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Beyond the Logo: What Goes Into a Successful Brand
Branding is a big term that is often misunderstood.
Sometimes, a logo is referred to as the brand.
Sometimes, a brand is described as something you have no control over and is, instead, a product of your audience’s perception.
Sometimes, in the rapidly growing personal-brand-fueled industries, branding is described as nothing but an extension of your personality and ideas.
Actually, there’s some truth to all of these ideas about branding. But it’s not the whole story.
Harnessing the power of effective branding will help you establish and grow your business + work with more of your ideal type of client, so it’s worth taking the time to understand it wholly.
Here’s my own method for breaking down the complex topic of branding and understanding how to put it to work for your business.
First, understand the four factors at play in branding
Branding isn’t an isolated incident. It’s an evolving process of which parts of it are under your control as the business owner, and parts of it are under the control of your audience (how they perceive what you put out there). All the parts and pieces of a brand fall under these categories:
This is your identifier. A logo is a small part of a brand, but it plays the important role of helping people instantly recognize your company.
This is the larger visual system you use to present your business across all channels. This includes your logo, but also things like color, typography, photography, marketing collateral, packaging, and anything else that visually represents your company.
BRAND MESSAGING + STRATEGY
In addition, the visual system you use to present your brand, there are also many non-visual elements that shape your brand. This includes the messaging that you put on your website or in marketing materials, the stuff you post to your business social media accounts, how you talk about your business when you network, the way you package and price your services, your client experience, the way you market and advertise, and all the other details that shape the way people experience your business.
This is the area of branding that we, as business owners, can’t directly control. All of the other steps listed previously are aimed at shaping the perception people form of our businesses. This is the ultimate result of branding – associating certain feelings, values, and ideas with our business in the minds of our audience (in a way that supports your business goals).
Why Branding is Not an Extension of You
I work with a lot of one-person companies often referred to as “Personal Brands”.
In these situations, the person running the company describes themselves as the brand. They’re one and the same.
As a one-person business or “personal brand”, your personality will naturally blend into your work. And putting your own spin on things according to your values and ideas is a welcomed benefit of a personal brand.
BUT. It’s important to think of yourself and your brand as separate things.
Your business doesn’t need to be a complete and transparent reflection of you (there are plenty of personal things that won’t make its way into your brand.)
There are also plenty of decision you’ll need to make for your business from a strategic standpoint, not an emotional, personality-driven one.
That’s not to say that you can’t keep your brand in line with your personal values and motives. But when it comes to making branding choices – like what to say in your sales page copy or what elements should go into your visual brand identity system – those should be based on strategic decisions about what your audience wants, not necessarily a reflection of your own personal preference.
In order to make strategic decisions like that, you have to separate yourself from your brand.
How to Tell If You Have a Complete Brand
Thing is, every business has a brand automatically, whether they’ve intentionally shaped it or not. As soon as you launch a business and have an interaction with a customer, a brand is there. That customer formed an opinion about your company. They’ve associated it with something – a feeling, an idea.
The more you strategically brand your business, the more influence you can have on how people perceive it.
Here’s a checklist of individual items that contribute to your overall brand. The more items you have on the list, the more complete the brand experience you’re creating for your customers is.
(Which means it’s also important to note that just having these items checked off isn’t enough. The branding activities you’ve done need to align with how you want people to see your company. If it’s sending the wrong message, it’s not helping you create a better brand. For each of the following items, ask yourself if it is 1) in place and 2) strategic and in line with the brand image you want to portray.)
- Business name + Tagline
- Brand mission/purpose statement
- Brand Point of View + differentiation
- Ideal client profile(s)
- Service packages
- Documented client processes
- On-brand marketing plan
- Branded social media profiles
- Logo system (brand logo that can be adapted to fit multiple applications but still remain consistent)
- Consistent color palette
- Typography/font guidelines
- Photography (+ photography guidelines)
- Collateral (i.e business cards, stationery, packaging, etc.)
- Brand voice/messaging guidelines
- Branded, lead-generating website
- Strategic website copy
A brand is a fluid thing, and any touchpoint someone has with your company has an influence on your brand. Small details that aren’t on this list – like the voicemail message on your business line, the signature in your emails, and the way you describe your business at networking events (to name a few examples) – can also play a part in a customer’s or prospect’s overall experience of your brand.
Once you have the main brand elements defined, keeping all the small details consistent will become easy and natural.
How did you score?
Do you have all (or most) of the brand elements in the list above? Or are there some areas that need attention? Make a list of the brand-building activities you need to focus on + grab a spot on in weekly email series below for more ideas, inspiration, and encouragement.