A brand isn’t just something for advertising agencies or marketing firms, and it’s more than colors, logos, and graphics. Your brand is the look, tone and feel that a customer will experience when they interact with your business!
For example, Target, Walmart and Starbucks are all different companies that give you a very distinct feeling when you think of them. And that’s not an accident—it’s very intentional. Each of those brands have defined who they are and what they’re about, and each have what’s known as a strong “brand identity.”
What is brand identity?
A brand identity is the result of all of the elements of branding working together to create a cohesive, clear and consistent message and impression. Think of the branding elements as puzzle pieces—things such as fonts, colors, logos, photos, a tag line, a name and so on. When those pieces fit and work together, they create a clear picture of your brand—a finished puzzle.
Start with your mission statement.
When thinking about your brand identity, start by focusing on who you are. More specifically, think about your mission statement and value proposition. If you don’t have a mission statement, now is a great time to write one.
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A mission statement doesn’t need to be fancy, complicated, wordy or long. To be effective, it actually needs to be the exact opposite: short, simple, clear and concise. Google has a great mission statement: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” When you read that, you understand immediately what they are about. And as a powerful testimonial to Google, the world’s largest search engine, they actually do that. Google stays true to their mission, and that’s one of the many reasons they are so successful.
Ramsey Solutions, where I work, has basically had the same mission statement since day one: “We provide biblically based, commonsense education and empowerment that give HOPE to everyone in every walk of life.” That’s what we’ve done for 25 years; it was true then, and it’s still true today. You see, your dreams can change, your vision can change, and the goals that drive you can certainly change, but your mission statement usually won’t. At least not very often.
You can also think of your mission statement as an out-of-bounds marker. When you know your business’s boundaries, your decision-making process becomes much easier. Your mission statement becomes a filter you to run all of your branding options through. It helps you decide which words, statements, colors, images and platforms are right for your business and which ones are not.
What is your unique position or value proposition?
Your unique position (also known as your value proposition) is simply the angle you want to lead with in your marketing efforts. For example, one coffee shop’s unique position might be fast service. They market the business by saying, “Get your coffee in less time than it takes for the stoplight to turn green.” Their message leverages their unique position (fast service) to make you think, Great! I’ll buy from them because I can get coffee and still get to work on time.
At the same time, another coffee shop down the street might have the unique position of high-quality coffee. They market the business by saying, “You don’t have to start your day with lukewarm, translucent coffee from the break room. Start your day with delicious, hand-poured coffee made from organic Columbian beans roasted in small batches for maximum flavor.” They leverage their unique position (quality coffee) to make you think, Great! I’ll buy from them so I don’t have to drink the terrible break room coffee at work.
Your unique position doesn’t have to be the only thing you do well, and it doesn’t have to be something no one else is doing. In this example, both coffee shops might have fast service and high-quality coffee, but each one chose a unique position that they leveraged to help them stand out among the competition.
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How do you develop a trusted brand?
After you define your mission statement and unique position, make a list of adjectives to describe your business. Is your brand more luxury or necessity? Formal or casual? Elite or every day? Sophisticated or fun? Don’t stop there! Brainstorm as many adjectives as you can.
This is the step in brand development where you are defining and describing your brand’s personality. You’re going to use your list to make decisions about your brand’s three components: look, tone and feel.
What is the look of your brand?
The look is how you represent your brand visually. It includes the colors, fonts, images, graphics and designs you use. It’s the overall style you use on your website and any marketing materials as well as how you display your products at a craft fair or in a retail store. For many of us, this is the most fun part of brand development!
What is the tone of your brand?
The tone of your brand is about your word choice. Your marketing sends the right message and reaches the right people when you use the right words.
Apple’s slogan is “think different.” Those two simple words make Apple users feel good—and perhaps a bit elite—about their purchase, and that fits well within Apple’s brand identity. Bounty paper towels, on the other hand, calls itself “the quicker picker upper.” Who would use language like “picker upper” when referring to a paper towel? Probably someone with kids, and moms fit squarely into Bounty’s target market.
Your adjective list will help you choose the right words to fit your tone. We use “Hey y’all!” in Business Boutique all the time, because it conveys that this is not a serious, stuffy or formal business brand.
What is the feel of your brand?
This reflects how a customer feels when they interact with your business. The feel of your brand represents an experience, and creating a memorable experience will not only form a lasting relationship between you and your customer, but it can also lead to your best word-of-mouth marketing!
So what can you do to make someone’s interaction with your brand stand out? Hollister has done this well for years. It doesn’t matter which mall you’re in, you know you’re close to a Hollister store by the smell. That’s because Hollister employees are tasked with spraying their signature cologne throughout the store every hour. They also play pop-punk music, surround their clothing racks with tropical ferns, and feature live feeds of Pacific coast beaches on giant screens. When you’re in the store, you feel like simply buying their clothes will make you a legit California surfer—and their shoppers love it.
