[Here’s an article I wrote on behalf of a client of mine for a business magazine]

At the top end of town, “corporate Australia”, well designed/managed brands are worth millions if not billions of dollars. They help companies generate huge revenue and big profits. When a brand is developed and maintained professionally it can also achieve the same growth (not necessarily the same in dollar value but the same in percentage growth) for small to medium sized businesses. That is the power of a good brand. The business name, logo and vision that you have right now have the capacity to generate more thousands of dollars – if you allow a brand expert to assist you.

Microsoft is number two in the world ($US54B) with profit margins of 42%. Every year it pumps $US1.6B into advertising and marketing to keep it at the top. It too has a clear vision which helps it dominate the IT market. Bill Gates says “We started with a vision of a computer on every desk and in every home. Every day we’re finding new ways for technology to enhance and enrich peoples’ lives.” It sounds similar to the Apple ethos. Together, they are shaping our world, changing our lifestyle, and we love them for it.

As you can see, having a vision for your business is very important. It means thinking about where you want to be, how you are going to get there. It can be large-scale or as simple as coming up with a way to provide an existing product to the market place in a completely new way. A well thought out vision and mission statement helps your company and its employees to understand your direction and values.

Coca Cola, ranked 3rd in the world brand list with a value of $US50B, is another company with a clearly defined vision. And it is not just about making sweet soft drinks even though in 2012 they sold 26 billion cases of products. The sheer might of their brand is best summed up in this comment from a CC executive: “If Coca Cola were to lose all of its production related assets in a disaster the company would survive. By contrast if all consumers were to have a sudden lapse of memory and forget everything relating to Coca Cola the company would go out of business.” The amazing thing here is that the value of the brand is almost half of the actual market value of the company’s sales.

Ikea is another highly successful company with a strong brand and vision. Their belief is that good design should be available to everyone at affordable prices, not just to the design “snobs”. How did they achieve this? By offering flat pack DIY-assembled products – a business model which dramatically reduced overheads and made the products easily affordable.

Where do you begin with your business? You need to understand that your brand can highlight what makes you different and more desirable than your competition. It elevates you from being “just like everybody else” to being something unique with a promise to your customers. It creates an emotional resonance in the minds of your customers who choose products and services using both emotional and pragmatic (logical) judgement.

People will often pay more for a brand they like and trust. For this reason you want your brand to form perceptions in peoples’ minds and the brand can then influence these thoughts. You should desire for your brand to be distinctive, trusted, reliable and meeting the needs of your customers. A survey by The Research Business International found there are 10 values that most businesses want to be known by: quality, openness, innovation, individual responsibility, fairness, respect for the individual, empowerment, passion, flexibility, teamwork and pride in their work.

Of course, people are not robots and you can’t have absolute control over how people respond to your brand. However, intelligent use of your brand by brand and communication experts in design, marketing and advertising will help to generate the right responses. They understand that audiences differ in each market sector and fine tune the brand communication accordingly.

Away from your marketing, you need to have everyone in the business embracing the brand and what it stands for. It’s no use promoting friendly customer service and failing to train your staff to act in a certain way. When you consider that values such as trust, honesty, fairness and respect for the individual are difficult to communicate in design and text…the one to one human interaction between your business and consumers is where you are able to reinforce what the brand stands for. Marketing and advertising alone are not enough.

It is this connection with people which is so critical to building a powerful brand. Delivering a promise or solution. Think of when Apple (at a time when it was in financial hardship) came out with the iPod. Apple had connected with the people. It said we know you love your music and being active and outdoors, so we’ll make it really easy for you to take your music with you. Music evolved into movies and iTunes and really that is the success of Apple. Not that they make well designed products but that they understood the consumer and provided a solution which made life better. Consumers want to know that you know them, their likes and aspirations. Is that a part of your brand and business vision?

In summary, as you look at the brand of your business, consider the following: what is the big picture or the big idea…what do you do and why and how are you going to impact your market? What is your vision for the future? What are your values and beliefs? How do you want to be portrayed in the market and perceived by your potential customers (your brand personality)?