Well now, that’s all a little bit presumptuous isn’t it James…
A little bit strong.
But also in a lot of cases, unfortunately very true!
Branding gets a bad rap. It’s either massively undersold – it’s only just colours and logos, it’s real worth is questioned – it doesn’t deliver ACTUAL results, or it’s altogether completely misunderstood – it’s all just a load of bollocks and nonsense.
People love to dismiss what they don’t understand. They also love to spout lies about things that they themselves are in some way scared of doing.
That results in a lot of ‘bad advice’ around what a brand is, what it does and what it can achieve.
I’ve heard it a million times, from startup business owners, all the way through to top execs at large global enterprises – everyone has their ‘idea’ of what branding is, but it’s usually based on flawed knowledge.
So I wanna help you step away from the masses. To truly appreciate the value of branding and the HUGE benefits it can have for your business.
Here are 15 of the biggest lies that I come across time and time again.
Time to clear them up!
Let’s go for the big one straight out of the gates, shall we?
There are a lot of people out there that think a lot of things are fluff and nonsense. Those that think this are those that don’t understand or have the desire to learn.
A lot of people used to think that the Dodo was pure nonsense when the Portuguese first discovered it.
DON’T LISTEN TO THEM. THEY’RE IDIOTS.
(about branding or Dodos).
The art of branding is based on human psychology. The way we think, feel and behave. Your brand is a method of showing how your business thinks, feel and behaves to resonate with and influence how others think, feel and behave.
A hell of a lot of research and strategy goes into creating a successful brand…which leads us nicely onto our second point…
Yes, it includes these, but they only make up about 2% of an entire brand. Much like the sparkly tip of an iceberg, they’re the parts of a brand that can be seen by all. But under them, supporting them, is a great foundation of research and knowledge into who a business is, why it exists, who its target audience is and how it sits within the industry as a whole.
It’s about knowing yourself, your customers and your industry inside-out. It’s about understanding what drives them all and ultimately how you can use psychological hooks to influence those drivers.
A logo is just a quick flashcard summary of an entire business.
The colours on a website are just a visual representation of the essence of your business – who it is, what it stands for and the personality it has. And how they impact your ideal audience – what they’re looking for, how they want to feel, what resonates with them.
Your brand is the essence of your business – everything that makes it what it is. The reason behind your colours and logo.
Would an in-depth understanding of your customers’ problems, wants and needs not allow you to create the perfect products, services and messaging to sell more?
Would creating trust at every interaction with your audience not lead to quicker purchases?
Would having shared values with your audience not build loyalty, community and reams of glowing recommendations for your products and services to increase your revenue?
Branding delivers very real, tangible results.
People buy the things they desire. They’ll buy them more quickly if they trust them. They’ll buy them more often if they’re loyal. And they’ll pay more for them if they think they’re valuable.
A brand does all of this and more.
30-50% of a business’s value is in its brand.
McDonald’s would have some questionable meat and bread without their brand.
Coca Cola would have some simple sugar and water without their brand.
Apple would have computers based on technology from years ago without their brand.
Not the billions of dollars they’ve all made from creating a feeling, an experience, a lifestyle for their customers.
We associate branding with advertising because that’s our main, obvious exposure to mega brands. TV adverts, billboards, magazine pages, social posts etc.
Advertising doesn’t make a brand, but a brand makes the advertising.
In fact, advertising’s just another channel that a brand will influence. Much the same as your website, social media channels, emails, brochures, signage, business cards, blog content, product packaging etc.
Adverts are a way to gain exposure and entice an audience to do something specific – buy a product, use a service, donate to a charity, join a webinar etc.
Brands are the underlying foundation to adverts – WHY something’s being said, HOW it’s being said and to WHO.
No, it’s not.
Branding is something that should be inherently weaved throughout every nook and cranny of a business.
How your customer service emails sound.
How you and your staff dress (if you have any) when representing your brand.
How your T&Cs are worded (obviously to a point to keep them legally viable).
A brand represents everything a business is and everything its customers expect of it. Therefore it should be in every activity a business does.
Marketing only deals with the promotion and selling of products/services. The ‘how’.
Branding is all about understanding and using human psychology, design and communication to build rapport, relationships, trust and loyalty. The ‘why’.
Again, our main exposure to branding as consumers comes from big businesses, because they have the vast sums of money to constantly push it in our faces through presence and advertising.
That doesn’t mean to say they’re the only ones that can benefit from one, however.
In fact, developing a solid brand as a startup or small business is the number 1 path to a larger customer base and higher profits!
Having complete clarity, direction and focus in what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how it should be done will allow you to scale your business much more quickly than not having a plan in place.
Every business has a brand. Every brand has a customer perception. Every customer acts on their perceptions. If ANY size business can influence their customers’ perceptions, increasing their desire, understanding, trust and loyalty, then their revenues will grow at a much faster rate!
Let me just stop you right there…
A brand is a perception.
Anything that we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch, we’ll have a perception about.
How good the quality is. How trustworthy it is. How safe it is. How it fits in with our lives. How much it will entertain us. How much we can benefit from it. How it affects how others will think about us…
The list goes on.
As human beings, we have an innate desire to understand everything we come across. To categorise it. To label it.
Your business has a brand – whether you like it or not. If someone has come across your business, they’ll have a perception of it.
Do you wanna leave that perception to chance?
Do you wanna let them make up their own minds about what your business is about and how much it appeals to them?
If you could influence that perception, why wouldn’t you?
