Use Brand to Get Noticed
Launching a business is a dream for many people. It’s exciting and rewarding seeing your vision and business model materialise into something tangible.
But then you start to market yourself, and no-one is looking at you, no-one is listening to you and no-one knows who you are. This can be disheartening and confusing, and the knee-jerk reaction is often to focus on more marketing activities. But marketing alone usually won’t solve the problem. You can waste thousands of pounds and hours of time on marketing campaigns without giving your audience any reason to engage with you; and when you’re just starting out, time and money are precious. Businesses in their early stages are often too focussed on the actual product or service they provide and see brand as a logo to pop on the website. It’s impossible to expect good results from your marketing efforts if you lack a solid brand identity system from the start.
In this guide, we’ll outline the basic elements that form a strong brand, and hopefully alleviate some of the stress and disappointment caused by misfiring marketing campaigns. Fasten your seatbelts.
Logos are great. They’re personal and emotional. People love logos. They catch your eye and look nice on a new handbag and gives us the basics: the name and a graphical motif. Logos might be the first brand element consumers remember noticing; but there’s so much you can communicate subconsciously through your brand beyond a logo. You’ll need more than a logo to shape people’s perceptions and encourage them to be a long-term advocate. Logos shouldn’t ever be considered in isolation. They are one element of a set of assets that, when combined, create your brand world.
Brand identity is deeper and emotional – a long-term set of assets (logo, typography, colour palettes, photography styling etc.) made to be implemented across your brand, from general marketing collateral, right through to presentation slides and email footers. They act as emotional guidelines, useful for aspects such as social media and copywriting. Brand assets enable mental shortcuts for consumers, playing to the emotional, decision-making side of the brain. Once these systems are in place, consumers will subconsciously tie all of your brand together, and be able to identify purely with a typeface, a logo or even a single colour (think McDonalds’ red and yellow).
This consistency and clarity, and resulting trust, takes time to build, but if the correct methods are implemented from the start, you’ll be on to a winner. Take Nike for example; they’ve been one of the most successful and powerful brands in the world for a long time. Everything their brand conveys – whether it be emotionally or technically – is perpetuated by their core brand identity as a whole. Yes, they have the famous swoosh, but most consumers can recognise a Nike advert from the typography, the style of imagery, the choice of music.
This doesn’t mean logos are obsolete. They can be powerful vehicles for the brand values and a key mental shortcut for consumers to understand what you stand for. On the surface, the swoosh is just a fancy, oddly-shaped tick mark. But when combined with an unshakably strong brand purpose and identity, the swoosh evokes feelings of athleticism, physical power, and experience. All of these play in to why Nike do what they do, what their vision is and who they are as a company. Eventually, all brands want to be in a position where their visual assets speak for themselves, without any need for verbal language and copy.
The Golden Thread
There is the why and there is the how: why you do what you do, and how you then go about doing it. The why is your purpose, the core of why your business exists and what it wants to achieve. The reasons you exist beyond just making a profit. Internally, your purpose guides and inspires your entire organisation ensuring cohesion and a reason for turning up for work. Externally, your customers need to buy into your purpose for you existing. Ask yourself: what is it that you can offer customers that no one else can? Your purpose is sold as a promise, your customers are trusting you to deliver on that promise. Trust is key. It is important to always bear in mind that brand purpose should be emotional. Brands with a purpose make consumers feel something. Most companies know what they do, they just don’t know why or how they do it.
The how, is the way you go about achieving your brand purpose. It determines the primary objectives and actions required to achieve them. It sets out who you need to do it for and how you will do it. It often materialises as a mission statement and is intrinsically linked to business strategy. When devising your mission statement, ask yourself a few questions such as: what position do you want your business to hold in a consumer’s mind? What do they want? Use this to balance with what the business wants to achieve to meet the consumer’s needs. Every successful business needs to be able to identify their audience’s needs on an emotional level, and then use this to create a story and impression to deliver to their customers. Think of your how as a long-term plan to ensure your brand is positioned correctly to support your wider business objectives, essentially acting as an emotional backbone to business, with customer’s needs always at the heart. As mentioned earlier, you’ve made a promise to your customers – need a plan to go about delivering on that promise.
