A guide to the things you need to strive to get right for brand success that can then make your marketing more effective and worth it.
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Straight up, many business owners do the following when it comes to ‘ticking the boxes’ for marketing their business and maybe this has been your experience too:
Choose a name
Get the web address
Make a logo
Set up a basic website (which might have come with a free logo and web address)
Put up a few posts on social media for 6 months
Then someone said you need better SEO and do ads on Facebook or Google
This is often when a designer, like me, gets the call up to make the creative for your content, ads or blog posts look presentable because you know you need to put yourself out there to have some semblance of a digital presence. I know the feeling because I’m that designer for my own business too 😅
However, what I also do is branding and I’ll be honest to say that many who want to market their business, don’t have a brand to work with, other than a product/service and a logo. So it’s a little horse before the cart, trying to get your name out there in your market.
The good news is that this is totally fine, but it has the potential to hold you back from a greater return on investment when it comes to marketing your business. Because that person that told you that you need better SEO and to do those ads on Facebook and/or Google, amongst other things, is right and you should be marketing your business.
However, you’re gonna need a brand and there are 4 things your brand can’t get wrong:
Knowing who you’re connecting with
Committing to what the brand stands for
Using one single message constantly
Captivating visuals/audio to capture attention
To be honest, you can get these things wrong, it’s all good so don’t fret. The title is just there to get your attention.
But these four things truly are the foundation of what your brand is and does beyond what it is you sell. So let me hit you with what these four things mean to your business and why you can’t get them wrong.
1. Knowing who you’re connecting with
When you develop a brand it becomes the connector between your business and your consumers.
If you don’t know who you’re trying to sell to how can you expect to effectively market your business offering to them.
So get to know them:
Know why they would need what you’re selling
Know when would they need it
Know how and where you can get under their noses and,
Know what will make them buy
Getting a decent idea of this helps you position your brand in the right place, at the right time and maybe even influence the product or service you offer - anything from the packaging it comes in, to the experience your consumer receives.
So if you know your target consumer is in a specific location, guess what? You can target ads to their location.
Why you can’t get this wrong is that it becomes a waste of your money when trying to market your business without a target to aim your marketing darts at…though I’m not suggesting you need to think of it as skewering your consumers, it’s just a metaphor.
Gaining this clarity of who your target market is and putting it down on paper makes every step of your marketing easier, no matter if they are obvious or not. This is all part of branding, not to mention, it also influences other parts of your brand like your message, colours or what your brand stands for.
2. Committing to what the brand stands for
I mentioned in the last point that a brand becomes the connector between your business and your consumers.
Equally important to this is that your brand is also the foundation for connecting your team to your business so that you are all on the same page with where the business is heading.
It helps form a unifying team culture everyone can get behind and you can hire…or maybe even fire by.
Now what helps generate an impact on your business is identifying what your brand stands for. It acts as a north star to work towards.
In other words, what is your brand there to do beyond making money (your brand purpose)? Then what do you value in the day-to-day operations of your business and consumer experience (brand values)?
It can be simple or it can be complex (though the simpler the better). Whatever this may be for your business, this is what your brand stands for and might also represent what it promises to deliver. Which, for many brands, is what sets them apart.
Why you can’t get this wrong is that I see many founders and teams that aren’t willing to commit to what their brand stands for and simply default back to focusing on their product or service and just trying to sell it. Meaning that developing your brand becomes a wasted opportunity for a clear direction.
Much the same as gaining the clarity of knowing your consumers, committing to your brand and embracing what it stands for can influence the many external factors of what makes your brand what it is to others. This includes your team properly giving a shit about what you have to sell and do because they understand and embrace the impact they’re working towards.
Frankly, this commitment and the confidence that comes with it rubs off when communicating what you have to offer with your consumers from marketing or connecting in person.
Let’s be real. If you’re not committed to your brand, how do you expect your consumers to commit to what you have to offer?
Get serious about your brand and commit to it with confidence!
3. Using one single message constantly
With so much to remember in your business and many facets that make your brand what it is, complicating it with more words than needed dilutes the message you need to convey.
What this means is that when it comes to your brand messaging, if you can get what you want to say to your consumers down to as fewer words as possible it does two things:
It’s easier to remember so that it rolls off the tongue and you’re more likely to use it time and time again.
It communicates your point succinctly for your consumers to connect with and buy into from a relatively easy to understand message.
As an example, whether you like this one or not, “Make America Great Again” was the single greatest message the Trump administration used to get its message out there before and after the election that they were voted into power. It brought all their talking points back to this central message.
Not only that, but it also tapped into the disillusionment of many citizens to vote and support that presidency - no matter if it lived up to that promise or not. Additionally, whether or not Donald Trump’s vocabulary was intentional or reflective of his own aptitude is up for debate, but at the root of it, that message had simple language that anyone could understand to appeal to the masses.
So if you can find a statement that embodies what your brand stands for and is working toward delivering, it will help your consumers understand why they should choose you over others.
Why you can’t get this wrong is that if you have too many different messages going on at the same time or if it's too complex, it becomes too much to communicate. Especially if it’s the first time a consumer is engaging with your brand.
The point is not to say you can’t add more context to this single message. Instead, the goal is to bring all the language you use back to this one message or at least support that one main message. It can also be reflected in the concept used to develop your visual identity, Or it could align with your internal direction and be embedded into the consumer experience you offer.
