Somewhere in a small office or a garage, a 20-something prodigy develops a revolutionary product. This product captures the imagination of billions, changes the landscape of an entire industry and transforms into a powerful brand.
Everyone wishes to recreate this tale. Everyone wants to become the next Steve Jobs and create something as iconic as Apple.
But some small businesses take a different approach. They don’t create a product of their own but market other brands to create revenue.
However, even without their own products, these ventures strive to create a brand and build a loyal customer base.
So how can companies that promote other brands become a brand on their own?
To get the answer, it’s first important to differentiate products from brands.
While it’s true that products can become brands onto themselves. And sometimes the brand name can be used to refer to products–there are some fundamental differences between the two.
Companies make products but it’s the consumers who make the brands. It’s the consumer perceptions, experiences, expectations with the products that give birth to brands. While Products offer function while brands offer emotions.
For instance; Starbucks’ product is a coffee. However, its brand includes everything from the epochal logo, consumer experience to that oh-so-familiar white cup. It’s the overall package that makes Starbucks a preferred choice for millions. In other words, people are pulled in by the Starbucks brand.
And that’s the reason why companies invest heavily in branding and put a lot of thought into coloring schemes, logo design, and packaging.
Most of the time, brands are built around products. However, that’s not always the case.
When Amazon started as an online bookstore in 1994, no one guessed it would turn into a multi-billion dollar behemoth.
Initially, Jeff Bezos’ company did not manufacture any products on its own. But that didn’t stop Amazon from creating a buzz that would take to unprecedented heights of success. Walmart has a similar story.
Plenty of retailers have been able to create a powerful brand identity without manufacturing a product.
But what about affiliate marketers? Can they achieve the same?
“A way for a company to sell its products by signing up individuals or companies (“affiliates”) who market the company’s products for a commission.”
Since affiliate marketers have little physical presence, can they establish a brand on their own?
Moreover, is it REALLY NECESSARY for them to become a brand in the first place?
Michael Mercer runs EMUCoupon, a website that accumulates coupons from a variety of Australian retailers. This model of affiliate marketing is being replicated throughout the online sphere. A website offers coupons for brands and when consumers purchase though these coupons, the website gets a piece of the profit. RetailMeNot has been able to emulate this business model to a great degree of success.
According to Mercer, becoming a brand is essential for EMUCoupon to survive and thrive, “Just like any B2C business, we need to keep customers coming back. And this is why; we keep them engaged through social media and other channels. Although we’re not selling any products, we want to stand out, create a lasting perception, in other words, we want to establish ourselves as a brand”.
For a company without its own products, creating a buzz and getting people excited is not easy. And this gets more complicated if the company is working with other brands.
People are more likely to focus on the brands being offered rather than the platforms offering them. So how can retailers and affiliate businesses establish their own name and worth?
It’s not necessary to have your own products to build a strong brand name. Using mediums such as YouTube, blogs, and podcasts –retailers and affiliate marketers can get their message out.
Doing this, these companies can build a community of interest. NamoBot is another website that delves into the coupon business while also offering naming solutions to small businesses. This website has done a great job with its dedicated blogging section, which gives out important advice to entrepreneurs. The blog generates activity and puts the company forward as a distinguished brand.
One of the most effective approaches to branding is to think of the brand as a person. There are many personalities one can go with. A reliable helper, a responsible guardian, a fun-loving hipster, the possibilities are endless.
It’s important to select a personality that matches your business model. For instance, if you’re an online clothing store, you should evoke the image of someone that’s trendy, hip and basically the life of the life party.
Brands cannot exist without consistency. Inconsistency -such as frequent logo change or using social media to share silly memes when your brand image is supposed to be serious – could be the death of your branding efforts.
Meanwhile, reinforcing a uniform image, value and personality make for well-executed branding. Of course, the brand can change over a period of time, but that should occur when your organization is reinventing its overall brand personality.
As a retailer or an affiliate marketer, you can only do so much blogging and social media advertisements before exhausting all channels. But there’s another, more unusual option- which is creating a digital product.
Digital products like webinars and eBooks require little investment when compared to traditional brand development tools. However, when used effectively, they can bring in customers in droves. They are especially effective for affiliate businesses that are looking to have a tangible presence.
Doesn’t matter if you’re marketing brands from other companies – the logo, color scheme and messages of your company should remain prominent. It’s important for people to hear your voice, see your image and engage with your brand personality.
Although the business model requires you to promote a variety of products, the theme should remain consistent. Even something as trivial as the use of color can create a powerful connection between your brand and consumers. The spirit of your brand should reflect in all promotional efforts.
Creating your own brand while advertising products from other companies is difficult, but it’s doable. Retailers like Walmart and Amazon were able to carve out loyal customer-bases before they ever marketed a product with their own label.
In a similar fashion, affiliate businesses are establishing their own brands through social media campaigns, blog posting, and video marketing.
By building a consistent personality, giving it a powerful voice and distinctive visual appeal, any business can create an identity. An identity that will set it apart in the mind of the customers and give birth to a strong brand.