When you think of the word, “brand,” some very big names come to mind. Nike, McDonalds, Disney, Ford, Microsoft, Coke, just to name a few.
We all have very distinct associations with these brands whether we use the products or services they provide or not. By simply watching TV, being on our cell phones, walking through a supermarket, searching the Internet, or engaging on our social media platforms, we know these brands, what they make, what they stand for, and have a sense of their very essence.
You don’t have to visit Disney World to recognize the Mickey Mouse ears logo or to know that it is the “happiest place on Earth.” You don’t have to drink Coke to know what kind of beverage it is and that it’s “the real thing.” You might drive a foreign model, but you know that Ford stands for American-made and “Ford tough” automotive excellence. You don’t have to wear Nikes in order to recognize the company’s solitary swoosh appearing on everything from shoes to hats, to all manner of clothing.
But, if you dig a bit deeper into those impressions, you realize that the word “brand” is a bit misunderstood. The above examples are really taglines and logos. The true meaning of “brand,” is a business’ identity. It’s not what you make or produce, or even the features or benefits of your products and services. A brand is your WHY and your values; it’s how you define your company in the marketplace and what sets you apart. A brand is the opposite of hype, it is the antithesis of spin. For a brand to be successful it has to be genuine, authentic, and to connect and elicit an emotional response from your target customers.
In the end, of course, that connection leads to higher sales and loyal ambassadors.
When we do brand essence workshops with our clients we always start the process by asking the stakeholders to think of their brand as a person. What does that person care about? What issues and challenges do they face every day? This humanizing of your brand is what will enable you to drill down to its heart and from there all things become oh, so much easier!
The next question we ask is, “what is your why?” It is usually quite easy to answer the “what” and the “how” of what your company does; the why is often times a different matter.
Up next is the powerful exercise that asks: what does your brand value? By answering this question, and then weaving the answer throughout all of your marketing and communication strategies, you create long-term relationships with like-minded people. And, like-minded people quickly become life-long champions of your brand.
I have interviewed a great many people on the Integrate & Ignite podcast that have given my listeners and me what amounts to master’s classes on building a brand. To cite just a few that I highly recommend:
Episode 39: Nicole DeBoom, founder of the national women’s apparel brand, Skirt Sports
Episode 169: Tony Drockton of the American luxury brand, Hammitt
Episode 202: “The Romance of a Brand” with Ryan Martin of W.H. Ranch Dungarees
I hope you will learn as much as I did from these creative and inspiring people!