Hi and welcome to my blog. This is the first of a series focusing on how to build your brand, whether you’re developing or refining. And, as this is the first, it would make sense to concentrate on the foundations. The ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of your business.
Why is brand identity important?
In a nutshell, it’s what sets your business apart from others. It’s what makes you stand out but it goes beyond visual (your logo, colours, fonts, imagery strapline etc.) as it also needs to appeal to your customers’ senses. They need to relate to it - ‘This business is for me’. So it’s a good idea to start building your brand from day one in order to start building brand recognition which, in turn, will lead to higher brand awareness.
Years ago, when I was running pitches for the rebrand of the Money Advice Service, one of the agencies said something which has stuck with me. It’s quite simple - you should be able to put your hand over an organisation's logo and still be able to tell that that particular communication is from that particular organisation. In other words, whilst the logo is extremely important in terms of brand recognition, a brand should be identifiable by other elements. But before we go into these elements (which I’ll cover in more detail over the course of the series), let’s explore exactly what a brand is and why brand identity is important.
What is a brand
A brand can be described as ‘a person’s perception of a product, service, experience or organisation based on an organisation’s identifying logo, name and presence.’
Note the word ‘perception’. Another way to look at it is your brand is your business’ personality. It’s the way your business makes people think or feel. And it needs to be consistent. It’s also likely to be the first impression your potential customers have with your business and first impressions count!
Your Brand Purpose
So how do you build your brand? In the immortal words of Julie Andrews, you need to ‘start at the very beginning’ and decide what your business is all about. What is your brand purpose? Your reason for being and what you stand for? Both the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’. Try answering these questions:
‘Apart from making money, why is it that you do what you do?’
‘What is it that you do?’.
From this you can develop your brand attributes and brand values. I can hear you groan at the marketing jargon! But please read on! Basically, your brand attributes are the core values you’ve chosen to define your business. They are the features understood by your audience to be a fundamental part of your brand, pretty much as we as people have. How would your friends and family describe you? Are you intelligent, focussed, amusing, professional? These are your attributes.
And brand attributes also include your business’ brand values – the principles ‘within’ your business.
What are your brand values?
If you’ve established your brand purpose, these should follow fairly easily. And they must be authentic. I know this sounds a bit ‘really!’ and ‘eyes to ceiling’. But if you can nail these, pretty much everything else will fall into place. They underpin everything your business does and helps to set a framework for ‘Why’ and the ‘What’, as opposed to something you put in the ‘About Us’ section of your website and think ‘job done!’.
Examples of brand values are:
But there are many more and maybe the best way to approach this is to brainstorm various adjectives relevant to your business and then add straplines. This will help you to see whether you can remain true to this value consistently and will help you to embed it into your business’ DNA.
They must be relevant – the emotional connection between you and your prospective customers. Your brand needs to shout out that it understands your customers' problems and can solve them through your products or services.
They need to be consistent. Your customers need to know what to expect for your brand to gain trust.
And your brand needs to be credible. Here is where your customer service (pre, during and post-sales) comes in. What brand value would you choose to cover this? Aspirational values are fine as long as you can live up to them and they are relevant, consistent, sustainable and credible.
For example, one of my brand values is ‘Accountability’. And my internal strapline is ‘The buck stops with me’. By having accountability as one of my brand values, I need to ensure that I am and I’ve built my business model accordingly. My clients can be assured that I will stay in touch and revisit at agreed intervals to ensure my strategies and advice are working.
Next up is Brand Positioning. And, because you’ve worked out your brand purpose, attributes and values, you should be able to position yourself correctly. What should your customers expect from you? Are you high-end luxury, affordable quality or even ‘pile them high, sell them cheap’? Or, if you’re offering a service, how do you wish your audience to perceive you?
Whatever you decide you need to be consistent and this positioning should be reflected in everything you do. A good way to think about this is: Are you the ‘Waitrose’ of your product or service, the Tesco or the Lidl? Perhaps just by reading these three brand names you already have a clear idea of which is positioned where, who their target audience is and what their audience expects from them. This isn’t just by chance. These brands have identified the most valuable audience segment for them and have positioned themselves accordingly. Everything they do and say and how they say it is finely tuned to meet the needs of their specific audience. And, as a result, their audience feels ‘they are for them’.
So there you have it - a whistle-stop tour of the importance of brand identity. And once you’ve defined your brand attributes, brand values and positioning, you will be in a better place to determine the look and feel of your brand. This includes your logo, colour palette, fonts, imagery and strapline, and the non-visual - how you communicate with your customers and potential customers through tone of voice and language. These are the building blocks that help you to forge long-term relationships with your customers, encouraging loyalty, repeat orders and referrals. I’ll go into more detail in my next blog.
In the meantime, please do get in touch if you’d like any further information or if I can help in any way.