If you could make them think and feel a certain way about your business, why wouldn’t you?
If you could make them act how you wanted them to, you would, right?
Much better to be in control of it and use it to your advantage.
Otherwise, you’ll be leaving A LOT of money on the table…!
There have been a lot of amazing products and services that haven’t seen the sort of success they deserve.
Ever bought something amazing and wondered why more people didn’t have one? Ever use a service and wonder why it wasn’t more popular?
Usually, it’s because they’ve spent all of their time developing an amazing product/service but completely lost the plot on their branding.
People won’t buy what they don’t trust.
People won’t trust what they don’t understand.
People won’t want to understand what doesn’t entice to them.
And then you have the multitudes of awful to average products and services. Literally at the bottom of their market zone of quality, but they’ve invested in their brands. And they’ve made millions!
There are infinitely much better burgers out there than McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC etc.
There are definitely much tastier beers out there than Budweiser.
And don’t get me started on Nescafe’s coffee…
But they’ve taken average quality products and invested heavily in their brands – into how they are perceived by the world.
It doesn’t matter what product/service you have, no-one will get close to it unless you entice them towards it in the first place.
That’s why EVERY business, EVERY product, EVERY service needs a great brand if they want to see the success they deserve.
The word ‘brand’ is a very misleading one. 90% of the time associated with products and services from what we see through daily life.
But anything can have a brand. A person. An animal. An object. A business. A country.
Anything that has the potential for an identity, a personality, a character can have a brand.
Let’s stop thinking in business/marketing terms as in reality, it’s got nothing to do with the real essence of branding.
Branding is a psychological representation of anything that can be given a unique personality.
Now, this depends.
Remember that the brand of a business is its own entity. It’ll have its own beliefs, values, personality, story etc.
Some of your own may cross over into this (as you’re the one that started the business), but you’ll need to draw a line somewhere.
Your brand should appeal directly to your target audience.
If the entire being of you is perfect for that, then plough as much of yourself into your business as possible. If only some aspects are, then choose carefully what you include.
You’ll need to create a unique persona for your business, and treat it as its own person. How should it think, feel and behave?
The more you craft it into a fully-fleshed out character, the easier it will be to stay consistent in the actions you take with it.
99% of the time, your ‘personal brand’ and your business brand will differ.
Sometimes your unexplainable love for meerkats should be kept back.
Or if you’re comparethemarket.com, throw ‘em in. Hasn’t done them any harm it seems…
I have great news for all the unfortunate shit brands out there…
No brand is forever!
There are two main elements to a brand.
Internal – the underlying strategy and research
External – visual design and communication style
The first determines the second.
If the internal element is missing or wrong, then it’s back to the drawing board. This’ll need to be right before the external element can even be started.
The external elements are literally the surface layer of your brand that communicates everything you stand for to your audience.
Sometimes a brand will require major re-work. Maybe for a completely different audience. Maybe they’ve moved into a new market. Maybe their values have changed.
This’ll be rare though, as brands are based on consistency.
More likely is that target audience expectations and industry trends will change.
This is usually what leads to businesses ‘updating’ their brand design – colours, logos, imagery etc.
Note that they will still convey the same values, messages, emotions to their audience, but will do it using an up-to-date design.
Again however, this shouldn’t be done often. Apple has changed their logo a few times over the years to stay relevant, but their core message behind their entire look and feel has mainly stayed identical.
A brand is an investment. And like with all investments, it takes time to see a sizeable return.
But growth is exponential.
It’ll start off slow – nothing in the beginning to be honest. Then a slight trickle. But this will turn to a flood as time goes on and your brand stays relevant and consistent.
A brand isn’t an immediate fix to anything.
But it is one of the most valuable assets you’ll have in your business.
If you invest in it right, nurture it and maintain it, your business will boom as it gains traction
Mention the word ‘branding’ and most people think about logos and colours.
I hear the word ‘branding’ and I think about creating emotional connections that make people buy, share and buy again.
A bit of a difference right?
Colours and logos can wait.
But can raving customers and sales?
Are growing your customer base and making more sales really the least of your worries?
Surely they’re at the top of your list!?
Branding should be at the top of your list.
If you wanna see MASSIVE success in your business, focus on your brand as a priority.
Apple did. And they’re worth $170bn.
Coca Cola did. And they’re worth $54bn.
Mcdonald’s did. And they’re worth £40bn.
There’s a moral hidden in there somewhere…
Thank you to the swarms of advertising and branding agencies out there that have helped spread this lie.
Branding is not expensive.
It is if you want to get one of these agencies involved, but you’ll pay for large teams and over inflated director wages.
I’ve spent well under $1000 creating the brand for BRANDSNACK. And half of that was on the logo!
There are a huge number of inexpensive or free tools and resources out there that you can use to build your brand.
Agencies charge the extortionate sums they do because they shroud branding in this unnecessary air of difficulty.
And that leads us nicely on to our last point…
You can do 90% of branding yourself!
You just need the time to dedicate to it and the right processes to follow.
I promise you – it’s not difficult!
Yes, you need to learn something new. It doesn’t just happen by magic. But it’s not complex.
There’s just a step-by-step process you need to follow so that your internal and external brand elements flow from one to the other.
If you want to create a brand. You can.
If you want to change your brand. You can.
Has that helped open your mind to what branding ACTUALLY is and the amazing possibilities it has for your business?
How important is branding to your business?
Building your brand is one of the most important and valuable things you can do.
Trust me. Your business, your customers and your future self will thank you.