This post first appeared on Productive Flourishing.
As a brand and creative strategist, I see many entrepreneurs making a lot of mistakes when it comes to their brand. They also have many misconceptions about branding.
First, let’s clear up the confusion between the words “brand” and “branding.” They’re not the same thing and I see too many people using them interchangeably and incorrectly.
A brand is the words, images, thoughts and feelings that come to mind when someone thinks about you, or interacts with you or your business in some way. It is actually the real estate about you in someone else’s heart and mind, and you don’t have complete control over it. To be clear: your brand only exists in other people’s minds.
Branding is what you do to affect this real estate. It’s all of the associations you create to develop the words, images, thoughts and feelings that people have about you. Branding is everything you do to create your brand. From your business cards, website and logo, to the clothes you wear, how you speak, how you treat others and all of the products and services you create in your business. These are ALL touch points that ultimately build your brand in others’ minds.
This may come as a shock: you don’t own your brand. Other people do.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s tackle some of the myths that are getting too many talented, creative entrepreneurs all tripped up.
Here are the five most common complaints I hear:
“Building a brand is too expensive.” I would argue that NOT building a brand is expensive. The truth is, there are millions of brand touch points that won’t cost you a dime. Things like a firm handshake, a friendly phone call to check in, a hand-written note and a positive attitude won’t put a dent in your bank account. Remember, a brand is built by how you make people feel. A fancy logo or website won’t guarantee that you’ll make a meaningful connection with your target audience. Sure, you need to have a consistent presence both visually and verbally, but this doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands of dollars. Begin by asking yourself, “how can I make my clients feel good?”
“Building a brand is just too complicated.” Actually, it’s not. When you’re clear about who you serve, what you offer, how you are the solution to your clients’ problems and WHY you do what you do, branding becomes much simpler. Once you have clarity and can articulate your message in a simple manner that resonates with your audience, you will be building your brand “on purpose.” At its core, branding is about relationships – it’s about communicating your message consistently, and connecting with those who share your values and beliefs.
“But I thought my logo and my website were my brand.” Your logo and your website, along with other visual components, such as advertising, business cards, Facebook pages, Twitter backgrounds, speaker kits, client gifts and more, contribute to the development of your brand. They are not, however, in and of themselves, your brand. They are merely associations and touch points that create a brand in the mind of the consumer. These are the things that help you “control” the outcome of your brand. In other words, if you want to be thought of as uplifting, inspirational and creative, then all of your visual components must express this in some way in order to affect the words, images, thoughts and feelings that come up in the mind of your target client. This is what successful branding does best: it clearly communicates your brand attributes, so that what you think of your brand, and what your client thinks of your brand are aligned.
“I’m just starting out, so I don’t have a brand yet.” The reality is, you always have a brand, whether you’re consciously creating it or not. You are your brand, so all of the things you do and say are affecting the thoughts and feelings that others have about you. The trick here is to create your brand on purpose, not by accident. Just because you don’t have a logo or website or even the name of your company, doesn’t mean that people aren’t already forming opinions about you. Whether you’ve been in business for one week or ten years, you always have a brand.
“It’s wrong to mix business and personal when it comes to branding.” How many stuffy, flat brochure websites or dry business letters do you remember? Zilch, right? Showing people who you really are and sharing your personality are part of what makes your brand come to life in others’ minds. Let us see the real you so that we can grow to trust you. Have a thing for golf? Let us see your swing. Love to bake every weekend? Give us your best recipes, share your masterpieces on Facebook and send goody bags to your clients. Today’s world is growing more cluttered by the minute and our attention spans are shrinking. Don’t be afraid to get personal and give us a peek behind the curtain so we learn to differentiate you from everyone else. Otherwise you’re just boring us with product features, sleepy content and the same old sh*t that everybody else is doing.
Your brand is a living, breathing organism and it exists in the minds of your customers. What experience are you creating for those who come in contact with you? In other words, your branding won’t be effective unless you find a way to connect with the hearts of your customers.
Share your passion, values and beliefs in everything you do and you’ll connect on a much deeper level with those you are meant to serve.
In fact, they might even consider you awesome.
©2012 Liz Dennery Sanders