What do you think of when you think of the word “brand”?
Do you think of Nike and their slogan, “Just Do It”? Do you think of Apple and its products? Maybe you even think about a pro athlete, like Lebron James.
Any person or business that comes to mind is considered a brand, but where does their brand come from? This is something that is commonly misunderstood as a brand has a simple definition, but the word brand is used to describe many other related ideas.
The names Nike, Apple, Amazon, and Google are all brand names. The symbols that you know of as their logos are another small part of their brand. We know that Apple was started by Steve Jobs in his garage and that Amazon used to be strictly an online bookstore. That is the brand story. Nike is athlete-focused, while Apple is focused on innovation. That makes up the brand identity.
Now, when you put all of that together you may think that you have a brand, but a brand is more than that. All of those things are elements that contribute to a brand, but in reality, a brand is about feelings.
According to Marty Neumeier, “a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company.”
All of those brands I mentioned before are so successful, not because of their logo or slogan, but because they make you feel something that you don’t feel with other brands. Amazon isn’t the only online retailer, but they are reliable and fast with fairly cheap prices. Apple isn’t the only company that sells phones, and they certainly aren’t the cheapest, but we still buy iPhone’s because of their quality and ease of use.
But these brands aren’t made from the products that they sell, they are made from customer’s experiences with their brand. Their consistency and their vision have created the perception that they wanted their customers to have towards their brand.
What is unique about a brand is that they have different meanings for different people at different times. A great example would be a college or university. I go to The University of Alabama, and depending on your interaction with UA, your perception is different.
Being a student, you may feel like Alabama is a great school. They are ranked highly for their business school and can give you great connections in that area. But if you are an engineering student, you may feel differently about the school.
So you can see that brands can have more than one perception, and sometimes it can even be negative. How do you feel about companies like McDonald’s compared to Chickfila?
Now that we’ve got the idea of what a brand is, we know the direction we need to move in. We need to focus on creating a brand that is consistent in communication and experience. We need to practice what we preach, not just say it and hope people listen. That is the power in creating strong brands.
Unfortunately, not everyone can do that. Your brand is your reputation, but it usually follows in line with the owner’s character. If you can’t put others in front of yourself or even treat people the right way, you won’t ever be able to sustain a good reputation.
Your attitude and the way you handle the business reflects through everyone else. Look at Chickfila, they are committed to customer service. They are focused enough on doing every little thing right, even if it’s just saying “please” and “thank you”. That focus started at the top level and you can see how it pays off for them now.
If you have good, strong values that you can stick to, you are halfway there. Now we get to actually building the brand.
First off, we want to know who we are. Why does our business exist? What purpose do we fill? Why should people care?
In Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why, he goes over the difference in starting with your why instead of you what. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
Once we know our why, we need to communicate that. Every great brand has that and communicates it well.
Before we get to that, we need to do a little research. We need to know who we want to communicate to so that we know exactly how to communicate it.
We can start with defining our target customer:
- Education Level
Then we can get a little more detailed to learn more about our ideal customer:
- Pain Points
- Brand Affinities
Once we know who we are talking to we can find other brands that are looking for those same customers. By looking and see both what they do right and what they do wrong we can find the best way to communicate with our audience.
At this point, we know what to say and who we are saying it to. We do that, but we still have to show people that we do what we say. As long as we can get those down, we have a huge advantage over everyone else. It’s really as simple as that. Being a good person goes a long way because people don’t expect that anymore.
Sonia Gregory said that “Positive Impression + Standing Out = Brand Success”.
You can have the best-looking logo, the cleanest website, and the perfect advertising strategy, but nothing will beat the power of good branding.