We touched on what a brand is in our January blog – how it’s so much more than a logo, how it communicates what your company’s all about, and how it’s a contract between you and your customers (and so much more. Check it out here). So this time around, I thought it’d be fun to talk about what a brand isn’t in a favorite format: Top 10 Myths.
A brand is your business name, logo and tagline. Does it incorporate these things? Absolutely. But is a brand composed solely of these things? Hardly. A brand conceptualizes what you, your employees, your customers and essentially, the world, thinks, feels and perceives your organization to be. Just as your fingerprint is a way of identifying you from everyone else, your brand implies something much bigger stands behind it, readily identifiable by the imprint it leaves in the marketplace.
Branding is optional. Not. Even. Close. Even if you consciously decided never to develop your brand, something about your company would still be communicated to the world. No decision is still a decision, remember. Better to choose what you communicate, rather than having others communicate for you (where you risk having a lot less say in it).
Branding is only for big companies. Even the big companies started somewhere (ever seen the picture of Bezos in his first Amazon office?). Branding sets an intention of who your company is and will be, what role it wants to play, and the reputation it’s striving for in every transaction.
Branding is crazy expensive. I mean…if you’re Nike or Disney, maybe. But every company can afford to put some thought into how it would like to be perceived by its customers. This is where a brand extends far beyond catchy taglines and images. The brand conceptualizes the ideal way each and every customer interacts with your business.
You’re in control of your brand. LOL. “Hi, I’m Yelp.” Still think you’re in control of your brand? (Hint – your customers are.) The success of your brand depends on your customer’s perception and awareness of you, not your perception and awareness of you. Want to know how you’re doing? Google your business and check out what people are saying. If you’re not seeing any reviews, or ones you would write home about…it’s time to get strategic about what your brand is doing.
A brand can be all things to all people, everywhere. Lofty ambition, but not accurate. Nor should you set this as a goal. Marketing 101 talks about your target audience, and your brand is what speaks directly to that audience. Spread your attention too wide and your brand loses its clarity (and likely relevance in highly-saturated markets).
Branding is all about first impressions. First impressions are important, sure, but sustained impressions are what build your customer base and your company’s credibility. Sinking all of your focus into attracting first-time customers is a waste of time if your business doesn’t have what it takes to create a positive experience throughout. Your brand is the vehicle that carries your customer through their entire journey with you.
Branding is all about the visuals. Let’s not confuse visual identity with branding. Visual identities encompass the company’s logo, color palette, fonts and typography, formatting, placement and composition (to name a few). Branding includes these things and so much more (voice, mission, vision, values, strategic outreach, target audience, persona, etc.)
Once you create a brand, you’re stuck with it forever. Flexibility is the new black. Granted, you can’t demolish the entirety of your brand and rebuild a new one overnight. But, you can retain your brand’s core elements and create whirlwinds of new ideas and approaches. Think of it this way, your brand is kind of like that pet chihuahua the latest social debutante is carrying around. The dog doesn’t change, but it’s outfits, sunglasses, carrying purses, nail polish colors and collars sure can.
You can’t measure the success of your brand. If this were true, then a ton of marketing and PR agencies would be out of a job. Over time, the health of your brand is evidenced by how many impressions it makes in a marketplace. Social media hashtag campaigns, google analytics, and social review sites have made impression reading a lot easier these days. To get a feel for how you’re doing, start making a habit of checking out what people are saying about your brand. And, if you’re feeling really involved, start targeted campaigns to proactively engage with your customers. They love you too, you know.
Remember, your brand reflects the entirety of your company out into the consumer universe. If you need a guide to help you navigate to 5-star reviews, I’m always happy to help.