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The Basics of Branding

What is branding?

Gah, it’s complicated. But in a nutshell, your brand is your reputation and it’s visibility in the marketplace. Ultimately, it’s your customers that will define your brand, but there are a number of things you can do to define your company’s voice, your message and establish those traits.

Sounds boring, yes? NO! Ok.. maybe a little. This process is extremely important and should be thoughtfully done before any marketing strategies are in place. To be successful, you need to start by asking the most fundamental of questions and understand the current state of the business and market. You need to go deep. Deeper. Too deep! Go back!

I have my clients fill out a client collaboration worksheet that helps to define their business, goals and voice. Asking yourself questions such as:

  • Where do I want my company to be in 5 years? If your answer is “Makin’ those benjis”.. you need to go deeper.

  • What personality traits describe my business? Quirky? Sophisticated? Whimsical? Trustworthy? Plays well with others?

  • Who are my target audiences and what do they want from my brand? Potty trained toddlers looking to let off some steam? Aggravated equestrians seeking a helping hand?

  • What kind of culture do I want to encourage in my company?

And here’s a big one - know your business’s purpose.

Why do you walk through the door each morning? What are you offering your target audience that makes a difference in their lives? This is actually one of the differentiating factors that separates you from your competitors. Yes, making a profit is an obvious answer, but think about what you do for your customers that drives you. For example, think of Nordstrom. Stop thinking about shoes, stay focused. You have to admit that their amazing customer service does come to mind. In that regard, they are accomplishing their company’s mission statement: To work relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.

So once you are able to get to the core of your values, goals and voice, you’re well on your way to creating a thoughtful and strategic brand that tells your company’s story.

But wait. There’s more. A good brand strategy doesn’t just define what you do, it’s as much about what you don’t do. You’ll want to work with your team to develop policies and values that direct action, but also rules out those approaches you want to veer away from. Think of your brand strategy as the North Star, the foundation.

Next you can begin to move on to logo design (or a logo refresh in a lot of cases), marketing strategies (with those oh so fun tactical executions) and designing all of the beautiful collateral that goes along with it.


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