For many, the term “brand” refers to the name a company uses to identify a product or service as its own. Many of you will already know, however, that a brand is much more than that. A brand is really anything that identifies a product or service and differentiates it from the competition. It’s the identity, the message, the benefit, the value, the emotional connection to the customer.
Have you ever met someone that you just liked the moment you came in contact with them? Maybe someone who was charismatic and friendly, who put those around them at ease with their good humor. Or how about someone who was stubborn and didn’t care what other people thought in a way that you couldn’t help but respect? You liked and remembered them because of their personality, or their personal brand.
When it comes to business, your brand is like your personality. You want it to be memorable and appealing in a way that your customers can identify with it. If your business doesn’t have a personality, you won’t stand out to your customers. It’s like listening to a monotone speaker – you won’t remember what is being said.
So how do you develop a personality or brand for your business to stand out and be noticed? There are two tools that can help you: your vision and your competitive advantage.
Your vision addresses your “why” behind your business. Have you listened to Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk or read his book “Start with Why?” His theory is that businesses should start with the “why” of a business instead of the “what” or “how.” The why is the core of the business, and why it exists. Ask yourself, why does your business exist? What problem are you solving? What is your vision? Is it to offer the best product available? Is it to provide a market segment with a service that they otherwise can’t get? Is it to become the leader in innovation in your industry?
Your vision also encompasses your beliefs, which affect the way you do business and the types of products or services you offer. What’s important to you? What’s not important to you? Let’s say you’re a small restaurant owner and you believe food should be locally grown and organic. Are you going to purchase the cheapest ingredients you can find for your menu? Definitely not.
Or maybe you’re a gym and you think that cardio exercises like using a treadmill or elliptical are ineffective workouts and that any exercise of value should revolve around strength training. Chances are you won’t have a wall full of treadmills or elliptical machines in your gym.
Can you see how your vision, the purpose behind your business, helps determine your brand, your personality, and the voice of your business? These are unique traits that can be worked into your brand that will make you stand out from the competition and help your customers remember you and relate to you.
Your competitive advantage is an integral part of your brand as well. In our blog article What is your Competitive Advantage? we state that competitive advantage is the reason people do business with you instead of your competition. Vision is why you do business and your competitive advantage is why customers do business with you. But if people don’t know why they should buy from you instead of your competitor, what good is a competitive advantage?
Your competitive advantage provides a foundation for how you portray your products and services. Everything about your brand should convey to your customer why they should come to you. Do you make the best, highest quality products? If so, your brand should reflect that. Are you the fastest, newest, prettiest, most unique, most economical? Show it.
Building the Brand
As we mentioned before, your brand is the identity of your business. It’s the way that you connect emotionally to your customers. What are ways that you portray your brand?
Think about everything that your customer sees. Let’s start with your product or service. If it’s a product what does it look like? How is it packaged? What fonts do you use, what colors, what descriptions? Does it reflect the personality traits of your business?
If you offer a service, what do your customers see? How are customers treated? What’s the appearance of your storefront or your employees? Does your storefront convey a feeling that is consistent with your brand? How about your website, your Facebook page, or your other marketing materials?
If any of this is inconsistent with what you think your brand is, it will affect your customers’ perception of your brand and may convey something that is detrimental to your success. If this describes you, I would suggest first going back and making sure that your competitive advantage is strong and your brand accurately reflects your business. Then make adjustments where necessary to become consistent.
Be sure your brand is consistent with who you are personally and what you want your company to be. People want authenticity. Create your unique brand that is you. Focus on why you do business and why people do business with you and you will be able to create your personal brand.