Overlooked Aspects of Branding

When we talk to a client about branding, the response we get is often “Oh, I have a logo.” But a logo isn’t branding. It really isn’t even the START of branding.

Branding is far more comprehensive. It is as much an emotional thing as a visual one. It includes all of these things, and probably a few more that I haven’t thought how to articulate yet:

1. The logo – yes, this is part of it. A very small part.
2. The business name. More about HOW you do what you do, than WHAT you do.
3. The business slogan. It sets a mood, and sends a message. It may not say anything about the product. Think about top brand slogans. Coke’s slogan isn’t “brown fizzy sweet drink”. And Nike never says “shoes we’d like you to think are really cool”. And McDonalds would never say “assembly line hamburgers”. Their branding is the attitude. Our logo is “Come in from the cold”. Not a thing about web design… but a message about how our customers feel.
4. The way you write your content for your ads and website. The very style of writing – is it formal, casual, humorous, warm, professional, etc?
5. The way your website or ads are laid out and organized. Again, all of this sends a message which should be consistent with your branding.
6. The names you choose for your website links, your products, the variations for your products, etc. Are you going to call them “small, medium, large”, or are you going to call them “teeny, well fed, enormo”.
7. The way that you market, and where you market. It should be consistent with the branding and primary message you are trying to send.
8. The packaging and presentation of the product. More than just slapping a label with your logo on the package, the entire package should echo the branding mood, including the wrapping, label layout, and other materials.
9. The way in which you interact with the customer, from how you answer emails, to your signature line, to the way you answer the phone or the way you dress when you meet them in person. All of this is part of your branding.

So in order to create good branding, you really need to know what the primary message IS. Is it a sense of fun, a sense of helpfulness, a sense of comfortable conformity, or a sense of being on the edge of losing control? All are appropriate for various products and target markets, and you want to be sure that YOUR message fits yours. Then EVERYTHING you do in relation to presenting your product becomes an extension of that message.

Branding is, in a sense, defining a personality for the business. When it is a likable and consistent personality, people respond. When things are disjointed and don’t quite coordinate, they feel like they are in the presence of someone who is either deceptive or who has a mental illness – neither impression is a good one for persuading customers to trust you with their money.

When we work with small businesses that have a single owner operator, we find that the business owner is the single most important influence on branding. The personality of the owner is what will determine, to a large extent, the messages that are being sent, and to whom. Usually a business owner can’t even articulate these things. But if a professional service provider pays attention to the business owner, they can quickly determine what those messages are, and how to best present them. Because with a very small business, the owner IS the business, so you are really trying, in a way, to capture the brand of the OWNER.

If you are a small business owner, make sure that your branding carries through your entire business, through everything you present to the customer and all of your interactions with the customer.

But most of all, have some fun with it! Branding, done well, is great fun, and a terrific creative project where you get to think about appropriate and enjoyable ways to include your messages in everything you do.

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