Branding: Expectations vs Reality

People have strange branding expectations.

This happens because everyone and their Granny has an opinion on branding, what it is, how it can help, how much it should cost etc.

And that’s fine.

The issue is, there’s a lot of miscommunication around the subject of branding.

In today’s post, I want to help clear up some of the confusion, and reset your branding expectations, bringing them back to reality.

Here’s the deal:

Branding is not a magic silver bullet. It’s not a pretty facelift.

It’s a marketing tool for your business, and should be treat as such.

Let’s jump in.

Expectation 1: Branding Will Make My Business Successful

Expecting branding alone to make your business successful is ridiculous.

To have a successful business, you have to have a great product, or service, that solves a real problem, or people want to buy.

If your business idea sucks, or your product just isn’t any good, no amount of professional branding or positioning will fix that.

And expecting it to is ludicrous.

Growing a successful business is hard, really hard.

Business success comes down to the product or service, combined with the marketing, combined with timing, combined with your branding.

But no amount of branding is going to make your business successful on it’s own.

Sure:

You can build a brand around any business, but branding isn’t going to help you succeed if you don’t deserve it, or put in the hard work that it takes.

Reality 1: Branding Can Help Grow Your Business

Providing your product or service is unique, solving a real problem, or is a desirable lifestyle brand, branding can actually help grow your business.

Your business needs to be right first, before you start the branding process.

And that’s why at Canny, we start everything with a brand audit.

A brand audit helps us check that everything is in line, before any work is started.

This lets us make sure a branding project is viable before heading off in the wrong direction.

So how can branding help grow your business?

Professional branding builds:

Recognition
Trust
Loyalty

Which is what keeps customers coming back. People like familiar brands they recognise, and trust.

Incentivise their loyalty with a scheme, offer, or coupon, and you should always have a customer base that happily returns and uses your brand again.

If you have a brand that’s positioned to capitalize on the right audience, that then goes ahead and delivers on it’s promise, and looks great, you won’t go far wrong.

Expectation 2: Branding is Just a Logo Design

Ah, this old chestnut again! This is the age old battle we fight at Canny.

If I had a pound for every time someone said to us:

“We want to build our brand, so need a quick logo design, and some stationery designs.”

Then I’d have a lot of pounds.

If you engage a professional branding agency to work on a project, and you’re expecting just a logo – then you’re in for a real shock when the wheels come off the project.

Branding projects deep dive into your business, positioning, story, values, and more.

This process might not be the right fit for some people. Quite often people actually do just need a simple, standalone, logo design.

Not all businesses need to invest in a costly branding service.

There are two types of businesses I’m thinking of specifically (although there’s probably more), and they are:

  1. Takeaways
  2. Tradespeople

People go to takeaways that are a) close and b) sell good food.

Branding can still play a role for takeaways, but, the chances are they’d be better investing in other marketing tools to capture their local audience.

It all depends on what you want to do with your business.

Are you wanting to run one successful outlet? Or are you looking to grow and takeover the world like Dominos?

If you want one successful local outlet, branding could work to grow your business, but it might be lower down the list of priorities compared to local advertising or Facebook advertising.

If you want to be the next Dominos, you’re going to need to invest in branding, it just won’t happen without it.

Your logo design is just one element that makes up your brand identity.

And your brand identity is just one element that makes up your business branding.

This expectation has a knock on effect when it comes to price too, but we’ll talk about that later.

Reality 2: Branding is a Lot More Than Logo Design ande Pretty Pictures

Like we’ve said, the expectation that branding is simply a logo design, is just not right.

Staying on our Dominos example:

Think of every Dominos leaflet that’s landed through your door. What does it look like and contain?

I bet the words coming to your mind are:

  • Blue and red
  • Special offers
  • Long and thin
  • Two for Tuesdays
  • “Mmm Pizza”

Branding goes beyond logo design and pretty pictures.

A Dominos leaflet contains their very specific blue and red colours. Usually several key offers. Big photos of pizza shot in a specific style. The leaflets are usually long and thin.

But their brand extends beyond that.

Their pizza boxes form their logo when put side by side. They have two variants. One red, one blue.

In store, their walls match the crazy typography found on their leaflets.

And most interestingly, they’ve captured and branded a specific day of the week.

You know which day I mean:

Two For Tuesdays.

On a Tuesday, no matter where you are in the World, you can get two Dominos pizzas for the price of one.

