If you have a brand, chances are you are part of the tidal wave of noise an average American tries to fight constantly. Research puts a number on this- a whopping 10,000 brand messages a day.
That is a lot of clutter eating up a person’s time, fatiguing their decision-making skills, getting them so overwhelmed that they develop an aversion to all things ads, and go back to the select line-up of brands they are comfortable giving their money to.
This rabbit hole of ads also shows the magnitude of competition your brand- especially if it’s a new one- stands to face and the sheer amount of force it would require for you to jostle your way to the front.
Brand equity is critical for this. Brand owners who don’t pay attention to growing their brand equity will struggle to get their brands the kind of attention it deserves, eventually losing out to their bigger competitors, thereby increasing their risk of going defunct.
Brand Equity: What does it really mean and why should it matter to you?
Brand equity is the value that a brand holds in the eyes of its consumer. It refers to thoughts, ideas, and feelings that the name or logo of a brand invokes in a person. Although an abstract concept, it does spawn concrete results, like revenue growth and higher market share.
We all have our own pocketful of favorite brands. Apple, Samsung, Walmart, Pepsi, Nike- these, along with many others, have become an integral part of our lives. Their marketing has been so well done that they have grown to define some of our life’s best highlights which further strengthens our relationship with them.
In a nutshell: If your brand and its products delight your customers and deliver on its promises then your brand has positive brand equity, but if you have a subpar product you, then you are bound to have not-too-happy customers, which leaves your brand with negative brand equity.
Positive brand equity will bring increased value to your company which you can extend to other sub-brands or products associated with your company. You can afford to increase the price of your products without the fear of losing many customers, and you can earn lifetime customers with strong brand loyalty which will, in turn, negate the constant need to spend a hefty amount of advertising dollars for customer acquisition.
Brand equity is an umbrella term that encompasses a broad range of concepts that together drives a brand to success. Below we will look at the four significant pillars of brand equity.
Brand awareness signifies how well a consumer is familiar with your brand: its name, logo, characteristics, products, and services. It’s the bedrock upon which brand equity is built. People like sticking with familiar products, so ensuring that your target market is aware of your product makes them more likely to reach for what you have to offer. You must have heard of mega-brands spending millions of dollars for a 30-second ad spot during SuperBowl. You can disregard it as the biggest waste of money, but since the Big Game is watched by billions of people across multiple devices, streaming these ads to these viewers is the quickest way to increase the awareness of a brand among a broad range of possible consumers. Small businesses might not have that kind of budget for advertising, but they should make it their goal to increase their brand awareness by making sure that their name comes up in relevant conversations; this will increase brand awareness and brand recall. Note that one-time brand exposure isn’t usually enough to make a long-lasting mark in your prospect’s mind, especially since they are inundated with marketing fluff every day. Repeated exposure is key to become memorable.
Just a glimpse of a brand name brings about a flood of different attributes that we intentionally or intentionally associate with a brand. It’s like hearing about a person from your friends. You automatically form ideas in your mind regarding what this person must be like based on what your friends say. In some vein, you might never have shopped Nike, but when someone mentions Nike, your mind still immediately brings up the iconic “swoosh”, its tagline-just do it, and images of sneakers, sports, speed, and power. Brand associations don’t refer to the products and its features you have to offer to your customers, but rather it denotes the attitudes and feelings they harbor for your brand. Every brand has its own bank of mental associations that customers connect them with. These associations help foster a brand’s identity. The set of qualities that a consumer associates with your brand should clearly differentiate you from your competitors. Positive brand associations will help people remember your brand favorably. It will provide them with reasons to buy your product, increasing brand equity, and thereby, add to the revenue.
Perceived quality refers to a consumer’s perception of a brand’s ability to meet their expectations. This might be vastly different from a brand or its products actually quality. Since its a perception, it’s predominantly carved from things like a brand’s projected public image, the image of their founders, celebrity endorsements, the customer’s experience with a brand’s other product. Perceived quality is hard to measure objectively because the perception of a brand varies based on the consumer’s personality, needs, and priorities. Factors like a brand’s reputation, marketing image, customer engagement, competence, responsiveness, reliability can play a role in affecting a consumer’s view of a brand’s quality. As brand owners, you should strive to make your offering relevant to your customers. If they like your brand and believe in the value it offers, then you will easily stand out from your competitors.
