If you work near or around people who do marketing you’ve probably heard that there’s “more to a brand than just the logo.” We’re here to tell you it’s true -- and to try to help explain what exactly all that other stuff that makes up a brand is (beside the logo, of course).
In a saturated marketplace, there’s a few feelings that can sway a potential customer. That’s where branding comes in -- good branding equates to money in your pocket when it causes a potential customer to choose your product over the competition’s. A good brand sells the superiority of a product, creates an emotional connection, and (over time) results in loyalty.
Good brands speak in a unified voice and stay on message. The only way to stay on message is to determine what your message is. This post will give you an idea of what your brand should be looking to accomplish -- or maybe it will give you some keywords you should be looking to hear from an agency you potentially want to partner with.
Branding isn’t a process we suggest you try to do yourself -- a good brand is based on research, effectively tested out, and has a clear strategy. It’s also well designed and maintained. That’s a lot to take on, especially for new business owners.
Below are the basics of what you want your brand to communicate. To be clear, you shouldn’t just ask yourself “What’s my vision?” -- these values should be defined by comprehensive research. From there, things like the tagline, brand hierarchy, and strategy can be developed.
- Vision: The vision behind a brand is the basis for success. Whether it’s a unique product, an enthusiastic leader, or an innovative idea, a strong vision is key to having a product that can make it’s own way in the marketplace.
- Authenticity: Authenticity isn’t about being the first to ever do something - it’s about staying true to who you are. In order to communicate authentically with your customers you need to have clarity about where you fit in the market and what sets you apart.
- Differentiation: Regardless of if you have an innovative business model, you need to be prepared to stand out from the crowd. Not only are you competing for the attention of similar services, but you’re also competing for a small slice of your customers limited attention. Every potential client or customer only has so much time to give -- and you need to get yourself some of it.
- Consistency: The best brands stay on message no matter what. Even in something as small as a tweet, using a consistent vocabulary and on-brand images are key to presenting a unified message.
- Flexible: As you develop new products or services, or the demographic you serve shifts you have to be ready and willing to alter your brand. That doesn’t mean starting from scratch (ever), or overreacting to a small change in your business. It’s about being agile when big changes come your way. And flexibility is an important thing to work into your visual brand guidelines.
- Valuable: Creating value is part of you retain customers. Value can be demonstrated in a number of ways - from quality products to a socially responsible business model. It’s what you stand for as a company -- and it’s yet another way for customers to relate to you.
- Coherent: No matter where they’re interacting with your brand, a customer should get a familiar feeling from whatever they interact with. Everything should go together -- in a loose, approachable way.
- Unique: Self-explanatory, but the most important. Never waste your time trying to replicate someone else’s success. Figure out why you stand apart -- and if you can’t figure out why, maybe you shouldn’t be in business.
It’s important to remember that every good business is unique, and the first key to successful branding is simply identifying all of the characteristics that make you stand out from the crowd. Once you do that, you (or whoever you hire) can mold your messaging and craft stunning visuals.
Next week, we’ll be going over where and how you should make your brand work for you out in the wild.
Not exactly to the branding stage yet? We’ve also got a guide to help you name your business.