The visual parts of a brand (looking at you, logo) are usually what comes to mind when it’s time to think about branding or rebranding a business.
But a logo is not a brand – not by a long shot.
Think of your brand like an iceberg. Over 90% of an iceberg’s mass is underwater – most of what makes the iceberg an iceberg is completely hidden from view.
In the same way, the visual stuff that people see when interacting with your business – like your logo, your brand colors, and the graphics on your website – is only a tiny portion of what makes up your brand.
In fact, a brand is everything that represents your business – your emails, your social media accounts, your headshots, your business cards, your website, your content, the way you answer the phone…anything and everything that is part of how people experience your business is a part of your brand.
And that can get pretty complicated. If you don’t have a clearly defined brand strategy – or brand foundation – it’s easy for all those little details to fall out of sync and create a confusing, disjointed brand experience for your clients and potential clients.
Your visual brand (the things your audience and clients see and interact with) is like the tip of the iceberg.
Your brand foundation (the ideas, values, and strategies your business is based on) is the part of the iceberg that’s hidden under the water. The part that makes up a figurative 90% of it’s mass.
So if you’re interested in developing your brand (or rebranding), where do you start? You need to start by laying the strategic foundation (the “invisible” parts of your brand that hover below the surface).
When working on brand strategy projects, I break this foundation down into the following four parts:
Your business needs a mission statement. But I’m not talking about a typical “corporate” mission statement that lists sales goals. I’m talking about a Purpose Statement.
Your business goals include things you want to achieve within your company – like the amount of money you want to make, the team members you want to add, and the offers you want to launch.
Your purpose is about what you’re doing for someone else.
It’s about the positive impact you want to have on your clients, you industry, your community, or the world.
I have yet to encounter an entrepreneur that doesn’t have a purpose for their brand – if you dig deep enough. But it is essential to take the time to identify that purpose and clearly describe it.
At Jobson Studios, we work specifically with entrepreneurs and organizations that are creating products, services, and business models that improve lives and communities, and we’ve seen first hand how transformational it is for a business when they align their brand with their purpose.
Before jumping into the branding process, I highly recommend starting here – with purpose. This purpose will fuel everything else you do.
Story is about framing your business and your services in a way that people can relate to – it’s about putting your audience in the frame of mind to see how what you’re doing fits into their lives.
When it comes to brand storytelling, you’ll see a lot of emphasis put on telling your story. I.e Why your company was created, why you believe in what you’re doing, and what your business is like behind the scenes.
These stories are good (and, especially as they relate to your purpose, they are important), but they aren’t the stories you should be telling the most.
The most powerful brand stories emerge when you put your audience at the center of them. For example:
What does your brand purpose mean for your customers? How does it impact them and how do they contribute? Why do they care?
What does his or her life look like after working with you? What changes? What do they accomplish, overcome, get rid of, or get more of?
Storytelling can be a powerful way to connect the dots between your audience’s life and your brand, and these stories are an important piece of your brand foundation.
What do you do differently, better, or instead of? What sets you apart from others in your industry?
Finding your originality is KEY to creating a memorable, effective brand.
Without this information, it will be next to impossible to create content, offers, and marketing that actually works.
You don’t need to be revolutionizing your trade. You don’t have to come up with something that’s never been done before. Your unique set of experience, vision, and skill makes you an original.
The enthusiasm you have for your purpose, and the authenticity with which you tell your story makes you original.
But you need to take it a step further – you need to identify how that plays out in your work, and then communicate it clearly with your audience in a way that shows how it benefits them.
Do you use a unique process? Do you work with clients in a way that most of your competitors don’t? Do you have an uncommon blend of experience that gives you an original perspective?
If you don’t know who you’re trying to attract with your brand, you’ll struggle to grow an audience, gain clients and customers, and move your business forward.
With a defined audience, you’ll know how to create content, offers, and a brand experience that appeals strongly to the people you serve best.
You’ve probably seen dozens of client avatar exercises, but most of them are seriously insufficient. They only scratch the surface with demographics and (mostly) useless details that you more or less make up on the spot. Information like age, location, and occupation can play an important role in defining your audience, but if you don’t have real data to inform these demographics, you’re taking a guess that could potentially miss the mark.
Worse, conjuring up details like what your ideal clients eat for breakfast, what car they drive, and what stores they frequent can wind up being nothing but fluff that distracts you from real information you can use to build a stronger brand message.
Instead, start with what you know: you existing and past customers. Which projects were your favorite? Which customers did you enjoy working with the most? Which projects resulted in your best work?
List your favorite customers to date, and search for the common threads. The things that these people have in common are a great place to start when identifying who your ideal clients are.
Thinking about officially branding your business for the first time, or rebranding your business to better reflect your purpose, story, originality, and audience? Grab a copy of our free guide 4 Cues That You’re Ready to (Re)Brand Your Business (+2 That You’re Not) below.