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4 Elements of a Winning Brand When it comes to your image, are you hitting hard or striking out? Cover all your bases with these 4 critical elements of a winning brand.

By Kim T. Gordon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What instantly springs to mind when customers hear your company name? If you're uncertain--or even worse, stuck with a less-than-stellar image--it's time to give your brand an overhaul. It's no coincidence that industry leaders in every category from soft drinks to spas toil endlessly to create some of the world's most recognized brands. But it doesn't have to cost millions or take years to put your company's branding efforts on track. Just follow these four guidelines to create a winning brand image.

1. Differentiate your brand. Branding is all about sending a strong and consistent message. Every time a prospect or customer has contact with your company, whether it's by visiting your website or seeing a print ad, he or she has a branding experience. Fine-tuning your brand image is particularly critical if your business is in a highly competitive product or service arena--your brand will separate your company from the pack.

If it's been a while since you performed a competitive analysis, make time to take this important step in realigning your brand. Clip all your competitors' ads, review their PR coverage, research them online, and buy their products and services. Then decide what makes your product or service different. It's this point of differentiation that allows you to create an image that sticks in customers' minds.

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