Branding is the fire that burns at the core of your business. The word comes from Old English, meaning “flame” or “blazing torch.” And, like a fire, a good brand should light the path toward your business and warm your prospects to do business with you.
Over time, the word brand has taken on many meanings and many misunderstandings. Let this post guide you to looking beyond mere aesthetics when thinking about your brand. We will guide you to value your brand as an essential part of your business by exploring what a brand is and how to begin forging an authentic brand.
What is a Brand?
A brand is no longer just a hot, iron-stamp on cattle. We encounter brands everyday of our lives in a world that increasingly seeks meaning and connection. From Coca-Cola to Gucci, they are signs that help us navigate the world of products, services, and even ideas.
In truth, a brand identity is a combination of many things. It’s all the feelings and ideas that people associate with your business and its name. That includes the images you use, the fonts you choose, and every word you speak online.
But, branding is not just who you are, it is also who you are not. Without brand definition, one service would be indistinguishable from another. Like the word brand itself, a brand architecture has a particular meaning that excludes certain interpretations.
For example, if you were marketing a necessary commodity, like gas or electricity, your job would not only be to create an attractive association with your business. It would also be to separate yourself as much as possible from other kinds of gas and electrical power.
Without being able to distinguish your brand from another, a customer would do what they do best: choose the cheaper or more convenient offer. A brand engages and encourages them to choose something because it is special, attractive, and magnetic.
If you understand that a brand identity is a collection of ideas about who you are as well as who you are not, then it comes as no surprise that a brand persona is not as simple as a logo. Although visual identities like logos are essential in branding, it represents and comes after other considerations we’ll explore like positioning, market, personality and price.
Unfortunately, the misunderstanding that brands are only logos or visual identities leads some agencies to claim to create brands for their clients. When they only design logos and websites without considering tangible elements of your brand strategy, they really don’t. Strategic branding is much more than looks, and it requires a combination of skills to effectively create.
How to Begin with Branding
Fifty years ago, branding was about power and spending. It was a world in which there were big corporations on one side and customers on the other. Messages were sent in one direction, from a large marketing department, through static mediums like print, radio, and billboards.
Today, effective branding is not just about how much you can spend to get in front of as many eyes as possible. Good branding instead is about smart, careful thinking as you promote your business across distribution channels that gives you a competitive advantage and allows your customer to find, engage, and communicate with you. With the right mindset and team of helpful consultants, you can forge a cohesive brand perception that’s special in your ideal consumer’s mind.
Step One: Positioning
The first step is what marketer’s call “positioning.” We’ve touched on this in our discussion of what a solid brand is, but it’s worth exploring further. To effectively position your business, you must understand what category you exist in and add your unique touch.
For example, if you were marketing electricity, you might not only belong to the category of local utilities, but you would be a company that promotes sustainable power through solar initiatives.
In positioning, you must ensure that your business has a unique place (or position) in your consumer’s mind. So, the smart brand identity thinking we mentioned must first deal with a simple question, “What makes this business special, different, and irreplaceable?”
If you master this question, you will find an answer that will make it hard for competitors to push you out through competitive pricing or location. You’ll increase brand equity. You will also be able to write a positioning statement that succinctly summarizes your brand strategy.
Let’s take the same electric company example. A positioning statement would be something similar to this: a unique name, category, defining characteristic, and ideal audience. It might read something like this:
Lite Power is a green utility provider for eco-conscious consumers.
It may sound simple, but a positioning statement like this has all the elements of a special product and specific audience that makes it a realistic strategy. To learn how you can get started with a viable branding strategy, you can schedule a call with an experienced marketing consultant.
Step Two: Experience
We’ve said a brand is much more than a brand logo or an aesthetic. In addition to being that special quality that differentiates your business, brands involve a special experience. By encountering all your brand communications, your consumer should be promised an experience they can only enjoy with you. That’s what will make you a favorite brand.
