In a competitive market place, the importance of developing your company brand should not be underestimated. Your brand is like the face of your company; it communicates your company’s values to consumers and promotes a recognisable identity that allows people to make an instant connection with your product or service.Why is it so important?Branding is the quickest way to communicate your company’s message to customers. Getting your brand design right can express the values of your business simply and effectively and allow people to make an instant connection between your brand and your business.Implementing the correct branding strategy can also contribute to the credibility of your business. It’s important to recognise that business credibility cannot be achieved overnight, it is a gradual process of attaining and maintaining excellent customer service and delivering what your customers want. As your company becomes more established within the marketplace, however, your brand will provide a clear association with your company’s products and values, and will help to really cement your business in the consciousness of your target customers.Good branding can create a bond between your business and your customers; if people can identify with a brand they are more likely to stay faithful to it. It is not unrealistic to state that effective branding generates an emotional response from customers, a sense of involvement and identification with a product or ideal. Capture the imagination of your target group with your brand and you will undoubtedly add to your customers.Successful branding is more than customers recognising a logo. As you develop your brand and customers choose to invest in it, your brand will become synonymous with the distinctive qualities that will make your business stand out from the competition.The Benefits of Creating a Strong BrandA strong brand identity can influence the consumer to choose your products (or services) over those of your competitors. Once your brand is established and trusted in the minds of those consumers they are more likely to buy other products from the same brand with confidence, often at a premium. This process is crucial to success; as you continue to raise the profile of your brand and establish consumer confidence, the brand becomes more important than the product as the consumer becomes loyal to the brand. Creating and developing your brand, therefore, is not about making a sale but about leaving consumers with a clear and lasting impression of your company, your products and your values.Where to BeginYour company values are integral to developing your brand identity and the best place to begin a successful branding campaign is by identifying what you consider to be your company’s strengths. These could include things like excellent value for money, the ability to meet deadlines or outstanding customer service. The important thing about identifying your brand values is that those values are relevant to your target client group. If, for example, you work as a mobile hairdresser and your client group is predominantly pensioners, it would be more sensible for your brand values to reflect friendly customer service and affordability rather than cutting-edge, high fashion styling techniques. Whatever you identify as your company values, it’s essential that you deliver on them consistently.Your existing customers can be a vital resource; talk to them! Ask them why they chose you over your competitors. Find out what is important to a potential customer in the decision making process and be prepared to make changes based on what you find out. Always remember that every exchange you have with a potential customer is an opportunity to reinforce your brand values.Finding coherence across all aspects of your business is a key element of successful branding. From your business name to your logo and strap line, your business stationery and website, how you answer the phone and deal with customers and how your employees are dressed; every aspect of your business should contribute consistently to your brand identity and your company values. It’s important that your employees believe in your brand and communicate this to potential customers. The trick here is to keep it simple; identify a few central brand values and ensure that they are reinforced whenever possible.Developing your brand needn’t necessarily cost a great deal of money. Identify your immediate priorities (e.g. logo and stationery design) and develop other areas as your finances allow.Developing a Visual Brand IdentityAs has already been discussed, a great deal of the work surrounding successful branding is concerned with establishing company values and with consistently pushing these values out into the market place and into the consciousness of potential customers. The visual aspect of your brand identity should go hand-in-hand with your company’s values in order to maximise your brand’s potential and to present your business in a coherent way. There are 3 main ideas to consider at this stage and these will permeate many of the ways in which you present your business.Brand colours – Different colours have different associations and so it is essential that you choose colours that will represent your brand effectively. Companies that promote natural or organic products, for example, will often select the colour green for their packaging because of its obvious association with nature. It’s also important to consider the many ways in which your brand colours will be used; something that looks good on a website may not look so good on your company stationery.Brand logo – It is important that your chosen brand colours work well with your logo. Company logos can take many forms and may incorporate symbols, pictures or other design elements. As with your brand colours, it’s important to consider what message you’re trying to communicate through your logo; the best logos are often the simplest ones. It’s also a good idea to think about whether your logo will translate well to a black and white reproduction where this may be necessary.Brand Typeface – As important as the design of the brand colours and logo is the selection of your brand typeface; this will help to create the character or “personality “of your brand. Are you aiming to create a traditional image or do you want your brand to have more of a contemporary feel? Choosing the correct typeface to complement your brand colours and logo is an important step in the overall development of your brand.The development of the visual identity of your brand is an important step in raising the profile of your business. Once you have created this identity, it’s important to make it work for you. Your company logo should feature prominently on every product, invoice and email associated with your company. It should be displayed on the uniforms of your employees, on security passes and on all company paperwork. The more visible, recognisable and memorable the visual aspect of your brand is, the greater the impact of your company on the collective consciousness of the consumer.