Why All Businesses (Yes, ALL Businesses) Need a Strategic BrandAug 01, 2020
“The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low cost producer is the only winner.”
—PHILIP KOTLER, KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
What Is a Brand?
What do you think of when you hear the word “branding?” If you're like me, you probably think of a business's logo or the colors they use. And don't get me wrong, those things are SO important. But branding is so much more!
Branding (sometimes called brand design or identity design) is a comprehensive strategy for growing your business through storytelling and authentic, emotional connection. Having a quality brand to represent your business is the difference between a flop and a success.
Marty Neumeier in his book The Brand Gap (one of my favorite branding resources) says, “Your brand isn't what YOU say it is. It's what THEY say it is.” Essentially, your brand is your reputation. It's what other people think and feel about your business. Your brand STRATEGY is what you do to influence that narrative. I don't want to put too much pressure on you, but this is important: As a business owner, you need to take 100% responsibility for your business—and that includes your brand. Without a strategic brand, you're allowing other people to decide what you're all about.
I Think I Might Have a Brand Already…
If you think you might have a brand, then you don’t have a brand. While a logo, font, and colors are all pieces of your brand, the real test of your brand is if people can get a clear idea of who and what you are just by seeing something of yours. If your social media accounts and website aren’t all pushing the same branding in the same way, then you’re just creating confusion for your customers.
It even comes down to the way you talk about your company. If everyone is using different language to describe who you are and what you do, then you’re not doing everything you can to control the narrative around your brand. It can be hard to get everyone on the same page, but a cohesive brand (and brand strategy) can do that.
I Know I Need a Brand Strategy, But Where Do I Start?
When you’re ready to develop a brand strategy, don't worry so much about what it looks like and instead, focus on how it feels. Your audience and what appeals to them should be at the forefront of your mind as you’re brainstorming. Remember, your brand is more about what other people are saying about your business than what you tell them.
Think about the feelings you want to evoke from your ideal clients/customers. Sometimes it's helpful to use strong language to figure out what you want. Do you want your brand to feel bold or subtle? Silly or serious? Modern or Traditional? Once you have an idea for the feelings you want to create, you can determine the visual elements that will best communicate that to your audience.
Why Does It Matter?
Branding isn't about manipulating your customers into buying from you. It's about helping them feel seen, heard, and understood, which will naturally result in engagement with your business. Branding is important because it's a reflection of YOU and your customers.
I once read a study about branding that pointed out your customers can only be three things: satisfied, delighted, or disgruntled. Branding is about helping your customers move from disgruntled (showing how you offer something that solves a problem or fills a need) to satisfied (actually proving how your business can solve their problem or fill their need), and then finally to delighted (impressing them with your offerings to the point of a sale or booking).
Branding is one of many tools you can use to grow your business. As a brand strategist and designer, I believe that branding is THE MOST POWERFUL WAY to stand out in a saturated market. There is plenty of physical, social, and emotional proof throughout recent years that proves how impactful the visual elements of your business are (your photos, logo, storefront, employee attire, packaging, etc).
The Benefits of a Strong Brand
Beyond impressing your audience, establishing a solid brand presence will help you:
- Develop the unique position, character, and purpose of your business.
- Attract clients and customers who will be your advocates and best advertising.
- Grow your business and your employees with a strong company culture.
- Understand how to make smart marketing decisions.
- Discover how to build your business and stand out from your competitors.
- Increase your profits and your customer satisfaction.
I truly believe that branding isn’t just about creating a pretty logo or choosing a fun color palette, it’s really about presenting your brand in a way that resonates with your customers. Branding is a long-term game, not a quick fix or Band-Aid because you didn’t focus on your logo back when you started your business. Branding will shape the perception of your offerings for years to come and it’s something you should devote a significant amount of attention to.
"A strong brand is differentiated from the competition in a meaningful way. Consumers are willing to pay a premium and to repeat purchases over time when the branding demonstrates an increased perceived value. High-quality branding literally equals more money for your business."
—PHILIP KOTLER, KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
I hope you enjoyed this overview of branding and how it affects your business! Stay tuned for more information and tips on branding and other aspects of design related to running your business.
Need Some Help with Your Brand?
I offer 1x1 brand strategy + design services for online business owners, and now I've packaged my entire process into a self-guided online course to help you look legit and become the coolest brand on Instagram. This isn't a guide on branding, it's a guide to figuring out YOUR BRAND. Check it out here!
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