This starts with copy. While reading about a company on a website is not the same as actually buying their product, copy in line with your positioning should prepare your customer for the buying journey by reflecting the nature of your business. (It’s part of a marketing platform we’ll touch on later.)
For example, Lite Power makes it a point to discuss ecological issues on its social media accounts with empathy and compassion for the planet’s challenges. Its ads for service are factual and empowered, and its website is a resource for learning how Lite Power can help you make more sustainable decisions.
When thinking about the copy-reading experience, businesses must understand that they sell more than just commodities or services. They offer an outlook in the category that can’t be found anywhere else.
As a business owner or marketing manager, you have to control how your brand speaks (in a blog post or ad) as much as what it speaks about. The words you use, blog posts you write, and even the rhythm of your content will all suggest the experience of buying with you.
Beyond copy, your memorable brand must also live its special promise. That means your positioning strategy, copy experience, and actual practice of business align together to create a whole, authentic synthesis. This synthesis encourages the creation of brand ambassadors. For businesses that need help creating a branded experience with customers, schedule a 15-minute call with us to discuss your business.
Step Three: Platform
Just as religions have sacred texts and sports teams have playbooks, your brand should have they call a “marketing platform.” This is a marketing tool for businesses to maintain their brand across online marketing mediums and over time. It’s a process of self discovery as much as a wellspring of inspiration for the communications and branded content your business will use to create successful brand associations.
There are no specific or hard rules about what your brand platform should look like. The key is that it provides enough guidance to you and your team that you can ensure consistency. (Without consistency, a brand becomes a series of fragmented claims that don’t add up to a meaningful and whole brand promise.)
Your platform should include everything you know about your business’ brand personality. By doing so, it gives your marketers and writers everything they need to create effective, consistent campaigns for your business that build brand loyalty. This is where guidelines for visual identity and your logo belong.
By working through your positioning statement and copy experience, you are well on your way to developing an essential marketing platform for your business’ unique brand. You should also consider the following:
Your exploration of benefits can be a simple list of the most important benefits that ideal customers gain from engaging your business through its product or service. Whereas features—not to be confused with benefits—should outline the specific attributes of your business that make benefits believable and attainable.
Taglines can be included in your platform to condense your message into its most basic parts. While, notes on audience should go in depth into the attitudes, frustrations, and passions of a specific group of potential customers. And, finally, the rules of your business can be for the use of your logo, visual guidelines, and copy experience in content marketing.
All your marketing efforts, material, and assets should conform to your platform for the most effective brand marketing. The more specific you are able to be in outlining the rules and beliefs your branding encompasses, the better equipped you will be to manage your brand over time as you try to engage your audience with a special meaning.
Creating a winning platform and overt promise for your business takes experience, skill, and finesse. Thinking about the identity of your business should ignite a fire that burns under the right conditions. For businesses who could use some guidance on creating a platform and building brand recognition, contact us for a complimentary call with our brand experts.
By following our exploration of the word “brand,” you are on your way to ignite a fire that will light the way for your customers. Thinking about what a powerful brand really is and how to stand out through branding prepares you to market your business more effectively through consistent messages, ads, and visual cues.
The work of branding is essential to create a realistic, authentic identity for your business that customers instantly recognize. Remember that a brand is not simply a logo, a website, or a series of blog posts. It should be a living, breathing experience that customers can return to again and again. That experience is a combination of visual identity, written words, and actual buying.
We hope you will use this post to start thinking about how to more effectively and consistently market your business. If you are an established brand or a startup, we are able to help you carry the burden of marketing including branding strategy to increase visibility of your business.
Offering award-winning services, branding guidance, search engine optimization, advertising, as well as web and graphic design, we help businesses like yours overcome the most common obstacles to business growth through online marketing.
Increase traffic, build consistency, create valuable assets, and foster brand equity with a marketing consultant today. Contact us or schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with a brand strategist to get started.