What the hell is branding?

Advertising:

Advertising is the brief and repeated communication with an audience. It is screaming at anyone who will listen to get them excited to see more. Advertising is your first attempt to grab a consumer off the shelf.

Marketing:

Marketing is targeting someone that is slightly interested in your product. That is why there is more content when marketing because you are now holding their attention and teaching the consumer about your product. And I emphasize teaching because the new normal is not trying to sell to your audience but instead giving them a value by making them smarter and becoming a more intelligent and informed consumer to be an advocate for your brand.

Public Relations:

Public Relations is focusing on the audience by directing influencers that your audience listens to directly. Public relations is trying to use a third party to influence your audience’s attention.

Branding:

All these are ways to scream at your audience to get them to notice you. The real question is what are you trying to say in all of these channels to your customer. When they arrive what do you want them to know and understand. Why do you matter more than anyone else in your industry? What is the message. Ensuring all your marketing is based around a common concept is essence of what it means to have a brand.

A brand is broken down to the words and visuals. The words of a brand are the written content on a web page, a speech given to an audience by the CEO or the verbal communication in your marketing and advertising. Words are not alone however they are wrapped in the visual design to create the experience.

The experience of walking into a restaurant are the words that the staff greets you with, the names of the menu items, body language of the staff in front of the consumer and in the background. The visual part of the experience is the material of the tables, the cookware that the customer eats from, the design of the menus, the uniforms of the wait staff or the signage you see from the road to bring you in. All of this combines to give the customer an idea of who you are and what you stand for. In everything you do create an experience and in doing so you can seperate yourself from the competition of price alone.

Brand elements such as, the logo, website, mission statement are part of the overall picture but are not by themselves the brand. To identify the brand you need to see all of those items as one unit working cohesively to create an experience for your customer.

Visual Consistency:

Visual consistency is key to making a name and image stick in the eyes of your consumers. A customer must see your brand at least 5 times before buying and if they are seeing your brand inconsistently each time then you are having to start fresh each time creating a long winded sale cycle. Create consistent brand elements that will be used identically over each platform. A great way to do this is through a brand guideline to ensure your brand elements are being utilized correctly. Key colors and typography should be used consistently to keep your viewers feeling safe within your brand identity.

Consistency is key and you can never stray away from these or you start to confuse the customer when identifying your brand. In a complex world consistency is king. When advertising/marketing designing a guideline to store all your imagery, logos, colors, type, and textures to keep your message is ideal. Do not change every time you advertise or promote your business or you will create a confused audience. Consistency is integrity.

Research your audience to understand their psychographics. You not only need to understand their age, gender, income, marriage status, or vacation habits. You need to be able to take their demographics and turn it into a psychographic description to obtain a true identity that you are targeting. When you are able to create this individual in your mind speaking to them through advertising and marketing becomes easy and consistent. Make your brand a person that can hear, feel, see, taste, and speak. Have a designer create a visual representation of this customer or find a picture that you associated with your ideal customer. Understand them inside and out by creating a day in the life and when communicating to them you will begin to understand their needs and pain points much more accurately and consistently.

Research your indirect competitors as much as your direct competition. If you are a yogurt shop that sells a 3 dollar treat for 5 minutes of happiness then research other vendors that sell a 3 dollar treat for 5 minutes of happiness. Who has a like minded business? Empathize with your customers to find out their true pain points and the way that you can help to become a value instead of a commodity. Speak to your employees to carry your brand forward. You will not be able to be in the front of the consumer 24/7 so find a way to promote through your employees. Give them the power and guidance to give life to your brand. When your employees believe in the mission of the company they will be proud to represent the message.

Mission Statement:

Mission statement is a description of what you do told as functionally as possible. No sex appeal to the message but a clear and concise description. Your vision statement is the grand and non measurable goal for your company. It is not a direct ROI response but your vision statement is something that ties to the emotional connection you have as the brand. What can your audience tap into to become a brand ambassador? The words in the middle are your brand positioning which creates the place in the market that is exclusively yours. You don’t sound like anyone else, you don’t walk like anyone else so what is your niche.

You have car dealers. Break it down to luxury cars. Now break it down to european luxury cars. European luxury sport sedans. Focus your business to create a niche. You can not be everything for everyone. Brand personality is the way in which you create your persona. You want your audience to be able to see your company as a person that walks and talks so that they can connect with you on an emotional level. Brand pillars are the foundation on which the company stands on. What will you always stand for no matter what the business pivots to achieve. Creating a strong foundation will give you the beliefs that people can become ambassadors to stand behind you.

Brand style guide is the rule book for what you can and can’t do in your brand. Color palettes, logo usage, textures, typography, and imagery are all stored here to give structure to the designs you can create. You never want to waiver from your style guide to ensure that consistent brand identity is seen by everyone that comes in contact with your brand.

Brand architecture simplifies all the products and services your company offers. Apple makes it simple by having the umbrella company as Apple. They have distinct products like the iPod or the iPhone line which has several iterations underneath it but you are always brought back to the idea that the products are Apple and they are a unified package. Microsoft office, Microsoft Excel or Microsoft powerpoint are all separate items but they are simplified to create a unified architecture by calling them Microsoft Office. Map out overall intentions of your company. BMW owns Mini but they keep them seperate to give the ideal customer their specific car. BMW also has “the 3 series” and the “5 series” to keep their product line in order and bulleted. They utilize this to promote how to upgrade to become part of the fancier series once you gain enough money they have steps even within their brand.

