By Monika Labbé

As more and more people create products and services the word “brand” has almost become synonymous with the word trademark. The company’s branding is what distinguishes or differentiates it from others. It’s similar to the way cattle ranchers branded their cattle over 100 years ago, to distinguish which group belonged to whom.

Question is, what does this really mean, and why is it important for me and my business? Years ago when a now famous soda company was getting started, it needed a way to stand out from all the other soda companies out in the marketplace. If we broke it down to the bare bones, we could say that a brand is simply a non-generic name for a product that tells us the source of the product. In years back, we referred to these non-generic names as brand names. So then is there a difference between a brand name and a brand? Is there more to the perception of distinctive products and services than their names?

It is my belief that business owners create a specific perception in the mind of it’s customers concerning the qualities and attributes of their specific product or service and then call it their “brand.” Simply put, your “brand” is what your customer or perspective customer thinks of when he or she hears your company’s name. It is everything the general population thinks it knows about your name brand and what it offers, whether it’s factual (it also comes in canary yellow) or emotional (it’s authentic).  Your “brand name” exists objectively, but your brand exists in someone’s mind.

So, it’s safe to assume that when a customer has a real relationship with your brand and feels comfortable around it, you can start to see your brand growing stronger. Customers will sometimes have nicknames for your brand, just like in real life people sometimes create nicknames for those they feel a fondness or affection for. This would be brand reinforcement. Sometimes though, these perceptions can have a negative effect. Like, for example the retailer Whole Foods, which has been known and called “whole paycheck” by loyal shoppers.

The best way to be remembered is to be first in your prospect’s mind. It’s no accident that brands have become synonymous with their function. What tissue do you use? Kleenex. What coffee shop do you frequent? Starbucks. People love to remember and be loyal to things that have been around a long time. It’s no accident that they were also the first. People also love what is new, they can’t help themselves. Why do you think People magazine was named “People”? Yes, for its readers.

It’s no coincidence that people can remember the names of the Olympic Gold medal winners but not so much the silver or bronze. People are naturally drawn to firsts. So instead of copying a business idea, or someone else’s vision or mission, why not pick a different perception so that you can be sure to be the first one in the customers mind. This is when knowing your competitor comes in handy. Remember those wars between McDonalds and Burger King or Coke & Pepsi? Same products, different approach. McDonalds was fried but Burger King was flame broiled. Coke was Classic but Pepsi was the choice of a new generation. If you can successfully sidestep the old perception and firmly establish yourself as the go-to place or person for your product or service with what makes you different, that would be “new”.

So then ask yourself, what is the purpose of your branding efforts? What is it that you are trying to achieve? Is your product or service distinctive? Simply asking others to buy your product, is just not enough. Remember that every product has something unique about it. Do you know what your unique is? Is it very different than your competitor? Customers now have so many choices and need some way to distinguish among them. They really are looking for you to help them decide. It’s essential to educate your clients on the difference they are getting from you. This really comes down to knowing who your ideal client is and what specific thing about them would link your product or service together.

Sometimes we get so bogged down with running our business that we forget what the real purpose was of what we were trying to achieve in the first place.  Is the purpose of your branding efforts helping you gain more clients? If not, it might be time to take a really hard look at your brand.

Having been a professional photographer for over 13 years, I feel very blessed to have been published in numerous books, magazines, and websites. For me, seeing how my photos touch others, whether they bring a smile, a chuckle, or a tear, is what I consider truly priceless. I welcome the opportunity to bring that to you and your family. For more information regarding photography services, please contact me through my website,or email me directly. ~ Monika Labbé, Visual Storyteller