Have you ever went to Amazon to…say…buy a book, and been wowed by how effortless the transaction process is that you go back over and over again to place orders for mundane things that you can easily get from your nearest supermarket? That’s brand loyalty. It refers to when consumers show their commitment to a particular brand through repeated purchases. When a brand commits to delight its customers with high-quality products and excellent customer service, then the brand becomes trustworthy in the consumer’s eyes, making them a customer for life. In addition to that, as a brand, you want to attract people who are likely to stick with you. The way to do that is by appealing to a section of the audience whose value matches your brand’s value. Many brands also use incentives, like referral rewards, coupons, and discounts to encourage loyalty and repeated buys.
11 Practical Ways To Increase Brand Equity
Now that we know what brand equity is comprised of, let’s look at 11 ways to grow the brand equity of your small business. Please note that, each of these tips positively impacts one or all of the parts of the brand equity we mentioned above.
Find your USP
Every brand needs a compelling Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that inspires consumers to choose your brand over the other available options. Finding the USP for a company that sells one of a kind product with no competition isn’t too hard, but if your brand is in a conventional space with plenty of competitors selling similar products, then it can become a bit of a challenge to zero in on your exact USP. Here are 3 questions that should help:· What made you create this brand? What motivated you to spend your time, money and other resources to enter this space despite knowing about the fierce competition you stand to face?· What is something remarkable about your brand that sets you apart?
What do your customers really want from a brand like yours?
A USP should be emotionally driven and should be hyper-focused. Starbucks’ USP is premium coffee beverages, what’s yours?
Adopt a consistent brand image
A brand you should embrace consistency across various elements like the logo, font, and other design elements, along with your brand’s tone and personality. Being consistent might seem boring but it actually helps create the right perceptions in the mind of your customers. Brands that are all over the place risk confusing their customers, and it can come through as a lack of focus, professionalism, and stability. Being consistent across all platforms and brand elements ensures that you come across as authentic, or someone who is true to their brand identity, which builds trust and grows the customer base. A few things you can do to project consistency is to develop a brand guide. Update all the existing content pieces like social media profiles, web pages, blog posts, presentations, videos, to match the new brand guide, and then create your future marketing materials adhering to these guidelines.
Trademark your assets
All brands have distinctive attributes unique to their company, and these must be protected from being misused, or getting diluted among your competitors. Trademarking your logo, brand name, tag lines, packaging, or any other asset that’s unique to your brand is pivotal to your success. It protects your brand from getting its assets stolen by your competitors, so you can continue delivering value to consumers without any confusion. You should especially think about trademarking your business name if you use it to directly advertise to your customers, as it will make it easier for customers to find your brand. As your brand and its reputation grow, your trademark will increase in value too, which can be leveraged for profits during merger and acquisition. Since trademarks are a property asset, they can be sold, bought or leased just like real estate.If interested, you can start your trademark search here: the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Let’s pretend you have never had cereal before. But you feel a little adventurous one grocery trip and decide to turn to the cereal aisle. You are surrounded by boxed products with colorful packaging, claiming amazing health benefits. You have never tasted any of them but chances are you will reach for something iconic like Cheerios, Frosted flakes, Fruit loops, Cinnamon toast crunch, or Cocoa Puffs. This is because they are salient products that have essentially become eponymous with the term “Cereal” or “morning breakfast”.Can your customers easily think of your brand during the buying situation? Powerful brands have stronger brand salience than weaker brands. Brand salience grows with the number of links your prospects can connect your brand with, and with the quality of it. For example, people think of Subway when they hear “$5 foot long”, or quick meal that’s “fresh and healthy”. People will also think of it when they want a budget-friendly meal on the go.
If you can create memorable brand links to attributes that really matter, then your customers will instinctively think of your product when they are ready to make a purchase.
Sell companion Products
Many brand owners group their similar products together for selling. For example, selling electric toothbrush and a set of brush heads together. Or, promoting a makeup brush with a bottle of foundation, or eye shadow palette. Selling companion products give customers a good deal and makes their shopping experience better, and brings your brand more business per transaction. By presenting everything a consumer might need in a consolidated purchase, it will make their job easier, since they won’t have to shop around for the other products. It increases customer loyalty since they will be more satisfied with their purchase. So ask yourself, are there products or services that your brand offers that can be grouped together to make your customer’s shopping experience more rewarding?
