The majority of e-commerce entrepreneurs are seeking that “winning product” in order to achieve financial success. What happens if or when that product’s demand fades? To ensure sustainability in your dropshipping business, it is important to utilize the following brand elements, in order to create a loyal following.
Throughout this post I will outline elements of a brand. Many people think of branding as a logo, although that is a piece to the branding puzzle – there is much more to the story!
What is a Brand?
A brand ultimately is a combination of elements including a unique design, symbol, sign, and/or a set of words; placed together to create an image in the minds of consumers that identifies and differentiates a product or service from its competition.
As a brand develops, the image eventually associates itself with an expected level of quality, credibility and consumer satisfaction. As a brand grows, the entity usually protects it from use by others by securing a trademark from an authorized government agency. Before applying for a trademark, the business must ensure that someone else has not obtained one for the name in question.
Some of the most common brands in today’s world include Apple, Netflix, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Nike, etc. More specifically in the area of e-commerce and dropshipping, we have Dropified, Shopify, AliExpress, etc.
Below is a quick snapshot of some of the elements I’ll talk about below. Some of the elements are blatant and obvious, others will be more subliminal.
Why is a Brand Important?
The reasons why branding is one of, if not the most important element of marketing, will be subjective – however, just like the elements themselves, it is a combination of things.
- The first element regarding the importance of a brand is the internal direction. Whether it is a sole proprietorship or a corporation, association to the brand allows the business to establish a directional goal. In larger organizations, the brand will also assist in attracting top talent with a common goal by associating their desires with elements of the brand.
- By developing the different elements of the brand, you begin to personify the brand, which in turn allows consumers to associate with the brand. Why is consumer association important? Well, they will be driving the financial upside. If your consumers develop a sense of association with your brand, you create loyalty, organic marketing opportunities, and ultimately, greater levels of success.
- As mentioned in the paragraph regarding the definition of a brand, brands that are backed with a trademark have an element of protection from competition. This protection can be direct infringement from competition – or protection regarding brand association. Brand association will grow as your brand grows in popularity – however, that (hopefully) positive reputation you’ve built can come under attack. By developing the necessary legal elements under your brand name, you can more confidently protect your business name and reputation.
How Does this Influence Sustainability?
Successful businesses usually have one thing in common – they are able to attract and retain customers for future, ongoing visits and purchases from the business.
Many entrepreneurs in the dropshipping world are simply looking for the fastest way to make the most amount of money. Since building a business via dropshipping has a primary goal of revenue generation, this can’t be faulted. It can, however, come back to bite you if you are not strategically evaluating a product demand downturn and building your business sustainably.
Transactional selling is best described as the art of a short term – one-time sale. Many dropshipping websites are built off of this model, with no intention of retaining customers in the long term. They find a hot product and capitalize on it as long as time permits, moving as many units as possible – resulting in a large amount of short term revenue.
Transactional selling comes with the downside… Once that product demand goes away and the website has made no effort on brand loyalty or retention, the business is gone.
By establishing a quality brand, you can turn your customers into recurring customers. You do this by associating your brand with consumer personalities and product desires. In turn, you have the ability to gain a loyal following which results in sustainability through product changes and alterations.
Key Brand Elements to Build Upon
The following is a set of 11 Brand Elements that will allow you to establish a legitimate, marketable business. Whether it be your entrepreneurial adventure in dropshipping or the largest businesses in the world – all businesses that brand well do so through a similar framework of characteristics. You will notice plenty of overlap in the similarities of these elements, however, recognition and implementation of the slight differences are what will allow you to strategically differentiate.
Starting with the very basic, a brand identity is the manner in which a business presents itself to the public. The brand identity is most commonly a visualization of the brand and includes trademarks; that said, it can also include the many other elements within this list.
Most people think of a brand entirely due to a logo. In this case, a logo is essentially the most common element of a brand’s identity. Some of the largest organizations in the world have a widely recognized logo as the identity of their brand. Those who do it well, have brand associations even in the absence of text in their advertisements. An example of brand identity with solely logo utilization and the absence of text is Dropified Black’s logo below.
The business’ brand image is the view that customers hold regarding the brand. It is typically defined as a unique bundle of associations within the minds of the target audience. In most cases, this will be symbolic of what the brand stands for. Commonly, target consumers will develop various associations with a brand – however, they will have a connecting characteristic.
The easiest example of a positive brand image is Apple. Through innovation, sleek and dynamic designs, they have created brand loyalty through an emotional connection to their audience. By creating a fanatic consumer base, they prove that customers will pay more to align with a specific brand.
In your case, you can create a successful brand image through the products you chose to sell. Keep in mind, you will need to focus on quality and customer support in most cases in the beginning. From there, you can enhance and diversify your image through social initiatives.
When it comes to the way your product(s) are placed into the market, you are going to be focussing on brand positioning. What this means is – brand positioning defines the segments of the market that you are targeting.
For example – If you are selling baby clothing in your dropshipping store. What are you focussing on? Luxury look, comfort, low cost, practicality – or the best combination of all? Once you decide on your ideal consumer profile (likely the mother or father, most babies don’t have the purchase decision) you can decide how to position yourself amongst the competition.
Below is a typical positioning matrix that will allow you to conduct competitive analysis and to see where you and your business should carve out your niche.
As mentioned above, how you position yourself (hopefully) away from direct competition is known as your brand differentiation. In basic terms, how a brand stands out from the crowd. In order to differentiate, a brand will associate its superior performing aspects with different or multiple consumer benefits. The biggest benefit to having strong differentiation is it allows for a more highly targeted marketing plan. It will allow you to speak directly to the consumer pain points and how your product or service can alleviate them.
