Why did I create this guide?
Whether you’re starting a business from the ground up, or need help to evolve your existing brand, the intent of this guide is to provide a strong understanding of what strategic branding is and why it’s important to your marketing efforts. It was also created to provide a detailed look at the way I view branding here at cyBRANDED.
Who did I create this guide for?
Many people neglect spending the necessary time thinking about branding, and the impact that it has on their business. I speak to a lot of small business owners about branding and something I frequently hear is; My business isn’t big enough for me to care about branding.” and “We run a business, not a brand.” This guide is for you if;
Nobody can tell you apart from your competitors
You are not attracting new prospects
Your have no marketing ideas
You believe your logo is your brand
Why do I need to care about Strategic Branding?
There's a number of reasons to care about Strategic branding, especially from a business perspective. The practice of strategic branding is more important today than ever because it digs deep, and gets to the “why” of your business. Not just the Who are you? and Who needs to know? But the Why should they care? This is a simple question—However many small business owners don't approach their marketing this way. They often tend to take the status quo route and end up blending in with everyone else in their marketplace by just having a logo created and putting up a website and then wonder why they can not stand out. Strategic branding communicates a promise to your intended audience, and creates a distinct and memorable image in the mind of your customers. It’s the sum of all information about your product, or service. Strategic branding establishes, reinforces, and enhances experiences with a business or product. It creates your differentiation, and makes you compelling. A brand is formed in the mind and then reinforced at all points of contact. Your branding becomes the blue print for all your marketing: logo, website, social media, and advertising -creating a happier user experience that will tie your customers to you! It is your north star, how you gut check: is this decision right for my brand?
What is The Difference Between Strategic Branding and Marketing?
There's alot of confusion around what strategic branding is and what marketing is, so before I get into how strategic branding makes for better marketing, its important that you understand the difference between the two.
What is a strategic branding? Well, a brand is created by the feelings,
thoughts, and emotional connections that tie your customers to you. In its most basic form, it's the total sum of their experiences and perceptions– some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot. In short, strategic branding is the way to get your customer to perceive your business.
What a brand is not
1) Your brand is not a name Your name is what identifies your company, product, or service, but it isn’t your brand.
2) Your brand is not a logo A logo sets the ground for your identity and the graphic standards that will represent your business; it is not your brand but rather a part of your brand’s identity system. Branding will help make your logo synonymous with your company, and will make it easy for consumers to identify your company when they see it.
3) Your brand is not printed pieces These are extensions of your identity and are designed to support marketing. Creating a logo and putting it on a business card or a sign is not branding.
4) Your brand is not a website Your website is an extension of your business identity and is a hub that you push your marketing and advertising to.
5) Your brand is not what you say it is Your brand isn’t about what you say about your business, rather your brand is about what you do, and the impact that has on people.
6) Branding is not all about you! Yes, you read that right, branding is not about you. It’s about serving others. It's about delivering a promise. Make it your goal, to show the value you offer and make sure you can deliver on it.
Branding should both precede any marketing effort. Branding is the expression of the value of your product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what your particular brand is and is not. A brand will help encourage someone to buy a product, and it directly supports whatever marketing activities are in play, but the brand does not explicitly say “buy me.” Instead, it says “This is what I am. This is why I exist. If you agree, if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.”
Marketing is actively promoting a brand’s product or service. It’s a way of reaching and engaging people. Marketing keeps your company top-of-mind among the decision-makers you are trying to do business with. These days you have all the tools at your fingertips, between on the www and super- affordable printing services you are ready to rock and roll— but it comes with a warning; Nothing and I mean nothing can destroy your brand image faster than poor choices. You need to ensure that the experience people have with your brand – online and off –permeates all your communications and aligns consistently with your brand strategy.
