May 2007

Supply Side

What is a brand and what is branding?

By J. Baird

The terms ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ are becoming more and more popular; however, I believe that they are often misused or misunderstood. These concepts are not something reserved for big companies; they are the key to the success of any organization.

Your brand is everything that you are. It is your product, your service, and your company, all rolled into one. I would say that, given the competitive nature of the mining supply business, most Canadian firms in our sector have strong brands in that the products and services that they offer are high quality, reliable, and competitively priced. In general, they offer a satisfying experience to those that purchase them.

Branding really is part of marketing. It is the communications program that is used to define and build the brand. Successful brands are well defined and are understood and supported by everyone in the company. Begin by deciding how you want to be seen by your customers. Decide what your key values are. For example, these may include innovation, safety, dependability, one-stop shopping, fast service, high value for money, low price, and more. Prioritize those values that are really strong, the ones that clearly differentiate you from your competitors. Now you have defined your brand.

To support the brand, make a list of the qualities that you, your employees, and your premises must display to customers in order to portray the image. For example, if safety is primary, your shop had better be neat and tidy. If fast delivery is key, the phones need to be answered promptly, quotes issued immediately, and inventory properly kept. If precision is your game, think about how people dress, answer the phone, and communicate in writing.

Some people think that their unique selling proposition (USP, otherwise known as ‘value statement’ or ‘company slogan’) is their brand. While a good USP may assist in conveying the brand, it is only a part of your branding strategy. Other people place much importance on developing a corporate logo, believing that attractive art will cover over whatever other weaknesses there may be in the brand or the branding program. The best designer will do you no good if your service is sloppy or your product is not up to the competition.

If you have a USP or logo, ask yourself and your employees what it stands for. If they cannot relate them to some key values that your company espouses, you likely do not have much of a branding program.

Remember, your brand is built and conveyed with every action you take, with every product or service you deliver, your every communication. While branding may be seen by some as something that major companies hire specialists to do, it should be an integral part of the life of small- and medium-sized firms that want to prosper and grow. While it is a good idea to hire specialists to help you with facets of your branding program, such as website, brochure, logo, and exhibit design, their efforts will not be optimized if the corporate brand is not developed, understood, and supported by everyone in the company, particularly top management.

Jon Baird
Jon Baird is the managing director for CAMESE.

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