It may seem strange but I like to compare many efforts at branding to efforts at shaping up and getting fit and healthy. Much like consistant healthy eating and regular exercise are thrown out the window in favor of quick fixes and diet fads, many of us try and bypass the commitment, patience and effort it takes into establishing a genuine brand, in an attempt to present our best selves as quickly and painlessly as possible.
A brand is not a logo, a business name or a colour palette, these things are but the surface of a brand, i.e. branding. A brand is a message, an ethos, a character, a way of working and a way of delivering. A brand is the set of emotions that people associate with your name or product.
YOU (not a marketing agent) are responsible for creating and identifying these traits of your business. Whether you’re a sole trader or a C.E.O. you need to know the character of your business, and all your decisions and strategies should be based off this character. You need to start thinking of you business as a personality. This is applied amongst the smallest of enterprises to the largest incorporations, in the tiniest details to the most ambitious of strategies carry your ethos throughout every detail of you business.
Brand is a focus on consumer, if you are a consumer centric entity (which is the basic premise of any business!) your brand is your focus. Brand represents and celebrates ideals, creating deep emotional connections based on shared interests, attitudes and beliefs and they become a symbol of personal identity that consumers use to reinforce their own personal identity. How does a consumer come into contact with you, how do you deal with them, what do you offer them? How do you deliver what you offer, how do respond to them if they have an issue how do you send them on their way?
Attempting to cover up the absence of a business ethos and strong brand with gimmicky branding is a mistake. Branding can be an extremely valuable investment but only when a genuinely defined core brand exists. Basically if your products/services suck, any money spent on branding is only going to remind people how much your products suck.
In almost every case, it’s smarter to first focus instead on the brand itself: specifically, on the product/service and the customer’s experience buying and using it.
It is completely possible to do good business without branding, many sole traders, small business’s indie artists achieve moderate success by simply providing excellent products/services and performances. They are true to their brand and collect an emotional response from consumers, strong enough to drive them to survive on referrals and word of mouth. If a business can exist like this it is is in fact a significant success, and an indicator a brand has been defined. A brand (not a few of low price products or half hearted services) indicates a business can be elevated to greater scales. A business that is clear on its purpose, value, process and emotional engagement deserves branding. Branding will only ever serve a business well when a solid Brand has been established, but the combination of a solid brand and honest intelligent branding is business magic.
Once you consider yourself in a position to consider really investing time and money in branding, proceed to do so with intent and foresight. Have clear goals for your branding and don’t take short-cuts that will have future consequences. When enlisting an agency or individual to assist you in branding, you need to feel there exists an open line of communication, trust and respect for each other’s area of expertise. Finding an agency that you share a repore and enjoyable relationship with is key. Yes you know your brand like no one else, agencies are there to interpret that in a way that will maximize your commercial appeal.
Think of sending your child (your preciously crafted brand!) off to school for the first time, you need to be certain they’re in safe competent hands, you want the very best for them while at the same time allowing the teacher and school to perform their role without the need of any major interference . You are responsible for the emotional well-being of your child, keeping them strong and healthy mentally and physically, teachers are specially trained to bring the best out of a child, to find they’re talents and maximize they’re abilities.
So take this attitude with your agency, find one you trust and connect with and simply help them understand your brand, so they can devise the best way to maximize it’s potential. I recommend clients, rather than providing a brief of the advertising work they think would like done, that they simply set out the following. No flowery or imaginative language required to:
Who you are?
What you are providing?
Why is what you are providing is valuable?
Who is what you are providing valuable to?
What are your business goals in the next 12 months?
These are vital questions that will inform the direction of your branding. The agency you are working with can only then clearly assess what your brand is and how it can be communicated on a bigger scale. The basic initial elements of branding are as follows:
a descriptor phrase (the “what” of what you do)
a supporting tag line/positioning statement (the “how” of what you do)
a :15 elevator speech (that all important summation of your company’s essence)
a well-conceived logo design (with complimentary color schemes)
an intuitive website design (one that matches the feel of your brand)
matching collateral pieces (brochures, business cards, etc.)
integrated social media pages (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)
Once you have these primary elements in place a branding and engagement strategy can be further developed to grow awareness. Mastering your brand should always be your biggest focus, mastering your branding should be out-sourced or a specialist department within your business, they are related but distinct areas. Successful combinations of brand and branding lead to market majority. Taking the majority of your market is Always your goal. Take your time with it, dropping 10 pounds in 1 week may seem like the dream solution, but deep down you know a natural pace with real investment of thought, focus and energy will have far greater rewards.
Digital is not a technology its a mindset, Chrash digital, Letterkenny, Co Donegal.