*A version of this was written for the Digital Squad, in this one I added more on personal branding and just changed some language here and there.*
I remember learning about branding and marketing doing my post grad in advertising account management. We all knew about branding but I didn’t realize how involved it was before I started. Now a lot of this was written for the Digital Squad but I wanted to go more into it here.
No matter your size be it you are a large multinational corporation or are just a small store selling your own crafts, branding matters. Now branding isn’t just the logo, colours or a slogan although those are its most visible signs. If you just google the definition of branding what comes up is the following:
Branding is a marketing strategy that involves creating a differentiated name and image — often using a logo and/or tag line — in order to establish a presence in the consumer’s mind and attract and keep customers.
While this definition is OK I would say that branding is more than just a marketing strategy it has to come before it because it is about what your brand is, what it represents to everyone inside and outside the company. Creating a marketing strategy without knowing what your brand is, not just the look but what you stand for makes the strategy nothing but a shell that your audience will realize soon enough.
In some respects branding is about the emotion you feel for a brand and how it connects to you. In branding a brand should reflect their audience, instead of telling the brand story, the brand should be about telling their customer’s story. So that when the person looks at the brand they see people like them, that they want to be associated with.
There are several distinct elements that make up a brand and Just Creative had a great post about it. There are lot elements to a brand from the most obvious like the logo to what the brand stands for. Just create says that a brand is “the perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.” I would say that the perception goes to customers and also to those that represent the brand.
Small businesses now have the ability to go online get a professional logo design but the most important part of the process isn’t the design of the logo but what the process has said about what you want to represent to your target market.
Next Just Creative goes into the identity which are the visual elements of the brand and the final element is the logo which identifies the brand. The reason I think they separate the logo from the visuals is that the logo is what identifies the brand, its what you recall, what you want to remember which makes it distinct from the visual style.
For many small businesses you are your brand they are not separate and for others even if you have a brand identity that is distinct you imbue the brand with who you are as an individual and your commitment to your customers is what will make your customers keep on coming back.
Personal Branding (Not a Fan)
If you are freelancer you are your brand, if you are on Facebook, Linkedin for the person those are all part of your own brand. It isn’t something that you can just separate which means as an individual you have to think about the perception that a hiring manager would see.
I feel like personal branding is both good and bad but that I want to be seen as me not as a persona and that includes all my strengths and weaknesses. Shama Hyder in her article about creating an awesome personal brand says at the beginning that it’s “no longer IF you have a personal brand, but if you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or let it be defined on your behalf.”
I want to show that my failures are not weaknesses that they are how I got to this point and that through those challenges I am a better man.
I rail against the need for personal branding, she is completely right that it can be powerful if you cultivate your personal brand but I choose to just be me, a work in progress that is reaching for his own version of the dream.
What a brand is matter how big or small is what it you are there to do, what do you stand for and what drives you to do it. Living to these ideals in all aspects of your business because its who you are will make your customers go to you. Authenticity is hard to fake because it comes across in subtle ways as much as the obvious ones and it’s what makes your brand feel real.
Clarity is important in branding, you can’t be everything to everyone and you shouldn’t try because that can get people confused about who you are and what you do. Focus on doing what you do well. Be the ice cream parlour that has the most unusual flavors or whatever.
A small business may think its just appealing to locals but if you are online and even if you are not you can be found by someone on the other side of the world. In the modern age most people are just a search away from being found. So branding is what you stand for and how your customers perceive that. It isn’t created in isolation but is made up of what you represent, the visuals, the business and most importantly how your customers see you.
So no matter how big or small you are branding is important, first you have to provide great products or services but branding makes you feel unique to customers. In an age where there are a lot of alternatives to everything a good brand stands apart like a splash of colour in a sea of black and white and that’s where you want to be as a brand and a business.