What IS a brand?
Not a logo, but so much more!
When I start working with clients, one of the very first things we discuss is their values. The values for them as an individual AND the values that the business has. The business owners’ values should lead seamlessly into the values that the business itself wants to project.
One of the key reasons why I spend time on this is because your business’ values are the first step towards the kind of relationship that you want to have with your customers.
You see, your brand is actually the relationship that your customers/clients have with you; it’s how they see you. In a perfect world, they see you in the same way as you want to be seen.
That, then, has to start with you putting the right message – and that includes your values – out there. Your values must blend in with your vision and mission for your business’ future, not to mention your perfect target client, and the culture you want to create, to become the perfect brand for you. Your customers will want to do business with you when they inherently feel that there is a [value] match between you and themselves. It’s a subtle thing, but it very much exists.
Your branding – that is your logo, the rest of your corporate identity, your marketing collateral, the images you use, the tone of voice that you use in writing, even the way that you answer the phone – all communicate the brand (the values) that you want to be seen by.
In being completely consistent in this (as any good graphic designer will tell you), you build up a strong brand message that your clients and customers will respond to in the way that you want. It takes time and work, yes, but having a strong brand has a value in itself and should not be underestimated.
The test of a strong brand is when you find your customers talking about you and your company in the way in which you want them to talk about you and in a way that makes you feel proud.
Don’t think as “branding” as something that only the corporates do. A one man or woman band, a small or medium sized business can all create themselves a strong brand.
It starts with understanding you, your values, your vision…all those elements I wrote about above…and how they are communicated through your branding. Spending time on these will pay you dividends later on.
Look for a recommended graphic designer (ask for a qualified marketer to recommend one – they know what to look for) to work with you to create yours.
Do not skimp on paying them: a good graphic designer is worth their weight in gold. You need to share with them your values, your vision, your target client, your culture, your USP, your positioning, and the image that you are trying to portray. Their job is to create the graphical representation of that for you.
Ask them to also create you a simple sheet of corporate guidelines. Most designers will be more than happy to create you one (sometimes as part of your initial fee, sometimes it will be a little extra) – it makes their job easier in the long run, plus the job of anyone else you employ creatively. It will save you both time and money in not having to think how a piece of marketing collateral should be coloured, designed or laid out.
A corporate guideline tells you what your colours are, what typeface you should use, how pages should be laid out both in print and online, where your logo should be seen, when you can use black and white (or not), what accent colours you could use, how your ads should be laid out and so much more. It saves your “brand” looking a mess; this immediately de-values and weakens it. When you have a weak brand, it does nothing to help the growth of your business, and in fact can have completely the opposite effect.
Stick to those corporate guidelines; keep absolutely consistent and if in doubt, ask your graphic designer, or your marketing consultant or coach.