Branding 101 | The basics

Branding is one of the most important aspects of building and growing a successful and sustainable business. Yet, there’s still a lot of confusion around what branding and having a brand really means. So let’s clear things up a little.

Let’s start from the opposite end:

What your brand isn’t

It is not your name, logo or trademark.

It is not your website.

It is not your company.

It is not your product or service.

It is not your story.

So what IS your brand?

According to some definitions that I find the most useful, practical and easy-to-understand:

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.” — Marty Neumeier, the godfather of branding

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” — Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” Seth Godin, marketing guru

The key thing to recognise here is that your brand is not something that exists within your company. Your brand exists in the minds and hearts of people. It’s the meaning they attach to you, your company, and your offers. It’s what they think of, what they feel, and what they say when your name is mentioned.

So the question to answer before doing or creating anything regarding your brand is: What do you want people to think and say about you and your products and services?

Which boils down to this question:

What do you want to be known for?

Say for example you are a hairdresser:

Do you want to be known as someone who specialises in edgy short hairstyles for people who view hair as an important part of their self expression? Who offers their services at affordable prices, in a relaxed environment with always fun and friendly vibe?

Or do you want to be the high-end hairstylist whose clients value VIP treatment and the highest quality in everything? Whose whole business oozes luxury even in the smallest details and people aspire to be part of your clientele?

To define your brand you need to answer the following questions:

  • What problem does my product or service solve?
  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • Who is my competition and how is my solution different from theirs?
  • What does my brand make my customers feel?
  • Why should my customers trust me?
  • What is the story behind my business / service / product — why was it created?

If my brand was a person, what would their personality be like, what would they look like?

You need to be absolutely clear about what you are working towards in order to make the right choices. It’s only when you have your brand defined that you can make decisions about your logo and colours, your website, your content etc.

With a clearly defined brand, you can now employ the right tools to make sure that the experience people have when coming in contact with your brand — and the perception they’ll form based on that experience — matches the one you want to create. And that action of shaping people’s perception about you and your business is branding.

Branding tools include your business name, your logo, your colours, your image style (basically, your complete look and feel), your tagline, your story, your packages, your pricing, your naming, your messaging, your content, your tone of voice. Everything. Every little detail influences the impression and experience people will have with your brand.

This means that everything you put out, everything that represents your business has to point at and support the same message. If the elements are giving out different messages, if your branding lacks consistency, you’ll end up creating confusion instead of trust. And without trust, there areno transactions. There are no sales.

So make sure that the branding tools you use and the way you use them are based on carefully considered decisions and not on the view that “everyone does it this way”.

Creating a brand strategy means creating a system that strategically aligns the different branding tools so that together they point towards and reaffirm the same message.

Branding without strategy is the creation of beautifully packaged generic information (a.k.a noise) that lacks personality or goals.

On the other hand, a well-defined brand strategy is a compass for every business decision.

It’s not what you say it is

You might have noticed that this whole time I’ve been using the word “people” instead of “ideal customer” or “target audience”. This is because everyone who comes in contact with your business will — consciously or subconsciously — create a perception of it.

Remember, your brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say, think, feel, experience it is. And people will have different experiences.

Your brand will mean a different thing for each person at different times. And the way they connect with your brand will also be influenced by factors outside of your control (their mood, mindset and external circumstances at the time of contact with your brand, their previous experiences, what other people say, etc).

This shouldn’t dishearten you though. Building a brand is a process. If you are consistent, clear, and honest working towards a clear goal with a strategy to get there your efforts will pay off.

Your aim should be to reach and connect with the people who are the most important for your business: your ideal customers. Focus on reaching, connecting, and building a relationship with them. Earn their trust by demonstrating empathy and authority. Until they feel ready to buy from you. And continue to nurture the relationship with them after the transaction too.

Conclusion

Your brand is the heartbeat of your business and defines everything that creates a reaction from your audience.

Creating your brand takes a lot more than having a logo and a professional look. It’s an exciting process where first you define the essence of your business: what it is about and how its message should be portrayed to reach the people you set out to serve.

Then you employ the set of tools (branding) and follow a plan (brand strategy) to build a system to make sure the meaning people attach to you, your business and offer are in line with the brand you want to create.

Consistency is key. And it can be overwhelming to consider every detail. But with a clear goal and a clear strategy you can create a brand that, with time, will become one of the most valuable assets of your business.

If you need help defining your brand and creating a brand strategy that is aligned with the essence of who you are and the true purpose behind your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I would love to hear from you.

And if you would like to get started on your own first, download this FREE action-focus GUIDE and Instantly Elevate Your Brand.

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Zsanett Kovacs

Zsanett Kovacs

Brand Consultant & Personal Branding Photographer helping people show up in their business with confidence.