When I was 18 years old, I decided to get a tattoo. This wasn’t an impulsive, rebellious act of defiance. Rather, I wanted a tattoo, so I got one.
Before I walked into the parlor, I already had my tattoo in mind. I knew it had to be somewhere on my body that I could share it if I wanted to, but also cover it up. Furthermore, I knew the design and the color scheme I wanted. It couldn’t be a black outline—it had to pop. Finally, the image had to be something personal and meaningful to me. So, it had to represent something about me that had stood the test of time and would endure. The tattoo would tell a story of where I had been, and where I was going.
By the time I walked out of the tattoo parlor, I was euphoric. I felt like a new person, certain of who I was, and I just made a permanent announcement of it on my body. So, what does all of this have to do with branding?
Similarly, deciding on a brand for your company affects you. It also affects the way people feel about your business. In a perfect world, your company will stand the test of time. Likewise, you’ll have no regrets about the way you’ve branded your company. When you start thinking about your company’s brand, your goal should be to clarify and define your business to stand out from the competition.
Now, how much do you know about branding your business? Let’s take a few steps to gain some clarity. First, we’ll define corporate branding and successful branders. Finally, we will discuss five focal points to help you brand your business.
What is a Brand?
While a tattoo represents who you are, a corporate brand determines what consumers think about your business. After all, your brand is your reputation. Elements of a brand include the company logo, slogan, and a mission statement. Additionally, brand elements include your suite of products or services, your stores, and your website.
Sometimes, the dress code is even part of a brand. For example, I once wore a red shirt and khakis to Target, and people thought I worked there! A brand is important because it takes all these elements working together to communicate exactly what you want the public to think of you. So, if any of these elements is off or misaligned, the brand suffers.
Branding at its Best
While many companies are good at branding, some companies rock at it. Their mission statement aligns with their slogan, and it’s evident in their products and services. When you walk into one of their stores or engage online, you’re met with corroborating stories. This company walks the walk and talks the talk!
Since the beginning of time, branding has been an important aspect of a business. However, it has not always been a requirement to have a website and a storefront to brand a company. For example, in the past, a merchant’s “brand” meant that he showed up to the market and delivered the goods he promised. Some of the branding heavyweights actually emerged before modern technology.
Take Coca-Cola, for example. The Coca-Cola brand is fascinating in so many ways. Coca-Cola emerged in 1888 (which was long before webpages and Instagram!) and experienced minimal sales until the standard Coca-Cola bottle was designed in 1916. Although the design of the bottle has changed over the years, the bottle has always been distinct.
In short, people can’t mistake a bottle of Coca-Cola for any other beverage. Furthermore, Coca-Cola prevails, despite trends showing consumers leaning toward healthier beverage options. Coca-Cola holds strong at #6 on the Forbes list of The Worlds Most Valuable Brands.
Another company that has mastered the art of branding is Disney. While Disney doesn’t sit in the top slot of the Forbes’ list, they do maintain their presence at #8. Anyone who has watched a Disney movie knows the intro to the movie. The camera pans over a landscape, and then down onto the Disney castle, as fireworks burst in the background. Finally, the orchestra plays “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Also, whether Disney claims to be the happiest place on Earth or the most magical place on Earth, it’s easy to feel both while watching a Disney trailer. The happiness, magic, and anticipation are palpable. Even someone who hears only the theme song knows it’s the start of a Disney movie. In the same way, a person can experience that sentiment while visiting a Disney theme park or shopping in a Disney store.
Disney ensures that the experience, regardless of how or where it occurs, is recognizable, magical, and positive.
The newest of these examples is the apple of our eye–Apple Inc. The logo for Apple is arguably one of the most identifiable logos that exist today. Why? Well, because the logo is a simple rendering of the name of the company. No, the company does not sell, buy, grow, or research apples. Nevertheless, anyone who knows anything about technology will see the Apple logo and know that it’s the symbol of the tech giant.
So, how did Apple reach this pinnacle? You guessed it—through branding. The 1997-2002 slogan, “Think Different,” told people how they distinguished themselves from competitors. Namely, the slogan told us that Apple alone decided how they themselves were going to do things, independent of what others in the market were doing.
Developing a Clear Brand for your Company
So, with these three experts in mind, let’s start thinking about your business. To help you determine how to brand your business, try to consider it as a tattoo. If your company’s brand were a permanent tattoo on your body, what would you want it to communicate about your business?
Here are 5 focal points to remember when branding your business. Remember, your goal is to clearly define your business so you stand out from the competition.
#1 – Brand Strategy
First, think of brand strategy like the business plan for your brand. You wouldn’t walk into the tattoo parlor without a design for your brand, would you? Your strategy is your thinking plotted out. A good way to help you figure out what you want, is to make a list of goals and visions for your brand.
#2 – Brand Image
Second, visualize your company. Do you know anyone who has an invisible tattoo? I don’t! People associate words with images, so make sure the logo you design for your brand is strong. Your logo should be easily recognizable and unique to your business.
However, no one should have to question whom the logo refers to. In short, don’t be a butterfly. I know too many people who have butterfly tattoos, and that tattoo tells people basically nothing about the person it’s etched on. Well, you do know that they like butterflies!
#3 – Brand Character
Third, feel the energy your brand gives off. When you pick a tattoo for your body, your tattoo will take on a personality, so to speak. It’s almost as though it has a voice and expresses emotion. Is it an upbeat personality? Is the voice loud and confident? Is it buttoned up and professional? Your brand should be the same way. When people see your logo or think of your brand, it should provoke an emotional response appropriate to the product or service you offer.
#4 – Brand Quality
Quality is where many brands distinguish themselves from their competition. If your brand is not known for its superior quality, then you must decide on another area. Typically that other area is time or money. Think about the stores where everything in the store is only $1. No one goes in there expecting to get high-end products. They know that the products in the store are going to be cheaply made. But that’s the tradeoff—quality for price. If that’s your shtick, own it.
Just make sure that your audience understands that and be intentional about branding it that way.
#5 Brand Experience
Last, but certainly not least is the feeling people have when they encounter any aspect of a company. I’ve mentioned Disney as one of the best brands in the world. The Disney brand is rooted largely in the experience people have when they engage with Disney. The brand experience is deeply felt, regardless of the medium through which people are interacting.
If your company prides itself on superior customer service, for example, then you will expect quality service at every level. You will train your customer service employees on the importance of customer service, and they understand they must embody the brand.
Own Your Brand Like a Tattoo
In summary, your company’s brand should be intentional. If you aren’t intentional about your brand, it will take on a life of its own. That wouldn’t be a good thing. Would you walk into a tattoo parlor without envisioning your tattoo? Do you know anyone who has walked into a tattoo parlor and said, “Surprise me!” I’m not saying it’s never happened, but most people wouldn’t do that.
You wouldn’t leave your tattoo in the hands of a tattoo artist, because you wouldn’t want someone else to determine how you represent yourself. So don’t leave your brand to chance—own it like a tattoo.