So now that you have a clear knowledge of the two, here are some of the main differences between the two:
Branding is why — Marketing is how
Branding creates value — Marketing extracts value
Branding is the being — Marketing is the doing
Branding defines trajectory — Marketing defines tactics
Branding is strategic — Marketing is tactical
Branding builds loyalty — Marketing builds familiarity
Branding drives reputation — Marketing drives sales
To sum it up; Branding is the reason someone buys. Marketing is the reason someone thinks of buying.
Why a Strategic Branding Means Better Marketing
Strategic branding contributes significantly to how your business can persuade your potential consumers into purchasing your products or services. Every great branding effort starts with a clear articulation of vision, so if you don’t have it, your marketing gets really messy. But having a vision is only half of it. The other half is the execution of your vision. A lot of people think branding is just about sharing your vision and helping others see what you do. That’s true, but it also goes way deeper than that. It’s one thing to show a vision, but in order for the passion to transfer along with it, others have to believe in it to make it their own. If you lack vision, work with an agency or consultant. A clear vision will provide a greater sense of continuity across the brand as well as overcome marketing inefficiencies, frustrations and confusions that result in not presenting a consistent face to customers.
Creating a strategic branding will save you time and money by helping you to avoid marketing mistakes and improve conversions.
How brand strategy helps improve conversions:
Education Educating potential customers on the value of your brand, and how your brand can solve their problems, will influence their buying decisions.
Differentiation Clearly communicated brand attributes such as mission statement, value proposition can influence customers to buy from you over your competitor. Your brand strategy will highlight why your company is unique and what differentiates you from your competitors.
Perceived Value The way potential consumers perceive your brand or how they think about your brand will have a huge impact on whether or not they do business with you. Strategic branding, especially brand identity work, can help increase the perceived value of your company by making you look larger or “more professional”, which in turn increases trust. People buy from companies they trust.
Strategic Branding Creates Meaning
Marketing is everywhere and we are constantly exposed to advertisements across multiple channels. What all this marketing and advertising lacks these days is meaning. “Marketing in the absence of brand strategy is not marketing; it’s just an expensive blunder."
When it comes to marketing to consumers today, it’s not enough to win a share of their wallet. You’ve got to win their hearts and minds too. And when done right, customers will consciously and unconsciously gravitate to your service without even considering your competitors.
Here are a few of the benefits your business may experience by investing in Strategic Branding:
Increased credibility: Think of all of the brands that you know of. You probably automatically perceive them as credible simply based on the fact that they are big, well known brands. Branding work can help increase your credibility by improving the perception of your business. People buy more from companies they trust and identity goes a long way toward establishing trust.
Creating a sense of stability for your clients: You may not have been in business for the last 30 years, but brand identity work can improve the perception of your business in the eyes of potential clients.
Appear more established: Brand work can make your small business look bigger than it is, which in turns increases your credibility, which in turn… ok you get it.
Meet customer expectations: These days, branding work is no longer optional. Branding is so widely used and recognized that good “branding” is expected. Companies that aren’t properly branding themselves risk losing market share.
Increase the value of your business (if you plan to sell): If you present a well-rounded business package, including marketing materials and graphics, your business will look more complete and more attractive to potential buyers. Brands are one of the most valuable assets a company has, as brand equity is one of the factors that can increase the financial value of a business to potential buyers. Many companies put the value of their brand on the balance sheet.
When to Start the Strategic Branding Process?
For some, this realization comes early on, while for others it occurs after many years of operating their business. Eventually, you will come to a point where you realize that you need Strategic Branding.
What Comes After My Brand Strategy? After you have your brand strategy developed you need to materialize your logo and your identity (visual expression) of your brand strategy, in the best way possible.
What must business owners don’t realize, is their logos are a visual representation of their businesses. Your logo will most likely be the first representation of your business — and you only get one chance to make a first impression —making the design of your logo all the more important. It should clearly and symbolically articulates your brand strategy, while at the same time appealing to your target audience.
