Do you know the difference between brand awareness and brand engagement? Are you a small business owner that thinks branding is a marketing activity for only the large companies such as Mercedes-Benz or Sony? Branding is important for all companies, regardless of size and budget.

Consider these questions and answers provided to SCORE by Gemini Babla, Director of Creative Services who oversees branding initiatives for Sony Electronics Inc. in the USA:

Why Branding Is Important in a Tight Economy

Q: Is it important to continue brand building in a difficult economic climate? Why?

Babla: It pays off. Studies have shown that stocks of companies with both high brand awareness and high employee “brand engagement” return over 300% more than the S&P 500 and nearly twice as much as companies that just have high brand awareness.

Branding is often confused with advertising and marketing. That’s unfortunate, because understanding your brand is vital to the bottom line. Studies show that companies that market their product or services without first establishing their brand identity are not likely to achieve return on investment. If you’re spending money to advertise without being connected to a brand position, you may as well flush the money down the drain.

Q: What can a small business learn from Sony?

Babla: Large budgets aren’t the key to strong marketing. Instead, focus on your audience and provide quality, quality, quality in everything you do.

Q: What advice would you give a small business owner right now?

Babla: Do what you say you’re going to do. This may sound like common sense, but one of the primary drivers of brand loyalty is a consistent experience. If you say you are going to have the photographs ready on a set day, be sure they are ready. Positive experiences lead to good feelings, which lead to customers telling their friends. Don’t forget that bad experiences spread much faster and are harder to overcome…if you get a chance at all.

Also, your employees are the biggest stewards of your brand says Babla,

“Branding is as much about your people as anything else. The best interactions come from one-on-one conversations between executives, employees, suppliers and customers,” Babla says. “Employees who are engaged with your brand management philosophy will become brand ambassadors for your company.”

Low Cost Branding Tactics
By Greg Magnus, AIM Custom Media:

  1. Email signature line: Basic tactic but how many emails are in your inbox right now without a signature line that includes a website link and/or tag line? I find it hard to believe many business colleagues have an AOL ad on the bottom of their signature line instead of a link to their own company website (again, common sense).
  2. Social Networking Profiles: Again, adding a link to your own website takes a few minutes on LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, etc. Also, review your bio as well as your employees’ bios on the social networking sites; do they include a consistent message? Your company’s tag line and keywords important to your target audience/industry?
  3. Connect with your employees and customers online: Search social network sites and connect with your employees and customers. Do they understand your brand? Are they participating in conversations about your industry and your company? Join the conversation and be consistent with your brand message. Again, include a signature line and a link to relevant information that helps those in your industry find advice of value.
  4. Blogs and Forums: Did you ever notice there are certain people on blogs and forums that you recognize? Why not be one of them? Consistently provide helpful information and answer questions of others; hundreds if not thousands of people might find your advice helpful and subsequently share it with others.

Additional Resources:

SCORE/SONY Branding Tips