Be real with me, do you know what branding is? A proper definition of branding says that it’s “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.” (Entrepreneur). The terms brand and branding come from Ancient Norse word “brand” meaning to burn, like with cattle.
That’s a cute little fun fact, but that doesn’t really help any understand the concept of branding any better. In today’s article, I’m going to cover the anatomy of a brand which includes three major sections. Each part builds on top of the other (like a pyramid), and they all have their properties that we’ll discuss as well. I do want to provide you with an informative breakdown so that you’ll better understand how to leverage branding for your own business.
The brand foundation
At the very base of branding is the foundation, naturally. It’s the essential part of a brand’s anatomy because if you have a strong and stable foundation, the rest will fall into place. However, what makes up a brand foundation? Easy! You’ll want to define what your core values are, your mission and vision statements, a clear picture of the type of clients you want to work with, or customers you want to sell to. Additionally, you’ll want to select the kind of vibe your company should have through deciding upon its personality and perception as well as solidify your unique offer and positioning. Many companies know the answers to most of these questions, it’s just that they haven’t sat down and put it into words and that’s what’s holding them back from having a killer brand that’s distinctly them.
A company’s brand values are key pillars of what ends up characterizing the company. Brand values vary widely from honesty and philanthropy to eco-friendly and innovations. One of the biggest advantages of having clearly defined values is their ability to streamline the decision-making and to help steer the company’s direction. You and your team should be able to evaluate new products or services against the values you’ve set out for the company. A company’s values are at the core of attracting like-minded people as employees, customers, and clients as well as followers and advocates.
A MediaCom study found that 40% of consumers abandon a brand because of weak values. This matters so much! (Don’t forget just because someone doesn’t buy from you, doesn’t mean they can’t help you succeed either. )
Having a well-articulated mission statement is paramount to both small and large companies. It helps keep your company focused on its desired goals. And, just like brand values, a mission statement helps with decision making. Anything that would deviate the company from its mission and intention would be an automatic no. That makes life so much easier then forever debating or agonizing over a decision, don’t you think?
Here’s my mission statement: I work with creative female entrepreneurs and small business owners who need help improving and optimizing their online businesses. I help them by providing a clear branding strategy as well as website strategies that both improve their conversion rates and increase brand loyalty. All this leads to them growing their own tribes, reaching more people and, most importantly, earning more money.
Dream client/dream customer profile
It’s equally important to understand whom you want to serve with your business. Imagine a client you’d love to help; imagine creating more products for that one dream customer of yours. Who is it? If you’ve been lucky enough to have already worked with your ideal clients, reflect upon that and what it was like and how it would be to only work with those kinds of people from now on!
I will preach this until the day I die: knowing your target audience inside and out will make your business a success. (It will also make running your business smoother.) If you understand these people you will know precisely what to give them, provide for them or put in front of them to get them to pay attention and, ultimately, get them to buy. If you don’t know your ideal client or dream customer you will have a tough time getting yourself off the ground. I promise that.
Your unique offer and positioning
Your unique offer and positioning are what’s going to differentiate you in the market. Many companies are selling the same products or services, but no one has your unique take on things. A clear positioning will allow you to swiftly and effectively communicate and reach your ideal client or customer. Moreover, it will break through the clutter by amplifying your message and make you more attractive to your buyers (making it easier for them to buy from you).
Most importantly, your unique positioning, along with a killer offer, will make you an authority, not a commodity. That’s because companies that know who they are an who their audience speak from the point of value which turns you into an authority. People pay for that.
Personality and perception
Within a brand’s foundation, you need to decide what kind of vibe you’re going for. How do you want your customers and clients to perceive you on their first impression of you? How do you want them to feel after they have finished working with you? How do you want them to feel when they order your product and receive it in the mail? How do you want them to feel after their first product use? Or, after their 100th time using it?
How do you want your company to be perceived? Smart? Knowledgeable? Helpful? Funny? Easy going? These adjectives and characteristics matter because they will dictate the tone and voice in your sales pages, customer calls and ads. They will dictate the visual look and feel of your logo to your social media graphics and everything in between.
The look and feel
The second layer of what makes up a brand’s anatomy is the overall look and feel. Now that the foundation has been set it’s time to express the essence of what your company is and what it stands for; not only visually with logos and color schemes but also with its communication through tone and voice. Consider this second layer of the pyramid the guidelines for your, later, day to day expression of the brand. Both, the visual design and the tone and voice, are going to help you find the perfect expression of your brand.
Visual design comes in the form of the right colors and typefaces, the perfect logo, the best fitting photographs and many more design assets. It is based on your brand’s desired personality and perception. For your brand to have a consistent look and feel, you must have clearly defined visual guidelines. This is where you define them.
