Branding 101: Why Branding Is Much More Than a Logo
Branding 101: Why Branding Is Much More Than a Logo
For new and established business owners alike, branding tends to be a highly misunderstood topic. Many business owners are surprised to learn that there's more to branding than their logo and style guide.
While the logo is an important piece of any brand platform, it's just the beginning. I'm here to tell you about all the other aspects of creating an unforgettable brand.
"There's one marketing element far more important than SEO or content because, without it, your SEO and content campaigns will mean nothing: your brand." - Jayson DeMers, Forbes
What is a Brand?
I like to use this definition of a brand, which I adapted from marketing professor Seth Godin: A brand is the sum of all the words, pictures, values, perceptions, stories and expectations that surround a business. Branding is also often referred to as a 'promise,' meaning that what you show, say, write and offer is a realistic reflection of what your customers can expect from you.
Your brand represents all that you stand for as a company. It tells the story of why, how and what you do. It communicates your values, purpose, and personality as a business. It gives people reasons to buy from you and trust you. It helps your community find you.
Your brand is there when you or an employee are working directly with a customer, and it's also there during all the times that you're not physically present; your brand is operating on your behalf on your website, social media channels, newsletters, public reviews and so on, 24 hours a day.
Taking the time to craft each of the six brand components (taken directly from the definition above: words, pictures, values, expectations, stories and perceptions) goes a long way in helping to make good on your promise as the company you say you'll be. Businesses who skip over branding often find that their customers, or worse - their competition - ends up defining the brand for them.
The 6 Components of A Brand
Words - Your brand message + copy
This part of branding includes your tag line, how you describe your business, your calls to action, and all the copy you create, from your About page to your social media posts.
Pictures - Your logo, style, fonts, images + anything else that visually represents your brand
Many businesses (and also designers) often spend the most time (or the only time) on this aspect of branding. The logo and styles/colours/fonts are an important part of defining a business, and let's face it, also the most fun part of brand building, but they shine brightest when supported by the other components.
Values - What your business stands for
Simon Sinek, author of "Start With Why", puts it best when he says, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." Having a strong sense of why helps attract the right community who believes what you believe.
Perceptions - How your company is viewed by the public
Is your business the dependable one? The innovative one? The one on the fringes or in the mainstream? Taking some time to think through how you'd like to be described when you're not there will help guide the copy you write and the brand personality you create.
Stories - Your brand story, and your customer's journey (story)
A brand story consists of several interwoven stories: your customer's story (what problem or need to be made them look to you for a solution?), your story (why are you different? what inspired the business? how are you qualified to help solve the customer's problem?) and the stories you tell to your audience. At the end of the day, we're all just people speaking to other people, and nobody likes the feeling of being sold to. You'll have much better luck sustaining your audience's attention by telling a good story.
Expectations - What you bring to the table
Getting clear on what your customers can expect from you is vital. Should they expect to be treated like just another number or that you'll treat them like family? Think about brands you interact with often: what do you expect from those experiences? How can you curate a great value-added experience for your customers?
Why Does Branding Matter?
It can be tempting to assume that your business doesn't really need a brand or that what you have is good enough, but the most successful companies have figured out that strong branding pays off in a big way.
Creating a strong brand platform will allow you to:
- Connect more authentically with your audience.
- Create a community who believes in the things you believe.
- Define a unique style that is recognizable and memorable.
- Clarify your message, so everyone understands what you do.
- Uncover your customer's stories, so you know how to best serve their problems and needs.
- Refine your own story, so that it's relatable, authentic and engaging.
- Create usefully, relevant content your audience will love.
- Increase your likeability/desirability as a company.
- Grow your business in a thoughtful, deliberate way.
- Create trust and loyalty between you and your customers, which results in referrals and repeat business.
All of the points above contribute to what's known as a brand platform. Spending the time to curate the aspects of your brand actually, saves time in the long term because everything is clear. Customers appreciate clarity and businesses run more smoothly when a brand is defined. Employees share a common understanding that is felt across all departments. Blogging and social media posting become easier. Talking about what you do is straightforward.
Branding Your Business
Large corporations invest a great deal of time and resources in creating and maintaining a brand. They often work alongside branding agencies and have their own marketing and design departments. So, what if you're operating on a smaller scale? The six brand components still apply, but in a much simpler way, and while you'll likely need a designer to create your identity package (logo, styles, etc.), a great deal of brand building can be done on your own using the guidelines above.
Creating a brand is similar to creating a 'world' for your customers, and you get to define exactly how this is going to look and feel. If you're just starting out on your own, you do not need to know the answers to everything listed above - this comes with time. For more established businesses, thinking further than the logo and styles will be invaluable to the growth and health of your company.
Chances are you already have an amazing set of products or services, and a great brand platform ensures that you have an effective way to show those offers to the world. Using the six brand components, you'll have the tools you need to craft an unforgettable brand experience for your customers.
Now Your Turn
Does this post fit your concept of what branding is? Feel free to share your thoughts below!