Leveraging Your Brand’s Identity Part 1: Understanding what a brand is (and what it isn’t)

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You’ve got yourself a killer marketing plan and a fancy budget spreadsheet. Maybe your logo is modern and eye-catching. Perhaps you’re blogging and utilizing video on your social media platforms.

But are you really leveraging your brand’s identity?

In this series, we’ll cover what your brand is, how you go about defining it, and how you can leverage that brand to outshine your competition.

Are you a brand architect?

Whether you’re the architect of it, or blissfully unaware, every company projects a brand. A brand can work wonders for you, promising repeat business, referrals, and 5-star reviews. It can also be damaging if you don’t define and reinforce it, which is why it’s so important to understand what a brand is and what it isn’t.

A brand isn’t…

A brand is not your advertising or your products. It isn’t your mission statement or your logo. Branding doesn’t happen in an ad buy, a tweet, or a perfectly crafted TV spot.

“Marketing, advertising, and other promotional activities only communicate your brand personality and message.” – Bernard Shroeder, Brands & Bulls**t.

What a brand IS!

“Your brand is comprised of your personality, your voice, and your message; branding is the process of establishing these traits”. – Bernard Shroeder, Brands & Bulls**t.

Your brand is your company personified. It is the perception that resides in the consumer’s mind. It is your image. Where advertising delivers a message, a brand is intended to deliver a feeling. A good brand makes a promise to its customers and then consistently delivers on that promise. Notice how a brand has little to do with the marketing tactics you employ? That’s because your marketing efforts are a vehicle for delivering your already established brand.

“Perception is Reality”

My mother always told me, “perception is everything”. Just because you think you’re a great tennis player, or you’re trustworthy, or a transcendent artist, doesn’t mean the rest of the world views you as such. She told me to be sure that I was mindful of how I wanted to be perceived by others and that each interaction was an opportunity to solidify that perception. Little did I know, she was helping me to define my own reputation. That process is branding on a personal level.

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well. Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon

In an earlier blog post, Elizabeth highlighted the book, “The Power of Nice”, which outlines how the smallest of interactions can make all the difference. And it’s true! To achieve strong branding, the smallest details matter. You can’t simply meet customer expectations, you must surpass them. Think about the last time a friend shared a positive experience they recently had with a business. Was it some grand gesture that inspired your friend to share their story? Probably not. Most likely it was a small gesture of kindness, some added convenience, or even the salvaging of a poor customer experience. Those small, sometimes seemingly meaningless interactions have all the power in the world to help you obtain customer loyalty (and maybe a few referrals, too)!

At the end of the day, perception is reality. And the same goes for your customers. Just because you think your business offers the best service, or the cleanest restroom, or the speediest response time, doesn’t make it true (especially if that customer caught you on a bad day). And your customer’s perception of you can mean everything (trust me, they’ll tell their friends). This is where your brand comes into play and why it’s so important to be the architect of your brand. Once you have the brand blueprint, your characteristics and traits can be delivered in your messaging, tweets, and everyday interactions, helping to shape a perception you define.

Stay tuned! Next time we’ll dive into the “how’s” and “what’s” of developing your unique brand blueprint so you can begin working on your perception!