In University, I took full advantage of this, as did every other student. In Japan, when we went to visit Shodai, my wife and I took advantage of Japanese Two for Tuesdays.

And wouldn’t you know, the consistency echoes across the brand, and Japanese Two for Tuesdays is exactly the same as when you get it in the UK.

Except, you do have to try and navigate the Japanese website using Google Translate, which takes about half and hour!

And, in true Dominos form, the Japanese outlet emails you as much as the UK version texts you.

A truly consistent brand experience. But it’s easy to create brand consistency when you have a great set of brand guidelines.

So as you can see, branding goes beyond some pretty pictures and designs. It’s about how your entire business marketing approach.

Expectation 3: Branding is Easy, Anyone Can Do It

Some people think that branding is a “piece of cake.” Easy peasy. But not everyone is qualified to help build your brand.

A graphic designer that designs printed materials for example, may not be the best choice to work on your branding project.

Branding is a separate qualification to graphic design. And sure, qualifications sometimes don’t mean squat, but having that background is always going to help.

Branding is closer to marketing, than design.

It’s all about perceptions, how people view your business, how you can reach your target audience, and market to them successfully. Which puts branding firmly in the realm of marketing, over design.

Now, that’s not to say “only consult branding experts.” But it’s where I’d start.

All people can have good ideas, especially if you run a larger business, you might want to start collating thoughts and ideas about your brand in-house.

Start with an initial think tank or brainstorming session to kick things off. Then, take the results along to your branding agency. It’ll help them understand more about your business.

Branding projects can take a lot of time. And they’re not easy.

Reality 3: Branding is a Professional Service, and Should Be Treat as Such

Only professionals should be handling branding projects.

Branding is a professional service, and you should expect to treat it as such.

Creating a brand that supports and helps to grow your business is a time consuming process, that can often last anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks, depending on the size of the project.

The branding process has already been explained on our blog.

But essentially you have to:

  • Learn about the company
  • Learn about the customers
  • Research the market and opportunities
  • Create an identity that works to tell the brand mission and story
  • Iterate on the ideas with input from both sides
  • Test the ideas on the market
  • Launch the new brand

That’s a lot of work, and it needs to be handled by a professional.

Just like lawyers, and accountants, branding experts are highly trained – but they help you market and grow your business rather than dig you out of a legal hole.

What I would say is this:

Try and avoid those freelancers that claim to be branding experts, web experts, and marketing experts.

“Jack of all Trades” designers are like that electrician who is also a plumber, and painter and decorator.

You need to work with an agency if you want to place all of that work with one company.

And that’s what I’d recommend doing.

The best work comes out of the best relationships. The more you work together, the better the work gets, and the better an understanding that gets built between both parties.

If you’re looking for advice on the type of branding or design agency you need to work with, then we have a great post on that:

Should I Hire a Design Agency, Freelancer, or Student?

When it comes to your branding, the answer certainty isn’t student. But read up on the merits of the other two!

Expectation 4: Branding is Cheap, You Can Buy It On Fiverr

Because of the misconception that confuses branding with logo design as mentioned earlier, people have come to expect branding to be cheap.

Compound that with the fact that people often hire the wrong people to work on their branding project, branding can be seen as a cheap service.

But it’s not. And it shouldn’t be. And you certainly won’t find professional branding services on Fiverr.

In fact, you’ll find quite the opposite.

When it comes to the branding of your business, you want to make sure you have the right people on board.

And you’re not going to get that by communicating through a third party website, where people are forced to sell branding packages, rather than a branding service.

As a branding service can often take an agency 4-12 weeks to fulfill, it shouldn’t be cheap.

If you work with a small agency, you’ll have a team of professional branding experts working for you.

Therefore, the investment won’t be cheap. But it will be right.

“How much does branding cost?” is a question we get asked quite a lot. And it’s a really tricky question to answer.

There’s too many variables, without digging into a project fully, to give an accurate answer.

Companies have invested thousands into their business branding.

Smaller companies often invest a four figure sum, SME’s tend to invest around five figures, and large companies invest six figures or more.

But that’s a very rough guide.

If you want to get an accurate estimate for your branding project, then drop us a line.

Either way, branding isn’t cheap, and you shouldn’t buy it on Fiverr.

Reality 4: Branding is an Investment in Your Business, Don’t Buy It On Fiverr

Now that you know you shouldn’t buy your branding off Fiverr, let’s talk about branding as an investment.

Professional branding for your business is an investment that will serve you well over the coming years, if you get it right at the start.