As a small business owner or solopreneur you need to make intelligent decisions in order to survive in todays competitive landscape. But that doesn’t mean you should get tricked by amateur freelancers or online graphic design services offering logos at cheap prices. You get for what you pay for in most cases and considering your logo could be someone’s first impression of your business, trust me you do not want to end up with an awful logo design which will only hurt your business and cost you more in the long run when you need everything redesigned.
Most graphic designers are skilled at developing logo and identity systems, but if you haven’t supplied them brand strategy they’re just assuming. It is by far better to work with a branding specialist who will develop your brand strategy BEFORE you hire your designer, or if you are lucky enough to work exclusively with the branding specialist who helped you create your brand strategy all the better!
What’s an identity system and do I need one? The identity system starts after the logo is complete. This is what makes you recognizable to the world your brand lives in. Identity is just one aspect of your brand, in which you can totally control. The colors, fonts you use, how your business illustrates and maintains close connections with your perceived image. The purpose of the identity system is to form a systematic visual language around your logo — one that compliments the design strategy of the logo and offers a family of useful, flexible elements that will help to design marketing and business collateral. Once you have your effective brand identity system created stick with it, across all channels to give your customers a "Brand Experience" they can count on. Inconsistency not only looks unprofessional, it changes your identity, so it’s like starting from square one.
If you have more than one employee I highly recommend that you also have a "Brand Identity Manual" created. This book is a very technical document. But it is worth every penny. It will describe your brand positioning and establish distinct guidelines on how all aspects of your company's brand will be handled. (Logo Usage, Fonts, Typography, Color Palette, Images, Text and Tone). It is extremely helpful for articulating to your marketing team and marketing partners, the mechanics of exactly how the brand is to be used and displayed.
So How Do I Market? These days you have all the tools at your fingertips, between on the www and super- affordable printing services you are ready to rock and roll— but it comes with a warning; Nothing and I mean nothing can destroy your brand faster than poor choices. You need to ensure that the experience people have with your brand – online and off –permeates all your communications and aligns consistently with your brand strategy. I have seen way too many business owners in order to save money after the branding process have their "office staff" create business collateral or marketing promos and/or run their social media channels without following their branding guidelines. It’s another thing that is so very frustrating to me and all I can think is “ What a big waste of time and money that was.” So please don't let anyone, destroy your branding!
Just like most graphic designers, most website designers are not skilled at developing brand identities, and it really should go without saying that ALL cookie- cutter website building services aren’t either. If you haven’t supplied your web designer with your brand strategy they too will just be assuming. It is far better to work with a branding specialist who will develop your brand strategy BEFORE you hire a web designer. Otherwise you’ll just attract the wrong kind of people, and the entire website will be a waste of money. Again, if you are lucky enough to work exclusively with the branding specialist who helped you create your brand strategy, identity system —then all the better!
Social Media Channels
Social media is the best way to build your brand’s visibility and trust with your prospects. Each social platform requires a unique approach, but one thing should remain consistent: your social brand identity. I can not count the amount or times I will go from someones website to either their company facebook page, twitter page or LinkedIn page and see something that does not even does not even remotely resemble their website. I can talk about sending confusing , mixed messages all day (that’s for another post). But right now all I think when I see that is Huh?
Remember people are looking for answers to solve their problems. Are you sending a clear message about what you do and how you can help?
Look very carefully at your own business (and the marketplace around you), and ask yourself these questions:
• Do you have a target market?
• Do you provide the solution to what your target market wants or needs?
• What is your offer?
• What makes you different?
• What is your ‘personality’?
• Is there a gap in the market you can fill?
• How can you stand out more?
"I know every business has its own unique story to tell; sometimes you just need help expressing it.” I am committed to solving your communication problems through strategic creative thinking.
At cyBRANDED I can reinvent, reposition and renew your business, shifting it from where you are to where you want to be by design. I have the ability to create your company’s identity from scratch, or help evolve your existing brand.
"consider yourself BRANDED" is a full service brand and marketing studio rooted in the foundation that brand strategy is what matters most. —
Contact me today: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you find what I’ve put together here useful; sharing is greatly appreciated.