“Brand” is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot these days. We often associate brands with celebrities or other highly influential people, or we think about “brand names” like clothes or cars from a particular company.
Yet when asked, most people struggle to define what a brand actually is. If pressed, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a company’s name or logo.
A brand, however, encompasses so much more than that.
A brand is the experience a company gives to anyone who comes into contact with it.
It’s the feeling you receive when interacting with a business, whether you’ve purchased something from them or not. It’s the relationship that’s built between a company and their past, present, and future customers—continuously and over time.
Your brand shapes the perceptions and interactions customers have with your products and services. This increases the likelihood that you’ll attract and retain customers because you’ve established a meaningful, lasting impression with them.
What is brand strategy?
The best brands are the ones who’ve thought long and hard about what experience they want people to have when they interact with their company, and they provide that experience at every turn. A meaningful brand strategy–or plan–will help you create consistent and lasting impressions..
To do this well, you need to both deeply understand your customers and engage with them consistently and meaningfully whenever they interact with your business.
Get to know your target audience through market research, marketplace positioning, and by developing customer avatars and segmentation. You don’t need to appeal to everyone, everywhere. Your job is to connect with the customers most likely to resonate with your business.
To create consistency in your messaging, it’s helpful to answer the foundational questions that shape your brand identity like:
- What does your brand stand for?
- What promises do you make and deliver on repeatedly?
- How do you show up online as a brand? What’s your brand personality? What’s your brand positioning?
Answering these questions help create consistent interactions or consumer touchpoints: the transactions—big or small—that your brand has with a potential (or current) customer, like:
- How you answer the phone
- The look, feel, and message on your signage
- Your visual displays
- Your website
- The tone, message, and layout of your receipts
- How you respond to emails
- Your return policy
- Where and how you advertise
- Who you advertise with (think guilty by association) 😉
If you strategically and thoughtfully provide a great experience for the right people at every consumer touchpoint, you’ve got yourself a really memorable brand.If you strategically and thoughtfully provide a great experience for people at every consumer touchpoint, you’ve got yourself a really memorable brand. Find out how to build your brand and your business: Click To Tweet
And that’s important because memorable brands attract loyal customers.
Loyal customers are the lifeblood of any thriving business. Not only do they love the products they’re buying, they—more than anything—love the experience they’re getting. Simply put, they love the way a company makes them feel.
Elements of a brand
Your brand is a combination of tangible and intangible perceptions, qualities, and attributes that make your business unique.
Many of the ‘intangible’ components of your brand have to do with your key differentiators, like:
What’s your why statement? What’s your reason for doing what you do? What’s your brand story?
This includes your mission statement, qualifications and professional experience, and how your business (and your business alone) can deliver on the promise you make to customers.
Your unique value proposition (UVP) is your elevator pitch, that high-level summary statement that differentiates you from your competitors and positions you as the authority in your space.
The ‘tangible’ outputs of this foundational brand work are the visual and written elements your customers interact with, like:
Are you funny? Formal? Do you break convention at every turn or do you see your role as that of educator? How you present your brand in marketing collateral or site copy has a big impact on how you’re perceived by customers.
Your visual branding includes elements like the design, color palette, brand logo, font choices, and images associated with your brand. While this is what most people think of as a ‘brand’ it’s actually one of the last pieces to consider as part of your overall brand strategy.
Offerings & products:
How you uniquely solve your customer’s pain points and problems affects what you offer from a products and services perspective. Create a special blend of offerings that reflect the tenets of your brand.
While many businesses think these tangible brand elements are the most important, it’s actually the ‘why’ behind these things that will help shape the perception of your brand in the eyes of your customers.
Elements of a personal brand
Whether you’re a solopreneur or command a 200-person team, your personal brand shapes the overall perception of your organization. By elevating your own unique perspective, authority, and experiences, you elevate your entire business.
Your personal brand is like a cocktail, with three main ingredients to consider:
Your essence is what makes you, you. It’s your core values, your passions and desires. It’s your personality, and what makes you one-of-a-kind.
Your reputation is what draws others to your business and what you’re known for. These perceptions are based on your skills, professional experience, expertise and unique characteristics. In other words, your reputation consists of the things that make you distinguishable in the eyes of others.
Your marketing is how you share who you are and what you have to offer online. By aligning your marketing efforts with the social channels and avenues that suit you best, you have the best chance of making the biggest impact with the customers you’re trying to reach.
Build your brand in 2020
So, what experience is your brand providing? What feeling are you giving your current and future customers?
If you’re not sure, don’t worry. A deep dive into branding is a step that many companies overlook, but one in which you can easily see quick gains if you give it some focused attention. Here are some things you can do right now:
Think about the impression you’re making
What kind of business do you have? What transformation do your products or services provide? What feelings does this transformation evoke in people?
Whether it’s serious, spontaneous, adventurous, inspirational, or any other emotion, nail down the ones that best represent your business.
If you’re stuck, good questions to ponder are:
- If your brand walked into a room, how would you introduce it?
- If your brand was a person, how would you describe him/her?
Identify your consumer touchpoints
This goes way beyond someone handing over their credit card—this is every single interaction you have with a potential or current client, from the minute they hear about your business or first walk into your store or virtual headquarters, to the very last time you connect with them. Think through the entire customer journey and write down every touchpoint. Then, begin thinking of ways you might be able to infuse the emotion(s) you noted above into those touchpoints and WOW them.
Look inward to uncover the essence of your personal & business brand
The foundation of a great brand and business is knowing who you are and what you stand for, both personally and professionally. If you haven’t already done so, take some time to dig deep and uncover the cornerstones of your business, like your mission, your vision, and your core brand values. Having a firm understanding of these will help you tap into your brand and business at an emotional level, making it far easier (and more authentic!) to connect with your customer on a deeper level as well.
When you start to think about a brand—your brand—as a holistic concept and not just a name or logo, you’ll be able to create an experience for your customer that’s both emotional and memorable, keeping your business top of mind for years to come.
About The Author
Rachel Gogos is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for people, the web, and creating strong personal brands. She started her career at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where she helped create the look and feel for the organization’s first website. Today, in her current role running brandiD, Rachel channels over 15 years of marketing and communications experience into each and every website for brandiD’s clients. Find out more!