We all know that branding is something that we have to do for our businesses, but what does that really mean?
I’ve taken a deep dive into some of the ways that you can think about branding, and how to use it to do things like define your business and speak clearly to your customers.
You don’t have to hire a team of researchers to help you develop your brand. You can start by examining the brands that you admire, the brands of your competitors, and by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- What do you want?
- Where do you play?
- How do you win?
What Is a Brand
At its core, your brand is what consumers know about you. This includes your image, your products, and your reputation.
Branding primarily exists within the minds of consumers. However, branding should produce real world results:
- Solid branding helps customers make key buying decisions.
- Solid branding tells customers what they will get.
- Solid branding makes people feel safe.
- Solid branding builds trusting relationships founded on honesty, authenticity, and genuine understanding.
A solid brand is built on solid products, honest and trustworthy marketing, and with the customers in mind.
While we generally think of branding as being mostly consumer-facing, there are also internal strategic benefits to having consistency across your brand. Good branding is useful not just for differentiating yourself in the market, but for guiding the choices of staff and leadership.
Your Brand Positioning
The positioning of your brand is something that you should decide upon from the beginning, but also something that you will continuously adapt according to market needs and customers buying your products.
Brand positioning sets the competitive playing field. How you create positive associations or personality come later in the planning process.
Your Brand Identity
Your brand identity is both a first impression and a lasting consumer relationship. A successful brand identity communicates as much information about the brand as possible in less than a few seconds.
Your logo, your imagery, and content in your advertising and marketing, and any other external component of your brand contribute to your brand identity. It is vital that there is a consistent relationship between your brand identity and the products and services that you offer.
Your Brand’s Personality
Your personality is the persona of your brand’s identity. If your brand was a person, who would it be? What does that person think like or talk like? What effect does the personality have on the people around them?
Your brand’s personality has the power to create strong positive or negative associations in the minds of consumers. The best thing to do is a deep dive into the specific areas of your brand that you want people to understand, and to look at what competitors are doing to present their personality “vibe” to the world.
Your brand should have an authentic personality — one that resonates with a certain group of people… most likely, people like you.
Authenticity is the most assured way to attain credibility. If you are approaching customers as an enthusiastic participant, rather than as an opportunistic vendor, you are much more likely to develop positive associations with a loyal customers base.
Your Brand Channels
Your brand’s channels of communication are the ways that you reach consumers: the places, the platforms, and the technology.
If you operate a physical storefront, restaurant, or other real-world place, that location is probably your main channel for reaching consumers. Your physical location is the place where you have the least obstacles to effectively communicate your branding.
Online, your website is the perfect place to familiarize people with your branding. It is where you should consolidate the messages, identity, and “vibe” related to elements of your brand.
- The copy on your website should reflect your brand’s personality.
- The visual design of your website should communicate your brand identity and personality.
- Your website should give customers a chance to interact with your brand in a positive way.
Use your website to educate your customers about the experience that they will have with you and your company.
However, for better or worse many people will first discover your brand through social media. Social media used to be our online lives, but that’s no longer the case. Social media is now our lives (for many people). When people are discussing your brand online, they are not really talking about your brand. They are talking about their own lives.
Social media presents brands and marketers with an incredible opportunity to reach consumers in a way that would have been impossible before. You have the opportunity to engage in real life conversations and relationships with anyone in the world.
Your Relationships with Influencers
Because brands have a limited reach on many social platforms, companies often turn to influencers to extend their reach and ability to connect with customers. An influencer is someone who sways a conversation online.
Working with influencers is an opportunity. The relationship with brands and influencers is understood and accepted by consumers, but they do have expectations. A misaligned influencer endorsement now reeks of two week old milk stuck in the back of your fridge.
Always interview and align goals and messaging with influencers before getting started.
Many brands worry about things like going viral or generating online buzz. But in general, while these outcomes can produce some immediate positive effects, they may not provide lasting brand equity.
Brand equity is the credibility and trust that you have stored up in the minds of consumers.
Generating real value as a brand is about communicating necessary and relevant messages to the right consumers consistently.
Focus on two things:
- Create content that people enjoy and that generates positive associations with your brand.
- Realize that the world of content is oversaturated. So be intentional. Educate with your content and try to engage your customers. Include strong calls to action messages and make them want to know more.
Coming Full Circle
The most important thing to remember about solid branding is that it produces results. Whether that result is sales to customers or clarity in the marketplace — or simply planting your stake in the minds of your customers — branding must make some sort of impact in order to be successful.
You can only make an impact if you can make a real connection.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get started:
- Who are your customers?
- What problems do they have?
- Who is already serving their problem or need?
- What expertise does your company have to help them?
- Does your branding make it clear how your company can solve their needs or problems?
If you clarify your branding, your customers will know exactly who you are, what you offer, and how you can serve them. And when they’re ready to buy, they’ll choose you first!
If you’re just getting started or thinking of a rebrand, we’re here to help!