How to create a brand: A dash of values, a drop of systems, a pinch of design, eye of newt…

Wait a minute. Let’s start that again – in the real world.

For many people, a brand is just as mystical and bemusing as a witch’s spell or gypsy magic from a fairy tale. So let’s clear away the smoke and mirrors, to give you a clearer understanding of what branding actually is.

Myth 1:  Our Business Doesn’t Use/Sell Brands

Dispelling The Smoke…

Saying your business doesn’t use brands is like saying your water isn’t wet. At a very basic level, every single business uses or sells at least one brand – their own.

Looking deeper into it, there are actually two brands for the business. The external brand that the customer experiences, plus the often less thought about internal brand (commonly known as company culture). You need your customers to buy into your external brand, whilst your staff buy into the company culture.

Having one working without the other is a recipe for stagnation or worse.

On top of these company brands, any staff member who is in contact with a customer or supplier also utilises their own personal brand. This is why it is so important to hire the right staff that fit with your brand values.

Myth 2:  I Have A Logo, So My Brand Is Complete – Right?

Turning On The Lights…

It’s not all about pretty pictures. Sure, your visual identity is important as it’s often the first point of contact people with have with your brand, but it is only a part of the bigger picture.

Your brand starts off with your core values and beliefs, flows through to what you promise to your customers based on those beliefs and then on to how you will deliver on those promises. Your logo and the rest of your visual identity needs to represent these values, beliefs and promises.

A business can be successful without a great logo, but try doing it without clear core values  or delivering on your promises and you’ll be in trouble.

Myth 3:  The Market Is Changing, So I Need To Change My Brand

Behind The Mirrors…

Your brand needs to connect with people on a values level Because your brand starts right at your core values and beliefs, you shouldn’t be changing it every time the market makes a shift. Let’s face it – the market is changing every day.

A person’s values and beliefs don’t change every day, it’s their needs and wants that do (normally their wants). Your brand needs to connect with people on a values level.

Monitor your brand values in relation to your marketing message. Then, find new products or services that fill wants and needs, in line with your current values. This is how you adapt to meet the changing marketplace. Keeping a handle on these markets’ wants and needs will help you to adjust how you present your brand values through your marketing messages and or product/service offering.

Myth 4:  Branding, Marketing, Sales, Graphic Design, Advertising – It’s All The Same Thing, Right?

Pulling Back The Curtain…

While we don’t want to get into a big philosophical debate over the blurred lines in the marketing, sales, advertising, branding kaleidoscope, I would like to offer the following example for some clarification.

You create your brand based on your core values.

You then create a plan to present your brand to the marketplace – Graphic design is used to decide how your brand is represented visually and marketing to plan how to describe and deliver the message of your brand. Knowledge of how you will complete the sale will also greatly influence both the design and marketing plan.

Advertising is part of the marketing mix, in the same way as social media, direct mailing, trade shows, etc. The advertising is designed (graphic design) to follow the brand guidelines but is not branding itself – It may be targeted towards brand awareness, or sales but it is still advertising, just using a brand message or a sales message.

Customers respond to your marketing campaign and require fulfillment – your sales team or sales process do what they have been designed to do, according to your brand values and delivering on your marketing messages. This will normally entail the use of some sort of online or printed materials that have been designed to match the brand guidelines.

The process will continue with more steps after this, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll stop there.

Each of these are different parts of the whole. They are not the same thing, they are in fact each individual tools that you will need to use together for ensured success.

Myth 5:  It’s Exactly What We Want – Success Here We Come!

Keeping It Real…

Whether you are talking about your brand values, visual identity, marketing messages or sales process, one thing is for certain. It doesn’t matter how wonderful you think it is – you’re NOT the target market  (even if you fit the demographic profile, you’re too invested to be objective).

Get advice. Talk to experts and your target market. You may find that your values don’t resonate at all – then maybe you need to change your target market, or find a way to focus on certain values which do make a connection and market those considerably more.

No magic… No hocus pocus…

Branding is simply a vital part of the larger picture. An important tool/requirement in the success of the other puzzle pieces.

Now that you’ve seen behind the smoke and mirrors, how does your brand measure up?