How Not to Brand Your Small Business
You want to brand your small business. First on the agenda: You decide to have a logo created. You are not alone. Many entrepreneurs take this approach once they decide to brand themselves. In fact, I took that approach in 2011, when I created the logo you see here on my site (a logo redesign is overdue and will be one of my last re-branding tasks in 2017). I have found that many entrepreneurs believe that once their brand identity (logo) is designed and put on a business card and stationery, their website is up and running, and a Facebook ad is submitted, then their branding is DONE. Phew! Well, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, most of that effort was marketing--not branding.
Imagine yourself an alien that just landed on earth. As you travel across America, you start noticing this common, yet strange, symbol of a green circle with white lettering within the rim and an illustration of a two-tailed mermaid or siren representing the seduction of the product. You have no clue as to what it represents to the beings living here on earth. Why is this symbol EVERYWHERE? What does it mean? Your curiosity finally hits critical mass as you pass the millionth circular symbol and you decide to satisfy your curiosity and enter.
What you experience from the moment you open the door, to the robust aroma of Italian espresso, to the sounds of contemporary blues or jazz music, to the deeply rich colors and art of the decor, to the light hum of customers talking as they relax in the cushioned chairs...to the pleasant, warm greeting of the barista, to the taste of the rich, unique flavor of the product as the whipped cream topping leaves a mark on your nose is the brand of Starbucks. All of the stimulated information you took in through your senses, within those few moments of transaction, is the brand of Starbucks.
and a concept of what Starbucks means to you.
Your brand is a PERCEPTION that is based on EMOTION and defined by others’ EXPERIENCE with you, your products, and services.
Today, it is your brand that is becoming the key source of differentiation that guides your customer’s purchase choices. But now you know your brand is not just the creative design of the icon or font treatment of your company identity (logo). It is so much more than the aesthetic ‘look’ in website, collateral, ads or stationery. Your logo is only a symbol that represents or identifies the brand which is:
the experience of a relationship with your customer
the experience of a promise to your customer
the unique source of products and services
the single concept that you own inside the minds of your market
the sum total of each customer’s experience with you and your organization
So now, when you hear other entrepreneurs say that they have just branded themselves and bought a logo design or revised their website look, you know that what they did was a mere attempt to express their brand through a specific and unique look. True branding did not take place if they did not perform the due diligence necessary to document and articulate who they are as a brand. Branding is a conscious, deliberate and continual process that creates powerful experiences for the customer. It starts from the inside out with the internal brand strategies that enable you to deliver on your brand promise. These strategies encompass who and how you operate and how these strategies set the stage for creating and delivering powerful brand experiences for your customers. For example, if your business was an authentic Mexican restaurant, you would strive to hire those employees who best represented your brand through the theme, look and feel of the experience. Ambercrombie & Finch fought the labor laws to sustain their brand’s ‘look and feel’ by hiring the brand-congruent looking teen or young adult that visually represented and exemplified their brand experience and the obligation and commitment they had for consistency.
A successful brand understands what/who they are at every level and assures that the brand is expressed and lived through every customer touch point, every action the business takes, and considered in every decision. It is a powerful, holistic process that requires conscious attention. Be conscious when you brand your small business. Conscious branding can catapult and sustain business growth in every type of economic climate.
These values have to be congruent and relevant. Remember, powerful brands are consistent in their expression of their values!
Then compare their style and value words with yours. Are they the same? Vastly different? Why? Have a conversation with them about their reasoning for using those particular words. If they vary, even a bit, your brand is not leveraging its potential and is more than likely confusing your customers by not showing up with a consistent STYLE and behaving with relevant CORE VALUES. If your customers are confused, then how can they begin to gain the trust needed to be loyal to you?
Building your brand is just around the corner.
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