Written by: Kaine Levy
I recently ran a poll on LinkedIn asking my connections to tell me which they thought was more important; product or brand. The results were 55% in favour of brand and 45% in favour of product. Here’s the interesting thing, though; the majority who voted in favour of product were founders and CEOs.
This not only surprised me but it revealed two alarming conclusions:
CEOs are highly misled about what makes the highest impact on their business growth.
Almost 50% of people don’t realise just how high the ROI of branding really is.
Today, I want to tell you why building a brand is the most profitable investment you will ever make for increasing revenue and skyrocketing your business.
Defining “Brand” and Its Importance in Business Growth
The concept of “brand” has become incredibly convoluted over the past few years because people define it in so many different ways. For me, one definition trumps all others because it keeps things nice and simple. Jeff Bezos, who clearly knows a thing or two about building brands, says that "your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.” In other words, it's the reputation of your company and the product or service it offers.
Think of it this way: if the product or service is what you offer, then the brand is how you deliver it (your experience) and why people should buy it from you instead of your competitors (your differentiator).
The hard truth is this: the features and benefits of your product are, for the most part, irrelevant. Unless you’ve come up with something truly innovative in your field, customers expect your solution to do what it says on the tin. And yet, everyone and their dog is marketing the features and benefits of their product as if it’s going to help them stand out in some miraculous way.
Let's take traditional watches as an example. They all do what you expect them to do; tell the time. But if you’re a consumer and have 50 options of watches to choose from, how do you narrow down your decision?
You might start by discarding the most expensive 10 because they’re out of your budget. You remove another 15 because they don’t meet your aesthetic preferences. 5 of them don’t have the chronometer you really want and 5 of them don’t have the type of clasp you like. That still leaves you with 15 watches. You’ve done everything you can to narrow down your options based on price, features, benefits, and personal preference.
Realistically you were never interested in those 35 watches anyway because they didn’t fit your criteria so this was purely a process of elimination.
So now we come to the most crucial stage of the process: the buying decision. How will you, the consumer, decide between these last 15 watches, all of which match your criteria and preferences? The answer is brand.
The Benefits of Investing in Your Brand
I want you to think about dating for a moment. Perhaps you’re currently looking for that special someone, or maybe you’re lucky enough to already have them in your life. Either way, dating is about being yourself, finding someone who appreciates that, and then building a connection with them based on shared values and experiences. This is exactly what branding is. It’s building meaningful relationships with customers. In doing this, you yield bigger and better results over time, as opposed to the smaller short-term wins you get from direct response marketing.
Here are some of the key benefits you can expect to see in your business after building a brand:
Increased customer lifetime value - as we just discussed, branding results in better relationships with consumers. Relationships result in community, and community results in repeat purchases.
Higher profit margins - according to Statista, people, on average, are willing to spend 20% more on brands that represent their values. Consumers are very intentional nowadays with who they buy from, so make sure you're clear about who you are beyond your products.
Easier sales - how much easier would your sales process be if your audience were familiar with and warmed to your brand? It completely bypasses the vetting and comparison process which is where most buying friction occurs.
Free marketing - not to say you shouldn’t keep investing in advertising. However, strong brands have consumers who advocate for them, spreading their products and message willingly. Brand advocacy is the holy grail for any business. It's practically a bottomless money pit.
Higher visibility - products backed by a strong brand have higher recognition, recall, and salience with consumers. These are just fancy ways of saying you’ll get seen and remembered more, and we all know that sales happen when we’re top of mind during a buying decision.
Premium pricing - trust me, Sainsbury’s baked beans are just as good as Heinz, yet we pay 3 times more for Heinz. You can charge more money for the same item just by slapping your logo on it. Imagine what tripling your price could do for your bottom line..
Strong reputation - brands that stand for something, work towards change, and include their consumers in the process build strong reputations. Strong reputations make you more popular, and popularity results in more word of mouth and more money.
Better employee satisfaction and retention - people forget that brand is internal, too. Getting clear on your vision, mission, purpose, and values helps you attract and retain high-value staff. Happy and high-performing staff results in better service and more satisfied consumers.
Branding is exponential in its benefits. The stronger your build your brand, the more people you delight. The more people you delight, the more the word spreads about your brand. The more the word spreads about your brand, the more people buy from you. The more people buy from you, the more your brand grows, and so the cycle repeats.
The ROI of Branding and How to Measure It
Across the entrepreneurial landscape, business leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Alex Hormozi have been sharing their experience with building brands, the success branding has brought them, and the reasons why they moved away from direct response marketing.
