People throw the word “brand” around like it’s a figment of marketing magic bequeathed to an elite, mysterious tribe of trendsetters who can take a simple slice of nothing and transform it into a covetable, essential part of life.
Let’s get real. The truth is that a brand is an essential part of any business big or small, and by developing a brand, a business owner is able to take a product or service and make it into something that their customers feel a connection with.
Let’s start simple. Take a look at how Wikipedia defines the word “brand”:
A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising.
OK, that’s a little too bland for my liking. So let’s kick it up a notch. Your brand is how you want customers to feel, think, and talk about your business. It tells them what they can expect from you, how you’re different from others in your category, and it really defines who you are as a business beyond just what you offer.
Think of a brand like you think about personalities. When you meet someone and chat for a little while, you can often quickly decipher a few things about them. Maybe they are warm and talkative or funny and interesting. They could be shy and mysterious or kind hearted and trustworthy. Most of the time, from an initial interaction you start to get an idea of who a person is and what their personality is like. This same principle applies to brands too.
Let’s look at some websites. Based on this page, what personality traits come to mind?
How about this one?
Here is another way to think about it. Imagine that you’re at a networking event and the host comes to the dreaded part where you have to tell everyone in the room what you do. Here is the difference between a business description and a brand description.
Business: I sell coffee.
Brand: I offer people warmth, comfort, and a satisfying way to start their day.
Business: I am a mortgage broker.
Brand: I help people make their dream home a reality so they can make memories for a lifetime.
Do you see the difference? The business description focuses on what you do. The brand description focuses on who you are. When people get to know more about who you are, they can start to build a connection with you. That connection is the beginning of a relationship, which is what every business owner wants to establish with their customers. Get the idea?
So, if you have a business but you want to build a brand, how do you start? Here are a few key brand identity touch points to get you thinking.
- What is the reason you that decided to take the plunge into business ownership in the first place?
- What was that tipping point?
- Why did you choose to take the very difficult and often tumultuous road of entrepreneurship?
The answer is not because you were sick of your boss or you wanted to make your own schedule. Your purpose is your reason for being.
I started Journey after meeting one too many business owners who were so completely bogged down in their day-to-day operations that they couldn’t even take a vacation! I wanted them to be able to rely on me for their marketing needs so that they could have room to think, breathe, and feel free again. That became my passion which defined Journey’s purpose - to give business owners back their freedom with smart, affordable marketing solutions that attract customers and build brands.
What is your purpose?
Now that you’ve identified your purpose, the fire in your belly that catapulted you into business ownership, it’s time to start exploring what you want to be as a brand. What do you hope to achieve as a business? This isn’t about product sales or location openings, it’s about uncovering what your business stands for and what you want to be known for in five or 10 or 20 years time. Before I started Journey, I used to work in a financial services company. If you asked us what our business goals were, we could say that we wanted to sell X amount of home loans or write X number of financial plans. But we took a different approach. We lived and breathed by the mantra that every person should have the opportunity to put a roof over their head and retire comfortably. That simple mission statement showed people what we stood for, what we believed in, and what was important to us. It aligned us with our customers and helped us define ourselves as a partner instead of a product or service provider. It helped people to see that they could trust us.
Once you are able to define your business purpose and brand objectives, you then need to think about who it is that you’re trying to communicate with. In a past post, I talked about your real, ideal customer, and in order to define your brand, you need to have a very firm understanding of who needs and wants your product or service. When you think about your customer, try to get as specific as possible, even down to a name. Here are some questions to think about:
- What is his/her age, marital status, occupation, income, location?
- What kind of attitude does he or she have about life?
- What sort of life does he or she live? What does “a day/week in the life” look like?
- What gets him or her out of bed in the morning? What motivates him/her?
- What opportunities are there to connect with him or her during his or her day?
- What is his or her attitude toward the products or services in your category?
- When he or she is using the product or service category, how is he or she using it? How does he or she feel about it?
Answering these questions will help you identify your real, ideal customer, which is absolutely vital to discovering who you are as a brand.
Unique Value Proposition
If you ever took a marketing 101 class, you will have heard the term “unique value proposition”. Your UVP is your “differentiating factor” or quite simply what sets you apart from the rest. No matter what industry you’re in, there will be other people out there trying to sell a similar product or service. Smart businesses concentrate heavily on what makes them unique and that differentiation becomes a key focus of their brand identity. Ask yourself these questions:
- How does your product or service make your customers lives easier?
- What benefit can your customer expect from using your product or service?
- What makes what you offer better than what your competitors are offering?
I like this simple example from Apple.
In three words, they capture two key differentiating factors - the lightness of their product compared to others, and their unparalleled technology. “Light. Years Ahead.” says it all.
Could you define your brand in as little as three words? It might seem impossible but heck, it’s worth a try. We’ll be generous and give you four. Grab a piece of paper and draw a big circle. Now draw a small circle inside it. Next, make a horizontal and vertical line across the circles so it looks like this.
The top half of the big circle represents rational feelings while the bottom half of the circle represents emotional feelings. Write the following in each quadrant:
- Top left: What the brand does for me
- Top right: How I would describe the brand
- Bottom left: How the brand makes me look
- Bottom right: How the brand makes me feel
Now it’s time to brain dump. Answer each question by writing as many single words or short phrases as you can in the large circle. Here are a few examples:
Once you’ve written in all your words, go back and decide which words you feel most strongly about. Try to choose one from each quadrant of your circle and write them in the small circle.
These words are your brand essence. They are a simplification of everything you want to achieve as a business and the most important things that you want your brand to be associated with. Learn them, breathe them, live by them.
Your brand essence is a great start, but in order to build a brand, you want to define not just who you are and who your customers are, but who you want to be. Write down your four words and ask yourself the question: “How do I make these words synonymous with my brand?”
As a brand builder, you will spend the rest of your days making sure that every single piece of communication you create is the embodiment of those words. From your website to your tweets, to the way you write an email or design a flyer should be a reminder of who you are and what you represent. Remember, businesses talk products and services - brands speak in feelings.
What are your thoughts on branding? Have you ever thought about how your business makes people feel and what you want to achieve from a brand perspective? We’d love to hear from you! Send us a message or get in touch to schedule your very own branding workshop with our team.