There is a lot of confusion around brands. The misunderstanding of brands is due in part to our tendency to use the word for different things.
Some people use brand to refer to your logo. (More on this in a bit.) Sometimes we use it as a replacement for the word business or agency.
A lot of marketing articles talk about brands in terms of Apple or Nike. This can give the impression that a strong brand is out of reach for a small business like your agency.
I will tell you that is not true. You can have a strong brand. The first step to better understand what branding is. Allow me to help by exposing nine branding myths.
Myth 1: Branding is more than your logo and colors.
Branding is more than advertising. It is more than your insurance agency website. It is the sum of all parts. It is everything, including how your clients experience your agency.
Two components make up your agency brand: your efforts (internal) and what your clients think of you (external).
Branding is what you do to communicate your agency brand. Yes, that does include advertising and your insurance website. But it also includes how you answer the phone, respond to emails, handle walk-ins, etc.
For example, your marketing might say you respond to quote requests within an hour. So, you better have a system in place to do just that.
Otherwise you are not branding yourself consistently. You are promising one thing, and your client experiences another. That is what creates a weak brand.
Myth 2: Branding is hard.
While branding may be hard to understand, it is not hard to do. You don't need to be an agency marketing expert to build a strong brand.
Good branding requires focused thought on who you are and what you stand for. It takes intentional effort and commitment to then communicate that in (literally) everything you do.
Try to look at your marketing efforts like a consumer might. Secret shop your agency and experience what a consumer does when they call or email. Ask yourself: Does my marketing and experience match up? Is this experience what I want my brand to be?
If it isn't what you want for your brand, make changes.
Myth 3: Branding isn't important.
A brand can carry prestige. It is a reputation. It is the reason why people will pay for more for a pair of designer jeans than they would a pair of jeans from Target.
Building a strong brand will help you keep clients longer. How? They will be loyal to you instead of chasing the latest commercial that promises to save them money.
Myth 4: Branding is expensive.
A consistent, clear message is the most important part of branding success. You can do this with any budget.
The important thing when branding is defining in detail your target audience and message.
What demographics and other information describe your ideal client? What makes your agency stand out? Not just from the direct writers and captives but also other independent agents in your area?
This information will help shape whatever marketing efforts your budget allows. Whether that is a new logo, email marketing or insurance agency website.
With consistent, clear messages, your marketing activities are focused and will build a strong brand.
Myth 5: Branding can be finished.
Because your brand is fluid, branding is never finished. You need to continually look at your processes and marketing. You need to check that your branding remains consistent.
Say you hire a new person. Without proper training, she may not follow processes correctly. Or he might use a different email signature.
Or, say you use an outside agency marketing firm. That firm may create a brochure using blue and red instead of your agency colors of black and red.
It may not seem like a big deal. But, if you are not continually monitoring it, these differences can erode your branding. How? Because they are not consistent with your other efforts.
This is why you should never consider your branding to be finished.
Myth 6: Branding has immediate results.
Branding is a long game. It is about awareness. The McDonald's arches had no meaning when the restaurant first opened.
Sure, your brand and your messages can change over time. The best brands do evolve. But you need to give your clients a chance to react to it. You need to give them a chance to remember it.
You might become tired of it after a few months. But, given how much advertising we see every day, your audience may not have seen it yet.
Myth 7: Branding is the same thing as marketing.
Your brand is a combination of your efforts and what people think of you (see #1 above). A strong brand is one where the internal and external are in sync.
Marketing is specific, measurable activity that focuses on achieving your business objectives. It shows your target audience who you are and what you do. Some examples of marketing are advertising, content, email, direct mail, social media and events.
Your brand needs to come before your marketing. It is the base upon which you build your agency marketing plan. Marketing changes based on what is working, time of year, etc.
Put another way... Marketing generates leads and helps you close a sale. Branding turns those new clients into loyal fans of your agency.
Myth 8: Branding can be controlled.
You only control half of your branding efforts: your part. You can't control what your clients and prospects think and feel when they think about your brand.
People are going to say good things and bad things about your agency. It's part of doing business.
You can try to influence it by what you do and what you say. Are you doing what you promise? Are you meeting or exceeding expectations?
If the experience your clients have with your agency is consistent. If they can trust you to do what you say you will do, they will like you. Better yet, they will recommend you. This is how you influence their perception of your brand.
Myth 9: Branding is only for big corporations with large marketing budgets.
Every business has a brand. If you're not doing anything to build it, your brand may be weak. But you still have one.
Are you selling insurance? Do you have clients? Are you trying to get more? Trust me. You have a brand.
What are your thoughts about branding? I'd love to hear what you think about branding and marketing. Share your comments below.
About the Author
As vice president of marketing, Becky Schroeder oversees ITC’s growth through marketing and drives the overall marketing strategy for the company and its products. Her specialties include advertising, social media, email marketing, content marketing and public relations. Becky has a master’s degree in integrated marketing communication from Emerson College in Boston and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. Becky is a big Texas A&M football fan and enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with her husband and their two daughters.Follow on Twitter More Content by Becky Schroeder