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There are three things you should know about branding.

First, your brand is your reputation. That’s all. It’s what people think of you. Every business has a brand. Every individual has one, too. It's a little like high school. 

Second, you need to pay attention to what people are saying about you. First impressions are important—and these days folks are constantly checking you out, mostly with mobile devices.

Third, it takes time to build a good reputation. Improving the quality of your products or service will accelerate the process, and your own neighborhood is a good place to start.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS

Sometimes even the largest companies worry too much about their brands. Colossal rebrand fails abound; if you're a millennial you won't remember Radio Shack's name change to The Shack and Dr. Pepper's attempt to rebrand diet drinks for men, but you should ask why were rebrand efforts necessary in the first place. 

Logo redesigns fail, too. Gap implemented possibly one of the fastest recoveries of all time after reverting to their original logo just six days after putting its new design out into the public—after spending approximately $100,000.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU START

  • What problems do we hope to solve?

  • Is our preferred customer changing?

  • What do we want to say, and to whom?

  • Is our story outdated?

  • Are our products or services outdated?

  • Who cares about our brand?

  • If we were starting anew, would this be our approach?

  • How will we introduce our brand?

BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

The reality may be that you don’t need to spend a lot if your firm already employs savvy marketing people with good instincts. Many small businesses organize and conduct regular brainstorming sessions that are surprisingly effective in determining strategy.

For do-it-yourselfers, it’s essential that you be brutally honest with yourself. From the get-go you’ve got to maintain an outsider’s perspective and think like your prospective customers.

If you turn to consultants, they’ll likely want to address first things first. They'll tell you that a successful branding campaign today may hinge on things you don’t want to spend money on; for example, logos and websites. In those cases, there are good reasons to listen to them--particularly if you're targeting tech-savvy folks who increasingly go online to check you out before stopping by.

                    ---KEN BERRY 

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