What is a brand? At the drop of a hat, most of us can name a variety of household brand names—Apple, Coca Cola, Dillards, Amazon, Google, etc—but defining what makes Apple a brand and not just a fruit can be challenging.
But, when it comes to marketing, your brand is one of your most powerful assets.
Mention any of the brand names listed above and something immediately comes to mind. And that, honestly, is the essence of what a brand is: it’s all of the feelings, emotions and beliefs that people have when they think of your business. Your brand is your business.
Developing a powerful brand, however, is easier said than done—and it all starts with marketing. The better you can tell your brand story and describe what your business is and why you do what you do, the easier it will be to get people to do business with you, discover what your business means to them and develop that powerful brand you need to succeed.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at three simple ways to define and strengthen your brand. Let’s get started!
1. Why Does Your Business Exist?
Let’s be honest, most businesses exist because someone saw an opportunity to make money and took it. But, inside of that blatantly cynical statement lies the secret to branding your business: your company exists because there was a market need for something…aka, a business opportunity.
That market need is at the core of your business brand.
Apple realized that people wanted classy, intuitive products that made a statement and built their brand around meeting that need. Amazon recognized that shopping online meant buying products from countless different websites, so they became the place to get anything and everything online…and fast. Google’s founders knew that people weren’t getting what they wanted from their online search experiences, so they created a search engine that connected people with the content they were looking for.
Each of these businesses was born from a market need. Your business was, too. You just need to understand what that need is and how your business addresses that need.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Why do people buy from us? (especially compared with buying from the competition).
- What makes us different from other businesses in our industry?
- What is the highest praise we could get from our customers/clients?
- What motivates our employees to do a good job?
- How do we help make our customers’ lives better/easier/more affordable/etc?
To really create a compelling brand, you need to understand why you exist and—perhaps even more importantly—what needs your business serves. This is the foundation of your brand story.
People don’t care about how cool your product or service is. They don’t care about how long you’ve been in business or how many employees or locations you have. And they certainly don’t care whether or not your business is making money.
People care about how your business helps them with the things they care about.
Ultimately, your brand story isn’t about your business. It’s about your customers and clients. Truly brilliant companies know how they fit into their customers’ stories and build their brand around empowering their target audience. And to do that, you have to understand your customers’ needs and how your business addresses those needs.
2. What is Your Vision?
Once you know who you are as a business, you need to know what your goal is. Obviously, all businesses have goals to make money, be profitable and help their clients, but you can’t really build a brand out of vague concepts like these.
A good business vision needs to be specific and customer-focused. It needs to be something that your customers can sense—ideally without you ever telling them what your vision actually is.
For example, Nike’s goal is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” Notice that their goal isn’t to be “the most inspirational and innovative athletic wear company in the world”. Their goal is focused on what they want to do for their customers—becoming a great company is just a natural side effect.
Inspiring athletes and giving them the tools they need to achieve their dreams is a clear vision that Nike incorporates into every element of their business: marketing, product development, sales, customer service…and the list goes on. It’s so fundamental to their business that when you think of Nike, you probably think of people doing awesome things in branded gear.
Nike’s vision is clear and customer-focused, so it’s no wonder that when people hear “Nike”, they immediately think of people doing awesome, athletic stuff. Nike’s vision makes their brand powerful, memorable and relevant.
If you want to do the same thing for your business, you need to understand your own vision. Here are a few questions to consider:
- If every potential customer in the world started using your product or service, how would Earth be a different/better place?
- How does your product/service help people achieve their dreams?
- How does what you’re selling make the world a better place for your customers?
- What goals/hopes/dreams do your customers have that you can help them reach?
Knowing how you help your customers become more than they are now is the key to creating a brand vision that sells. A good vision becomes a fundamental part of everything your business does and it makes it easy for people to buy into your brand. After all, your goal is to help them achieve their dreams.
3. Who is Your Audience?
If you know why your business exists and what your vision is, you should have a pretty good sense of who your target audience is. Now it’s time to dive into the details.
Sure, a business like Nike might have a target audience of “everyone with a body”, but how they communicate their vision and brand story will vary depending on who they’re trying to reach. The same idea applies to your business.
Consider the following questions:
- What motivates my ideal customer?
- What are they afraid of?
- What do they want? (in both concrete and emotional terms)
- What do they value?
- What problems do they face?
- What do they believe in?
The better you understand who your target audience is, what their challenges are and what they want out of life, the easier it will be to create brand messaging that they will connect with.
Whenever people encounter something new or different, they subconsciously ask themselves, “Is this me?” Or, to put it in different terms, “Does this match my wants/values/preferences/etc?” If the answer is, “Yes, this is me!”, you’ve probably just won a new customer. If the answer is, “I like some of this, but I’m not really sure it’s ‘me'”, you’ve got an uphill battle ahead of you.
The key to good branding is understanding your audience so well that your brand feels like home. Even if it’s the first time they’ve heard of you, they connect with your brand on such a basic level that buying from you is like buying from a trusted friend. Good brands feel comfortable and safe…but it takes a lot of work and thought to make them feel that way.
So, What Will Your Brand Story Be?
When you get right down to it, great brands are memorable and beloved for three simple reasons: 1) they know who they are, 2) they know how they fit into their customers’ lives, and 3) they know who their customers are and how to talk to them.
If those three elements are consistently present throughout your business, you’re well on your way to building an awesome brand that people will rave about.
Remember, life is about relationships. That’s just as true for businesses as it is for people. The more your target audience feels understood by and connected to your brand, the likely they are to build a relationship of trust with your business. And that’s the sort of relationship that is the key to every successful brand.
How do you approach branding? What do you think of the three components to branding that we discussed in this article? Do you have any additional thoughts to share? Leave them in the comments!
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