But your brand experience goes both ways—good or bad. At the end of the day, it’s not what you want the customers to experience that determines your brand as a whole. It’s what they actually experience.
Back in 2010, a certain cable company had become well-known for the wrong reason: awful customer service. So this company decided to rebrand themselves, even changing their name in attempt to overhaul their reputation. But the slickest marketing in the world can’t save a brand if they’re putting their customers through a miserable experience. The actual experience a customer has forms a brand’s reputation.
The actual experience a customer has forms a brand’s reputation.
The three C’s of great branding
When I work with business owners on their brand identity, I walk them through the three C’s that all great brands have: they are clear, concise and consistent. Think about some of your favorite brands, and I bet you’ll find they have these three characteristics!
Your brand should be clear.
This C is all about taking the work off of your customers. When they are introduced to something new, they have a lot of questions: Who are you? What do you do? What can they expect? How will they feel? Is it for them? Your answers to these questions should be as clear as possible in your branding.
You need to be clear in the look, the tone and the feel: Does the look of your brand attract your target market? Does the tone appeal to your target market? Does the feel connect with your target market? When you make branding decisions about each of these areas that are extremely clear, you will attract the customer you’re trying to reach.
For example, if you go to a nice restaurant and there are no prices on the menu, that may seem confusing, but it’s actually a very clear branding decision. This is a nice and expensive restaurant whose target customer values the quality of the experience over what it will cost them. You’d never go eat at a fast-food restaurant where they don’t list the prices, but having unlisted prices is consistent with a brand that’s more formal and expensive.
Clarity is especially important when it comes to your online presence, because your website will likely be a customer’s first interaction with your brand. Think of your website like a town, and imagine your customer is new to that town. How easy is it for them to explore and get to where they want to go? Do you have clear street signs posted in logical places or—in the case of your website—clear menus located in logical places?
My team and I have been very intentional when solidifying all the elements that make up the Business Boutique brand identity—and as a result, our website is not only beautiful, but it’s also clear and easy to read. But it wasn’t always that way. Before I had my team, ChristyWright.com was a little blog I managed all on my own. The only menu items along the homepage were blog categories, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that by seeing them. And I used a blue font on a slightly lighter blue background, making the copy hard to read!
How readable is your website? Your website is a part of the look of your brand, but it’s also an experience. If your customer is squinting to read your curly font, it’s not a good experience no matter how cute it is.
Your brand should be concise.
Even if you are super clear in your branding and messaging, it’s easy to think that, in order to be clear, you have to say all the things. You want to cover every detail and explain every possible thing anyone would every need or want to know about your business or products or services! Although that can feel right, it’s actually the completely wrong approach.
Too much information actually turns customers away. It overwhelms them. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible (I know: It’s ironic this advice is coming from me—a chatterbox). You’ll make more of an impact when you say less. The same principle is true in design: Whether it’s colors and fonts on your website or words in your product descriptions, less is always more.
So are you trying to say too much? Make sure your website isn’t overwhelming your customer by watching my How to Create a Great Website video with branding expert Tim Newton in the Business Boutique Academy.
Your brand should be consistent.
When your brand is consistent, your customer knows what to expect—and just like the Hollister example shows, customers love that!
Another great example of a consistent brand is Chick-fil-A. They’re keenly aware of who they are and who they’re not.
A Chick-fil-A franchise owner in Georgia conducted an experiment of adding milkshakes to their menu, much to his customers’ delight. He presented his results to the VP of menu strategy, and—praise Jesus—we can all enjoy sippable, ice-creamy deliciousness with our fresh fried chicken.
But the store owner said himself: “If this were a burger, we would have never tried it. That’s too far from our core offering. But because we already offered ice cream, this was just a derivation of what we were already providing our customers.”
A decision to add burgers to their menu would have done more than confuse those mischievous cows in their marketing campaigns—it would create an inconsistent brand experience.
A consistent experience on your website will make your customer feel right at home. And when they feel at home, they are already moving their mouse into the upper right corner to click on your blog because they know that’s where it’s located. And when they come into your boutique, they know exactly how to browse your products. When a customer is on daveramsey.com and sees teal, their brain already registers Business Boutique! before they even read the text.
Brands that are successful are clear, concise and consistent. You get the same colors, fonts and experiences every single time you see or interact with them in any way.
Think about it this way: What do we all value above anything else? Our time. That’s true for your customers, too. So when you save them the time they would’ve spent figuring everything out on their own by being clear, concise and consistent in your branding, you’re doing something amazing for your customers. You’re saving them time and energy by making it easy on them to understand you and do business with you. Brands that do that are the brands that win!
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