When you think of the word “brand,” you may think of a company’s logo or tagline, but that’s not all we’re really talking about. To focus on what “branding” is, let’s go back in time for a moment and visit the Wild West. What was branding then? It was a hot iron applied to horses or cattle to ensure that no one would ever believe that they belonged to anyone but the original owner. That’s what a good brand does – it differentiates you from your competitors so that your customers are never confused because they know you when they see you.
Branding is not about what a company thinks of itself, not at all. A brand’s only meaning is in the eyes of its customers, and customers are human beings, constantly driven by emotion. (You may think that all of your decisions are logical, but they’re not. The decisions that you feel the best about are the ones you FEEL the best about.)
Your customers have to make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions every day. So how do you get your attention with your brand? Use the following formula and you will be on the right track!
First, ask yourself a few questions as a company: What do we do? Why do we do it? Why does it matter? That third question is the hardest and matters the most. This is where you differentiate yourself from your competitors and remember that we are not talking about the features of your product here, we are talking about the emotional reaction needed to persuade a potential customer to give you his or her time and/or money!
Once you have figured out what makes you different (and it can’t be stressed enough that you do have to find a niche or an angle regarding what you do that puts you in a league of your own,) you use that to create the foundation of your brand.
Your next task is to come up with a great name. The best names are easy to spell and pronounce, and they “resonate” with the values of your company. Think of brand giant Nike – easy to spell and say, and the name resonates with athleticism because Nike is the Greek goddess of victory.
After you’ve decided upon a name you are ready to design the look of your brand, which may be your logo or your packaging, depending on your type of business. Now is the time to be creative, or hire a creative agency to help you, because you want to be innovative. The first thing a customer’s brain will do once they see you next to your competitors is to subconsciously figure out who’s different from the rest – you want them to realize that it’s you! So look at your competitors and be different … You will know when you’ve hit upon an innovative idea because it will resonate with you. Write that one down, come up with a few more, and create prototypes of your logo or packaging so that you can see how your ideas really work.
Once you have several ideas to work with it’s time to get some feedback. Take some time to speak individually with several of your customers, stakeholders or with people who are similar to your future customers. Show them your concepts and solicit feedback. Ask them which one(s) they gravitate to and why. Ask them which one(s) they trust the most. (Trust is an emotion and you are going for an emotional response, remember?)
Now you have the basic building blocks for a stand-out brand. After establishing it you need to maintain your brand identity by using it as a litmus test for future business decisions. If it enhances your brand, do it! If it muddies the water of your crystal clear concept, then back away. Stay true to your brand and your customers will stay true to you!