Sometimes brand is hard to describe—not because it’s vague, but because it is incredibly specific. Brand is what you do, and it’s how you talk about what you do. Brand is your voice, your “My Name Is” nametag, the boiled-down summary of your identity and the way you express it. Brand is what makes you you when you walk into a very crowded industry marketplace to make a mark.
But that might not help if you’re in the middle of trying to build a brand. If you really want to get to the heart of branding, think of it as storytelling. Let’s walk through the elements of a story to compare it to the building of a solid brand.
Once upon a time
Building a brand always begins with going backward. Where does your “story” start? Every company has a story.
McDonald’s began with a desire to provide fast, cheap, simple, consistent food to the average American, and it has become the “fast-food” giant and a quintessentially American establishment. Quick, consistent, and American, no matter where you are in the world: that is the McDonald’s brand. Their messaging to this day reaches out to the “average Joe,” and their logo expresses this original vision as well: when you come “under the golden arches,” you know exactly what you’re entering.
Maybe your company began with a desire to simplify complex services or reach a particular constituency. Maybe it began with a business idea, or a relationship, a city, or inspiration from a community in need. Or maybe it began with your founder’s love for the market or industry. Wherever it began, your brand will bloom from and refer back to these origins, because within these origins lie who you are and what you’re here for. Reach back into your origin first. Can you and your employees tell the story of your company’s origins? If not, then your branding lacks roots.
Next, who does your story involve?
Beyond competency and professionalism, what makes your staff distinct? There is some way in which certain highly-qualified candidates will match up well with your vision, mission, and personality as a company, and some equally-qualified candidates will not.
If you were to describe your ideal employee, what three words would sum up this person? This will tell you something about how you should be branding yourself. Because your brand not only attracts the kinds of prospects you want, it also attracts and can keep the right employees. Because if your branding partly comes from recognizing your ideal employees, it will speak specifically to them. And employees who are contributing to a purpose they’re attracted to are more likely to stay connected to their work and grow with you.
Of course, you’re also building brand because you want to attract prospects. But even though you want to grow your client base, you don’t need everyone to come to you for services. So you don’t need to attract everyone. Good brands work more like bait than a fishing net, and expertly finding your niche will mean you tap into a rich a productive marketing pool.
This is the point of on-brand marketing: not grasping at straws but speaking to your audience. Again, if you had to describe this audience, how would you do it? On what age range, income level, stage of life, region, gender, cities or cultural groups are you wanting to focus? And how do you imagine these target personas benefiting from your services? How have they already been benefiting?
Client feedback is an excellent tool here. When you find out what has already been attracting certain target groups to your company—see if you can sum it up in two words—this is part of your brand, too. And you will likely see an intuitive connection between these words and your original vision.
Conflict and action
If you’re an established business, cut the lifespan of your company in half. In the latter half of that time, how have you grown the most, and what have you learned? Through conflict and your daily actions, successes, and failures, you will know how to rebrand and strengthen brand.
Again, take McDonald’s as an example. During a time when Americans are more aware of the health problems associated with fast food, the restaurant launched its “I’m lovin’ it” rebrand, reminding us that McDonald’s is still the “beloved” and dependable franchise it’s always been. The restaurant chain tied its setbacks into its goals for continued profitability, while also recapitulating, once again, that original vision.
Your industry might not have a thing to do with food, but the principle is the same: conflict, change, and what you’ve learned through your “plot points” are a perfect opportunity to remind people of your story and sell them on it. It’s not about your social media presence or your logo. All those elements simply express the character and values of your company.
If you’re just getting started, you’ll have to project into the future, but again, not without a starting point. Your brand will be front-loaded with what you hope to do and where you hope to be, and this comes from your origin story and original vision, the people you employ, and the people you want to serve.
Encountering elements of your brand, prospects, and clients will get a sense of who you are and what you’re specifically prepared to do for them. Don’t be afraid to tell a genuine story.
When it comes to pulling together those storytelling threads in a sustained and seamless way, Range, a Deluxe company, has many years of successful experience in helping companies like yours develop their brand for better audience match and higher revenues. Get in touch to speak with a consultant.