In recent years, one of the strongest displays of differentiation is Tesla. A few things aside – whether you like them or not, whether they have been profitable year over year or not – one thing is certain, they are extremely recognizable and easily the most sought after brand in their niche. A vastly growing niche that they have been a pioneer and driving force within. As for dropshipping, you’re not necessarily gunning to be a global mindset shifter – but what you can do is think very specific to your niche and solve a specific problem; a problem your target consumer group may never have known they have.
Shifting away from market position and differentiation, let’s now look at what’s within the brand. A brand purpose is a brand’s reason for being beyond making money – in my opinion, one of the most impactful brand elements. Below you will learn more about a brand promise, which is commonly thought to be interchangeable with the purpose. That is not the case, brand purposes connect with consumers on a deeper emotional level.
Most brands these days will have some element of brand purpose to align themselves with a social cause that the brand can be influential within. An apparel brand that does this extremely well is tentree. They are not dropshipping their items as their brand purpose has gone as deep as manufacturing eco-friendly, sustainable and ethically sourced apparel – but it shows you how an apparel based dropshipping store can easily utilize a purpose to get behind and be influential within.
The belief at tentree is that they can create environmental stewardship through the purchases or their items. It’s fairly simple, for items purchased, they plant trees. This is a basic purpose alignment that speaks to an emotional connection with a set of consumers driven on making an environmental impact in any way possible – including the shirt on their back. Through this mission, tentree has created high social value and loyal consumers resulting in high brand equity.
The brand promise is the experience or sense of value consumers can expect from a business – every single time they interact with that company. The more consistently a brand can deliver on that promise, the stronger the value of the brand will be in consumer and employee mindsets.
With your dropshipping store, this may not necessarily be a focal point in the beginning. But it should definitely be a part of the process. One simple brand promise you can start with is your policies and guarantees. Standing behind your products or ensuring high-end customer support in every interaction will go a long way to building brand loyalty. From there, you can implement extended quality assurance standards as you grow.
Moving down the road of consumer interaction with your brand. You will want to develop a brand personality; this is a set of human characteristics that are attributed to your brand. This allows customers to once again relate to your brand (think consumer profile but for the business). High quality and effective brand personalities often allow the brand to increase its brand equity through consistent embodiment of traits that the target audience enjoys.
An easy example that is widely known is Nike – as one of the world’s leading brands, they have the brand personality for extremely wide coverage, but all ties to a simple premise. ‘Just do it” – this brand slogan is relatable to everyone and offers them a sense of confidence. Their marketing also portrays a persona of excitement, provocative, rugged and innovative all at the same time. Below you will see a regional (Latin America) version of this brand personality – “Nothing Stops Us” – several different athletic consumer types, exuding the brand personality.
Brand personality will be important when showing consistency through consumer interactions. Your customers will want to communicate with a personality that is relatable to themselves – not a front-facing robot.
Building upon the brand personality – the brand experience is a function of marketing that integrates a collection of circumstances that create consumer emotions and feelings of positivity from the consumer. The brand experience will shape the way consumers feel towards a product or the business itself. This is the brand element that will help build consumer awareness and also contributes to brand/consumer loyalty.
Through consumer interaction with the brand personality – most commonly in customer support scenarios – we can see how it is a clear contributor to the brand experience. At this point in time, your dropshipping store will want to embody a brand personality for consumer interactions (social media, email and marketing). That said, you will also consider the touch points you will have during the shipment process, upon receipt of the product and most importantly of all – in the time after receipt of the product (remarketing or cross selling opportunities). Collectively, this will be the brand experience in the early stages of your business.
All businesses should start with a management of expectations and be realistic with the initial goals. That said, brand vision refers to the ideas behind a brand that help guide the future. When the brand vision it implemented with confidence, if reflects and supports the overall business strategy. This will trickle through to differentiation, it will resonate with the consumer base, energize you (your employees and partners), as well as allow for the flow of ideas into all of the brand elements.
For dropshipping, you can have a clear vision of what you want your brand to achieve and embody and speak that to customers. It could be a vision of social betterment, providing consumers with high quality goods, or essentially any other factor. The main thing to focus on is ensuring it is something you and your team believe in.
To learn more about branding and marketing topics, I like to learn from the diverse experts at TED. For the purposes of this section, TED’s vision statement: We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. Although an extremely vast vision, each and every opportunity to provide the world with knowledge allows them to be one step closer to that goal. Think big, but act intentional towards that vision.
This brings us to our final element – the brand extension. It can also be referred to as brand stretching, however, it is a marketing strategy in which a business has a well developed image. From there, they utilize that same brand name in a different product category. The new product is referred to as a spin-off. By implementing this strategy, brands can increase their overall exposure and brand equity.
For your dropshipping store, you will always want to start with a niche or narrow focus and grow from there. That said, if the opportunity to extend your brand becomes available – explore whether or not it makes sense. This will allow you to market a new set of products to your existing consumer base who already trust your brand and what you offer.
Find Your “Why?”
If you’re looking to dropshipping for an entrepreneurial opportunity with a low barrier to entry, excellent. It is an amazing way to build your knowledge and become successful in the space – that said, you must understand that dropshipping IS marketing.
By implementing these brand elements you can do a better job of creating a legitimate and sustainable business that consumers can create an element of loyalty alongside. This doesn’t mean trying to build a vast global brand – but rather, can be done with any type of store or scale. As mentioned throughout this article, you can utilize tactics and the framework of the world’s biggest brands, on your scale.
In the beginning, focus on the elements that are important to you – find your “why?” … Most commonly this will be elements that align with your purpose, which translates to the brand purpose. That is usually a good place to start as the driver to succeed under the additional brand elements. If you are considering other avenues for e-commerce – just know that dropshipping allows you to build your brand with freedom.
Best of Luck!