A common question I get from new business owners is, “What is a brand, and why do I need one, anyway?” It’s a great question! Branding can be confusing and often gets mistaken for marketing and advertising. While they’re all aligned, your brand is who you are as a business; while marketing and advertising are activities that you do. Understanding your brand is a critical
part of running a successful business and standing out in a crowded marketplace.
So what exactly is a brand?A brand is a totality of who your business is. It’s your personality, your tone of voice, your fonts, your colors. But your brand is more than that. It’s also your reputation and the experience your clients have when working with you. The good news is — these are all things under your control! When your brand accurately reflects who you are and the work you do, you set yourself up to attract your ideal clients and grow your business. So let’s talk about the various aspects of a brand, why you need one, and what to consider when defining your own.
A brand is an experience.In the olden days, a brand was simply a mark that identified a company, like a logo. But today, a brand is so much more! A brand evokes images, memories, and thoughts in someone’s mind. Think: Coca-Cola, Nordstrom, Apple. They all have their own distinct, yet different characteristics. Here are a few more definitions:
- A brand is the overall experience of a customer that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. – Wikipedia
- A brand is the promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. – Entrepreneur
- A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. – Seth Godin
What is branding?Branding is the process of creating your brand. A successful branding process requires developing key aspects like your
- Brand personality
- Brand values
- Brand promise
- What you do & why it matters
- Who you serve & how you help them
- What makes you different & why they should care
- Why people should choose you over the competition
- What people can experience as a result of working with you
Marketing is not brandingWhile marketing and branding are interrelated, they are not the same thing. Marketing refers to the activities you do as part of communicating your brand and with the objective of connecting with your ideal audience. It’s the message (what you say) and medium (where you say it: social, email, ads, podcasts) with the ultimate goal of selling the product. Effective marketing flows from a strong brand, and communicates what you stand for in a way that resonates with your target audience, so they sign up to buy from you.
10 reasons you need a brandYou might be thinking, “But I just want to run my business, I don’t want to worry about defining my brand!” Here are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider.
- You already have a brand. If you put yourself out there as a business — at a networking event, on your website, or on Instagram — you already have a brand! Might as well be the one that you want.
- Your brand is stronger than a business. If you’re worried you might not stay in this specific business, remember that building a strong brand (think: Virgin), can help you branch out into new arenas.
- A brand speaks for you. You can’t be everywhere at once. But your brand can. Anywhere you have a presence, your brand represents who you are.
- It helps you establish credibility. A brand gives you a professional look and feel, which creates trust in the eyes of customers.
- It sets you apart from your competitors. You’re not like everyone else and you want to show why.
- A brand makes marketing easier. When you know your brand, you set the foundation for all marketing activities.
- It gives you a compass. A brand provides focus and direction for all of your business activities — who you serve, what you offer, what you share.
- A brand helps you express yourself. It gives you the opportunity to communicate key aspects of yourself that make you, you.
- Your brand helps you get clients. You spend less time chasing customers and more time attracting them. Plus – referrals! People love to talk about the brands they love.
- You can make a bigger impact. As a purpose-driven solopreneur, the more you can share your vision, the more opportunities you have to make an impact.
Here are a few other branding definitions
Brand positioningThe Branding Journal defines brand positioning as “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”. What this really means, is that your brand positioning needs to describe how your brand is different from your competition. To understand your brand positioning, you need to understand:
- Your strategic differentiators
- Your competitors
- How to explain this in words that your clients understand
Brand identityYour brand identity encompasses the visual items you might normally think about when you think about branding. Your brand identity includes the visual elements of your brand, including:
Brand awarenessBrand awareness is the extent to which people are familiar with your brand. If you have high brand awareness, a potential customer will be able to recognize your logo and also associate it with certain aspects of your services. For example, Marie Forleo has a high degree of brand awareness in the female entrepreneur space.
Brand valuesBrand values are the values that lead you in your business. Brand values can include things like:
- environmentally conscious