The same designs need to be applied all over, no exceptions. (This includes the website, the marketing collateral like ads, the business cards or even the webinar slides). Brands who are consistent resonate and connect with their audiences more effectively than those that don’t.
Visual design is there to start building an emotional connection with your ideal client or customer. It is meant to grab attention, to represent the company’s essence as well as to be memorable. A well put together design will also build trust and reputation for your company. Most people, when they think of branding think logos and colour schemes. As you can see, it’s a whole lot other stuff too.
Tone and voice
As a brand, your tone and voice will also define much of how your customers view you. At this point, you know the message you want to speak, tone and voice are all about how you say it! It’s also about creating consistency between how you communicate in your blog posts, ads, webinars or landing pages. Lastly, it’s also a key way of connecting with your target audience!
If you’re not careful, you could end up with an assortment of voices that will veer away from your branding. It’d have the same effect as if someone used an old logo of yours. A well-defined tone and voice guidelines allow new team members to jump right in and continue to spread your message effectively.
Everyday branding actions
Once the branding positioning has been decided upon, and the guidelines have been outlined, you are left with the everyday expressions of your brand. That’s the third and top layer of branding pyramid. Everyday actions cover the day-to-day things like a customer walking into a store or going on a company’s website all the way through to their experiences with your customer service or sales call. These things matter because if a customer has an inconsistent experience, you will lose them. These everyday touchpoints are your opportunity to catch their attention, delight them and turn them into loyal customers.
The customer experience
Any touchpoint and interaction with your company or its extensions fall under customer experience (It’s an industry term that also applies to clients as well). It can be anything from someone entering your store, calling customer support, to using your actual product or services. As a brand, you want to express yourself in all of those instances. You want your clients to have amazing experiences with you at all times.
That can be a scary goal to achieve as it appears to aim for perfection but with all the brand foundation already laid out, it isn’t too difficult to achieve. The groundwork has been set, and the guidelines have been laid out. Their job was to make sure it’s easy for your company to provide a great experience at every touch point.
There is no substitute for a great customer experience! Consider all touch point as an opportunity for you to share your message and have your target audience hear you. The clearer the brand values and positioning, the easier it is to adhere to it and spread it; that’s why having the right foundation matters so much!
Partnerships can be important and how you partner can elevate your brand or be a complete waste of time. They are there to amplify a message and reach new people. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from the typical sales partnerships we see with events or collaboration to even something as ordinary as a guest interviewed in your podcast or blog. Being associated with the right people and companies will help heightened your reach and impact while being associated with the wrong kind, will hurt your credibility instantly.
Sales, marketing, and advertising
All of the sales, marketing, and advertising efforts must align with core branding; it’s an opportunity. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and money. As I mentioned before, advertising, marketing, and sales are all another touchpoint for potential and current customers. It must reflect your positioning. You must set the right expectations. Otherwise, you’re wasting time going after the wrong audience. No bueno!
A website is another aspect of the everyday expression of your brand. It’s another touchpoint, and it’s also a common example of good customer experience. If a client can’t book a session with you because your website is not working properly, that’s a poor experience. If visitors to your website constantly encounter some issue it will turn them off. Even something small like not being able to find the right blog post matters. They will lose trust, and you will lose them as an advocate and a customer pretty quickly. Don’t forget, keeping your website regularly updated give you a regular opportunity to delight, provide value as well as seamlessly convert those sales!
Social media is another opportunity for you to provide value and useful insight to your followers. It’s a fantastic tool to reach new audiences and increase your reach. So, surprise, surprise, you ought to be consistent in branding here too. Social media is where your tone and voice are crucial, including video-based platforms like YouTube. That’s because social media reaches thousands of people at a time. That’s powerful, and it’s a great way to amplify your message once again and find even more followers to turn into customers.
The very last aspect branding refers to recruiting. People, especially today, want to work for like-minded companies. They want to work for brands that align with their own values. It’s significantly easier to find the right person and keep them with you longer if that person and your company see eye to eye. You can’t get that kind of sync between a company and its employee if the values are unclear or unenforced.
Having the right kind of people on your team makes spreading your message more seamless. That will only strengthen your brand and so on and so forth. The message will come across significantly more authentic from people who believe in it, making the message stronger and attracting more people who want to work for you. (Kinda cool, don’t you think?!)
In order for you to have a successful brand, you need a better understanding of what branding actually is. That’s how you get the right kind of people to buy from you at a significant scale. The takeaway I want you to have here is that branding is not just the logo and a color scheme. It’s a lot more extensive than that. I want you to start thinking about your company’s brand from a new perspective. For example, pay attention to the words your company uses in social media posts or even email correspondence. I want you to think about your brand holistically. Moreso, I want you to set time aside, alone or with your team, to define your brand’s foundation.
If you need a starting point, I suggest downloading my free printable that goes over the basic brand foundations. It’s perfect for a quick internal review!