So, you're a business owner, and you have this thing. It can be anything, really, but it’s your thing that you do -- typically a service or a product. It's what you have to offer your consumers.
However, this thing doesn’t just magically appear to consumers in a neat package, ready to purchase. It becomes noticeable, memorable and desired by consumers through branding.
Branding is integral to your thing’s success, plain and simple. And it goes beyond the fancy wordplay of ad copy and cool design. It's what gives your thing meaning and purpose in the world and in the daily lives of ordinary consumers who are starving for what you have to offer, even if they don’t know it quite yet.
Think of Nike without “just do it” and the swoosh. Or McDonald’s without the golden arches and the reassurance that "you’re lovin' it." Or Apple without the apple. What would happen if these instantly-recognizable brand elements didn’t exist? Would we know these brands and what they promise? Would they even have a fraction of the impact and influence that they have on the world today? Probably not.
Now, imagine your thing existing (as it does) but without a strong brand as its face, as its meaning-maker. Perhaps you don’t currently have a brand that expertly conveys your thing -- who you are, what you do and why you should be in a consumer’s orbit.
Whether you’ve yet to develop a brand or give your existing one a much-needed update, it is essential to think critically about the elements of your brand that will go into defining who you are to the world and how far you can take consumers with the power of effective imagination.
Here are a few ways to start thinking about your branding, whether it exists yet or not:
Look beyond the superficial aspects of branding.
Before you start branding, take it seriously.
Branding, when done well, means more than a great logo and a catchy name or tagline. Many businesses make the grave mistake of taking their branding elements at face value and neglect to consider how they will interact with the real world. Just as you think about how you dress, talk and otherwise present yourself in the world with purpose, so too should you think about how to present your brand.
Creating a brand that looks cool or fashionable is by no means a bad thing -- doing so could be very advantageous for your business. However, you need to go beyond surface concepts and start thinking about your brand with more profound meaning and purpose. This will help you arrive where you need to be brand-wise.
Be deliberate about what elements you include in your branding, and think critically about the colors, typography and content. If you choose blue as the color for your logo, ask yourself why. What does the color blue represent? How and what does it effectively communicate to consumers? Asking yourself why is a great way to properly evaluate and give deeper meaning to your branding decisions.
Relate your brand building to your key ideas and values.
Chances are your business isn’t the only one that does that thing you do. Even genuine innovators and original thinkers have been beaten to the chase by someone else or, at least, face some competition. Folger’s isn’t the only coffee brand. Progressive isn’t the only insurance brand. And you’re probably not the only brand in whatever you do.
That’s why you’ve probably identified a differentiator or two -- key ideas that make you stand out from your competition -- that you stick to and incorporate in your daily practices. This idea is essential to building a distinctive and compelling brand.
When building your brand, plunge the depths of those ideas and see what kind of inspiration you come up with. If you can dig deep into the ideas that set you apart, you’ll discover a treasure-trove of possibilities, from tone-of-voice and taglines to logos and color codes. You’ll mine what elements truly speak for and convey what you do successfully.
Decide what kind of story you want to tell.
If you’ve seen the 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the 1973 adaptation of William Goldman’s novel "The Princess Bride," you probably noticed that both films share common themes. True love, loss, revenge -- all these themes and more are entangled in the exciting action of both films.
However, the similarities between these films stop at their themes. "Romeo + Juliet" is a hyper-stylized and melodramatic modern-day tragedy. "The Princess Bride," on the other hand, is a meta-comedic spoof of adventure, fairy tale and high-fantasy tropes. Though the films share the same themes, their stories and creative directions are entirely different.
When thinking about your brand, contemplate what story you want it to tell. The story you tell will depend largely on what industry you’re in, but providing a distinct brand story in your field is an excellent way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Though your business may share similar ideas with competitors, you can still tell a different story. Think about all the different directions you can take your brand and choose the one that will help your business soar.