By having a strong business brand, you’re making a strong statement.

As we’ve already discussed, branding helps customers recognise you and trust you.

Again, taking the Japanese Dominos example that we talked about earlier.

We specifically hunted out a Dominos, as my vegetarian wife was struggling to find food that she could eat. But she knows Dominos sell something she could eat.

So we hunted them out.

And that’s because we know the brand, and trust them to take care of us.

A strong brand can help you:

  1. Attract better customers
  2. Command a higher price
  3. Close sales more easily
  4. Reduce marketing costs
  5. Boost your business value

On top of that, by investing into your brand, you’re also investing into a relationship with a branding or design agency.

And that’s an invaluable relationship to have.

Our customers call us up to bounce ideas off, to sound off about strategies, to tell us what’s working for them, and to give us feedback.

This allows us to serve them better.

And we’re doing it because we want to help them, not just because we want their money.

When we pitch an idea to someone, it’s because we’re invested in their business, and they’re invested in us, so we want to make something work together.

Working together and creating partnerships with other businesses is a key part of our own branding.

We firmly believe in becoming strategic partners with the businesses we work with. It allows us to help them grow.

Design and branding is a great investment, and one that will provide you with a great ROI (return on investment) in the long run.

Expectation 5: I Can Always Rebrand Later, It’ll Be Easier!

Sure, you can always rebrand later, that’s fine.

But it’s also expensive. And it means you’re leaving opportunities on the table straight out of the gate.

And, it’s not at all easy. Just like branding itself, there’s a lot of work that goes into rebranding.

In fact, there’s probably even more work has to go into a rebranding project.

How so?

Because you have to make sure you don’t isolate your current customers, and fully audit everything that exists, or has existed up until the point you decide rebranding is important.

Rebranding is never easy though.

There’s more voices at the table, there’s customers to worry about, and there’s the inevitable worry about changing that you’ll have hanging over you for a little while.

Imagine this:

You get 3 years into your business, things are going well. But because you didn’t invest in your brand at the start, things are starting to go a little bit haywire.

Your employees don’t know what you stand for, you’re failing to connect with customers in a meaningful way, and your identity has no consistency.

However, now you have 5 shops, 10 vehicles, and thousands have been spent on marketing materials that aren’t hitting the market.

Now you recognise the fact you need to rebrand.

That’s both money and opportunity completely wasted.

It’s much easier to get things right at the start, and start as you mean to go on.

Even some of the biggest businesses in the world have failed at rebranding.

If budget allows, it might just be easier to start as you mean to go on.

Reality 5: Get Your Business Branding Right at the Start

As we’ve already mentioned, you can start building recognition and trust with your customers from Day 1.

And by building that recognition and trust, you’re starting to build brand equity.

Which is exactly what you want.

Branding should be seen on a level with sales. But it’s more of a long term play.

Think about entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

He sells. He sells his 4D course, he sells event tickets, sneakers, wine club memberships and more.

But he sells indirectly via his branding.

He offers so much great brand building content, and then slips in the odd bit about a product or service he’s offering.

By building his personal brand, he’s building his business brand, allowing him to make more sales.

People want to work with Gary Vaynerchuk. And that’s because of the power of his brand.

Branding is a slow burning sales process, but it’s one that, if you get it right, will always bring you a return.

Conclusion: Branding: Expectations vs Reality

There’s a lot of ways to slice the branding pie.

Some people just won’t invest, or don’t think they need to invest. And that’s fine.

But I think it’s a mistake.

Branding will work as a strategy for mostly any business. It might not be the highest up on the list of priorities, but it will still work.

If you do decide to brand your business professionally, do it as soon as you can afford to. Don’t delay.

Start building your brand’s worth from day one. It’ll serve you well in the long run.

What do you think? Has your business used branding successfully? Do you have any other branding expectations? Let us know in the comments below!

Tony Hardy is the Founder and CEO of Canny Creative. He is a graphic designer, web designer, brand consultant, blogger, Newcastle based entrepreneur, drummer, and wrestling fan.

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2 comments on “Branding: Expectations vs Reality

  1. Kyle Sloka-Frey on

    Great post! I can’t count the number of times that I’ve had clients go through our onboarding process and their brand is a fiverr logo and three vague words like “modern, clean, local”.

    Reply
    • Tony Hardy on

      Thanks Kyle! That happens all of the time to us too. There’s a lot of huge expectations that come with branding, hopefully I’ve managed to set some things straight in this post.

      Reply

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