Contemplating your brand? You don’t need to look far to find a guru. But how can you be sure they’re not a charlatan? When is the best time to mix things up? And what does a solid brand consist of anyway?
Brand is not a cure
Changing your visual identity or re-branding will not fix or save your business. It won’t increase sales, it won’t improve loyalty, and it won’t increase the productivity of your people.
Please, don’t get me wrong. A well-articulated and authentic brand expression will evoke loyalty and induce passion, from your people and your customers alike.
But it takes a lot more than a good looking logo. And it takes time. Thankfully whether you realise it or not, you’ve been building your brand since day one.
Your brand should be part of the solution, in fact it will guide you to it. But it’s rarely the solution in its own right.
So, what are the right times to look at your brand?
You need to reach a new audience or you’re doing new things. It’s likely that you’ll need to articulate the reason you exist in a way that’s meaningful to your new audience.
This may or may not need you to consider your brand identity. Your brand is your baby. Help it grow, don’t throw it out with the bath water.
You’ve done it! You’ve established your business. Now you need to recruit the best to continue your work.
They need to know what to believe in, why they are here and what to do when making a decision. Now is the time to solidify what you have always known; you need to tell your brand story.
This is unlikely to require a change to your brand identity, but it should be in line with it. If your story and identity don’t sit well together or if your identity doesn’t allow you to tell your story the right way, you may want to think about developing your visual identity and tone of voice.
If people don’t believe or buy into your brand it can mean one of two things.
- They don’t understand it. Your visual identity is unlikely to be the cause of this. It will be the way you explain what you stand for and what you do. Your message.
- They simply aren’t for you. Your brand might be as solid as a rock. If you believe it is, be brave and think about whether you need these people onside. You’ll soon find that you don’t.
Your brand is your guiding light. It’s what your customers and your people believe in. It guides everything you do. Your brand is more than your visual identity and tone of voice.
The reason everyone in your business gets out of bed in the morning. The reason people believe in you and want to be part of what you’re doing. An undefined purpose won’t stop you from starting. But as you grow, you’ll need to know how to articulate it.
Every business has a purpose, it wouldn’t exist if it didn’t. But you may need to dedicate some time to revealing it. And making it meaningful to everyone else.
Unless, you’re actually saving the world or humanity, don’t have your purpose be about saving the world or humanity. If you’re making a widget or provide a service it’s unlikely you’re doing either, and that’s ok. If you want to do good deeds, do good deeds. But don’t mascaraed them as your reason for being if they clearly are not.
Or beliefs. These enable you and everyone in your business to stay true to your purpose. Making the right decisions without question or hesitation.
‘Doing the right thing’ and similar generic expressions are not company values. They’re personal moral and ethical values. If you need to remind your people or guide your business decisions by them, you may have bigger problems than your brand.
Your vision is an expression of your brand. It will help you make commercial and operational decisions.
Everyone needs a target. Your vision is the next milestone you want to achieve. But it will only inspire those around you if it’s an articulation of a strategy. The strategy you’ve chosen to achieve your purpose.
- Purpose: I exist to make people happy.
- Strategy: I’ll be kind to people.
- Vision: By 2025 I’ll have shown kindness to everyone in my neighbourhood.
- Tactic: Janice broke her arm last week. I’ll pay her a visit and bring her a doughnut.
A vision is not tactical, for it to be believable it needs to be long term. It has to stick. Your brand should guide tactical decisions, not be affected by them.
The way you look and sound. Everything your customers and your people see, hear and understand about you. The very feelings these induce about your business have to be an expression of your brand.
It’s simple, but it’s a gargantuan task to keep on top of unless you set clear guidelines.
Tone of voice is often ignored. Or paid lip service to. Don’t underestimate the importance of how you sound. It builds your brand in ways nothing else can. From your websites 404 page to an inspiring talk by a senior leader. Your tone gives you character, it makes you relatable and builds relationships.
Brand Bravado Bingo
Here are five traits, that if you spot them, might save you from a brand charlatan. If someone drops them all in one conversation, call house and get the hell out of Dodge.
- Insisting a brand re-fresh will solve your commercial woes.
- Suggesting that reconsidering your brand is healthy “especially during unprecedented times like these”.
- Not asking why your business exists. Or what it stands for.
- Only ever talking about logo, colour palette, typeface, and templates.
- Explaining that your purpose is the service you provide or product you sell.
Beware the brand guru that references other brands. Especially one that asks you if you see anything you like…
Do you think the most loved brands look to others for inspiration? Especially when it comes to their reason for being and what they want people to believe about them?
Knee-jerk reactions that change your brand will have you going around in circles.
If you don’t already, take the time to understand your brand. If you need help, find someone that understands brand anatomy. And the power of a well-articulated one.
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