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Building Your Brand

Building Your Brand

Building Your Brand

As an entrepreneur, you know how important building your brand is.

The first thing that you probably did when you were trying to start your business was get your logo designed.

You were obsessed about getting that logo everywhere. On your business cards, pens, coffee mugs, uniforms, your future office.

Hey, we’ve all been there. We all dreamed about someday becoming a household name. Who doesn’t want to have a brand that people say in the same breath as Apple, Amazon, McDonalds, or Starbucks?

But brands don’t just become an overnight hit. There’s a lot of work that goes into brand building. 

What is a brand?

In order to learn how to make a great brand, you have to first understand what a brand is.

A lot of people think of the brand as simply the logo, the colors of the website.

But a brand is much more than this. A brand is about:

  • What you’re known for
  • What problem you solve
  • Who you solve that problem for
  • How you solve that problem differently
  • What triggers your customer to look for your solution

Great brands build in the same aspects as a culture with tangible and intangible aspects. Let’s take the Starbucks brand, for example.

Starbucks has many elements that make it a culture and not just a brand. If you look closely at Starbucks you will see they have a:

  • Language
  • Environment
  • Clothing
  • Soundtrack
  • Flag
  • Community
  • Values or Beliefs
  • Norms
  • Artifacts

When you walk into a Starbucks coffee shop, you’re immediately greeted by the tangible aspects of their brand: the things that you as a customer can see, touch, smell or hear. Think of the aroma of coffee in the air, the ambient lighting and interior decor, or the unmistakable Starbucks soundtrack playing across different locations.

Then there are the intangible aspects of Starbucks that deal with meaning in the minds of customers. Those who love Starbucks will tell you that they don’t just go there for coffee. They go there to meet with their friends (who happen to be coffee drinkers) or because it’s a cool spot to hang out. Starbucks for their fans is associated with the happy memories of bonding over coffee or being part of the hip crowd.

Branding then, is putting together both the tangible and intangible aspects to affect customers in a positive or memorable way. Circling back to what branding is about, you can think of ways to use both tangible and intangible elements to make sure that customers can clearly remember:

  • What you’re known for (ie. Starbucks is known for the coffee culture)
  • What problem you solve (ie. Starbucks customers didn’t just want to buy coffee, they want to experience it)
  • Who you solve that problem for (ie. Specialty coffee drinkers for Starbucks)
  • How you solve that problem differently (ie. Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee, they provide a place where coffee aficionados can get together)
  • What triggers your customer to look for your solution (ie. Customers think of Starbucks when they want to meet up with friends who like coffee)

Your Brand Identity

Now that you understand what a brand is, it’s time to think about your brand identity.

Brand identity is composed of the specific visual and non-visual elements of your brand that defines its character and personality. It’s the tangible and intangible aspects of your brand in action.

It’s how your brand looks, thinks, walks, talks, and does things.

To develop your brand identity, you have to think about what features and core values you want your brand to represent. Is your brand fun? Serious? What does your brand do? What do your potential and existing customers know about your brand?

Your goal is to establish a strong brand identity. This is true whether you’re building a personal or company brand. A strong brand identity keeps you from becoming just one of the generic brands out there. It helps you establish a point of differentiation for your company and products.

Brand Messaging

Another important aspect is your brand communications. You want to make sure that your brand messaging:

  • Clearly communicates not only what it is you do but also what value you provide to your clients and customers
  • Makes your brand something that your audience can connect with

You should avoid industry speak or trade lingo unless it makes sense. For instance, if you’re an IT or software company whose audience are business owners, then it might be better to use simpler language and focus on how you can help them with their business. But if you’re an IT or software company whose target audience are other IT companies, then it would make sense to use your trade lingo.

The key is to always adapt and speak the language of your audience.

Someone should be able to explain what you do after talking to you. If it’s not clear, then that’s something you need to work on.

Your brand messaging should also help your target audience connect with you. Just because people understand what you do doesn’t automatically mean they connect to your messaging. So your messaging should address their pain points – they should be able to relate your services and products as solutions to their problems.

Your Ideal Customers

Who are the people you want to serve?

You need to make sure that your brand identity and messaging resonate with your ideal customers. These are the people you want to solve problems for.

The biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make is to try to make everybody their customer. If you’re doing this, then you have a big problem. Think of it this way: not everyone will be your friend. Then why are you expecting everyone to be your client or customer?

Businesses are relationships: you have to choose which ones you want to keep so you can focus on nurturing them. These are the clients or customers who are most valuable to you. And these same clients understand your value to them.

Take Apple, for example. Everyone wants Apple but not everyone can afford an Apple product. Apple knows this, but they don’t go discounting their products to make it affordable to more people. Because doing so would erode their brand identity and reduce their products into generic commodities.

Don’t be afraid to alienate people outside of your target audience. This helps you weed out people who are not your ideal clients.

Not everyone will connect to your brand. And that’s perfectly fine: that is precisely the goal of branding.

Aligning Your Brand with Your Customers

Connecting with your ideal customers is easier said than done.

To do this, you need to have a deep knowledge of your customers. You have to know not just their demographic but also their psychographic profile: their habits, their lifestyle choices, their emotional triggers.

Put simply, you have to know what they care about and care about it, too.

According to psychologist Robert Cialdini, we have a need for consistency in our lives. So when it comes to liking people, we are more likely to like people who we share some similarities with.

So to connect with your ideal customers, your brand should not only talk in their language but also communicate the same values or foster a sense of shared history. If your target audience values honesty, then they have to see you as an honest brand to like you.

But you have to genuinely align your brand values with those of your target audience to really resonate with them. This means walking the talk. If you say your brand cares about social responsibility then your customers also need to see that in action. Otherwise, your audience will easily see through the pretense, to the detriment of your brand and business.

Your Brand is How Customers Know You

A brand is a highly subjective entity and depends a lot on how customers perceive you and what you do.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to imagine what they think or how they feel about your product or brand.

Do they love how you solve their problems for them?

Do they think you’re helpful or not? Will they happily recommend you to someone they know who needs your product or services?

Your brand is built in the customers’ minds. So if you don’t attempt to build the brand and influence this perception, your customers will do it for you. You shouldn’t wait for that to happen.

If you want to become a standout brand, you have to be actively involved in molding the tangible and intangible aspects of your brand experience. You have to clearly define what your brand stands for and who your brand stands with. Be willing to build a cult from your fans rather than attempt to be a crowd pleaser.

Brand building takes a lot of work and may take a longer time than you expect. But if you commit yourself to it, having a strong, great brand that people instantly trust is a huge payoff in itself.

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