You may think brand building is the domain of the uber creative in the gold-walled office in NYC, but the reality is you don’t need to wear snakeskin skinny jeans at church to stand out. Here are three basic steps to start you on the path to creating an unmistakable company signature.
“The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything, and the low cost producer is the winner.”
—Philip Kotler, Professor, Kellogg School of Management
I know it sounds new-agey, but it actually all started with Socrates. In Ancient Greece, this aphorism commanded one to look within, and the phrase holds true in business as well.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” —Socrates
You have to know who you are, what you have to offer, and most importantly what you WANT to offer before you can clean up your messaging so the clients come. You think people are “just going to know” what you offer, but that’s not true. You have to tell them who you are and what you got, and that requires knowing yourself.
Know the Competition
There comes a point when you have to take your head out of the sand. I know, it takes a lot of energy to build a business, and you think you don’t have time to look at what the competition is doing. But that’s a mistake. I’ll explain.
You have to know what everyone else is offering so you don’t end up saying the exact same thing as they do. Imagine you’re at a bake-off. You walk up to a table full of cakes. One friendly contestant says, “My cake is made with vanilla.” Another contestant says, “My cake is made with vanilla too.” Then a third contestant says, “So is mine.” How are you going to make a decision here? Well, you’re going to taste the cakes to make your decision. But what if you couldn’t taste them first?
This is the conundrum your customers are facing before they buy. If they don’t know how you’re different, they’re going to make a choice based on something else (like the way you look, the way your website looks, or how you said hello)—not the best strategy. So what’s the final step to standing out?
Say How You’re Different
That’s right. Now that you know yourself and your competition, you actually have to say how you’re different. It sounds simple, but it’s unbelievable how many people forget this last step. It’s tempting to think that we can rely on visual branding to “be different”, but this is the domain of huge brands like UPS and FedEx. People see them everywhere because they have the money to spend on advertising.
If you’re a business owner working with a small budget, you’ve got to use your words.
If contestant three had said, “My cake is made with Madagasgar vanilla”, you would probably want her cake more than the others. It’s because she actually said how she was different. You don’t have to get fancy, in fact, you shouldn’t get fancy because your goal is to connect quickly. Just say how you’re different. That’s it.
Once you’ve taken the time to get clear on these three things, all the creative stuff (like creating a tagline or writing copy for your website) can flow from there.
Struggling to define and communicate your brand? Get clear with the Brand Identity Brief free download here.