Branding a business isn’t just about choosing your name and designing a logo. Sure, these are the things that customers will use to recognise you, and so they deserve attention, but neither of them are the essence of your brand.
Let’s use three examples to illustrate our point.
The first is Nike. We’re all familiar with the Nike swish, one of the most iconic logos in the world. But without our understanding of Nike, and what the logo stands for – never giving up, ultimate performance, and of course, ‘just do it’ – but logo itself is meaningless. It’s the entire brand’s message that works so seamlessly together.
Let’s consider Apple next. The iconic Apple logo is again synonymous with simplicity, elegance and ‘think differently’, but again, the logo itself does not convey these ideals – the brand as a whole does.
Finally, Mercedes-Benz, the hallmark of German engineering. The three-pointed star that has marked Mercedes-Benz vehicles for more than a century doesn’t explicitly showcase the ideals of ‘the best or nothing’, or even German engineering. And yet we all recognise the logo and know exactly what the brand stands for. We know it’s values.
With this in mind, let’s unpack how you should approach building a brand for your business that is recognisable, meaningful and adds value to your customers.
1. Create your logo
Even though we’ve just unpacked that a logo is not a brand, it is still the outward facing element of your business. Logos give our businesses a ‘face’, something recognisable that customers can use to know who we are and where we are. As you build your businesses, your logo will also become linked to your values and what your customers can expect from you.
When designing your logo, keep the following in mind:
- Keep it simple. Complicated logos do not have the same impact as crisp, clean logos (think back to Apple, Nike and Mercedes-Benz, all very simple and yet completely iconic logos).
- Make sure it makes sense. Does your logo in some way demonstrate what you do and what you stand for? And does it align with your business’s name?
- Make sure it works in colour and in black and white. Your logo will need to be used in multiple ways across multiple platforms. Make sure this is possible, particularly when it’s required to be in black and white.
2. Write your story
Consider what happens when we hear a story. If the story is told well, we are not only more likely to remember it, but it will most likely strike a personal chord in us – trigger some emotion or feeling. This only serves to enhance the memory even further.
In short, storytelling influences the impressions that are left with us – and how we feel about the person (or brand) that shared the story with us.
Businesses are no different to people in this regard, largely because on many levels, business is personal. As a business owner, you’re deeply invested in your company, and who you choose to work with is seen through that lens. The same goes for your customers, who will choose to work with you because on some level your business touches them. More than that, people do business with people – not companies. The more human you are, the easier you make it for someone to do business with you.
The ability to tell your story (and tell it well), can impact your customers by:
- Making your business and your offerings more memorable
- Give your business a human, personal aspect
- Build trust and credibility
How to tell your story
There are five steps to telling a story.
- Who is the hero in your story? (hint: It’s not you). In fact, your hero is your customer. As you develop your story, both as an entrepreneur and as the business’s brand, keep this top of mind – the problem you are solving for your hero is at the heart of your story. What is their victory condition? How is your story delivering on that?
- Write down five words that relate to your business and your offering. Got them? These are the five words you are absolutely not allowed to use when you tell your story. Now you have to start thinking out the box, instead of relying on tired catch phrases.
- Get personal. The whole point of telling your story is to lift the curtain and give people a peak into your values ad who you are.
- Who cares? As you craft your story, keep this top of mind – are you writing this for yourself, based on things you care about, or for your customers, based on what they care about?
- Do you have a phrase that pays? What will customers remember about your story – and what do you want them to remember?
3. Build your website
In today’s online world you cannot have a business without a website. Currently, 78% of consumers admit that they do their own online research on a company before they engage. They’re googling you and comparing you to other players in the market. They’re asking friends and the Internet for advice. They’re looking for online recommendations and complaints.
If you aren’t online, you don’t exist – or perhaps you do exist, but you’ve certainly created doubt in your prospective customer’s mind? Either you’ve got something to hide, or you’re a fly-by-night that’s too small or too new to be taken seriously – why else wouldn’t you have a website?
The good news is that you don’t need a huge website – you just need a few pages that answers any key questions your customers might have.
Here are key questions to consider as you build your website:
- Do you have a clear goal? Are you selling products through your website, answering key customer questions or showcasing what you can do? Without a clear goal your website will lack direction and be difficult to navigate.
- Do you state your purpose clearly and quickly? People don’t spend hours on a page – you have seconds to grab their attention and a few minutes (at most) to keep them on a page. Say what you need to say in the shortest way possible.
- Are you telling your customers what you can do for them? Is your customer the hero of this story, or are you? Demonstrate what problem you’re solving, not the features and benefits of your product (at least not upfront).
- Do you have a clear call to action? What do you want your customer to do next? Do you want their email address? Do you want them to call you? Whatever it is, there must be prompts on your website that lead them to this action.
- Does your website align with your overall branding? This of course relates to your logo, but it’s more than that. Is your messaging consistent? Are your values clear? Will your customers know what to expect from you based on their experience of your website?
4. Get busy on social media
Either this will be second nature to you or it won’t be, but either way your business needs a social media presence.
To determine where you should be, you need to figure out where your customers are. For example, are they on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? What content do they engage with? What do they care about?
Here are five tips to getting a social media strategy off the ground:
- Have the bandwidth available. Social media is hungry, so you need to be able to give it some attention on a daily basis. If you aren’t posting regularly, you will get lost in your customers’ news feeds.
- Make sure you respond to comments and questions. Social media is all about engagement – the more you engage, the more your customers will be encouraged to engage too.
- Know your voice. Does your voice align with your overall voice, brand and values, but are you also speaking in a language and tone that your customers understand and respond to? Urban slang doesn’t suit a suburban audience for example.
- Are you paying attention to trends? This speaks to engagement again. If you’re discussing relevant topics, your audience will be more engaged.
- Build a social media calendar. This will give you direction, and it will also ensure that other people in your company can contribute.
In everything you do, the key to successful brand building is to know exactly who you are, what your voice is and what you stand for. You then need to evaluate everything you do through that brand lens, from what you say on your website and social media, to whether a new product offering suits your brand.
Brands are what people remember and respond to, so take building yours seriously.