For all the reasons mentioned above, the ROI for building a brand is exponentially higher than any form of marketing or advertising. However, branding can be tricky to measure because it doesn’t rely on hard metrics like ROAS, conversions, and clickthrough rates. It’s certainly not impossible, though, and I’ll share some ways to measure your brand in just a moment.
Thinking back to our dating analogy from earlier, if I asked you, “How happy are you and your partner in your relationship right now?” you might find it diﬃcult to verbalise. You certainly wouldn’t be able to use simple yes or no questions. That’s because relationships are measured by how you feel, not by what you do. Brands are measured in the exact same way.
Here’s how you can measure the success of your brand:
Interviews are a great way to get really personal with your consumers. They’re particularly effective for asking specific questions about what they buy, who they buy from, why they buy, and how they feel about your brand compared to your competitors. I recommend organising a monthly interview with a random customer for feedback.
2. Observational studies
Observational studies are the most powerful method for obtaining qualitative data (information about how people feel). The way to conduct observational studies is by observing your customers in their natural buying environment without interference. In doing this, you can learn how they make buying decisions in the most honest way possible. For example, if you sell food products, hang out in retail stores to see how people interact with your product versus your competitors.
Surveys are the easiest way of collecting data at scale and can also be exceptionally cheap. They’re great for gathering statistical data like what brands people buy from and what products they prefer. However, surveys won’t give you any psychographic information about why consumers make those buying decisions. Some tools you can use for conducting surveys include Typeform, SurveyMonkey, and Hubspot.
4. Read reviews
Reviews are an unsung hero in the world of measuring brand success. It’s one of my favourite methods because you can gather valuable insights if you know how to read between the lines. This strategy becomes really powerful when you analyse the reviews of your competitors. Their positive reviews shed light on the benefits you can implement into your own brand, whilst negative reviews tell you what gaps exist in your market that you can create the solution for. Google reviews, TrustPilot, and Facebook are great places to start with reviews. For a more in-depth guide, click here.
Combine at least two of these methods to achieve a healthy mix of statistical data, consumer feelings and behaviour to help you measure your brand’s success.
Tips for Building a Brand That Stands Out
So now you know what a brand is, why it’s so powerful, and how to measure it. But how do you actually build a brand? The full answer is far beyond the scope of this article, but let me share the five key areas you should focus on to get you going:
Identity and visuals - your logo, colour palette, packaging, and messaging are your first touch point with consumers. Just like our dating analogy, you need to create a solid first impression that wins customers over within a few seconds and draws them in to want to learn more. If you don’t, you risk losing them forever.
Positioning - your positioning strategy is what customers know you for. To help your brand stand out and be remembered, you need to position yourself in a completely unique way. It needs to be something your competitors aren't already doing. An example would be Rolex (elitist, premium) vs Swatch (affordable quality)
Consistency - you need to ensure you’re giving customers a consistent experience across all touchpoints in your brand. From your product and your social media accounts to your customer service, a consistent experience sucks people into your world and elicits feelings they won’t forget.
Nurture relationships - think about how you can look after your customers after they purchase from you. Most companies forget this step because they’re so obsessed with the initial transaction. However, the truth is that most of your money is made in repeat purchases and in extending the lifetime value of your existing customers.
Have a vision - make your brand more than just selling products. Have a vision and invite people to be part of it. As human beings, we have evolved to exist in communities and strive towards shared goals. If you can give that to your customers, they’ll gladly give back to you with their money.
Branding: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Businesses are starting to catch on to the value of branding but most of them are still not respecting it to its fullest potential. By doing so, they’re leaving huge gaps in the market that you can take advantage of.
As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to be a visionary and an early adopter, so take advantage of the most profitable growth opportunity available to you right now and start building your brand. Marketing is all about getting, branding is all about giving. As Alex Hormozi says, “Give give give, give give give, give give give… GET!” And boy, will that “get” be huge if you do it right.
About the author:
Kaine Levy is a certified brand strategist and the founder of Ventur Agency. With over a decade of experience in the branding and marketing space, Kaine has helped companies internationally grow successful brands using his proprietary NewVenturᵀᴹ framework. His expertise has been recognised in industry publications, and he regularly speaks at events around the UK, sharing his insights and inspiring others to build human brands that do good for the world. Kaine resides in London, UK, is an avid musician, and loves being a dad to his pet cockatiel.