Gaining a Quantifiable Competitive Advantage Through Branding
When you’re an individual, they call it a personality.
When you’re a company, they call it a brand.
But that doesn’t mean simply having a company with “flair” is going to win you new leads and customers. You need to gain a quantifiable competitive advantage if you’re going to make branding work for you.
The problem: this kind of competitive advantage can be hard to define. And there’s no specific set of gauges that tell you exactly how well you’ve branded your company. To cut through the clutter, we’ve put together a list of tools and statistics that will help you better understand the need for building a quantifiable competitive edge through branding—and why it’s so important:
Does “Branding” Really Work?
If you’ve never thought of your business as a “brand” before, you’re missing out.
Consider this: there are over 40 million images posted to Instagram every day, and when Deobrat Singh, the CEO of GazeMetrix, examined just how many featured a specific brand, the results were astounding. 10,000 of the images were pictures consumers had taken of the Starbucks logo.
That’s one brand that appears to be working.
But do other (smaller) brands have the same incentive to focus so keenly on their business brand? As it turns out, the statistics show it’s indeed worth it:
- A report at Lucidpress found that consistently presenting the brand led to an average revenue increase of 23%.
- Of B2B marketing leaders surveyed, 77% reported that branding is critical to their growth, according to Circle Research.
- Reuters reported that 82% of investors attributed brand strength and overall name recognition to helping them make their ultimate investment decisions.
This swath of statistics shows that not only is branding considered important by the people who make branding decisions, but that effective branding has a demonstrable impact on the bottom line.
How does this create a “competitive advantage” for specific companies? That requires a bit of creative thinking on the part of each brand. The key here is differentiation: the ability to use branding to selectively target different audience segments in a specific market.
For example, Figments pointed out a variety of differentiation strategies across industries. Both Chipotle and Taco Bell target a younger crowd that’s looking for a convenient Tex-Mex experience. But the branding couldn’t separate the two companies further apart—the tagline “We’re not afraid to say we’re real chickens” on the part of Chipotle demonstrates their attention to the quality of their ingredients, while Taco Bell’s advertising tends to focus on fun, affordable food.
Has it worked? Chipotle launched a “For Real” campaign to highlight specific ingredients—a campaign that the Wall Street Journal called the largest campaign in terms of spending for a quarter. Only time will tell whether this specific branding campaign will work, but one thing is clear: companies like Chipotle see the power of a distinct personality and use it to the highest possible competitive advantage.
Given the statistics that suggest better branding will yield in bottom-line results when it comes to the competitive advantage, what are some ways today’s companies can go about building a stronger, more recognizable brand? Here are a few suggestions:
- Do you have a specific market segment you want to target? Let’s say you have a brand that’s targeting business owners who tend to be 40 years of age and older. You wouldn’t want to create a brand that’s youth-focused, emphasizing low prices and a goofy personality. Instead, you’d want to communicate that you’re a professional business that is worth the investment of their well-earned money.
- Customer loyalty. When you consider that customer loyalty is often worth as much as 10 times a single purchase, you realize the incentives that companies have when driving repeat business. Customer acquisition cost is not only one of the most important statistics in all of business, but effective branding can help lower it.
- Why is trust important? It goes beyond the above point—customer loyalty—because trust is at the heart of what allows business leaders considering your brand to make a decision. Trust is important everywhere—for consumer brands, trust helps guide millions of individual purchasing decisions every year. For larger B2B firms, trust makes those key business relationships possible.
- Is your brand noticeable? When your brand launches a new campaign or posts a new piece of content to the web, do people listen? According to Scott Davis of Prophet Thinking, there are four key principles to brand relevance: customer obsession, ruthless pragmatism, persuasive innovation, and inspiration. A brand like Etsy, for example, finds its brand relevance by connecting customers with inspiring work. Where does your brand fit?
- This is one of the most important core values a company can have, and it will come across in your brand. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t change your entire image for the sake of one advertising campaign. Instead, get a thorough sense of your target audience and focus on the authentic messages that will resonate most with them.
