What is branding and Why is it essential for your Interior Design BusinessAug 26, 2021
Every semester I lecture and discuss branding with my commercial design students. In my opinion, branding is critical to understand from a company perspective and a client perspective. Unfortunately, most do not know what branding is or how it would affect a business or even design. This shouldn't be a surprise, but it always surprises me. We are surrounded by brands, nearly bombarded, yet it is an anomaly for most—subsequently, the need to have a clear understanding of branding and how it affects an interior design business.
I once read about a research study conducted by university students at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Business. The research students wanted to determine the effects of branding on product value. Essentially, the study divided participants into three groups.
Using the same 18-karat diamond earrings, they asked the first group how much the earrings cost. The second group was asked how much the earrings cost if they were to purchase the pair from Walmart, and the third group was asked how much they would cost if purchased from Tiffany's. Keep in mind, the earrings were precisely the same for each focus group; however, the results were incredibly different.
The first group said the earrings cost around $550, and remember no store or specific brand associated with the earrings. The Walmart group said the earrings cost $81, and the Tiffany group said they were worth $873. The same pair of earrings costs were vastly different depending on the store where the earrings were purchased. Why is that? It has everything to do with branding and very little to do with the actual product.
Since the product was the same, the focus groups made assumptions based on their own perspective of the company rather than the product. If we delve into the Walmart brand, we clearly understand that we shop at Walmart because of its value. Our brand perspective tells us we are not buying the best quality, but perhaps the product's best value. We don't expect a high-end experience when walking into a Walmart, and we certainly don't get one either.
Whereas if we were to walk into Tiffany's, our perception is high quality, expensive, and status. The little blue box with the white ribbon that each product is delivered lends to that experience. If you have ever walked into the Tiffany's in New York, you know that as soon as you walk in, your breath is taken away by the atmosphere. The average person doesn't shop at Tiffany's unless it is a special occasion.
"Branding is how the customer feels every time they walk into your business or talk with an employee on the phone."
Interestingly enough, most people don't actively think about branding. People often think branding is a logo or the colors used on a company website, or even the font used. Yes, those are part of branding, a tiny part. What designers may not realize is branding is much more than a logo or colors. It includes tangible and intangible features such as design, symbols, colors, service differentiation, customer touchpoint, psychological stimulus or triggers, feelings, and emotions.
Branding is how the customer feels every time they walk into your business or talk with an employee on the phone. Working with you or your team may generate specific thoughts or trigger certain beliefs based on their past experiences. Your brand is the feeling you leave your client every time you hang up the phone. It impacts where someone shops, what they buy, and how they share their experience with others. Their perspective is branding.
Branding Types for an Interior Designer
Now that you have a sense of branding, it is vital to identify the types of branding best suited for your design business.
Services – An interior design business would fall into this category. Most design firms or designers offer a service. Therefore, you are explicitly providing value through your design services.
Product – If you offer products, this should be part of your brand as well. Ideally, you want to provide products of a certain quality.
Geographic – Your location and service areas are critical for your growth. Concentrating on the location you serve will help you determine branding guidelines.
Personal – Every designer, whether a principal or an employee, has a personal brand.
Private-label – You have created a private-label brand if you are offering other manufacturing products branded under your business name.
You may find that one or all of these apply. For instance, if your design business is based on your design style, you have a service and a personal brand. Likewise, if you sell products as part of your design services, you also have a product brand. All three of these would need to be addressed in your brand strategy, which we will discuss in the coming weeks, as they will tie together in your strategy.
Also, understand that you and your employees, vendors, and contractors interacting with your clients also impact your brand. For example, if you recommend a contractor that often misses deadlines, that will impact your brand.
Whether you are a business owner or an employee, developing and maintaining a brand is critical to your future success. Keep in mind, it is inherently essential for your business to identify and maintain a positive brand. It is guaranteed that a positive brand will impact your future revenue.
Want to learn more about branding and possibly get CEU credit too. Pre-registration is now open for our new course, “Build Your Brand Identity Beyond Logos: How Interior Designers Can use Branding.” We are currently finalizing the CEU status, but you can get a jump start by pre-registering today.
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