A wind of change has swept over the youth in Ghana and has left in it’s wake a boiling surge for entrepreneurship. Almost every young, educated or discerning Ghanaian wants to start a business. Starting a business comes with it’s own whirlpool of obstacles and stepping stones and one thing most Ghanaian’s downplay is the essence of branding in growing a business.
Branding is very vital in a business setup just as makeup is for women. Most women, no matter how naturally or strikingly beautiful, can’t afford to step out of their homes without makeup on. At least a dash of mascara or lipstick to enhance their facial features will suffice. Same applies to business. No matter how much money your business is pulling in, it still needs a good level of branding. Not just to enhance it, but for recognition, sustenance and continuity. These assure business growth. Good branding lays the foundation for awesome advertising which in turn attracts an attentive audience, who are likely to part with their hard earned cash for a service they might not even need. You should not attempt advertising when you have not created a brand identity. A business with good branding can even sell sand in a desert.
When a stranger stops you to have a conversation with you, 90% of the time you will grant audience based on the person’s looks. A decently dressed or good looking person is sure to grab your attention than a shabby looking person. When you look good, people notice you and are likely to give you attention. That’s the same way if your business has good branding, it will possess stopping power and credibility to engage its audience at the first interaction. Now, two key things I find very vital in building a powerful brand are your brand strategy and brand identity.
Coca Cola has been my love-mark brand long before I started meddling in the brands-sphere. Most Ghanaian children grew up with a deep rooted love for coke. Well, blame it on the corner shop down the street that has coke being the dominant product in their refrigerator. A bottle of coke can be found in every nook and cranny in Ghana. Not one or two bottles, but crates enough to refresh thirsty guests at any Ghanaian occasion. The Coca Cola brand has experienced a colossal growth and stayed consistent as the most valuable brand in the world. They achieved this through a clear defining brand strategy. To build a powerful brand is not an overnight feat. It takes a lot of time that’s why there’s the need to incorporate a brand strategy from inception. Your brand strategy is your long term plan to position your business either within an existing market or as leader in a new market. First ask yourself where you want your business to be in the long term, and couch your brand strategy to suit this. In Ghana, most start-up businesses are unsure as to whether there will be a ready market for their product or service. It might sound like the wisest thing to do to abide by the popular saying “Only a fool tests the current of a flowing river with both feet”. A solid brand strategy disproves that and gives your business the guts to step into any river with both feet and still stand firm despite the rushing current. You don’t always need to have an existing market ready for your product or service. With a good brand strategy, you can enter a market with little or no audience and appeal to a teeming audience ready to spend. Coca Cola did the exact thing when they first emerged in an era where the only soft drinks were orange, Ginger ale, lemonade and a variety of other concoctions, Coca Cola created an absolutely new market called Cola. And with a well-defined brand strategy and consistence, they drove the cola craze into the minds of everyone. Now, an uncountable number of cola brands have emerged worldwide. Pepsi Cola, Afri Cola, and recently I even saw an “American Cola” advertisement somewhere in Accra.
A faceless person cannot be recognized, just as a nameless person cannot be called. After developing a good brand strategy, you cannot enter the market unnoticeable. You must be noticed, visually and aesthetically. It’s like building a house. After construction, plastering, electrical wiring and running water is done, you finally have the house painted. It’s not like you can’t live in the house if it’s not painted, however it is regarded as a mandatory thing to do once the house is complete. It’s mandatory because when people see an unpainted house, especially in Ghana, they refer to it as an uncompleted building. The paint makes the house look complete, noticed, recognizable and beautiful. Put your business in this context. Your business might have all the structures in place to commence but it’s never complete without a brand identity. Brand identity is basically how you want your consumers to perceive you. And this is made up of your logo, name, communication style, color and other visual elements that make you noticed and unique.
Starting with the name, most people take names for granted and just slap on anything that comes to mind as the name of their business. Names really do matter in developing brand identity. A typical example is culled from Al and Laura Ries book on “Origin of brands” . In this book, reference is made to how the best selling beer brands globally are light beers, and how Miller beer saw the need to create a watered down beer thus launching the “Miller Lite beer”. At the same time, renowned Swiss Chemist and beverage manufacturer introduced the “Hersch Gablinger” light beer with an even bigger advertising campaign. But guess what, Hersch Gablinger light beer died a quick death whilst Miller Lite has flourished till date. This happened because the name simply was not appealing and did not roll off the tongue well. Imagine entering a pub and asking the bar attendant “Hi, can I have a cold Gablinger “ . Really??? Sounds like you are requesting for a mythical creature over the counter. Sometimes we either slap any name or we think too complex and overboard when naming a product. The simpler and easily pronounced your business name is, the better. A good brand name should relate to the product or service you are offering, and most importantly it should also stick in the mind of the consumer for easy recall. I will recommend a two syllable name any day.
Now with a suitable name for your business, you need a logo and brand colors to enable easy identification. A logo is the graphical representation of your business, and most often the colors of your logo should run through all communication material of your business. From letterheads, call cards through to vehicle branding and merchandise. In developing a logo, you should aim at creating a symbol that can easily be recognized even without a mention of the business. A typical example is the Nike logo. The Nike tick or swoosh symbol can be used without the name Nike written anywhere, yet it’s easily recognised. Even if your logo is a font, like Coca Cola, it should be profound enough to be noticed even if it’s not spelling out the business name. Your logo, font or colors are represented in all your brand communications. Logo design is a very vital part of building your brand identity, because that’s the only visual the consumer connects with anytime there’s an interaction with your business. A well done logo saves you the trouble of re-branding when there is business crisis.
No one can ever look good without a face and clothes. Put a face to your business and dress it up in the best clothes you can find. A successful brand assures business growth and revenue.