When people set out to build a brand, many think a simple logo, a few colors, and some stylized imagery will all of a sudden transform their business and do the trick.
But the truth is, that’s not really how things work.
Come along with me on a journey to the wonderful world of dating (if you’re in a relationship, just pretend with me for a sec. I know you all love stealing your single friends’ phones to swipe the apps for them.)
Maybe Venus is in your fifth house, you’re feeling your new hairdo, or you’re just putting out some good vibes. Whatever it is, you’re racking up the matches and have a bunch of dates lined up.
So you put on your “date outfit,” aka a look that’s effortlessly cute, but not like you are trying too hard (even though you spent an hour getting ready). And then you head to the bar where you’re meeting your first date for drinks.
Date #1 shows up and comes in STRONG. He orders drinks for you both—without even asking what you want—talks on and on about himself nary a single question directed towards you, humblebrags about how his apartment is just too big, and then ends the evening by trying to convince you to go home with him.
…say it with me now, ”Boy, bye!”
And yet still, you decide not to let last night’s date fiasco get you down. The next evening, you head out to meet your second date.
Date #2 sits down and chats a bit before asking you what you’d like to drink. He asks all the standard first date questions, and he’s actively listening and engaged. You end up spending hours talking. He lets you in on his secret obsession with 90 Day Fiancé while you share your hidden talent as a black belt in karate. At the end of the date, he gives you a hug and asks if you’d like to go out again. You appreciate that he’s not overly aggressive (not to mention, also really handsome).
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you’d rather go out again with Date #2 rather than Date #1, am I right?
Now I want you to go through these scenarios again, but instead of a date, think of them as different companies trying to sell you something.
In the first scenario, the company is operating as a business and is only focused on the end-game: making money. It pushes and promotes its products and services without focusing on the actual customer.
In the second scenario, the company is operating as a brand, focused on making a connection and taking the time to build a sense of trust. You’re fostering a chance to grow together and create a long-lasting relationship.
Now that we’re on the same page about the importance of setting out to build a brand vs. a business, how do you ensure that your brand isn’t just great on paper and actually has some substance?
Build A Brand With Substance
While the visual aspects of branding are an essential component, developing a strong brand identity requires you to take a step even further back.
The purpose of branding is to distill the personality and the heart of your company through your story, your values, and your mission. Once you have that down, you can create a visual extension of your brand identity through your branding elements like logo, imagery, typography, etc. (you know, all the things that normally come to mind when you build a brand). My Big Brand Confident Training is a great tool to use while going through this process to determine whether the current branding you have in place is as impactful as possible.
Even if you’re happy with how your current brand experience is, successful brands are constantly evolving. So it’s always good to check in and determine if you need to freshen things up.
Here’s one of my favorite exercises to I do when helping develop a new brand or just improving upon an already existing brand:
List out five different qualities that your company offers besides your products or services. Some examples are community, knowledge, empowerment, a creative outlet, etc. How can you use these qualities to build a stronger narrative and experience around your product?
While this may seem like a simple task, it really helps you to focus on the “why” and distill the essence of your brand.
For example, let’s say you are selling a cookbook. Which copy feels more compelling?
“This cookbook is chock-full of our favorite Italian recipes, with easy instructions and beautiful pictures.”
“Gather your loved ones around the table for nourishing, inventive meals with our all-time favorite Italian recipes.”
Kiiind of a no brainer, am I right?
Put Your Branding To Work
Once you have your list, let’s turn those qualities into an effective branding experience with these three techniques. How are you currently showing up in these other areas of value? Are you able to connect with your audience?
If you’re not quite sure how to answer these questions yet, that’s okay! I recommend checking out my Big Brand Confidence mini-course (don’t worry, it’s free!). It’ll take you through exactly how to do a quick audit of your brand (which you can apply to nearly all areas of your business—a super important skill to have in your entrepreneurial toolkit).
Storytelling is one of the most impactful and authentic ways to connect with your customers. By sharing the story behind why you started your brand, how your products are made, or who the people are who work at your company, you’re creating a personal experience where customers get to know the brand.
How this could look like:
- Showcasing different perspectives from your team members on IG Stories (takeovers) or IGTV (themed content series). Brand that does this well: Everlane.
- Blog features that lets your audience in on the journey of how your product is made. Brand that does this well: OluKai.
- Video series of how your product fits into your own life. Brand that does this well: Into The Gloss/Glossier.
Building a sense of community is a great way to extend the tenets of your brand. Make your customers feel like they’re insiders, and they’re part of the club. Engage with them on social media, show them behind-the-scenes of your brand, or have in-person events, so you connect IRL, and they can meet other fans of the brand.
How this could look like:
- Relatable and modern in-person networking events. Brand that does this well: Six Degrees Society.
- Access to actionable tips and insights from top industry professionals in every newsletter. Brand that does this well: Brunchwork.
- Podcast episode where you share behind-the-scenes of a recent launch. Brand that does this well: Jenna Kutcher.
When you build a brand, how you interact with customers is one of the best ways to show what you’re all about and who you are as a company. Having stellar customer service is a great way to show your customers how much you value them. Another idea is to include your customers in the decision-making process by asking their preferences for new products on social media. This not only makes them feel appreciated but also like they’re an integral part of your brand.
How this could look like:
- Give a sneak peek into prototypes on your Instagram and poll your followers if it’s something you should make. Brand that does this well: Faherty.
- Offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee leaving little room for your customers to regret their decision to buy with you even when things go wrong. Brand that does this well: L.L. Bean.
- Repost user-generated content from your customers any time they tag you while using your products (especially social proof!). Brand that does this well: Bossbabe.
Let’s Wrap It Up
I may have given the business approach a “swipe left” at the beginning of this article, but don’t get me wrong, you do need to make money if you want to be in business (literally). But it’s worth remembering that effective branding can be a great asset when it comes to generating sales. This is because people are more willing to spend money with companies they feel connected to and passionate about.
So if you’re not using the right techniques when you build a brand, you could be leaving easy money on the table. But once you do have a proper foundation in place, however, then you can use all of this as a guide for how visuals can play a role in elevating and marketing the rest of your brand experience as a whole. And don’t forget to check out my Big Brand Confident Training if you need extra support or guidance on how to apply this to your own business.