“Where do I start with branding?” You’ve already started, pay attention

October 30, 2018

Whether you like it or not, you have a brand

Guess what? You’ve already started with branding. Even if you haven’t had a single brand strategy meeting or hired an agency, even if you don’t have a logo or Facebook page and had your 13 year old nephew design your website, you still have a brand.

You had a brand the moment you went into business. What you may not realise, however, is that if you aren’t intentionally directing your brand, then it is your customers who are defining your brand or, worse, your competitors.

So the question isn’t why do you need a brand. In our age of globalisation and digital social media, you can’t avoid having a public identity. The question is rather how do you position your brand to grow your business and beat your competition.

You already have a brand

Your brand is your sail

Some think of brand as superficial. If your company were a boat the brand would be the name, nothing more. Something you paint on the hull in ten minutes, almost an afterthought. Or even something you inherit from a former owner. It might be clever or creative, but it doesn’t keep you afloat.

But the brand is more like the sails, because it moves you in the direction you need to go.

Think of your product as cargo on the boat. It’s not enough to have a great product if it just sits in the hold. You have to move it to market. A good brand strategy will keep you on course. Whereas no brand strategy would leave you adrift.

 

Are we James Bond or Cleopatra?

Think of your business as a person, real or fictitious, and ask who you are. Are you more like James Bond or Cleopatra? Taylor Swift or Leonardo da Vinci? Who best expresses you brand personality and values?

How to define your brand personality

 

I do this exercise as part of my brand workshops, and participants from CEOs to marketing managers and sales reps always smile and laugh when I ask who they think embodies their brand. Answers from some of my clients included Tim Ferris, Simon Sinek and Amal Clooney.

I can always see the wheels turning. It’s always good to get people to think about their company, about what they do, in broad, creative, challenging ways.

Another question, less whimsical and even more important, is why you matter. Why should people care about you? What do you offer that others want? What do you provide that your competitors don’t?

And just as people aren’t static creatures, neither are brands. They grow and change. So brand strategy must be a continual process.

These are the kinds of questions you should be continually asking:

  • If my brand were a person, who would it be?
  • What our my brand values?
  • Why does my brand matter?
  • What do I want my brand to achieve?
  • What are our beliefs and culture?

 

What business are you in?

There are many clients, believe it or not, who don’t understand what business they are in. Ask them and they might give you a superficial answer: real estate, medical devices, food distribution. But the most successful companies dig deeper and know the answer to this question isn’t simply what industrial sector you are in, but what is it that you are fundamentally exceptional at, and which you can transfer to other areas to grow your business.

If Walt Disney thought he was in the film animation business he wouldn’t have created a theme park. If Coca-Cola thought it was in the cola business, it wouldn’t have created Powerade and other beverage products.

Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, famously said, “We are not in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee.”

Do you know your customer’s name?

 

So ask yourself the questions above. But don’t stop there. Ask your employees. Ask your customers. Because your products will not reach their markets without the sails of your brand unfurled.

Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor

MD & Head of Strategy and Research

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