What is Branding, Really?
The term “branding” seems to be everywhere these days! If you’ve scrolled through Pinterest recently, you probably stumbled upon messages like “Save your business with a strong brand”… “You are your own brand”… “Branding tips for a profitable business”…
Yep, I see you nodding, my friend.
But most people still don’t understand what the heck is branding, why everyone is obsessed with it and, most importantly, how can it help your business (and can it really?)
So today’s post is the first part of my Branding 101 series which takes you through 5 different steps to upscale your brand. Or if you’re just starting out, to DIY a strong brand from the start (you go, you!)
And guess what? You don’t need to be a designer to do this. In fact, we’re not even gonna touch your visuals, because a strong brand starts from within!
There are so many explanations and definitions for branding. In fact, Google gives me 1.4 million results, so I think I’m gonna start with what a brand is not.
Contrary to what many people think, a brand is not logo (sorry, dad). It’s not your colour choices and not even the fancy fonts you spent so much time choosing. These are all supporting parts of your brand, but these are not the only parts that define it.
If I had to summarise in one sentence what a brand is, I would use the words of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO:
Now, let me tell you that I have a very serious and passionate relationship with Amazon. I order errrrrthing there. Literally. From toilet paper to plant fertiliser. But when I think about the Amazon brand or when I talk about it with my friends, we don’t discuss their cutesy logo or amazingly curated colour choices. No. We talk about their value for money, their speed of delivery, or the latest thing I’m obsessed with, their Amazon Smile concept where they donate a fraction of your purchase to your charity of choice.
Your brand, in essence, represents your entire customer experience: from the milli-second they interact with your brand (whether it’s your website, your social media, your business card, or even your handshake at a networking event) to what people say or think about when your brand pops into their heads. Yeah… no pressure there!
I call it the “High School Hallway” test. Imagine if your brand were a person, walking through the Hallway Of Gossip High (see what I did there?). How would you survive? What would people say behind your back? How will they describe you in a conversation in the cafeteria?
Not always the prettiest of pictures, I admit, but this is the harsh reality. Your brand is made through the voice and thoughts of your audience. Your job is to create a brand that speaks and connects with your ideal client to create a strong first impression that results in positive feedback. “Simple as that”, huh?
That’s the theoretical part. But how does it look in practice?
Ok, so we got that a brand is not just some pretty pictures and that the connection between your brand and your ideal client actually happens on a mystical subconscious level. But what do you need to work on to get your clients to this Brandnia (aka Brand + Narnia… I tried) place?
Welcome the 7 most important elements of a powerful brand!
There are other things that you can add to this list such as your brand equity, your brand extensions… but let’s start with the most important basics! At the end of the day, you’re DIY’ing your own brand here and need to keep things simple and effective!
Two things you need to notice here:
Now, I will dive into some of these elements in more depth throughout the next few weeks, but here’s a brief overview of each of them to get you acquainted:
Building a strong foundation is the first step in creating a powerful brand. The most successful brands operate from a place of Why and are able to clearly and effectively communicate why they do what they do to their customers. Why did you start your business in the first place? What problems is your business solving? What values is your business standing by? All these are the heart of your brand.
What position does your brand hold (or wants to hold) in the mind of your customer? Where are you standing in the market? Who is your competition? What sets you apart? You need to know what position you want to hold from the beginning in order to build a effective strategy based on your goals.
You can’t be everything to everyone. That’s just impossible. Even massively successful brands like Apple and Coca-Cola have haters who prefer Microsoft or Pepsi. Why? Because we’re all different and resonate differently to the content and visual cues that are put in front of us. You need to have a very clear understanding of who your target customer is in order to attract your ideal clients and repel the ones that don’t align with your brand.
When you know exactly who you want to reach, it’s time to transform your brand into their BFF. Personifying your brand and imagining it from different perspectives helps create a stronger connection with your ideal client through your content, visuals and business actions.
When you nailed down your brand personality it’s time to give it a voice! How will you communicate all your awesomeness to your client? What will you say? Are you gonna use “I” or “we”? Are you gonna be quirky and chatty or serious and professional? Are you gonna have a funny nickname for your audience? How are you gonna sign off your emails?
Ahhh, that’s where the curtain drops and the champagne pops! Using all of the above elements, this is when you’re finally ready to create a visual identity. And I’m not talking about a logo! God, no! A full brand identity suite will include logos, submarks, icons, colours, fonts, patterns, business cards, brochures, website, email signature…basically, a branded ecosystem that contains and represents everything your brand’s stands for.
You did a fantaaaaastic job to put all of this together, but if you don’t know how to reach out to your customers and how to make all these elements sing in unison, you may be in trouble. Many entrepreneurs forget about this final step and do things “as they come”, which may be ok in the short run, but can be detrimental if you’re in for the long game.
I hope by this point your understanding of branding has shifted and you’re starting to understand the benefits of it for your business.
If there is one thing I would like you to take with you today is this:
You see, I know you are putting so much time and effort into your business. I’m sure whatever it is that you do, you have a great service or product that you’re proud of. But having a great idea isn’t enough today. People are not buying into “ideas” or “businesses” anymore. People are buying into brands and the emotions they make us feel.
Think about it: Why do we follow brand accounts without buying from them? Because we love seeing their images and having them as part of our lives! They motivate us, they excite us and, most importantly, they define us.
So if you’re struggling to connect with your customers, or if you’re at a stage of your journey when you’re ready to take your business onto a new level… look into the 7 elements of your branding. Not only will this allow you to express your unique vision, but it will also help you attract the right type of clients, get noticed and establish an instinctive long-lasting connection with your audience.