The Art of Building and Growing Alaska Brands: Finding the right tactics to garner hard-earned Alaskan loyalty.

Author:Barbour, Tracy

Branding is an intangible but powerful force. It subtly shapes the identity of a company in the minds of consumers and, ultimately, the marketplace. That's why it's imperative that businesses make a conscious effort to establish, maintain, and grow their brand. And branding can be even more important for companies operating in Alaska, a relatively small market where relationships and reputations often play an expanded role in business success.

The words "brand" and "branding" are somewhat nebulous terms that marketers define in a variety of ways. So what exactly is a brand? In a broad sense, it's the combination of all the attributes that make up a company's identity and the essence of what it represents to consumers. To Sarah Erkmann Ward, a company's brand is what it wants customers to think of when they see its logo, promotional materials, and advertising, along with what they read about it in the news and online. "The brand helps the company stand out from competitors by drawing attention to their products and services, and it's what makes them unique," says Ward, president of Blueprint Alaska, an Anchorage advocacy and strategic communications firm.

Branding is when a company creates a name, symbol, or design that is easily identifiable as belonging to that company. And it's critical for businesses and organizations because it tells customers what the experience with the company will (or should) be. A strong branding program gives companies a competitive edge because it clarifies what makes them different and better than other companies. "A solid brand ultimately leads to increased awareness and sales and creates a favorable business environment," Ward says. "Branding also provides clarity to company employees and helps them develop pride and satisfaction in their work."

A brand is much more than a logo, color palette, or tagline, according to Kaylee Devine, an account planner with Spawn Ideas, which was named the 2018 Small Agency of the Year by Ad Age. A brand is a promise to customers, a promise of an experience. It's the associations people think and make about a company, and creating those associations is important. "About 95 percent of our decisions are intuitive, so helping to create those strong brands helps you get to those associations faster," Devine says.

However, the brand also must be very ownable, resonate with customers, and drive a company's value propositions. There's real weight behind a strong brand, Devine says. It's not just a fluffy marketing strategy. "A powerful brand helps you drive longer business growth and minimize price sensitivity," she explains.

Brand Building in Alaska

Given the uniqueness of Alaska, there are marked differences between building a brand in Alaska versus other places. Ward sums it up this way: "Alaskans demand transparency and authenticity. It's the reason voters are skeptical of politicians wearing shiny new Carhartts. If you're going to succeed in Alaska business, it's critical to understand the nuance of the market and avoid unforced errors. Consulting with Alaska-based professionals can help."

She adds: "Of course, businesses nationwide are also expected to be authentic, but there's more emphasis on being 'one of us' in Alaska than in other...

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