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Consistency needed when building a group's 'brand'

Jan 10, 2013 - By Brett Housholder

Question -- "I always hear about how important it is to 'build my brand,' but I have never gotten a clear definition of what a brand or branding is. How do I build something that I can't even define?"

--Q94;Morgan, Gillette

Answer -- After discussing an article about branding strategies with some colleagues recently, one thing became clear: people have many different ideas about what a "brand" really is.

I started the discussion by focusing on logos and graphics. A brand to me is something I recognize immediately when I see it on TV or in a store. When I see a circle that's red on top, blue on the bottom and with a wavy white line in the middle, I know I'm looking at Pepsi.

But product mix is part of your brand, too, others pointed out. Oreo company officials indicate they've become known for creating unique versions of their classic cookie. Somebody else offered an even more nebulous explanation of what a brand is: a company's brand is how it makes you feel.

Ask anyone in business and you will get dozens of additional answers -- it's your company's personality, it's a promise, it's your reputation. So which is it? Well, really, all of them are right. Your brand essentially is everything people think of or associate with your business when they see your logo, hear your name and use your products.

A brand is everything. But how do you "build" it? Again, we could come up with dozens of different opinions, but I always focus on one thing when it comes to branding: consistency. Be consistent in every aspect of your business:

- Logo: Don't change it often and, if you must, keep it as similar to the previous logo as possible (colors, fonts, style, etc.).

- Marketing message: Don't try to be everything to everyone. If you're a "fun" company, be playful.

- Product mix: If you built your business by offering high-quality, long-lasting products, don't try to add a cheaper, lower quality option.

This really only scratches the surface of what you can do to build your brand. Above all else, I think it's important to remember that a well-established brand lets customers know exactly what to expect. This expectation might come from seeing a logo, hearing an advertisement, using a product or something else entirely.

When I think of your brand, I should know exactly what I'm getting.

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Editor's note: Brett Housholder is a market researcher, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, email at wsbdc@uwyo.edu or call at 1-800-348-5194.

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