When you hear the word “branding” what do you think? A group of carefully selected colors that perfectly complement each other? A simple — yet complex — standout logo that evolves over time? How about an award winning agency renowned for neatly wrapping all of your brand elements into one cool concept?
Unfortunately today, a brand goes much deeper than the surface-level look and feel, not to mention your brand personality. A brand image is as much as what you project out to the public as the conversations consumers have between each other.
And these conversations now happen across the planet, through every medium available, most notably social media and online forums, and at a lightning pace.
The Truth Can Set You Apart
Now the consumer is the expert on your brand. And if your brand is only present on a surface level, it’s harder for consumers to attach and engage with your company.
The best brands say what they’re going to do, and do it consistently, no matter what the circumstances. But this is much easier said than done.
Which means you can turn it into your strength. Because this level of truthful branding is so difficult to get right, it can be transformed into a powerful marketing tool. If you can communicate your brand more honestly than your competitors, with enough consistency that even your customers can’t pick holes in it, it will distinguish itself as a brand of integrity.
What is the Purpose of Your Brand?
Through all the noise of brand concepts, art directors and UX trends, it’s easy to forget why you invested in your brand in the first place.
Your brand exists to be recognized. To be familiar with your customers and contrasting to your competitors. So that consumers can form a real attachment with your company — not just an appreciation for your products. It represents meaning to external audiences.
But it’s easy to pollute this meaning and confuse it. Which is why honest branding is so important for your company’s image — and it’s revenue.
Your Company Values Are the Foundation
To run one consistent, unwavering brand through your company’s veins is a huge undertaking. How will your brand stand the test of time, with new industry trends and disruption? New employees with new business directions?
The answer is your company values. They are eternal and if selected correctly can be used as the guidelines for what does and does not represent your brand.
But even choosing these aren’t as simple as they sound. If they are to serve as the foundation for your brand, they need to be the epitome of truth.
Start With What You Have
Which is why your attention should go first to your company mission and vision. Why was your company created in the first place? Which big problems is it trying to solve?
These will be the aspirational part of your brand. Next comes the reality.
Begin to investigate every aspect of your business with a critical gaze. This should include:
Which customers do you have? What are they like? What are their pain points? What do they like about your company, your personnel? Why did they pick your product(s)? How did they discover you?
How do your competitors brand themselves? What are you trying to do differently? What do you admire about them?
This covers sources like analysts or review websites. What do they say about your business? How do they say you could improve? Have they commented on what your company does well and where its shortcomings lie?
Your people are the ones who interact directly with your customers. Who build your products and hire others with the right “fit” for your business. Who spill the company gossip to their friends. What is their opinion of the company? What is the general sentiment through the company’s internal communication channels? What is your review on Glassdoor? What are your employees like as people?
Build Your Values From the Evidence
By procuring the evidence first, you can start to map the trends, the similarities across all of these points of view. Yes, definitely pick out what you are as a company, but also make a note of what you’re not.
The flipside of truthful branding is understanding the untruths that you cannot claim to be, which can be used to pick your brand apart. Don’t build a brand you want to be — build it on what it actually is and what your company is really trying to achieve.
Knit together every point of view that makes up your company and translate it into a set of core values. Let’s say 3–5. Too many will, again, leave your brand up to scrutiny. Which is also why the accompanying explanation of each value should not be too granular but something that can be applied when your company grows and evolves.
Begin to Truly Embody Your Brand
As I’ve mentioned before, consistency is a key element to building a successful brand. Which is why, once you’ve put the effort into researching each aspect of your business and logically piecing this evidence into core values, you should be strict on what does and doesn’t make sense for your brand — across the whole business.
Your brand should echo throughout every corner of your company and be present in every marketing campaign. It should not be sacrificed for the price of achieving a short-term goal, otherwise its meaning with your audience will start to deteriorate.
Don’t fall into the trap of messy, forgettable inconsistency — become something people attach themselves to and believe in.