The basic principals of branding
How many times have you tried to figure out your “brand” but couldn’t really seem to make anything come together?
Most likely you’re not even clear what a brand really is or what it’s supposed to do. I get it, it’s a completely confusing concept…except that it isn’t.
Before I explain what I mean, let me get into some of the common misconceptions most people have about branding:
A brand is not –
- Your logo
- Your website
- Your imagery
- Your social posts
- Your marketing material
Yes, these things make up aspects of your brand, but no combination of any of these things on their own makes a brand. Your brand is not a tangible “thing”.
Put simply, your brand is a strategy which combines: marketing, design, business values, vision, mission and the voice you use to communicate your message to your audience.
Here are a few questions that can help you determine whether or not you’re off to a good start with your brand:
- What are your brand values?
- What is your vision for your business?
- Whose problems are you solving, specifically, and why?
- How do you talk to people about your business?
- Is your customer’s experience consistent from start to finish?
Did you take note that not one of the questions I asked was about your logo or how you want your business card to look?
A brand is about establishing the experience that you promise your customers.
Anyone can start a business.
But without a brand your business will have no soul.
Basically, in order to design all the elements of your brand you need to go deep and build the character of your brand based on your vision, mission, and the people you want to help.
Actively implementing a strong brand strategy allows you the opportunity to influence the way your audience perceives you. The more clear you are about who you are as a brand the more easily you will attract people who will value you the most.
Pretty cool, huh?
Oh, but there’s more!
The more consistent your brand experience is, the more recognizable you become, and you will eventually lock into the minds of the audience you want to attract.
The Flip Side – Brand Confusion
For example, your copy may say one thing and your images suggest something different. Or even if you change the style, colors or feeling of every single social media post. How are people supposed to know what you stand for? What your message is?
The worst is when you appear to be a certain kind of warm, friendly brand with mad skills, but turn out to be cold and rude and somewhat offensive. Unfortunately I recently experienced this with a brand that I was convinced I would hire when I saw their website…until I actually met them.
Yikes! No thank you! Their brand and customer experience were completely out of alignment.
Friends this is a PSA – please check yourself before you wreck yourself!
Every single interaction a person has with your business is a “brand experience”. From your website, to your newsletters, invoices, instagram posts, freebies, on-boarding process, your marketing copy – ALL OF IT!
And it’s in those experiences that you build trust and loyalty.
You become recognizable and memorable. People will start sharing your content and referring your services.
But you should know that if you do things differently every time, no one will ever remember you. It’s possible that you’ll get noticed once or twice, but forgotten if the next time you post it’s something completely different (aka “Off-brand”).
You want your audience to recognize you so they can get excited when they see you have something new to share.
Consider the last time you bought something online. How many interactions did it take before you decided to fork over your money?
What was it about that brand that made you choose them over any of the other brands that sell the same thing?
There was probably something about it that you identified with, right?
That, my friend, is how a brand works, how it sets you apart from others in your industry. It’s not that other brands are worse or that you’re better, it’s just that you’re different. And that is what you need to focus on in order to create a lasting brand.
Literally, the worst thing you can do is try and do things like your competitors. Of course, you can use their brand as a guideline to follow, but you’ve got to pave your own way. Your customer probably doesn’t want a cookie-cutter experience and if they do, well then they’re probably not your ideal customer.
Try thinking of it this way: pretty much everything has been done in every industry there ever was.
How many coffee shops are out there? A lot. But you have a favorite. Why? Maybe it’s a certain cool vibe when you walk into the shop? The way the staff greets you? The way they present their menu? The way they talk about their food? Is it funky? Is it pristine? Does it make you feel proud when you hold their coffee cup with their logo on it? Like you belong to a community of like-minded individuals. Maybe you want everyone to know that you go there because it says something about you?
Really ask yourself, what about it do you love so much?
A brand is an aspirational experience. What does your customer aspire to be?
Take the time to build your brand in a way that is aligned with your vision and mission. Let your audience know what you’re all about before you even talk to them. It will set the tone for how you deliver your services and/ or products with actual paying customers. It establishes the kind of relationship that you have with your audience and what you’re likely going to provide for them.
Branding is a powerful tool in building meaningful relationships with your audience. But make sure you follow through with the expectations you set from the start. Otherwise it’s a flop.
Remember, consistency is key!