I think a lot of people have heard terms thrown around like “branding” and “identity”, but the real meaning of that language can be hard for them to find, and even harder to understand. The business world has done a disservice to branding, speaking instead of sales and even marketing as the most important parts of business. When we focus only on things that come after a brand has been created, we go against the business as a whole.
This will be a two-part post. I want everyone reading this to understand first—what brand development is, and second—to understand how it helps your business.
To give you a proper idea of what brand development is, I’m going to oversimplify it. Brand development, or “crafting your brand”, is essentially you playing an active role in how your business is perceived. There, that wasn’t so bad, right? It’s a very basic idea; it’s just that things get a little harder to grasp once the concept is applied to various parts of running a business.
So what’s the alternative to developing your brand? Well, there isn’t much other than (1) not developing your brand, or (2) developing your brand poorly. These are both roads that many businesses take, though they may be completely unaware of it.
Not developing your brand may work for a while. If you have a perfected product/service, a loyal customer base, remarkable customer service and interaction, and a small community in which you’d like to thrive, then your business might just be fine. But do you have all of those things? Chances are, your answer is no. You also probably have much larger goals and dreams for your business, as every business owner does, and you need some extra help to get there.
Developing your brand poorly has a much more damaging effect. You see, when you’re doing nothing to influence the perception of your business other than simply giving your customer something great, you’re stripping your brand down to the bone, the guts of what your business actually is. Whatever you truly are, that’s how your brand is perceived. This doesn’t negatively affect any business that has an honest product and an interested market. But when you try to build your brand without the knowledge or awareness necessary to do so, you can inadvertently steer the perception of your brand in a bad direction.
Things like color, layout, messaging and other content can have a tremendous impact on how someone views your brand, so when you use any of these elements that don’t align with your product or customer experience, you risk damaging what your customers know you for, and how the market identifies your business.
If you take the time to think of some big brands that exist today, you’ll see what good branding can do. With brands like Apple, Coca-cola, or McDonalds, you only have to experience a hint of their brand to recognize who it is. Their entire message is consistent, from their TV commercial and billboard to their packaging and email content.
No, this isn’t about making things nice to look at. This is about trust. Although making stuff “pretty” is beneficial in terms of the subconscious understanding of a brand, trust is why branding is so important. Maybe now more than ever, we’re taught that a brand is either trustworthy or to be avoided at all costs. Many businesses do not have our best interest in mind, so as consumers we’re right to be skeptical.
Take some time to think about how you shop as a consumer. You’re usually suspicious, right? Of course you are! We all are, so when you consider your own brand, think about it from that point of view. Can you afford to use just any font? Can you afford to have a few different logos out there? Can you afford to just write whatever comes to mind when it’s going out to your customer? Again, I think the answer is no.
Next week I’ll explain what the world looks like when you’ve got a consistent, developed brand.