Did you know there are over 9,000 books available on Amazon right now about branding? Branding strategist David Brier says: "That many opinions means something is being overlooked or people are collectively not understanding."
Brier goes on to say: "Branding is the art of differentiation, the way that consumers identify and experience a product, service, or person from the look, taste, feel, and sound--a brand is all of those multifaceted parts." Brier gives the example of Starbucks. Every Starbucks has gone way beyond their logo and color scheme. Each shop has similar, if not identical decor, music, smell, barista uniforms, cups, etc.
The real key to branding is that it builds Familiarity, trust and loyalty.
People love Starbucks because they know what to expect and they get it. You want to create that same level of trust and loyalty with your customers. You want people to have an entire experience with YOU. Having a solidified brand gives people a reason to choose you over the next guy or girl. People need something to differentiate in order to make a choice in photographers, web designers, real estate agents, and business consultants. You must give people a reason to choose YOU and a brand does just that.
So, easier said than done, right?
Let's break this down into five bite size steps. Let's start by answering a few questions:
Who are you really?
To stay true to who you are and your mission, you need to know your values and what your mission actually is. Ben Matthews, Director of Design at Adobe, says: "When you create your core values as a brand, it ensures consistency. Expectations are set with the business and customer which builds trust and awareness of what is offered from the brand."
Step 1: I have a free downloadable PDF that gets you started in identifying who you are and where you fit in the niche. To download that free PDF and the Target Consumer QandA below, click here: Free Brand Identity Questionnaire
Once you have the birds eye view of who you are, then you need to understand the industry you are competing with.
Market research helps you decide how you can be unique and stand out in your industry. Take a hard look at your competitors.
What are they doing right and what could they improve upon? Talk to previous or potential customers and ask them for things that make them crazy about your industry and find a way to solve that problem.
Who is your Target Consumer?
Step 2: Get as specific as you possibly can with this. Is your target market under 30 years old? Male? Female? It is really critical you identify specifically who your audience actually is so you can key in on their actual "pain points". I have another free PDF list of 20 Key Questions to ask yourself to determine your Target Consumer. If you signed up for the Free Brand Identity PDF download, you will get this download in a second PDF automatically emailed to you as well.
Understanding your audience will help you identify the best language, tone, colors, design and packaging to best draw that audience in.
Create your brand. People buy from people they like. Those who have similar interests and taste. If they can say "Oh, me too!" then you have a strong relatable brand.
Matthews says: “Internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk would not be noticeable if he did not drop f-bombs all the time. Some personalities are driven by fashion, or a contrarian viewpoint—they appeal to the rebel, some personalities are really smart and safe. The entire Food Network is built on personal brands. As opposed to your product being an incredible lotion, it is now a person. Ask yourself, am I rebellious, stoic, etc. and then build your brand identity around that.”
Help People Identify with You.
Step 3: People need to see you on a consistent basis, doing things that relate to them. Use social media, blogs, and your website to help people get the insider view of who you are and why you can help them. Be yourself. Perfection isn't the key, though showing yourself as professional and an expert in your industry is important. I talk about the importance of your images in this post here for more info and offer my services as a Professional Brand Photographer in this post here. Show your face and your product in action on a regular, consistent basis to gain trust and visibility. It is important to be the top of mind person when your target audience needs whatever service or product you provide. For an amazing resource on this, I HIGHLY recommend the book "Building a Story Brand" by Donald Miller. This book is packed with incredible info on how to build trust and tell your story.
Once you have recognized your core values and strengths, identified your target consumer and started sharing your story, what is next?
Step 4: This is the stage where you look at brand elements like color, font, logo, design etc. A lot of time and money is spent on these areas and while I agree, they are important, they are very low in comparison to the steps above. Choose a color, font and logo you like and be consistent about always using those with your posts and visual content. Be sure that your color matches the story you are telling. A funeral home with bright colors and swirly, playful fonts, probably missed the mark with this. Generally, I say choose a neutral color (white, grey, black, etc.) as your main color and then choose a couple of complimentary "pops" of color. Logos should include your colors and font choice where possible. Logos evolve and can change over time so don't overthink this too much.
Keep 'Em Coming Back For More with Consistent Value.
Step 5: Consistently provide value. Ben Matthews says: "Once you've caught the customer's attention, the ability to retain them means being clear on the value you deliver, and consistently delivering on your promises." Catch their attention with your story, and then keep their attention with your rock star customer service, amazing product or service, and continually and consistently over delivering.