Last month, I walked you through the elements of a brand identity. I wrote about what you might get for your money and the questions you should ask your graphic designer. This month, I want to save you some money.
Because your brand identity is not your brand.
It is all too common for people to conflate the two but expecting your graphic designer to create your brand for you is both unfair and pointless. Why? Because no one can possibly understand what inspires your brand and where it is headed like you do.
You can think of your brand as a book and your brand identity as the book cover. Your brand identity helps communicate with customers about what is inside. But just like a book cover cannot take the place of a book, no matter how great your brand identity is, if the brand inside isn’t any good, people won’t like it.
So what is a brand exactly?
There are a lot of different definitions but mine goes like this:
Your brand is the way you make your customers feel and it’s a promise to continue making them feel that way.
Importantly, your brand is a collaboration between you and your customers. Especially in this age of social media, your brand is what your customers say it is.
You don’t own your brand outright. Your brand is not a set and forget because part of what defines a brand is its promise to continue making your customers feel. So a huge part of really understanding your brand is deeply understanding your customers.
Ultimately, you are your brand’s custodian and its biggest champion. It is your job to know what you want your brand to be.
Why is a strong brand important?
A strong brand does two things for your business:
1. It helps you connect with your customers in a crowded marketplace
Brand recognition means you don’t have to ‘introduce yourself’ to your customer every time you want to speak (market) to them. A good brand can also provide a powerful reason for your customers to spend their money with you when they are choosing between similar products.
2. It guides your business strategy and growth.
Once you are clear about what your brand is (and isn’t) you’ll find making decisions about your business becomes much easier. Questions such as what magazine to advertise in, which social media platforms to be on and whether to diversify into new products become easier to answer because you can come back to whether they fit with your brand.
How to begin understanding your brand better
One way to start thinking about your brand is to think about these three aspects of your business.
Because your business would not exist without your customers, understanding your brand begins with understanding your target market.
Some questions to ask are:
• Who is buying your product?
• How old are they?
• Is there a gender split?
• What does their family look like (are they single, young couples, young families, established families, empty nesters)?
• What do they do for leisure?
• What ‘pain points’ might they experience in an average day?
Once you understand your customers well, you can start to answer the most important question you need to ask: What problem do you solve for your customers?
Solving this problem is the purpose of your business and it is at the heart of your brand.
3. Three words
When I work with clients one on one, we use the answers to the above questions as the basis for a brainstorming session. Out of that session, we determine the three words that belong to their brand, that they can ‘own’ better than their competitors.
These three words become their guiding framework used to answer all sorts of questions. From whether a shop fit-out should be scandi or luxe to whether a particular Instagram collaboration is advantageous.
Only you can do the work to clarify the answers to the above questions and the best time to get clear on them is before you speak to a graphic designer about a brand identity.
Importantly, these three words and the questions that facilitated them can become the brief that allows your graphic designer to create a brand identity that’s backed by a brand your customers will remember and love.
You can read my original post about creating a brand identity here