Branding has become a big buzzword over the last few years and all to often it has come to be shorthand for your logo and the visual elements you use to identify your business. And while your logo and your visuals are certainly a big part of your brand (especially in the era of Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube and other highly visual platforms), there's a lot more than just nailing your graphics to having a winning brand.
It's What You Do Every Day and Your Perfect World
In nerdy branding circles this is called your your Mission and Vision. But more simply, what you do every day and why you exist is your mission. It's all the core things that get you to where you want to be, which is your vision. Your vision is idealistic and not easily attainable.
Here's an example from Google
Mission: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Vision: To develop a perfect search engine.
These are both short and sweet, so I understand if yours is a little longer. Do you see how Google's mission is what it does every day and it's vision, while simple, is pretty lofty?
It's How You Stand Out from the Competition & Relate to Your Customer
Marketing-ese for this is "positioning." The thinking here is that you need to understand where your competition is strongest and weakest or what customers they are neglecting. What problems do customers have that are not being addressed? The gaps for that are where you can come in and shine.
For instance, if you make soap there are lots of other people who also make soap. So you need to think about what customers they aren't reaching. Who wants or needs soap but doesn't have anyone making it for them? Or what is a common dissatisfaction among soap buyers right now? This could mean focusing on men, when everyone else focused on women. Or developing soap subscription program because people hate running out and/or want to try different soap scents.
The problem you are solving here is going to be based on your extensive research and experience. It's a true test of how much you know your customer. Nailing this helps build quick trust with customers because they see you as someone who understands them.
What you want to avoid though is competing solely on price, which is almost surely a race to the bottom. Very few businesses can do this and those that do often are cutting corners that lead to dissatisfaction in other areas. While affordability can certainly be PART of your strategy, it shouldn't be the only the thing that stands out (think Target. Target is affordable, but it's not going to rely solely on that).
It's How You Talk to People
Your personality comes out in what you write online, how you package and deliver your product and in your visuals. Don't think of talking as just words. All the points of communication are important. Make sure you understand that anything you put out into the world says something about you. When you have thoughtfully laid out who you are in the items above, this becomes much easier to do consistently.
It's How You Do Business & Make People Feel
This goes beyond talking to people, but is certainly still part of it. It speaks to core values and how you live those out. This doesn't mean that you need to be some kind of charity or that you must be about singing kumbaya holding hands around a campfire... you only do that if you think it's something authentic to you and your customers.
Think about every part of the customer experience. How are you communicating your values through this process? What's the vibe people get? Cool? Approachable? Cheerful? Sassy? Smart?
We have a member that sells sassy greeting cards (Sweet Perversion). Her fans enjoy her frank humor and biting wit. She often gets "haters" commenting how inappropriate her line is. If she were to write gushing apologies to them or even apologized at all for being her, this would be inauthentic. Her audience doesn't care and that's all that matters. And when she recently gave proceeds from a line to a charity it seemed equally fitting that it was to a pit bull rescue.
That's Just the Beginning
When you take all of this together, it tells the story of your business and that's essentially your brand! If you are looking for how to brand your business, be sure to check out Megan Auman's upcoming CreativeLive classes on 12/4-12/6, Brand Your Creative Business and Pinterest Marketing for Makers and Designers. Both free to watch while they're live!