One of the biggest challenges in starting a new business lies in branding. Don’t be confused, your brand is not your logo, your name, your mission statement or even your style guide, although those elements are used in your brand.
A brand is what you think about you when you’re not around. It summarizes the vibe people get when they think about your business. Some people would say it’s the big picture instead of the details. But it’s the small details that make the overall picture.
So what makes a brand work? That’s a complicated question. Even among professionals there is some debate. Some agencies say it’s distinctive. Others say it’s consistency. Yes, those are important, but there’s more to making a brand. Here’s my list for what makes your brand work for you.
I always start here. If you want to reach a goal, you have to set a target to hit. The biggest reason brands fail is that they never took the time to find their target. They might have a million followers, but if they aren’t the right people, then the brand doesn’t connect.
Whole Foods is a great example of targeted branding. They didn’t want to reach every person who shops for food. In fact, that would be incredibly frustrating for most consumers. They would enter the store, not find their familiar brands and be frustrated with the pricing. But Whole Foods target is high-end foodies who are adventurous in trying unheard of brands and aren’t bashful about paying top-dollar for them.
Finding your target is the most crucial beginning step of branding. I like to develop three people who I think my brand should hit. You can develop those people as much as possible. Give them names, likes, preferences, personalities. As much as I can get into their world, I want to know what motivates them.
Despite what anyone tells you, we make decisions based on emotions, not our thoughts. The limbic system is where it all happens. Trust me when I tell you, people smarter than me spent a lot of time and energy researching the brain. Decisions are made through a complex system of mental shortcuts to make intuitive leaps.
Most of us have seen the Hallmark adverts that pull our heart strings. It’s a little over the top these days, but they definitely tapped into people’s emotional process for decision making.
Branding that targets emotional response always beats stick information. That can happen in many ways. You can use typography, color theory, imagery and story-telling. You can use all of that. The more you connect with your target audience’s emotions, the more effective you will be.
After you spend time on the first two elements of your brand, it’s time to think about being distinctive. The more unique you are, the easier it is to be recognized. An unusual name, color palette, visual or even tagline can be enough to set you apart.
Because the world has become a global village, the average American sees between 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements a day. Between clothing labels, Facebook ads, billboards, commercials and the many other ways we see brands, your brand has to cut through the noise. A brand’s distinctive vibe is the best way to set it apart.
As you develop your brand, pay attention to themes in your business. How do you try to help your target person? What makes their life better after you help them? As much as you can, you always want to communicate value.
Great brands help people have a better life, not just a better product. Apple Computers’ brand isn’t just about better computers. It’s tagline of “think differently” calls people to a lifestyle. The same is true for Nike’s “just do it” tagline. It’s a call to action.
Your brand gets more traction if it appeals to a better life in your target and then summarizes that in a simple, easy to remember way. The logo for both Apple and Nike mean nothing apart from the tagline.
Here’s where a lot of companies falter. They start to realize the importance of their brand and the complexity of their company and try to give it all. They want to make everything have meaning to convey the values they hold.
The best brands are so simple. They embrace on idea or theme thoroughly. Other brands become to fragmented and start to lose their meaning. In communication, it’s said that if you have more than one point, then you don’t have a point. That’s especially true for branding. Keep it simple.
To use Apple as an example again, they don’t build competing products within their line. Instead, they reach more of their market by associations of their products. The iPod doesn’t compete with the iMac, although they can do many of the same things. Their bottom line holds true through their entire line-up – think differently.
The Bottom Line
So much could be said about branding that it would likely fill libraries. That’s why amazing brands outstrip the language they use. They go beyond imagery and words to create a synergistic message.
Thinking through your brand will be a process. It will live and breathe and evolve over time. It’s helpful to have a team of people with you thinking through as many ideas as possible. It’s also helpful to have someone not associated with your brand to make outsider connections.
If you’re ready, I’d love to talk to you about your brand. Contact me for a free brand consultation.
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