Branding Explained: What it really is, and 3 ways it can help your business.
I’m always hearing from people that they’ve been ‘playing’ with their brand for a while, but can’t seem to get anything together that really sticks. And when I take a deep dive, it’s pretty easy to see why.
The number one reason you’re struggling so hard to come up with a “brand”?
You don’t really understand what a ‘brand’ really really is, what it means, or what it involves.
“Branding” is a whole new world to you.
And that’s totally okay! No one comes out of the womb knowing everything about business and what goes into running one. No one is wagging their finger at you or following you through the street with their little bell yelling SHAME a la Game of Thrones.
That said, I want you to understand the basic principles of branding, because it can really benefit your business in ways you might not have realized! I’ve got another awesome post for you that goes into detail on all the specific meanings of the words that come up in the branding process which you can check out here, but do that later - let’s get the basics down first!
Let’s quickly dispel some super common myths about branding that a lot of people seem to have internalised.
Your brand is NOT:
- Your logo
- Your website
- Your cool images
- All the stuff you put on social media
- Your advertising material
All of those things are parts of your brand, but none of them, and no combination of all of those things will make up your brand. A brand is not a tangible object, and you could never point to your logo or your website and say, “That’s my brand,” because a true brand is much more than that.
Put super simply, a brand is a combination of marketing strategies, design, business values and the voice you use to communicate your message to your audience. “Branding” is the process of doing those things. If that sounds overwhelming, that’s totally normal. It’s a big concept! But stay with me, I know you’re gonna get it!
If you can answer the following questions, you’re already well on the way to having a brand:
What values are important to you in running your business?
What is your vision for your business? What are you doing, who are you helping, and why are you doing it? What’s your passion in this game?
When you speak to people, are you talking to them with your authentic voice, or are you using your “super professional online entrepreneur” voice? Do you even know what your own confident, unapologetic voice sounds like?
- Who are your target customers, and what do they expect from their experience with you? And you’re not allowed to guess or assume here - have you asked them?
If you can’t answer those questions, I’ve got an awesome workbook for you to make sure you get the answers to those questions down pat! Grab it now!
Notice that none of those questions asked you about your logo or what you want on your business card? Building a brand is all about establishing the experience that you promise to your customer or client, and you can’t start designing visual elements until you know what reasoning and research you’re basing those visuals on!
If you take an active role in creating and implementing the aforementioned marketing strategies, design, values and voice to your audience, you allow yourself the opportunity to influence the way that your people perceive you. Business and branding are all about perceptions.
And lemme learn you a thing:
If you don’t (jesus) take the wheel and make strategic branding decisions for your business, your audience will do it for you. Except they will be way, way less strategic and more ‘gut reaction’. Unless there’s some crazy science out there that stops people from instantly judging the things they experience, your audience will look at your business and come to their own conclusions without any influence from you.
And you might not like what they come up with.
So you take the time to answer those branding questions and start working on presenting your answers to the world. But what do you get from doing all that, right? There has to be some payoff. And there totally is.
A brand presents a consistent experience - which creates recognition and memorability for your business.
If you’re confused by your brand, chances are, your audience, customers or clients might be confused as well. If your copy says one thing, but your visuals suggest another, or if you change the style of your social media graphics every time you post a new one, you’re not building a consistent experience for the people who interact with your business.
There’s an old marketing strategy that says that a person has to hear about your product seven times before they are ready to buy. It’s built on the idea of recognition, memory and trust in your product. And it’s kind of the same with your brand. Someone will probably interact with your brand multiple times before they’re comfortable buying from you, or hiring you. Think of all the times you’ve paid for products or services, especially online. How many times did you hear about it before handing over your money?
Each time people interact with you or a part of your business, whether it be a blog post, a tweet, an image on Instagram, an email, or a freebie download available from your site, they have an experience. That experience, in theory, should build up a level of trust in your brand as they recognise and remember previous experiences.
But if each time they experience your business, they get a different experience, you’re not building that brand recognition or familiarising your audience with your business in a way that will commit to their memory.
Your brand will help to set you apart from your competitors.
Unless you’re doing something insanely unique (I’m talking, something that literally doesn’t exist right now), chances are, you’ve got a lot of competition. I’m a brand designer, and I’ve got competition up to my eyeballs. You might be a coach in a sea of coaches, or a VA when it seems like every online business and their dog are offering VA services.
You might even be selling the exact same thing. So how do you set yourself apart?
Well friend, your brand can play a really big part in helping you to stand out amongst your competitors.
Going back to that experience that we talked about - I want you to throw out the idea that certain kinds of businesses all have the same kind of experience, or that you have to be a certain way or do specific things in your kind of business just because your competitors do. You have a very different experience ordering coffee from a really cool local cafe than you do ordering coffee in the McDonalds drive through. Same product, but very different experience.
I’m a graphic designer, and I can tell you about 100 other graphic design businesses near where I live, but one of the ways I differentiate myself from many of them is through my branding.
This is why those four questions from earlier are so important - if you answer them honestly, build brand strategies around them, design visuals to match them, and use your words to communicate your values and vision to your community, without even realising it or trying to stand out, you’ve developed a pretty unique brand.
Your Brand sets expectations for your audience.
A good brand should tell your audience what you are about, before you ever even speak to them on a 1-1 basis. It sets the tone for how you work with or sell to your clients and customers, and it establishes the kind of relationship that you have with your audience and what you’re likely to provide for them.
Again, it comes back to those questions from earlier - are you communicating those messages on your website, or through your writing? Done right, communicating those essential brand messages can get people on side with you in a really authentic way, with much less effort from you - you won’t have to speak with everyone individually to establish what you’re about.
This can be a super powerful tool for building relationships with your audience, as it means you can take that step back in the initial stages of building relationships. But setting these expectations does come with a pretty hefty word of warning.
Ever walked into a restaurant thinking it was going to be a really wonderful dinner with great food and service, only to walk out feeling like your server was crap, the food was subpar and everything was overpriced?
The key to setting brand expectations is following through with them once you do make a sale or work with someone in a closer capacity. It’s all about consistency!
There is a ton of information out there on what your brand can do for you and what you should be doing to create one, but if you're new to this game, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to read too much into it and completely overwhelm yourself.
If you're feeling like you don't know where to start, you can download my handy workbook that's going to help you out with establishing answers to the key brand questions from this post. Grab it below!
If you have any brand related questions, feel free to drop them in the comments down below and I'll get back to you with any help I can.
Until next time