Leverage celebrity endorsements
Pairing up with the right celebrity can bring in a lot of traction to your business. MarketWatch research shows that brands signing celebs see an increase in sales by up to 4%. But this can cost millions of dollars which many small businesses cannot don’t have the budget for. The good news is that the rise of social media marketing gives everyone an opportunity to become an influencer. You don’t have to sign on Kobe Bryant or Beyonce to feature your product. Instead, research and find key influencers in your niche who might have a small but passionate audience. Collaborating with them can add up to bring in substantial growth to your brand. Making an endorsement deal with the right influencer allows you to use the power of their name to back up the credibility of your brand which further boosts your brand equity.
Tell your story
Compelling storytelling can aid your customers to connect with your brand on a deeper level. It creates evangelists out of your customers who happily share your brand with everyone they know. Weaving the rational and objective side of your brand with elements of emotions that comes with storytelling is a fantastic way to create valuable brand assets. It helps you activate their imagination by engaging all their senses which is critical to creating emotional bonds. You can add stories in many different places across your brand assets, like videos, about us page, blog posts, social media messages, or even in trade events where you will be meeting key influencers. You can even share the experiences of other customers with your brand.
Build emotional capital
In a nutshell, emotional capital is loyalty that’s built over time with consistent positive engagement with your brand. It encourages people to do business with you, even if it costs a little more money. If your brand screws up a little, a strong emotional capital can cause your customers to forgive your mistakes easily. But how do you create emotional capital? The easiest way to do so is by treating each sale more than a transaction. Focus on delighting every individual that engages with your brand, even if they don’t make a purchase. Control the perception of your brand that you project to your audience, and try to find a similarity between your brand and your consumers and highlight that in your marketing efforts. Be vulnerable and relatable as a brand, and don’t be afraid of showing emotions in your brand messages. People like to talk to people, not corporations. Also, deliver consistent value before asking for anything. Infuse value in every interaction whether it be a marketing email or blog post promoting your newest product.
Make it resonate
Brands should always aim to relate to their target market. If a consumer can resonate with your products and see part of them in it, then they will give you their business, and add to brand equity. Brand resonance involves making your market aware of your brand, creating a product that meets the functional needs of your consumers, then creating associations that bring your product up in their mind when they are ready to make a purchase. By building brand resonance you create a deep psychological bond with your customers, inspiring them to give you their loyalty and repeated business.
Build social media assets
An online presence can be the most valuable asset a brand owns today. Social media is like the second home for many of us. It’s where the attention of your audience is, and as a brand owner, your marketing efforts should be directed to where the eyeballs already are. Having your brand present on platforms like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram adds value to both your company and the consumers. Most of the conversations about a brand happen on social media. By being present on these platforms, you open your communication channels directly with your customers, which increases engagement and customer satisfaction. It adds a layer of transparency to your brand and helps people trust you more. Social media assets increase your brand awareness among relevant audience, helps presents you as a thought leader, and builds a community where current customers bring in new ones
68% trust online consumer opinions, according to a Nielsen report, and increases your perceived brand credibility, thereby maximizing your brand equity.
Increase your search engine rankings
A brands website is a prime virtual real estate that holds undeniable power in attracting new business. Making sure that your pages are optimized for the right keywords is important to bring in organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing. A website without traffic holds no value. The easiest way to improve your search engine rankings is also the hardest way…but it works. Create a robust content marketing plan that keeps your website alive with a consistent stream of highly valuable and targeted content that’s aimed to nourish your website visitors with knowledge. Make these pieces of content keyword-targeted so you can rank for the right search engine queries. Research shows that small businesses who have blogs get 126% more lead growth than those without. So increase your brand equity by increasing the value of your website through content marketing. To maximize brand equity, you have to grow every element of the brand. Having a phenomenal product is a fantastic start but focusing on delivery value using the right channels, and nourishing the relationship with your consumers are the things that will increase the worth of your brand over time.