Building a Better Brand Through Visual Recognition
The success of Starbucks is unusual—but it’s not a coincidence, either. Starbucks is a focused, established brand by the design of a market team with years of experience.
But what is a brand like Starbucks doing so well? One strategy is incorporating a consistent color. Choosing a color can increase brand recognition by up to 80%, according to some statistics, which is why so many of today’s top brands are associated with strong colors—Starbucks’ green, McDonald’s red and yellow, even Apple Grey. Color is the most immediate visual sensation we’ll experience with any brand, and it will affect how we perceive the rest of the brand’s “personality.”
Choosing the right colors is also important. Starbucks’ energetic and “organic” branding fits in neatly with the choice of green for its color.
But the visual representation of your brand goes beyond the choice of color. Consider that most people process images remarkably faster than they process words and letters. This is why so many brands work hard to create an immediately distinguishable logo. And if a website has an unattractive layout, some statistics suggest, 38% of users will stop using the website based on that visual representation alone. That’s about on par with how many users will stop using a website because it’s too long in loading—which shows just how important visuals are at every step.
Another powerful way to utilize visual content: video. 78% of us watch videos online every single week because they’re convenient, they’re powerful, and they can be highly entertaining. There’s no reason you can’t also leverage instructional and inspirational videos in a way that resonates with your audience. And according to HubSpot, the majority of people pay more attention to the message when they’re watching a video, which gives you even more incentive to make your message clear.
Creating a Sense of Authenticity with Content Marketing
Another way to build a competitive advantage through branding is through employing content marketing.
The idea behind content marketing is simple: you create something of value in order to build a reputation of trustworthiness. Essentially you create valuable material (in the form of blogs, videos, presentations, and more) and use those individual levers to bring new potential customers to your brand.
Content marketing can be highly effective when it comes to gaining an advantage over your competition. Consider:
- According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers already use content marketing to build their brand. If you’re going to be competitive in a B2B industry, you have to differentiate yourself with a unique content marketing strategy.
- Content marketing outperforms the advertising dollar spent on paid search by three times, according to statistics available at Forbes.com. That means it’s important to have a strong enough budget for content marketing that allows you to position your brand as a source of expertise. Those brands that do so can expect a high long-term return for their marketing dollar.
The value of content marketing comes in building a trustworthy brand. Those leads and customers who come to your brand for valuable insights have a pre-established relationship with your company before they ever choose to work with you. And since they’ve already found value in the content you put online for free, they have some basis to imagine what it might be like to work with you.
How to Tell When Your Brand is “Working”
Getting a quantifiable competitive advantage through branding isn’t always a linear path. It can require a lot of upfront investment and “guessing in the dark” before you see its results.
But we started out this article by talking about a quantifiable competitive advantage. And that means that as you build your brand, you’re going to need some ways of analyzing your success, so you can adjust your strategies as necessary. Without quantifying your competitive advantage, you’ll never be sure if your marketing efforts are up to snuff.
That means a few things:
- Investing in analytics. There are plenty of content platforms online that make it possible to measure the success of your content marketing, for example. The same is true for virtually any new type of marketing you might launch as it relates to your brand—social media, sponsored search, offline advertisements, and the like. Don’t dive head-first into a new campaign unless you’re confident that you have the analytics in place to keep track of your efforts.
- Consistent effort. If the average brand requires some 5 to 7 impressions before they’ll start being remembered by customers and clients, then it’s safe to say that you’re going to need to persist for a while before you can gauge your company’s success. That means patience. It means sitting idly by and waiting for results. And that’s not always fun—but you’ll often find that as long as you have a new branding campaign in effect and you’re analyzing your results, the long-term reward will be a competitive advantage you can indeed quantify.
Branding yourself isn’t always easy. It’s possible to make mistakes—the wrong choices that end up turning off your market segment, for example. But as long as you remain consistent and build a brand with specific objectives in mind, you’ll be able to utilize today’s marketing tools to better create a brand personality that fits your company and attracts the clients you want.