A common question I get from new business owners is, “What is a brand, and why do I need one, anyway?”
It’s a great question! Branding can be confusing and often gets mistaken for marketing and advertising. While they’re all aligned, your brand is who you are as a business; while marketing and advertising are activities that you do.
Understanding your brand is a critical
So what exactly is a brand?
A brand is a totality of who your business is.
It’s your personality, your tone of voice, your fonts, your colors.
But your brand is more than that. It’s also your reputation and the experience your clients have when working with you.
The good news is — these are all things under your control!
When your brand accurately reflects who you are and the work you do, you set yourself up to attract your ideal clients and grow your business.
So let’s talk about the various aspects of a brand, why you need one, and what to consider when defining your own.
A brand is an experience.
In the olden days, a brand was simply a mark that identified a company, like a logo. But today, a brand is so much more!
A brand evokes images, memories, and thoughts in someone’s mind. Think: Coca-Cola, Nordstrom, Apple. They all have their own distinct, yet different characteristics.
Here are a few more definitions:
- A brand is the overall experience of a customer that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. – Wikipedia
- A brand is the promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. – Entrepreneur
- A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. – Seth Godin
As you can see, a brand is a holistic experience, not simply one thing.
What is branding?
Branding is the process of creating your brand. A successful branding process requires developing key aspects like your
- Brand personality
- Brand values
- Brand promise
…and, as a basis for those things, you need to know and be able to communicate
- What you do & why it matters
- Who you serve & how you help them
- What makes you different & why they should care
- Why people should choose you over the competition
- What people can experience as a result of working with you
The branding process starts with YOU, and that’s why it’s so important to have a know deeply who you are and why you you do what you do, because that is the foundation for your brand and what people will resonate with.
Branding is the process of addressing the above questions, creating a strategy, and then executing on the strategy, so that you can communicate who you are as a business wherever you are.
Marketing is not branding
While marketing and branding are interrelated, they are not the same thing.
Marketing refers to the activities you do as part of communicating your brand and with the objective of connecting with your ideal audience.
It’s the message (what you say) and medium (where you say it: social, email, ads, podcasts) with the ultimate goal of selling the product.
Effective marketing flows from a strong brand, and communicates what you stand for in a way that resonates with your target audience, so they sign up to buy from you.
10 reasons you need a brand
You might be thinking, “But I just want to run my business, I don’t want to worry about defining my brand!”
Here are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider.
- You already have a brand. If you put yourself out there as a business — at a networking event, on your website, or on Instagram — you already have a brand! Might as well be the one that you want.
- Your brand is stronger than a business. If you’re worried you might not stay in this specific business, remember that building a strong brand (think: Virgin), can help you branch out into new arenas.
- A brand speaks for you. You can’t be everywhere at once. But your brand can. Anywhere you have a presence, your brand represents who you are.
- It helps you establish credibility. A brand gives you a professional look and feel, which creates trust in the eyes of customers.
- It sets you apart from your competitors. You’re not like everyone else and you want to show why.
- A brand makes marketing easier. When you know your brand, you set the foundation for all marketing activities.
- It gives you a compass. A brand provides focus and direction for all of your business activities — who you serve, what you offer, what you share.
- A brand helps you express yourself. It gives you the opportunity to communicate key aspects of yourself that make you, you.
- Your brand helps you get clients. You spend less time chasing customers and more time attracting them. Plus – referrals! People love to talk about the brands they love.
- You can make a bigger impact. As a purpose-driven solopreneur, the more you can share your vision, the more opportunities you have to make an impact.
Here are a few other branding definitions
The Branding Journal defines brand positioning as “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”.
What this really means, is that your brand positioning needs to describe how your brand is different from your competition.
To understand your brand positioning, you need to understand:
- Your strategic differentiators
- Your competitors
- How to explain this in words that your clients understand
Your brand identity encompasses the visual items you might normally think about when you think about branding.
Your brand identity includes the visual elements of your brand, including:
Brand awareness is the extent to which people are familiar with your brand.
If you have high brand awareness, a potential customer will be able to recognize your logo and also associate it with certain aspects of your services.
For example, Marie Forleo has a high degree of brand awareness in the female entrepreneur space.
Brand values are the values that lead you in your business. Brand values can include things like:
- environmentally conscious
Learn more and choose your own brand values here.
Brand loyalty refers to a customer’s dedication to return and purchase another product or service from the same business, despite a competitor’s actions.
Brand loyalty means a client will return to you versus your competitor, even your competitor is running a sale.
It’s important to create brand loyalty because new customers cost a lot more to acquire than existing customers! Brand loyalty also creates strong brand advocates who can help promote your brand.
Your brand personality is the combination of characteristics that make your brand unique.
If you had to describe the personality of your brand and business, what qualities come to mind? Is it gregarious, outspoken, empowering, truthful? Quiet, peaceful, serene, imaginative?
Your brand voice is a part of your personality. Is your brand voice approachable and casual or professional and sophisticated?
This is fancy speak for the visuals that convey your brand: your logo, your business card, your letterhead, your website.
These are the items that most people focus on because it’s what people see; however, it’s not the only way people experience your brand.
It’s important to develop your overall strategy first and not rush to complete these items as part of your branding process. These visuals are support pieces that work to collectively and cohesively communicate your overall brand strategy.
A brand story is the story you tell others about who you are and how you got there.
It’s not your personal story, but a collection of curated parts of your personal story that convey your journey and how you can help others.
The purpose of your brand story is to establish a connection, trust, and relationship with your potential clients, so they can relate to who you are and what you do.
It answers the questions: How did you become who you are? Why are you doing this work? Who are you and why should people care?
Your brand strategy is the thought process and the plan that communicates your brand to the world and specifically to your ideal clients.
Your brand strategy is a component of your overall business strategy, and the two should work hand in hand to helping you achieve your business goals.
The purpose of your brand strategy is to give you an overall guidepost and plan to guide your business and marketing actions moving forward.
Once you have your brand strategy in place, you can more strategically choose which marketing activities will attract and connect you with your dream clients.
Why do you need a brand?
By now you have a greater understanding of what a brand is and why you need one.
You have an opportunity to define your brand, including everything from your values to your positioning to your client experience.
Defining a strong brand can be the difference between your ideal clients signing up to work with you or with someone else.
Ready to get started on building your brand? See how you can build your brand from scratch following a proven process. Check it out here!