Do you wish your brand was stronger? Are you having trouble coming up with your brand? Do you wish you knew what branding really is?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, that’s not at all surprising.
Many people think that branding is choosing a logo, colors, and fonts. While that’s one part of a brand, it’s nowhere near the whole thing.
What is branding?
There are lots of different definitions of branding out there … in part because the definition is changing.
Historically, branding just meant marking your property (for example a cow) with a symbol (for example, using a branding iron) so people would know it was yours.
But today, branding is so much more than that. So let’s talk about four facets of branding:
- Brand Communication
- Brand Positioning
- Intended Brand Image
- Actual Brand Image or Brand Equity
Brand Communication is why we bother
Let’s start with what makes brand communication because it will provide some context for understanding the other facets.
At first, your ideal clients have no idea who you are. You want them to be paying clients who rave about what you have done for them to their friends and colleagues. In order to get them there, you have to lead them along a step-by-step path … AESOP’s Journey:
Aware → Engaged → Subscribed → Onboard → Promoting.
You can read more about this journey in A Better Way of Finding Coaching Clients
What leads your clients along this path is communication that:
- Meets them where they are
- Takes them one step forward toward something they want
- Is repeated and memorable
You can read about 6 principles that describe this in more detail in Muted No More: 6 C’s to a Successful Marketing Strategy.
Brand Positioning is choosing what to say
Positioning starts with choosing who you want to serve and being really specific about it. Then you decide what you want to offer them. And, most importantly, you determine how what you’re offering is different and more appealing than what other people are offering. It is also where you are choosing what you’re going to say. What topics do you blog or make videos about? What promises will you make?
Intended Brand Image is how you’re saying it
This is where the traditional idea of branding comes in. This is where you are making choices about logos and fonts and colors. What “tone of voice” or “way of speaking” will you use? For example, will you sound like a late-night infomercial? A comedian? A solid, upstanding shopkeeper? And so on.
Actual Brand Image (or Brand Equity) is what they’re hearing
This is what your current or future clients are thinking about you. The stories they recall. What they’re actually hearing about you … either what you’re saying or what they’re hearing from others. How they’re interpreting all of that based on their expectations. What they believe, feel, or say about you. What they do about you. For example, if they feel really good about you, they might be willing to buy at a premium.
Some people are just calling this “Brand”. In one way, you can kind of see their point. This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s what really matters because it’s what drives peoples’ behavior. On the other hand, it’s really confusing because it ignores the other facets. It treats this one facet as if it is all
And now, the cart before the horse
One of the first things many people do when they start a business is to pick their business name, logos, colors, and fonts. They have to make business cards after all. And a website.
But then they often run into trouble. Why choose one name or color over another? Why one logo over another.
The problem here is that they haven’t done the homework that would help them. This becomes clear if we start with the goal and work backward:
- We want good Brand Equity
- So we have to have good Brand Communication,
otherwisethey won’t hear us at all, or they’ll be confused, or they’ll get the wrong idea about it.
- So we have to know the Intended Brand Image we want to communicate. Otherwise, we’ll have trouble deciding what to say and being consistent would be unlikely.
- So we have to know what our Brand Position is.
Otherwisewe have no basis for choosing an image.
- So we have to know one more thing … who is our ideal client, our
.Otherwise, we don’t really know what’s appealing to them. We might guess, but we won’t know.
You can see that where most people start is in the middle. Logos, fonts, and colors are part of the Intended Brand Image.
While it is
If you’re interested in putting the horse back in front of the cart, here’s a link to a PDF with some doable, practical steps for identifying and understanding your Avatar.