Sunday, April 19, 2015

Take Tiny Steps to a Big Brand Identity

It's easy to find information on branding. A quick web search will pull up hundreds of posts, full of guidance, opinions and helpful information. Because of that, I hesitated to write about the topic. However, every week I hear people say things that tell me there is still a need in the small business world for owners and decision makers to have a better grasp on branding and the impact a brand identity can have on the business.

Businesses are started by people who a) have a passion for something they know how to do, or b) see a problem and provide a solution. Once the business of running the business kicks in, it can be hard to keep one's head above water and get some sleep, much less have any creative thoughts on the brand identity. That's where the problems start.

Knowing your business brand can separate your business from the rest of the pack. Years ago before the new age of marketing, a brand was seen simply as just the company logo, stationary and business cards. Marketing in a nutshell. In today's highly innovative world of business marketing, that definition is very old school and is so much bigger. 

Your logo is indeed critical because it should fully represent what you want the world to understand about your business. The work you do to get that logo exactly right should be the first step in a process that will deliver your brand through all your business decisions and image. The day you begin to flow the brand story through every single action, promotion, press release, product, and employee is the day you feel a weight lifted from your shoulders because you know it's being done the right way.

Your brand identity can be defined as your business's promise, the essence of your story shown through your company's behavior, integrity, products, image, and values. Everything happens with a first step, which can be a baby step. I can't state too strongly that getting the brand identity down pat in your mind and heart will be some of the most important work you will ever do.  

It looks so easy when you see the world's huge, popular brands, such as Coca Cola, Amazon, Google, and Disney. There's one major difference between your small business and those guys. They have marketing divisions and departments with large budgets.  But, there's also one thing you have in common with those huge brands: they started with baby steps too. 

Here are five steps to take to begin to nail down your business brand identity:

  1. Host a brand-storming session. Pull together a small group of key thinkers within the business who will help you work through the brand identity process. If you haven't yet started the business, pull together people who have business or marketing experience and are good contributors and listeners.
  2. Invite an experienced outside facilitator to run the brand-storming session to guide the process and keep the purpose of the session on target. The right facilitator can be key to the outcome and success of the session and will have a plan for the session.
  3. Describe your business vision to the group, taking questions, and answering them in the most heartfelt way possible.
  4. Explore topics such as your story, the product or service, the message you want conveyed in every transaction, why you do what you do, the problem you're solving, competitors, and describe your perfect customer.
  5. Be able to answer the question, "What do you do?" in less than 30 seconds, preferably in just three sentences.
This is just a start, and it will help propel your thinking to a new level, beyond your product or service and more focused on speaking your values and vision through everything you do. It takes time, focus, and commitment. But, you can create a brand identity that will be lasting. Get started now! 

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