Some folks have told me that the term “brand” is negative and that it’s a bad idea to sell my creative service with such a label because small business and nonprofits — my two favorite clients — will be averse to it. Well, I’ve been weighing my response to this. I can understand why developing a “brand” may seem overwhelming to companies and organizations with fewer resources, but I believe this is due to a lack of understanding of exactly what’s involved in the process rather than the actual effort required to build a solid brand. So I’ve decided to write a series that begins to demystify and describe what a brand is, and how to get on the right track to building a great one. Here’s the first post in a series that I hope helps clear the path.
What, exactly, is a brand?
A brand is a communication tool. It enables companies and organizations to effectively market themselves and their products and services. Brand is expressed in visuals and language through all points of contact with your audiences. It can also be expressed in other ways: the attitudes of staff (ie., customer service); locations; scents; etc. Brand is way more than a logo and color palette.
Why is a brand important?
A brand it humanizes a company (or nonprofit or product or service) so that a person can relate to it — “get” it on a human level. Ultimately, the goal is that this person will become a customer (or funder or constituent) and buy the product or service. Thus, developing a strong, authentic brand is the most direct path to building a relationship with a potential customer. Simple, not scary. Right?
A brand unites its company or organization. The second reason why a brand is so important is that the very act of going through a branding process quickly gets all the internal stakeholders (Board, staff, etc.) on the same page as to what the company is all about. The documentation of the brand foundation is how everyone stays on the same page. This can be done without a brand, of course, it’s just quicker and easier (read: cheaper) to do it through a branding exercise.
So a brand is important for internal and external audiences to know the company. That’s because a good brand accurately and dynamically expresses what a company is all about. Which brings me to my next point…
Melissa’s Brand Truths
Over the years, there are some basic things I have come to believe about branding:
- A brand is an authentic reflection of the company or product it’s representing. A good brand positions your best qualities. It shows the true beauty inside, it’s not just makeup on top.
- A strong brand is built by consistent execution of a strategy over time. This doesn’t necessarily require additional effort, it just requires focused effort.
- It doesn’t cost more to strengthen your brand. In fact, it costs less. A consistently executed brand creates efficiency, it makes decisions easier for your organization because they are all coming from a central strategy. It’s your marketing effort that will direct your dollars.
- Every company or organization needs a brand. I’m not just saying this to get more biz. A company or nonprofit doesn’t have to be a certain size in order to have a brand. My little company of two has a well-defined brand that we follow. However…
- A company needs to know itself before a strong brand can be expressed. CEOs, if you haven’t done some soul-searching on your mission, vision, audiences, corporate culture, and goals for the future — that is, if you don’t really know what your company is all about — you are probably not ready for a brand. That said, a branding workshop can help you get there more quickly by raising all the questions you can’t answer.
Those are the basics. Stay with me for the next post in this series, an infographic: The 6 Key Elements of Successful Brand Deployment. We’ll get deeper into breaking a brand apart.