I was sitting on my deck enjoying an unusually mild, summer evening with my wife, when one of the kids inadvertently turned on an overhead light. Faster than you can say “Holy Bugs of Armageddon!” swarms of mosquitoes, gnats, and other flying critters congregated around the light by the thousands. The light was absolutely irresistible. As long as it was shining, legions of bugs came to join the party. Short of death (or the light going off), the bugs were glued to that light.

Being the analytical thinker that I am, I first wondered, “What in the world makes those bugs so attracted to the light?” — and second, “Where did my wife go?”

So, what does this have to with branding and marketing? Glad you asked! Think of your company as the light and the bugs as your prospects (nice bugs in this case — bugs that make your garden grow and don’t suck your blood!). Is your brand — like that light — attracting prospects by the hordes? Is there a strong bond that keeps your existing clients from flying away? Or is your light barely shining? Are prospects flying over to your competitors instead of you? Do you understand why? I would argue that it has everything to do with branding.

Great brands constantly attract new prospects and retain them as long as the light is shining. Smart companies know this and invest heavily into their brand because the payoff is significant.

When it comes to branding, one of the fundamental principles to understand is that most purchasing decisions are based on emotion, not logic. Why can Starbucks charge $5 for a cup of coffee and people happily pay the price? It’s not simply about what’s in the cup, more importantly, it’s about what’s in the experience. There’s an emotional connection that people have with great brands, such as Starbucks, that goes way beyond the product they are purchasing. This emotional connection is the light around which people flock.

The bad news first: Understanding how to create, craft and live out a genuine brand that others want to join is no simple task, but it is doable, even for a small company. Fair warning though, it takes significant effort — it won’t happen by accident.

The good news: Most companies (including most of your competitors), do not understand what it takes to create an irresistible brand and are not intentional about building one. In most industries, especially for small to medium sized businesses, there is a tremendous opportunity to capture maketshare by investing in your brand. Just like that light, it’s all about attraction and retention — without the itch.

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