ll never find yourself in that position again.

Step 3: Create a unique look

Branding requires discipline and consistency. Every single thing – from the smallest details like bags to fonts, need to be properly tell your brand story.

Weiss says the brand itself should act like a water filter.

With that in mind, think about who you are and what you want representing your store. If the item, or service, you are considering is in alignment with your store’s story and would easily pass through your brand filter, then go ahead and use it.

Here’s an example: Bunnings is widely known for using the colour dark green, so if a supplier offered employee aprons in yellow, even at a great price, would they fit through Bunnings’ brand filter? No.

Tiffany & Co. has trademarked its unique shade of robin’s egg blue, and McDonald’s has the golden arches.

Any other colour in each of these examples would be unacceptable because they would never make it through the company’s filter.

Branding tips

Expanding on Step 3, here are some of the things you need to ‘filter’ to ensure they properly represent your brand:

• Select a signature colour, or colours, and use everywhere – We once met a retailer whose signature colour was red. Her store was well known for its bright red shopping bags; people saved them and carried them around town, and they became walking billboards for her store.

One Christmas, she decided it would be fun to try silver shopping bags. It was a big mistake as no-one in her town recognised that the bags came from her store.

As a result, she had to rebuild that part of her brand identity.

“A brand isthe emotional connection – the physical reaction – customers feel when they hear your store name, see your logo, visit your website or walk in your front door.”

• Choose your fonts carefully – It’s a good idea to use both upper- and lower-case letters in your branding as all-caps can be tough on older eyes.

Additionally, make sure that your font is easy to read – some that look great in a 14-point become hard to read when blown up on signs.

• Customise bags, boxes and gift cards– You run a unique and upscale store, and while it might be easy to purchase plastic bags similar to those used in supermarkets, that’s not who you are.

You can always add your signature colour to good quality plain bags with inexpensive custom stickers, and the same thing goes for boxes.

Get creative with your gift cards too; we have encountered a lingerie retailer who nestled gift cards in scented tissue paper inside a shiny box.

• Bring your brand to the sales floor – Your sales floor is your largest brand-building element. There isn’t a single part of your store (restrooms included) that’s not part of your brand identity.

Take an objective look around: Have you included your signature colours? Are you using quality fixtures? Is the merchandise well-signed and do the signs incorporate your brand’s font? Are sales staff easily identifiable?

• Create one-of-a-kind in-store experiences – Customers will stay close to your store if you give them a reason. Classes, in-store events and loyalty clubs are all good reasons.

Build your brand and your visibility by hosting one major and two to three minor in-store events each month – note that even in the midst of a pandemic, you can do virtual events or a combination of virtual and physical.

A major event attracts new customers to your store; minor events, like classes and demonstrations, attract smaller numbers of shoppers. Both are important.

• Build a strong brand presence online – In the past, shoppers let their fingers do the walking through the phone book; today they visit your website.

These days a website is not an option. You need a real website that is easy to remember, as in www.thenameofyour store.com.

Websites have become the equivalent of business cards, and your homepage is also your ‘greeter’.

Make sure that it’s consistent with your brand image, and a good example of what shoppers can expect when they visit your store.

The photos and information you post on your website, social media and emails also represent your brand. Think about what you post before you post it. Check your spelling and test links to make sure they work.

Even your email address says a lot about who you are and is useful in building
your brand. Create an email address that comes from your own domain name, as in yourname@thenameofyourstore.com.

• Become a shameless self-promoter – Other than word-of-mouth, the cheapest way to build your brand is through PR – public relations. That’s why you should send out a press release for everything of interest that you do.

The media wants and needs your input. Did you know that the majority of stories that appear in your local media came from a one-page press release sent by someone like you who had a story to tell? You can build brand equity simply by tapping “send” in an email.

If you’re too busy to handle the public relations by yourself, then promote a staff to the position of ‘PR manager’.

They will act as the media contact person, who will collect the names of local editors and reporters, write and distribute press releases, be your store ambassador at local functions and Chamber of Commerce events, and more.

• Be patient – You will likely to get sick and tired of your brand before it begins to automatically register with your customers or potential customers.

The ‘marketing rule of seven’ says that a person must see or hear your message at least seven times before they take action or even remember you.

So, resist the urge to change your logo, colours or tagline – anything that is considered part of your brand identity – and give it time to stick.


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