Unless you are in marketing, you probably don’t think about branding much. It’s a big, nebulous term that we, the consumers, are most aware of during the Super Bowl. Ad agencies are tripping over each other to make a water cooler ad (you know, the ones we talk about the next day). They work furiously to make a really strong impression so we remember their clients’ products. For example: Even though I rarely drink beer, I am partial to Bud Light’s ads. They are very often clever and funny, and I remember them for the next few days. Now that is branding! I don’t even drink beer, and I would never drink their product, but I remember their ads. (For research purposes, I looked up their website, which is really cool: www.budlight.com.)
My little story proves why branding matters, and you should be doing the same with your business. I enjoy helping clients with branding, but that is not one of my core competencies. To define branding and explain the steps involved in creating a brand, I turned to an expert. Jerome Smith is CEO of brandEvolve, an award-winning creative strategy boutique that specializes in brand identities, marketing communications, and web solutions (www.brandevolve.com). We are working together on a web redesign right now, and it has been a lot of fun. Here’s what I learned from Jerome:
Branding is the art of incorporating your professional identity into how you sell yourself. This identity you create is your calling card and needs to be included in your business name, tag line, logo, website, and all marketing materials. To put it another way, an effective brand= verbal + visual + persona. Verbal are the words you use to describe your services/products and the solutions you offer your clients. Visual is your logo and the graphics on your website and in your marketing materials. Persona is your company’s personality. Are you formal, informal, edgy, conservative, cutting –edge, traditional?
What steps should you take when creating your brand identity? Jerome suggested you start with your company’s name. It need not be permanent, and it’s always a good idea to have a few more name options in your back pocket. Solicit opinions on the names from people you trust. Work on differentiators next. What is going to set you apart from the competition? Then decide on exactly who your target audience is. Put all three of those elements together and you have a positioning statement. A positioning statement is your pathway to building a brand.
When you are working on your positioning statement, ask for client testimonials. They are looking at you from the outside in and can tell you how the world sees you. Their observations are often spot-on. If your business is brand new and you don’t yet have clients, ask for opinions from people you respect in your network. You should also conduct a market audit, aka, scope out the competition. What services/products do they offer? Perhaps you offer similar things, but hadn’t thought about mentioning them. Add those “things” to your service/product descriptions.
A common mistake many people make is not taking the target audience into account. In your messaging, you don’t want to talk at your clients, you want to engage them. Here’s an example, courtesy of Jerome. He is working on a website called Jesuit Commons. This website will ultimately be a “common area” where Jesuit-connected projects can be easily accessed by people around the world. Their audience will be composed of students (at Jesuit colleges), alumni, and donors. Their tagline is “Connecting People and Ideas to Communities in Need”. See how this statement suggests action and energy? It pulls you in because it is an active statement. “We Connect People and Ideas to Communities in Need” doesn’t have the same zing.
In summary, to build a brand, you must have a firm grasp on the concept of your business, the content (how you will express who you are and what you do), the creative (logo, graphics, color), and production (putting it all together).
I know I have just given you a lot to think about. If it seems daunting, set up a consultation with a branding/marketing expert to help you put together a roadmap. If you are not the creative type, it will be money well spent.Google+