On this blog, I’d discussed the value of branding and how it strengthens unifies your mission, ethos, and goals. But for all its unifying powers, how should your brand also make your company different? Standing out is not a bad thing, especially if you can make your brand singular and memorable. Below, I dive into some of the key aspects of powerful, unique branding.
First, what is branding?
A funny thing about branding: you ask five people for definitions and you get seven different answers. One of my personal favorites is the quote that has been attributed to Bill Gates: “A brand is what others say about you when you are not in the room.”
Notice that he personalizes this, as he should. Brands are personal and companies and people have them. (You may not even know that you are projecting one, but you are.) The game really starts around “managing that brand,” or even proactively creating that brand — for yourself and others. Others are your friends, family, spouse, children, employers, employees, team members, customers, clients. Yes, everyone around you.
Why is branding important?
First and foremost, branding provides context and predictability. You know what to expect when you order Coke, a hamburger at McDonalds, a cup of coffee at Starbucks, a salad at Panera, or when you buy an iPhone, or a Mac, right? The same thing occurs subconsciously in your mind about people. What can I trust this person to do, or “be” for me? Are they passionate, committed, engaged, hardworking, connected, trustworthy, smart? Or are they lazy, disinterested, removed, disconnected, dogmatic, fickle, dramatic? When you are in a crunch situation, who are you going to go to: coworker one or coworker two?
At the very core of each product, service, or person there is a brand statement obvious to those around them. What people project, how they act, how they speak and engage and how they chose to approach life all to contribute to that brand statement.
How does branding “show up?”
Branding shows up in all places. Here are a few personal and professional examples: how people dress, how they speak, what their website looks like, what the website says, and how both engage with their customers and prospects. Does the person wear black on black? Or designer haut-couture? Does their business’ website showcase bright colors, clean lines, and an easy shopping process or complex, information-driven, text-dense pages? All of these variables contribute to the “overall brand” of people and companies. This may also be distilled to the “feeling” that people get once they are in contact with either a person or a company.
Why must it be in alignment?
After I go through a pretty thorough process of looking at competitors and “white space” (unclaimed) in an industry (through a process called perceptual mapping), clients will often say, “Yes, let’s be that brand; the simple, easy-to-understand, everyman’s technology, with real speak focused on real-life scenarios/benefits.” But, their organizations are not aligned with that positioning and messaging. They are tech-speak focused in their sales processes, complicated to work with, and run by executives convinced that they have to look, sound, walk and talk like their larger competitors. This is not a client willing to be different so they will remain in the sea of “sameness” along with others in their space — with little to differentiate them other than perhaps price and personal relationships. For a truly differentiated brand, companies (and people) must consider every touchpoint in the customer journey and how it supports this overall positioning and messaging.
Want to stand out? Let’s set up a time to go over your company’s current climate and discuss ways how you and your business can be the best versions of themselves through remarkable branding.