Branding Basics: So, What Exactly IS a Brand?
Branding. It’s a word that is often used; but is it used correctly? Do the people using it always know what branding means?
When you think about your favourite company, what immediately springs to mind? Is it their logo, their customer service, their social media posts, or maybe their latest TV/radio/magazine ad?
Can you define what makes that particular company your favourite? Can you say what you feel when you think about that company – happy, supported, cared for, quality, exclusivity, value for money etc. etc.
Now you are starting to get to the heart of BRAND.
Brand is NOT a Logo
You might never have thought about the exact definition of a brand before. You’ve just heard that, as a micro or side hustle business owner with a product or service to offer, branding your business is important.
If that’s the case, you’ve heard right. Branding is very important.
Your big idea, product or service could be the best in the world. But if you don’t get your branding right, your potential customers won’t get to find out about it, and all the hard work you’ve put into growing your business will go to waste.
Because, despite what you may think, brand is not a logo. Brand is about communication; it’s the key messages you send to your customers that makes them ‘feel’ that you are the right business for them to buy from.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take towards defining your brand, and ensuring the right people are attracted to it.
So, let’s take the whole branding process back to basics, starting with that Big Question.
What is Branding?
So, if brand is not a logo, what is it?
Branding in its original form involved shapes being burned onto cattle using a red-hot iron, so that people could tell one farmer’s herd from another.
In its purest form, a brand equals identity and differentiation..
These days, I think branding is much misunderstood as a business term. “Staying true to your brand” is a buzzword phrase that often gets bandied around at meetings, where it’s assumed that everybody knows exactly what it means.
When I speak to micro and side hustle business owners about what they think branding is, many of them will say “the logo”. This is completely understandable, when we remember that a brand equals identity!
But a company’s logo is only a small part of their brand.
Put simply, a brand is a collection of thoughts and feelings that customers have about a particular product or service. A brand exists in people’s minds as something that instantly defines a business.
Now think about your favourite company again. You could probably come up with a few words straight away that describe how you feel about it.
How about established companies, like Marks & Spencer, Rolls-Royce, or Coca-Cola? Their brands are so strong, and so immediately recognisable as them, that we can all sum each one of them up in a sentence.
With all that said, how do you go about creating a strong brand for your micro or side hustle business?
The Foundation of Your Brilliant Brand
Your brand isn’t just about the products or services you offer your customers. It includes your values, your reputation, your ideas, and your personality. It explains the reason why your business exists.
All this makes you a big part of your brand, not separate from it (could you imagine the Virgin brand without Sir Richard Branson, for example?)
This is the vital combination that’s going to make your business unique. Your brand will help you differentiate your business from the competition, and make you more visible in a crowded marketplace.
A strong brand will generate trust and loyalty from your customers, because they will be able to relate to it.
Now I’ll let you into a little secret: I re-branded my own company a grand total of four times before it became LittlePiggy!
That was how long it took for the brand to sing with my personality and my values, as well with what my business does and the customers it helps.
I knew something wasn’t quite right about the previous forms of branding I had chosen for my business; but for some years I just didn’t know what.
I did know that my brand had to reflect my own sense of fun and creativity, while giving me the freedom to collaborate with others in future projects.
Then one day, after endless amounts of brainstorming, an idea came to me in the shower!
I realised that I help get businesses off to market – and that recalled a favourite childhood nursery rhyme, This Little Piggy Went to Market.
(It’s a happy coincidence that the rhyme itself is packed with wonderful business analogies…in an ideal world, we’d all be “Going Wee, Wee, Wee” all the way to the BANK as a result of our hard work and our successful businesses!)
The fact that it took me four attempts to come up with something that felt right is testament to the fact that business branding isn’t always easy. It’s a subject that can confound the biggest and brightest business minds.
That’s why I’m going to be tackling the subject in this series of blog posts, so you can arm yourself with the fundamentals of business branding – and make them work for you.
In my next blog, I’ll be covering the importance of your brand values – with a cheeky exercise thrown in!
Until then, please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below. How do you feel about your own brand? How did you come up with it?
You may also find my e-book, Five and a Half Steps to a Brilliant Business Brand, helpful – download it here.