So what the heck does 'brand' mean, anyway?
Ever find yourself smiling and nodding as someone talks about how important it is for businesses to ‘refine their brand’, despite having NO clue what this actually means?
You’re not alone.
This concept of ‘branding’ is everywhere these days, and if you’re a small business owner, not knowing what this encompasses can cause quite a bit of angst. But don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place. All your branding questions will be answered within this blog post. Just keep reading!
So first, let’s break down what this intimidating word – brand – means!
There are two different sides to branding – the abstract side and the more tangible side. First, let’s dive into the abstract side! When we think about branding in its more philosophical meaning, it essentially refers to your business’s vibe – the tone your business gives off. I know what you’re thinking…“….what!? What does that mean!?”
All this is asking, is how do you want your clients to see your business? When a potential new client goes to your website for the first time, or walks into your shop for the first time…what do you want their impression of your business to be? Do you want them to see your company as fun, casual and hip? Or maybe you prefer your business to come off as very poised, sleek and professional. All of these preferences make up your vibe!
Pro tip: as you’re pondering this, consider how your intended vibe will impact the kind of customers you will attract. Your vibe attracts your tribe! So make sure your vibe aligns with the population you are hoping to serve, and visa versa.
Hint: if you’re struggling to identify this abstract portion of your brand, look inward - this half of branding is often displayed in our personality traits. Typically, as small business owners, our business coincides with the kind of person we are. So often times, individuals who are organized and polished, hope that their clients see their business as just that. In contrast, people who tend to be free-flowing and casual, typically hope this approachable feeling is communicated to their customers.
Practice exercise #1: write down three adjectives you hope people will use to describe your business.
Practice exercise number #2: write down three adjectives you would be devastated to find out were used to describe your business.
Okay, so you’ve identified your desired vibe. You know the tone you want to give off. You feel good about it. You’re excited about it. But you’re saying to yourself…wait a second, I still don’t know how the f!#$ to communicate this desired vibe to my customers.
Well the good news is, you will do most of this on your own without even trying. As I said earlier, your abstract branding often emulates who you are, so you will naturally reinforce this half of your brand without even knowing it….the protocols you set, the copy you write, the way you speak to your customers…all of this stuff will have ‘you’ weaved throughout it, and as long as you are running your business in a way that truly aligns with who you are, this will be seamless….
…with the help of tangible brand assets! What the heck is a brand asset you ask? Keep reading!
So have you ever wondered what ‘brand creation’ means when you see it as a service offered by marketing companies (like mine!)? Wonder no more because it is essentially the development of brand assets!
Brand creation refers to the process of designing tangible visual components for a company to use throughout their marketing materials. These ‘visual components’ are also known as, you guessed it! Brand assets! Some examples of brand assets include: fonts, colors, patterns, textures, logos, submarks, etc. To show you an example of what developed brand assets look like, I’ve gathered my company’s brand assets in a graphic below.
When the brand creation design process is done right, each and every brand asset is created in a way that clearly represents, supports and reinforces your desired vibe for your business. This is essentially the essence of design work – making a series of aesthetic choices in order to articulate a message. For example, remember earlier when we talked about the business that hopes to come off poised, polished and super professional? Their brand assets may lean towards the more minimalist, sleek, clean lines look. And for a business wanting to communicate warmth and approachability, perhaps warmer colors and curvy text may be included in their brand assets.
Practice exercise #3: Can you articulate the kind of vibe I'm trying to convey with my company's brand assets!? Take a look at the colors I use, the fonts I chose, the content of my logo, etc. How do you think I hope my company comes off to my customers? Check out my website, and look at the way I present information, the way I write, photograph, etc. See if you can come up with some adjectives you think I had in mind when forming my company's vibe.
So once the design process of brand creation is completed, you will have all your beautiful brand assets, each one portraying your company’s vibe.
And when these cohesive brand assets are used across all of your marketing efforts (think business cards, your website, social media graphics, etc.), it creates a consistent, recognizable visual identity….or in other words, your visual brand! This mixed together with that more abstract half of your branding – your vibe/tone – together create….drumroll please…YOUR COMPLETE BRAND!
I know, I know, I am sure you are super excited to finally have a clear understanding of what constitutes a brand (I know I was!), but before we get too distracted, I want to go back to that word ‘recognizable’ that I just used, because it is a big reason why branding is so important.
The goal is to be so consistent with your branding, that as you put out content and marketing materials, people are able to recognize your business and the feelings it evokes in them when they’re viewing your material. Over time, your audience begins to know, feel familiar with and connected to, both your brand and your company – which is what will help create ‘brand loyalty’, causing your customers to choose you over your competitors.
Practice exercise #4: Go visit the websites of a few of your favorite companies. What kind of feeling do you get about their business while visiting their sites? What is the vibe they’re giving off? Honest, warm and approachable? High-end, luxurious and experienced? What do they emit that makes you choose them over their competitors?
If you are a business owner, I encourage you to reflect on your business’s current branding. Is it consistent? Does it align with your desired business vibe? And most importantly, do you like it!?
If you would like support creating or fine-tuning your brand, I would love to help! Head to my contact page and fill out the contact form.
Let’s get your brand to exactly where you want it to be!