January 17, 2022
What do the words Kleenex, Dumpster, Chapstick, Frisbee, Highlighter, Velcro, and Escalator have in common? If you said they are all brand names, give yourself 50 points!
These brands have such strong identities that their product names have become everyday words.
That’s how strong branding is.
Okay, okay… I know what you’re thinking, I’m just a little company living quietly in my own neck of the woods, not aspiring to be a giant corporation . . . So does my company really need branding?
If you answered “Yes, it does,” give yourself another 50 points!
Your brand is your company’s identity. It’s how people recognize you. Customers need to have a solid understanding of your company’s personality in order to identify and remember it. Personality is how customers know what you stand for.
Think of branding as forming and portraying a company’s personality. What is that personality like? What does it value? What promises does it make? What sort of reputation do you want it to have? How does it communicate?
The answers to questions like these will help you form your company’s persona—which is how others perceive you, how your personality comes across. It will be easier for customers to connect with a persona than with just a sterile company name.
Establishing a personality for your business allows you to evoke emotions in customers and would-be customers, such as playfulness, wonder, and happiness. And even though we all like to think of ourselves as logical, most sales tend to be made on emotion, not reason. We sneak reason in the back door to justify decisions we have already emotionally made. So connecting with your audience on an emotional level is crucial.
I know, you may already be overwhelmed with just running your business. After all, as a solopreneur or small business owner, you wear lots of hats: administrator, marketer, accountant, salesperson. Creating a branding guide to outline your brand’s personality and messaging takes time and careful thought. It can be tempting to skip this step, feeling as though it isn’t urgent (especially if you haven’t been in business for a long time).
But your company needs to stand out, and branding does just that. There are tons of companies for consumers to choose from these days—literally millions of companies. (32 million, to be exact. I know, it’s mind-blowing). And there are so many ways customers are exposed to your competition—via social media, Google ads, print ads, television, and so on. You need to get people’s attention, to have a persona that is recognizable and stands out.
A branding guide will help you nail down your company’s persona. It will help you clarify your company’s values and convey them to your customers clearly. This helps you position your products in peoples’ minds at the right time. (More about branding guides later!)
Branding is all about positioning. You want your brand to be the first thing people think of when they think of their need for your type of product or service. You want them to say, “I need a widget right away. Oh, and Wacky Wild Wonky Widgets has all kinds of widgets and offers next-day shipping!”
This customer recognizes the brand and remembers what it is known for—having a widget for everything and offering super-fast shipping. For their particular needs, Wacky Wild Wonky Widgets stands out, even above Lowe’s or Home Depot. (And who wouldn’t take delight in ordering from a company with such a fun name!)
Bombas has positioned itself as a clothing company that gives back. Whenever their socks, T-shirts, or underwear are purchased, the company donates some of their products to homeless shelters. Part of what sets them apart is this social good.
So when someone who shares this value of helping others needs socks, they think of Bombas first. And take note . . . these customers are even willing to pay a higher price.
There are seven steps to developing your branding: purpose, competition, audience, personality, story and messages, visual identity, and integration. Let’s dive in!
This is your company’s philosophy, it’s mantra, it’s raison d’être . . . (It sounds even better in French, n’est-ce pas?) In defining this, you’ll need to ask some probing questions.
What are my company’s guiding principles? What are its promises? Its values? What makes my brand different from the competition? Why should people even care? OK, that may sound harsh, because you care deeply about your company. But you do need to think hard about why someone else would care.
Whether you’re competitive by nature or not, you’ve got to give a lot of thought to your competition. What are they like? What are their values? How do they gain attention? What do they do well/not do well? What are they saying? How are they saying it? What makes them stand out? (These are all important questions to ask about your own company, too.)
You should always know your audience—customers and potential customers—and have them at the forefront of your mind. Who are they? What drives them? What keeps them awake at night? What are their hopes and dreams, their fears, their wants, their needs? How does your company meet those wants and needs?
Think about your brand like it’s a character. Is it like Frodo, small and a bit shy but able to do mighty things for the sake of others? Is it like Gandalf—a knowledgeable and powerful force to be reckoned with? Snarky like Princess Leia? Laidback and cheeky like Han? Unassuming like Harry Potter? Outgoing, competitive, and compassionate like Wonder Woman?
Think about personality traits, values, and how you communicate in order to crystallize your brand’s persona. Having a solid persona will help you stay consistent across messages and mediums.
People tend to remember stories more than they remember facts. If you’ve ever attended a lecture where the speaker used PowerPoint slides, you understand this. Chances are, you walked away remembering very little data that was written on the slides. It’s more likely that you shared an anecdote from the talk with a friend or colleague rather than a statistic.
So what is your company’s story? What motivated you to build this business? What has the journey been like? What did you use for your compass and map along the way? Use questions like these to build your brand narrative.
Your visual identity plays a huge role in how people view you. Think about it. When you communicate with someone, how they look is important to how you interpret their message. Are their shoulders slumped? Are they looking directly at you? Is there a light in their eyes? Are they smiling? Scowling?
It’s the same with a brand’s visuals. Are they made up of pastels—gentle and soft–or dark colors that appear loud and bold? Are the images simple and easy to interpret or are they complicated, with a lot going on? Are the fonts delicate or stark-looking? These decisions are a key part of branding.
We can build a branding guide for you that addresses all of these visual components. Schedule a call with us!
This means every—and I mean every—aspect of your business needs to reflect your brand. This includes your website, social media, emails, digital advertising, print advertising, retail store, customer service, and training. This will result in consistent and cohesive messaging. This builds both recognition and trust. According to the PR firm Edelman, 81% of consumers indicated that trusting a brand was a deciding factor in their decision to buy. There’s a lot of power in trust!
I know it can be hard to put branding at the top of your priority list since branding is a long-term project and other aspects of your business can seem more pressing. And it’s true, you may not see results right away. There’s a lot of planning and thought involved. It can be taxing, no doubt about it!
But if giant brands like Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, and Kraft have teams of people dedicated to branding and have produced branding guides to ensure consistent messaging, then is it a business aspect you can afford to ignore? OK, maybe you don’t want to be the next Louis Vuitton, but even small businesses and solopreneurs will benefit greatly from a well-thought-out branding guide.
Stay tuned for Part 2 . . .
Schedule a call with us to talk about how we can help create a brand for your business. Our Design Days include a Brand Clarifying Questionnaire that will help you really home in on the message your business is sending.
Feel free to reach out to us anytime with questions!