So if you can get one message right that forms the foundation for your brand, it becomes a key message you can deliver in your marketing to utilise consistently and make it more effective.
4. Captivating visuals/audio that capture attention
Sure we can develop the best message and stand for the most courageous, earth-changing purpose on the planet, but how do you expect people to see you or hear you in a crowd without standing out above the noise?
Most of us are fortunate to have been born with two eyes and two ears that let us identify and recognise our surroundings, that’s obvious. However, what’s not obvious is how many small to medium businesses utilise branding to captivate the attention of our eyes and ears.
Now, this is gonna sound a little brutal, but stick with me. The effort put in to gain this attention is frankly pedestrian if I’m honest. Which if you’re reading this and feeling seen, it’s a good thing, because it’s telling you that change is needed.
It’s a bit of tough love but don’t you want consumers to recognise you first? Or when they see your brand colours elsewhere, to think of you? Maybe even having a jingle that could get stuck in their head on repeat.
Captivating visuals and audio draw in the attention of your consumers. They don’t need to be award-winning, nor should a brand designer ever tell you that the more you spend, the better the logo you’ll get. However, you’ll likely get a more considered outcome which is of value to your business in the long and short-run if you do invest in a more experienced branding specialist.
This comes back to the point of captivating more attention than your competitors are getting with brand elements like:
Colour, which is the first thing we identify with
Imagery, be it photos, videos or graphics (incl. a logo)
Signage and packaging
Why you can’t get this wrong comes down to distinctively standing out in your market.
Be it standing out amongst a crowded market of competition (eg. using red when most competitor brands use blue).
Or to capture and hold attention (eg. on an Instagram 15-sec ad that you then want consumers to click through to).
Because that saying “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t exactly play out anymore if you’re not standing out or easily found. How do you expect your consumer to find you and connect with you?
Adding to this, your brand actually needs to look and sound attractive. If you can produce a professional look, sound and message together for your brand and every time or place you show up it always looks/sounds the same, it tells your consumers you mean business when your appearance is well put together.
As they say, first impressions count. This instils confidence to then want to connect with your brand and gets them over that barrier to consider buying into what you have to sell.
So those were 4 things I know your brand can’t get wrong, no matter how long it takes you to get it right. Because your brand is always a work in progress and you’re not going to get things right the first time. Sure you might also stray a little every now and then. Or your market attention may shift due to viability or exploring new options based on current trends. But this is where you can and should utilise two things:
Periodically conducting a brand strategy maybe every year or even less.
Referring back to your brand identity guidelines - this is something I give every client that has their internal brand direction (purpose, values, etc), brand messaging (tagline, USP, story, etc) and visual identity (logos, colours, etc).
They will keep you on the straight and narrow path to not only creating a great brand over time. But it also guides better marketing in the short and long term.
Now before I close this one out, I want to offer up another list of 4 things related to your brand but this time it’s 4 things you need to worry less about when it comes to your brand. They might be controversial but on the day-to-day, they mean less to the success of your business than other facets will do for your success. So here goes.
4 things you need to worry less about:
1. Your logo
As long as it’s trademark-able, don’t sweat on it to communicate everything your brand represents. Ensure that it’s a simple market anyone could recreate from memory as that’ll mean it’s easier to remember and recall.
2. Your brand mission/vision
If you’ve not heard of these, press onto point 3 if you like. But if you have, a mission and vision for your brand are admirable, but are in my view, long-term aspirations that rarely influence the day-to-day actions you take to make an impact.
They’re especially not as useful if your vision for long-term success being achieved is realistically many years into the future and members of your team won’t be there to see it happen. Then how can they be expected to buy into that future vision?
3. Your competitors
Most industries have several if not hundreds of competitors they are competing with. So quite honestly, as long as you look/sound distinctive enough to not infringe on or be mistaken for a competitor, stop looking into your neighbour's backyard and focus on tending to your own lawn and garden.
If you focus more on how you can help your consumers than worrying about what your nearest competitor is doing, you’re gonna find better solutions to better engage with them and as a result, deliver a better level of service that they need. Because you won’t be focused on playing catch-up or doing things differently for the sake of doing things differently to be “unique”.
4. Your social media statistics
Social media has the word social in it for a reason, it should be a social place for interaction with your consumers and giving them value in return for their time and attention. Rather than a place to sell, sell sell. So worrying about how many likes, shares, views or comments you got should be a fun metric to see but should not be treated as a measurement for success. Social media is there to help build your brand in the long run.
Sure you can funnel people away to your sales channels, but upfront they’re gaining confidence in your brand and recognising what you have to offer. They might not need you now, but at least you’re showing up to stay top of mind.
But here’s the biggest one for me - you never know who’s watching that isn’t liking, sharing, commenting. A lot of them are the people who buy from you. It’s crazy, I know, but it plays out for many brands. This means you can’t trust the statistics of your social media, especially when an algorithm is present.
So worry less and strive to improve your brand over time as it will help influence the success of your business. Because if every successful business you know (and maybe even buy) that came before you and has grown exponentially to cult-like global status by leaning into their branding. Then why aren’t you considering branding as a serious contributor to making a positive impact on your business's success too?
Even if it’s just to make your marketing more effective, branding can contribute to that success.