It’s bound to happen to any online startup: you take pains to form a brand, generate some buzz, and make your product the next big thing on the Web. But somehow it doesn’t happen, and you are left watching your money go down the drain.
Chances are you’ve stumbled into one of many brand barriers—market conditions that keep your brand, and subsequently your business, from taking off. This article discusses four of the most common brand barriers in the online marketplace, and how you can get over them.
The general idea is that branding doesn’t come cheap. But Hermawan Kartajaya, founder of Asian marketing giant MarkPlus Inc., thinks otherwise. Many startups, he says, spend millions of dollars on aggressive strategies that don’t really say anything. Branding and advertising aren’t the same thing. For a small company, it makes more sense to start with tried-and-tested methods like word of mouth. If you know what you’re doing, it won’t cost you anything but will still generate the credibility you need.
It’s true that there will always be competition, especially on the Web. But just because there are a million other similar companies doesn’t mean you have to go head-to-head with all of them. Put your branding position in perspective. If you’re a new online retailer, don’t call yourself the next Amazon; instead, you take an angle that turns your weakness into a strength. Show people how, as a smaller company, you can offer personalized service, better communication, and other things that a retail giant can’t.
Experts like to call it “analysis paralysis.” Sometimes, you get too caught up in market research, web metrics, and other tiny details that the whole effort stops moving forward. These are all important, to be sure, but don’t let them distract you from the big picture. Use the numbers as benchmarks for success, but don’t make them your goal. Once in a while, take a step back and see how your brand is looking from a fresh perspective.
4. Internal branding
Kartajaya cites internal implementation as another common barrier to successful branding. Many startups fail because the people who run the company do not reflect its values themselves. It’s not just about using the company newsletter or putting your logo all over your website; it’s about taking on the right attitude. It’s not uncommon for employees of big businesses to memorize the corporate motto or sing the company song—it’s not exactly high-level marketing, but it works. Let your people know what your business stands for, and they’ll unknowingly pass the idea on to your customers.