Updated: Jul 14
I’m obsessed with branding. I just think it’s the greatest. If you are, too, you probably get it, but if you aren’t, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to showcase yourself to the world (and your customers!).
I also happen to think it’s a ton of fun!
First of all what is branding? It’s NOT slapping a logo on everything and anything in sight. That’s doing branding wrong.
Strong branding creates an indelible experience for a consumer – one that is seared into their brain via neurologic shortcuts – think visuals, sounds, smells, and physical experiences. It encompasses all of the six senses.
In fact, fMRI studies show that strong brands are associated with positive emotional triggers connected to rewards and self-identification AND less effort is needed to process these than weak brands.
You probably want in on that, right?
This is probably intuitive, but your goal in branding is to be the first person or business that comes to mind when an individual suddenly needs to make a purchase. If these emotional triggers are already in place in their mind before the need arises, you are in an excellent position when they are looking for someone who does whatever you do!
This is all that marketing comes down to. It’s so simple.
Do thing. Repeatedly. Create emotional trigger. Customer’s need arises. There you are!
However, getting bogged down in the execution is incredibly easy.
So how do you execute branding well to make sure someone thinks of YOU when they need your service?
The following four sections are an introduction to branding. It’s where I’d start if you haven’t even thought about branding before, and where
1. Which platforms will you spend your time on?
Before we talk about branding, we’re going to talk about your customers. Do you know where they are? Kind of sounds like a dumb question: I mean, they’re in your vet clinic, or you interact with them online or something???
This also seems like kind of an odd question to start with for our first step into branding, huh?
This, however, is one of the most important questions in all of marketing, because it determines where you will be targeting them. Will you be sending out email newsletters? Will you be doing ads on Facebook? Instagram? The yellow pages? Will you sponsor a local animal event for publicity?
Do you know where your clients hang out to socialize online? In person? If not, I would strongly advise finding out more about their habits – a survey is a great way to do this. If you are hesitant to do that, ask them in person.
For example, if you are spending money on Facebook ads, but your client demographics are seniors who prefer newspapers (find out which one!), you probably could be spending your money better. Or, if you are paying for a yellow pages ad when you have a considerable millennial demographic who hangs out on Instagram, that’s a missed opportunity!
I mean, what’s the point of going through all of this awesome branding if no one’s going to see it?
(Need more help finding your target market? I wrote a full-length article about it here. )
2. How are you advertising?
Once you figure out where your customers are, you will irrefutably benefit from using advertisements targeted at your target market.
You are to use your new branding, if nothing else just to remind your clients that you exist – yes, that is a valid tactic, and actually a darn good one! The marketing “Rule of 7” says your potential customer needs to hear your message seven times before it sinks in, so saturate them with those cheap social media ads.
While we’re on the advertising topic, let’s review your current marketing plan: What items are you using to remind customers that you exist? Do you use items like pens? Magnets? Beer koozies?
My very honest opinion as a former cash-strapped clinic owner is – especially if money is tight – that you are much better spending your marketing budget on social media ads and less money on these things.
(Hey, here's a dirt-cheap ad that YOU, too, could be using:)
However, if you chose to use these items, ask yourself these question: “Is this on-brand?” and “What is the cost-to-benefit ratio of this item?” There are some swag items that will probably reap bigger benefits per unit of cost for a given customer – it is just hard to identify which customer that is.
Still don’t want to give these up? One idea I have moved towards is social media giveaways. These combine people’s innate obsession with free stuff, but lower your overall cost of publicity. Oftentimes, doing these actually allow you to give away one single, but more expensive item that your potential customers will actually value more.
3. How consistent are you in your execution?
Let’s say you’ve gone through the branding process now. You’ve determined what your “new brand message” is going to be. You’ve come up with a month worth of posts, blogs, and color-coordinate items for your clinic, and it’s all just BEAUTIFUL. People will be knocking down your door soon, right?
Branding takes time and consistency. It goes back to that adage that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
On top of that even after you’ve decided what your “new brand” is going to be, you’re not done. If you’re doing it right, you will always be re-evaluating the entirety of your brand image, and the longer you pursue branding, the better you will get and the more it will reflect what you actually have to offer.
I think the funny thing is – and I’m not alone in this – is that branding actually helps you start to realize your own life priorities. You start living your brand, and I mean that in a good way. It’s the Marie Kondo “if it doesn’t bring you joy,” get rid of it.
If you commit to this process, you will start living and working in a way that is more true to you, and that will actually make you happier. There is to be nothing fake in this process.
4. The Presentation!
And the part that brings me the most joy? The presentation itself: the colors, the fonts, the voice.
However, none of this matters if you fail on the aforementioned factors! You want to be presenting your brand in the right location, advertising appropriately it, and using it frequently and consistently across all of these spaces.
As far as the presentation, we’re a scientific group, so I know some of us might see this part as “artistic” and “not scientific enough.” However, branding is backed up by behavioral, psychological, and neurological research, and lots of it! And the great part is that, by extension, it can be broken down into a science so you can produce it – even if you don’t see yourself as a “creative type.”
(Since we’re all medical geeks here > one of the more fascinating areas of research is neuromarketing which uses fMRI to evaluate everything from packaging and ad preferences to color psychology to help brands make better choices in their marketing.)
This is where I think it gets fun: sculpting your brand is a quest to find the most genuine version of yourself or your business and reflecting it outwardly so your potential customers can understand what you have to offer.
Every aspect of the branding process is determined by you. What do you like? Why are you so passionate about what you do? How do you want a customer to envision you?
Of course, it’s for your customers, but it’s mostly about you, and deep down we’re all a bit selfish. Branding is where it’s okay to focus on you and not (so much) your customers, for once!
It’s like trying to write a best-selling novel about yourself or your business. It’s 100% about you, but you need the readers to be interested enough to buy it.
Are you ready to start writing that novel?
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Stay tuned for more info to come on branding!
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