So, with purpose, identity and strategy covered, up next is brand architecture: the process of mapping out your product or service hierarchy. Having great brand architecture creates fantastic opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell. It simplifies the buying experience, increases brand advocacy, streamlines business decisions and aids in the migration to new markets. So yeah, it’s good stuff. But back to mapping out business intentions. Ask yourself these questions:
- How many products/services do you offer?
- How are they related/un-related to each other?
- How do you sell to your customers?
- How do you acquire other brands?
These should give you a good starting point from which to start shaping your architecture. Brand architecture can take a number of different forms, depending on the type of business and sector in which it operates. The four main models are as follows:
- Monolithic/Branded House
- Single master brand followed by descriptive names for each product or service
- One identity and strategy are used across all products/services
- Individual product or service brands that have own identities, but there is clear link between them and the master brand
- Master brand endorses products with its reputation
- House of Brands/Stand-alone Brands
- Each brand has its own name, identity, personality and audience and can sometimes compete with each other
- Designed to be independent from master and sister brands
- Consumers often aren’t aware of the master brand
- Sub-brands can be a combination of the previous 3 models
- Used when acquiring new businesses through merger or acquisition
So, how do you go about defining your brand architecture? Firstly, empathise and organise – try to understand how your customer buys from you, and then align your offerings to your customers’ wants and needs. Secondly, distil – remove anything unessential to the decision-making process of your customer. Brand architecture should deepen existing consumer relationships, not complicate them. Thirdly, clarify – use design and language to communicate those aforementioned relationships clearly.
All of the above should guide you toward creating a clear and defined brand architecture for your consumer and gift your business a shortcut to success. Nice.
Tone of Voice
The final area to refine and perfect is your tone of voice. Think of it as the way that your brand interacts, communicates with and treats consumers. Whether in spoken or written word, your brand needs to be able to communicate in a way that reflects your personality and purpose. Importantly, this needs to be adapted to fit the type of consumer you are catering to. As in a real-world situation, individuals change the way they speak to people dependent on who the person is – what generation they are from, which gender they identify with, what music they listen to, the way they dress and so on. You naturally and subconsciously amend the way you communicate, and this has to be the case for how your brand communicates too. A nice way to break this down, is to separate tone and voice:
- Your voice acts as the overarching verbal persona and attitude – something to use as a base and anchor in any given communication.
- Your tone is guided by your voice, and acts as the adaptable part of the equation, which you can bend and mould to fit specific consumers and situations.
One of my favourite examples of a business with a consistent and instantly-recognisable tone of voice, is Present & Correct. They’re a brilliant little stationery shop close to our studio in London, packed full of beautiful pens, pencils and notepads that look just as good on a coffee table as they do in your hands. Stationary appreciation aside, P&C have built a massive social media following purely based on the copy (and accompanying content) used across their social media accounts. They are playful, hilarious, beautiful and intelligent when speaking to their followers – the business itself and the products they sell are also all of these adjectives too. They are able to post something seemingly irrelevant to the world of pens and rubbers, yet use their tone of voice through their copywriting to tie it back to something recognisably themselves every single time. Excited Twitter users interact with P&C’s social media accounts as if they were talking to an individual human being. This has lead people to fall in love with the business as if it were a person, too. If you’re not aware of P&C’s social media genius, I highly recommend you take a look, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
As always, it is essential to remain consistent. A lack of a consistent, considered tone of voice can cause massive issues within the customer relationship, and can appear confusing, hard to relate to and unauthentic. So, I repeat, consistency is key. This creates lasting impressions, loyalty and transparency, and eventually, success. Through creating a consistent, authentic brand persona, you are then able to communicate with your consumers on a deeper, more personal level. It humanises your brand and encourages customers to see you for far more than just the service you provide.
Getting it Right
It’s a lot of information to digest. But trust me, the results taste good. Everything detailed in this article when employed correctly will allow you to translate your brand in the most effective and rewarding ways. Get to the roots of who you are, what you represent, how you want to be perceived, and utilise every tool in the box to ensure that this is communicated accurately and transparently. You are a business run by humans, not robots. Make yourself personable and approachable. Shout from the rooftops just how special you are, and how essential you are to your consumers. Everything you say and do should be intrinsically you. Explore your reason for existing, ask questions both internally and externally, and shape your brand in the way that both reflects your core values and objectives whilst also catering seamlessly to your consumers wants and needs.