Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. -Entrepreneur.com
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. -Seth Godin
You hear the term “branding” a lot when talking to businesses whether they are large or small. What is your brand? Why is branding important? How can you brand yourself and your business? It is difficult, if not downright impossible, to be a successful entrepreneur anymore unless you have an established brand look, feel, image, logo, marketing materials, and product.
Think about these companies, their brand and what you know about them: Apple, Target, Barbie, John Deere, Tiffany, David Yurman, Campbell Soup, Walmart, McDonald’s, Nike, Volkswagen, Coke, and let’s not forget Rio Grande. What are their logos? How would you describe their customer service? What is their product? Packaging? Color? How would you define them? How do they define themselves? What is the first thing you think about when you hear one of these names? What do you visualize?
The Three Cs
When you start defining your brand and who you are, probably in the back of your mind you already have ideas about what you want to project to the public and your peers. Here are some things to think about as you pull your ideas together. The most important thing is to have a “Clear, Concise, and Consistent” message of who you are and your image. Follow these recommendations to officially start branding yourself.
- What have you done in the past?—Look at all your current marketing materials (postcards, business cards, letterhead, website, show displays, etc.) to make sure they have the same colors, the same logo, that you have used a consistent font, and that the message is distinctively you and yours. Throw out anything that’s not clear, concise, and consistent.
- Start a list.—Keep a list of colorful strong words that describe your product or service, your definition of customer relations, your design philosophy, your influences and image. You will be using these words over and over again for all your marketing needs.
- Keep a file of images.—Keep a file of ads, postcards, websites, and display ideas you feel are particularly attractive, clever and well produced. Not that you are going to take someone else’s ideas, obviously, but you need to start becoming aware of what you feel works well and what doesn’t. This way you start to create and hone your own thoughts and ideas.
- Be consistent.—I have said it before but it bears being said again: consistency is vital. Look at the companies and products I listed at the beginning of this post and analyze how they have always had a definable and identifiable image that permeates every aspect of their business. I like to use the example of McDonald’s. There isn’t anything in their establishments that doesn’t scream “McDonald’s.” Their logo and colors are everywhere and on everything.
- Have a marketing mentor.—This doesn’t have to be anyone you personally know, just a company you admire and want to emulate. For me, personally, it is Apple. I love their clean, simple graphics. I know walking into one of their stores that it will be crowded but the “geniuses” are always nearby to help or to get me help. I trust their products and customer service. They believe in innovation and staying one step ahead of the competition, which I admire. I know I am probably going to pay more for their products, but feel I will always get more. Everything bearing the Apple logo is beautifully designed and crafted.
- If you don’t brand yourself, others will brand you.—This is a common political theory. If you don’t get your story out there (and as often as possible) others will get your story out there from their perspective. This goes not just for politics but for branding and marketing.
- Remember everything.—Remember everything you touch, send out, print, display and create is part of your brand, down to the greeting on your answering machine and the way you ship packages. Become detail-oriented. Nothing is too small to overlook.
- Set goals.—I know you hear this a lot, but it is imperative to have written goals you want to achieve as far as marketing and branding are concerned. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? (Variations of this have been said by Yogi Berra and the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.)
- Write—Now is the time to write down everything you have been thinking. All your ideas, words, images, and goals. This is your official marketing (branding) plan.
- Read—Read everything you can about brands and branding.
Then get going! Or as Nike says, “Just Do It.”