A Brand Is…
Your brand. Everyone says you need one, and that it needs to be strong. With all these messages going around about branding, do you really know what it means? Don’t let “branding” just be vague, empty rhetoric. Make it real. Here are some of the things we mean when we talk about a brand.
A lot of people say brand when what they mean is your logo and related things, like colors schemes. And they’re correct, as far as they go. Your logo and colors really are a part of your brand. As others on our team have shown, colors have a real impact on how people see your business. Colors evoke emotional and even physical reactions. Different colors have different implications, from energy to trustworthiness to power. Our responses to these colors are hardwired into our brains—whether it’s nature or nurture, the effect is real. And your logo itself is important, too. If you’re trying to build a serious, high-end brand, a whimsical cartoon logo might not be great; conversely, for a light-hearted, personal brand, a bland and generic logo doesn’t make a good fit. Designing a logo that represents who you are and what you do goes a long way toward building your brand, so people can take one look and start to “get” you.
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But as important as these things are, saying a brand means your logo doesn’t go nearly far enough!
Your brand also encompasses your marketing strategy. The way that you reach out to potential customers says a lot about who you are as a person and as a business, and will shape the way people envision your brand. How do you try to reach people? Big, highly visible national media campaigns? That clearly sends a message that you’re a big player trying to reach everybody. Or do you prefer a more local, personal approach that plays up your ties to a local community and personal touch? Those are very distinct brands.
A lighthearted advertising campaign with memorable gags sends a particular message about your business’s brand, while a straightforward, information-packed campaign says something very different. And where you advertise sends even more messages about your brand: if you focus your advertising on partisan news outlets versus on a sports station versus a local news site, that says something about your business vis-a-vis who you think your customers are. The whole point of a marketing campaign is to not only get customers to do business with you, but to shape the way people see your business—and that’s branding!
The customer experience is a big contributor to your business’s brand. Every interaction a person has with your company, whether it’s visiting a website, coming into a store, talking to a representative on the phone, or any other touch point, shapes the way that person sees your business—and how that person talks about your business to other people, shaping the opinions of still more people. The customer experience has a ripple effect on your brand, whether it reinforces a strength for your brand or muddles what you think your brand is.
If a customer finds your store or website is very simple and clear, with a focus ease-of-use, that indicates something about your brand. Your brand is about clarity and efficiency. A simple, straightforward brand. On the other hand, a store or website that goes into incredible depth and detail demonstrates a different brand, one that has an answer for every problem (within your field, at least!) and the highest possible quality. It might not be as simple or fast, but you will be able to find exactly what you need. And, of course, a customer experience that is both shallow and slow will send a confused, negative message about your brand. Those divergent brands come from the customer experience. Having a customer experience that aligns with what your business really is will help customers and prospects understand you, and also communicate who you are to other people.
And Much More
There is no one that that a brand “is.” Every part of a business ultimately reflects back on its brand. Broadly speaking, your brand is your reputation, and your reputation doesn’t come from any one thing, but from the accumulation over time of every little detail. When you talk about your brand, don’t get distracted into only talking about one part of it; consider the totality, so that every aspect of your business is communicating in sync to give a clear, consistent image of who you are and what your business is. And the better people understand you, they are more likely to recognize when you are able to help them. The effect might not be immediate, but a strong brand drives a sustainable, successful business.
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