What Everyone Needs to Know About Branding
Branding can be a confusing topic but it’s one of the most important foundations for a non-profit or business. So it’s an important topic to have a working knowledge of.
Anyone with a non-profit, foundation, selling a product or service needs a brand in order to differentiate themselves from everyone else working in the same industry.
You may think that only large companies such as Google, Whole Foods and Apple need branding but that’s just not true. Anyone selling something or working online does work that fits into a category or industry. That’s a good thing! It means there is a market for your service or product.
But it also means that you need to separate yourself from everyone else somehow. Since we humans are visual creatures, it makes sense that what we see is how we determine first impressions and how we decide to spend any more of our precious time interacting with a business.
Often people think of branding as being their logo, fonts and colors. And while those are indeed very important, branding is more than just those tangible elements.
If Branding is Not Just the Tangible Things, What Else is It?
I like Entrepreneur.com’s definition:
“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”
Your brand is responsible for visually — and quickly — informing people whether or not you can help them, if they can trust you and provides credibility for your business. It also speaks to your professionalism, builds memorability and showcases you or your organization’s personality. When used consistently, it builds familiarity and trust.
So yes, there’s a lot involved in a brand. Ultimately, it’s the alchemical blend of tangible items such as a logo, fonts and colors as well as the intangible elements of tone, personality and experience.
How is a brand developed?
Referring back to the Entrepreneur.com definition, a brand “...is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”
OK, so how do you do that?
By defining your mission statement, ideal client and feel/tone of your business.
Your Mission Statement
Your mission statement is made up of one to two sentences that say what you do, who you do it for and why.
Here’s an example from Pinterest: Our mission is to help people discover the things they love, and inspire them to go do those things in their daily lives.
And here's my own mission statement: I help Non-profits and foundations create marketing materials that support their mission, engage stakeholders and support fundraising efforts.
If you’re struggling with your own mission statement, here’s a fill in the blank version to try:
I do (what) for (whom). I provide (value) by (how) for my clients.
Your Ideal Audience
There’s a common misperception out there that a non-profit or business should try to appeal to everyone in order to attract the most clients. Have you ever tried this? What an overwhelming proposition!
Seth Godin, the highly revered marketing “guru,” puts it quite simply “Everyone is Not Your Client.”
Unless your organization is the size of Coke or Pepsi, it would be pretty hard to try and appeal to everyone. And even then, at the mere mention of Coke or Pepsi, I’ll bet you had a pretty strong preference for one or the other, or neither! Proof that even the largest businesses don’t appeal to everyone.
By defining who your ideal audience is, you make it much easier on yourself to appeal to them through your branding.
Here are the most important details of your ideal audience that need to be defined:
What they need from you
This important piece of your brand is sometimes neglected. It’s not a visual, physical piece of the puzzle so it can easily be overlooked. But doing so makes defining your brand more challenging. So it’s important to spend some time on it.
Basically, the tone you use gives voice to your brand’s personality and shows your audience what it’s like to interact with you. You can also call it your brand’s voice.
It’s important to note that your tone needs to be authentic to be believable so be sure to keep authenticity in mind when thinking about tone.
Take a few moments to write a list of words that describe your business or organization and another that describes how you want your clients to feel when interacting with your business.
Review your lists for tone. What is the tone of your words? Are they professional, authoritative, friendly, sarcastic, casual, witty or trendy?
This is the basis for your brand voice.
Once you’ve determined your mission statement, ideal audience and brand voice, it’s time to blend the three components into a brand identity.
Brand Identity (especially the logo) is what most people think of as branding. But without the mission statement, ideal audience and voice, it won’t be very effective at attracting ideal clients.
There are four basic parts to a brand identity: logo, fonts, colors and visual elements. And they are all derived by using the mission, audience and brand voice as the baseline. When designing the pieces, it’s important to keep in mind who we’re designing for. So questions like the list below are important to consider during every step of the design process.
Does the logo communicate what the business does in a manner that will appeal to the audience?
Are the fonts appropriate to the voice of the brand and appealing to the audience?
Do the colors used attract the ideal audience?
Do the visual elements support what the business does and help draw the client in?
A brand identity that answers yes to the above questions has a great start to establishing powerful branding. But now that you have a brand identity, what’s next?
How to Use Branding Effectively
Once a strong brand identity has been developed, it should be used anywhere and everywhere your business interacts with customers.
Think about all the various places and ways you interact with your customers. Here’s a list of likely places:
Blog post graphics
Social media outlets
Thank you notes
Return address labels
Your logo, fonts, colors and visual elements should be used in all these places and your brand voice should be used when communicating with your potential clients.
When consistently used your brand identity will communicate your brand, building trust, familiarity and memorability with your clients. It will attract your ideal customers and let them know they’re in the right place. This sets you up well to develop a strong relationship with your audience and ultimately turn ideal clients into paying clients.
Is Your Brand Working?
Do you have a hard time attracting the perfect projects or clients? If so, your brand identity is likely the culprit. It may be sending mixed signals. If so, it might be time to adjust your identity to make sure it appeals to your ideal client. Or you may not be effectively utilizing your identity consistently across all the outlets you use to interact with potential clients.
Working with a professional on your brand identity is the best way to ensure your identity is aligned with attracting ideal clients and consistently used throughout your workflow to provide a cohesive experience for potential clients.
If you’re interested in working with me, check out my services page.