Your Logo

Your logo is your introduction for your audience into the brand identity but it is only the beginning. The logo creates shapes and negative space that sets the tone for the brand. Great brands have iconic shapes that reference the brand and bring other elements into the forefront. National Geographic is a yellow rectangle, but the way they use that as a literal window into the great outdoors to connect you with nature is iconic. The color yellow is tied to National Geographic and everyone trusts that visual. Make sure when you are creating your logo that it is simple enough to be utilized in many facets of your brand design. Focus on the emotional representation of your brand and not trying to capture what you do because as we have talked about your business may pivot to meet the new market but your core ideals and promises will stay the same so if your brand design is based on your ideals and not what you do it will never have to be redone to fit an ever changing market. Imagery is tied to the brand experience. Your photos should be iconic in nature. You can tell a Nike photo without ever seeing a logo or you can recognize a target commercial without hearing the words target. Creating an experience in person but also with your imagery.

Brand execution is all about where the end user will be impacted by your company. Touch points are critical to understand and find before moving forward with your company. All the touch points will create a brand experience from the customer service line, to the email you send out, the social media messages or even the invoice look and feel when billing someone. All these items create a touch point that will either impact positively or negatively and round out the consumers experience.

See it in this light: Go tell a designer to create a brochure for you. They are going to have to start from scratch with nothing to go off of. They will have to create the words and the visuals from only knowing you for a few minutes. However if you were able to give them a recipe book filled with logo usage, colors, messaging, voice, touchpoints vision and imagery components then would be able to do the same thing twice as fast with your brand message perfect every time. Don’t work harder work smarter. Spend the time and money up front to save yourself major pitfalls in the future. Clear brand execution results in effective brand messaging. Spend the time to create something correct from the beginning because trying to fix something that is sinking is much more difficult and will cost you much more in the end.

  • Do not begin your business with your name and logo
  • Choose color based on your customer and not what you like.
  • Research your competitors and indirect competition. Know your audience.
  • Update your competitors in your office. Keep away from them and the best way to do this is always knowing what they are doing so you can stay away.

Don’t assume you know everything. Ask questions to experts in their fields. You can gain knowledge from someone that has been in business for years or from someone that is just starting out they all have something to offer. Be wise in knowing that you are always in need of learning and developing. Take the time to ask questions.

A well informed customer will become a great advocate for your business. Teach your customer a new skill through your product or service. A informed customer will promote your brand correctly and consistently. Ever have customer refer your services to someone and to have to tell a new client that you do not do that? Don’t muddle your brand with inconsistent information. Teach instead of sell. The new age of business is all about creating a platform for your customer to learn and become a better individual with your product. Teach, teach, teach!

Assume nothing.

Give yourself permission to not know all the answers and therefore, explore with curiosity. We don’t need to guess anymore; we have access to data and insights to help us make informed decisions.

Don’t assume you know everything. Ask questions to experts in their fields. You can gain knowledge from someone that has been in business for years or from someone that is just starting out they all have something to offer. Be wise in knowing that you are always in need of learning and developing. Take the time to ask questions.

Empathize.

Your audience is key to your success. Show concern and truly care for others. Think about them as people rather than transactions.

Advocate

Be the supporter, believer and enforcer in helping others succeed. Don’t make it about you. Make it all about them. Stand by them and with them.

Red Bull had a 1-800 number on their products for people to call if they had an issue. College students drinking redbull and vodka were calling all the time drunk and leaving drunk voice messages on the customer service line. Instead of trying to stop it Red Bull started posting the messages on facebook and having their audience rank them. Embrace your customers lifestyle instead of trying to fix it.

Respect what they respect. Show you care

A well informed customer will become a great advocate for your business. Teach your customer a new skill through your product or service. A informed customer will promote your brand correctly and consistently. Ever have customer refer your services to someone and to have to tell a new client that you do not do that? Don’t muddle your brand with inconsistent information. Teach instead of sell. The new age of business is all about creating a platform for your customer to learn and become a better individual with your product. Teach, teach, teach!

Build relationships

We buy from people and organizations we trust. Invest in building indelible connections.

Curate

Our world is overwhelmed with choices. Make it easier for your audience to understand your offering by simplifying. Focus on what’s most relevant to their lives and businesses.

You have car dealers. Break it down to luxury cars. Now break it down to european luxury cars. European luxury sport sedans. Focus your business to create a niche. You can not be everything for everyone. Brand personality is the way in which you create your persona. You want your audience to be able to see your company as a person that walks and talks so that they can connect with you on an emotional level. Brand pillars are the foundation on which the company stands on. What will you always stand for no matter what the business pivots to achieve. Creating a strong foundation will give you the beliefs that people can become ambassadors to stand behind you.

Brand architecture simplifies all the products and services your company offers. Apple makes it simple by having the umbrella company as Apple. They have distinct products like the iPod or the iPhone line which has several iterations underneath it but you are always brought back to the idea that the products are Apple and they are a unified package. Microsoft office, Microsoft Excel or Microsoft powerpoint are all separate items but they are simplified to create a unified architecture by calling them Microsoft Office. Map out overall intentions of your company. BMW owns Mini but they keep them seperate to give the ideal customer their specific car. BMW also has “the 3 series” and the “5 series” to keep their product line in order and bulleted. They utilize this to promote how to upgrade to become part of the fancier series once you gain enough money they have steps even within their brand.

Teach, don’t sell

Provide knowledge consistent with your audience’s needs in lieu of shoving a product in their face. This is my favorite of Strauss’ ideas―so simple, so powerful. We all hate to be sold to, but we love to be empowered!

Care

Prove that you care through your actions, which must be authentic. We, as leaders, have the emotional responsibility to help employees believe in us and our brands and to help our customers understand that we truly care. Strauss sums it up: “We want to wake up every morning and realize we are not capitalist pigs.”