What is the difference between Apple and a generic PC manufacturer? Or the difference between Ralph Lauren and Target? It’s possible to make a list of the differences between a prestige brand and its market peers, but for the most part, they’re summed up by the nebulous concept of brand. Ask five people what “brand” means and you’ll get five different answers, but from a buyer’s perspective, a brand is a feeling about a company and the objects that elicit that feeling. The products sold by a prestige brand may not be superior to its competitors’ products, and the prices will almost certainly be higher, but the intangible quality of a well-regarded brand can override rational calculations.
Branding can make a huge difference to sales and to customer loyalty, but many small and medium eCommerce retailers don’t invest in creating a brand image that will make consumers feel good about buying from them. They compete on price, rather than perception. People want to buy from brands they identify with, brands that make them feel good, make them feel like the people they aspire to be. That desire is at the core of what makes Apple and Ralph Lauren different from their competitors.
Branding is a complex issue, but I’d like to discuss three areas that eCommerce retailers can focus on that will help them establish a brand image that has a positive impact on sales.
Brand As Personality
We’re more likely to identify with a person than with a faceless corporation, which is why successful branding campaigns focus on cultivating a persona with qualities more associated with high-status individuals than with companies. Successful brands are attractive, they’re edgy, they’re unconventional, they’re leaders and innovators. Or they’re solid, reputable, relatable, and trustworthy. Or they’re creative, challenging, and part of the elite.
There are many different “personalities” that can be associated with a brand, depending on the audience a retailer wants to appeal to, but without a conscious effort to cultivate those qualities, your brand is likely to be as boring as that guy at a dinner party who won’t stop talking about how awesome his new MacBook is. You don’t cultivate a positive brand by talking about how great you are, but by showing people how great you are.
Brand As Customer Experience
Branding has much to do with image and personality, but customer experience is crucial. Amazon established itself as trustworthy in an era when people were still leery of eCommerce with its no-fuss returns policy. Apple offers customer service above-and-beyond the average.
Successful brands craft a personality — in part — by creating an experience that makes consumers feel good.
Brand As Visual Design
Most people associate branding with logos, and although visual design is only part of building a brand, it’s a key part. The outward symbols that represent your business should call to mind the brand personality you want to create. Money spent developing a unique logo, color scheme, and tagline might not seem like an investment that will produce a good ROI, but smart visual branding that accords with your store’s brand personality contributes to building recognition and triggering the feelings you want to associate with your business.
Branding is a nebulous and largely intangible marketing strategy, but it can make a significant difference to the bottom line.