Brand and branding. Both seem to be buzz words in the creative community these days and are often mis-defined and mis-used.
So what is a brand? A brand is the overall impression you present to potential clients and customers. A brand is built by using a combination of what your company does or produces and uses elements like visual and aesthetic components help convey that. Essentially, your brand uses tangible elements like your logo, colors, fonts, website appearance, and marketing materials to deliver and sell your product or service to potential customers and clients.
Branding, on the other hand, is the experience clients have while interacting with your business. This is the more intangible part of your brand. It is your personality and voice; it plays a crucial role in your potential success or failure. Your brand sets expectations for your potential customers so that they know what to expect when they hire you. It's what makes you unique from other businesses offering the same services and products as you. Delivering your brand clearly and consistently will create a memorable experience in the minds of those you interact with and can open doors to new opportunities, lead to more sales and traffic.
Companies with strong brands know exactly who they are. From customer interaction, to marketing campaigns, their voice, values and passions are the same. Strong brands maximize their strengths and tap into their values to find their unique purpose. These areas form the foundation for a personal brand and helps define the path to success.
A well-known company come to mind when I think of examples of a strong brand. I'm sure you've all had at least one experience with Nordstrom, a high-end fashion department store. As one of the top 10 most trusted brands, Nordstrom's branding incorporates the following elements: exceptional customer service, clean and aesthetically pleasing stores, free shipping and returns when shopping on their website, gracious return policies, a casual yet sophisticated vibe, appealing to both the younger and older crowd, and selling high-quality goods. Before walking into their store, you expect these things to be true for your personal experience, because you've encountered them before for yourself, or have heard about a number of those elements of their branding from trusted friends and customers. A certain level of trust is already there, making you more apt to shop with them.
Although Nordstrom is a large, successful, worldwide go-to department store for millions of men and women, we can still utilize helpful takeaways from their branding model. Below are a few questions to kick-start the process of defining your personal brand.
1. What are your strengths? | Successful brands play to their skills. Defining and spotlighting your personal strengths is a great place to start. For example, if you shine at customer and personal client interaction, consider making that a key element in defining your business and brand.
- When a problem arises, what is your go-to "skill" to solve it?
- Where do you find you consistently perform well?
- What has been your most successful project, and what made it work?
- What would others say your personal strengths are?
- What skills do you enjoy using all the time, regardless of the task?
- Are there any skills you've mastered, but would rather not use?
2. What are your weaknesses? | Weakness. We all have them, and instead of ignoring them, we should be addressing them before they become a problem. Weaknesses range from lack of interest in a certain area of your business, to lack of education in a different area. Maybe you don't do well answering e-mails in a timely manner, so if customer service isn't your forté considering hiring someone to tackle this portion of the business.
- What weaknesses do you have that you are aware of?
- Are there any business/creative roles that you avoid?
- Are there scenarios that overwhelm you to the point of giving up?
- What is the least successful project you have tackled, why?
- What would others say are your weakest areas?
- Is there a particular area of weakness that may hold you back from being successful?
3. What are your values? | Looking inward to your personal morals and values is a great place to define your purpose. Chances are, if you are doing something you believe in and your company is behaving in a way that lines up with your personal belief system, you will more likely experience success in your endeavors. There is nothing more powerful than aligning who you are with what you do and how you do it.
- List your top five values. (Examples: accuracy, honestly, accessibility, creativity, originality, sincerity, diversity, efficiency, leadership, excellence, etc.)
- Define what each of these values mean to you. Each of these words can hold a different meaning to different people, so list out your top 5 and then define them clearly.
- Make a plan to utilize and spotlight these values in your business. How will you do that?
- After doing this exercise, start brainstorming a mission statement for your company. This should be a statement that you measure every business decision against. Everything you do should be able to point back to your mission statement, which explains your company's goals both now and in the future, decision making, ethics, and services offered.
4. What are your passions? | Incorporating your passions into your business is a must. When you are working on projects that are personally rewarding, you'll stay focused and energized. The last thing you want is to burn out, so integrating your passion is crucial.
- What are your favorite things to do?
- If money wasn't an issue, what would you do to fill your time?
- What types of things capture your interest?
- What type of people/activities are you drawn to?
- Why do you love what you love?
- What do you get excited about sharing with others?
5. What is your purpose? | Being authentic in your business is paramount. It is so easy to spot disingenuous companies and brands. Potential customers and clients crave connection built on trust, and defining your purpose helps build the foundation for that relationship. Attempting to define your purpose in life can be pretty heavy, and looking inward to figure that out is no small task.
Creating a purpose statement is a great place to start. For example, Kellogg's purpose statement states their goal is “Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive”. According to an article on Harvard Business Review, your purpose statement should "inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organization’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients — whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it." And in order to do that, YOU have to feel it.
- What is your vision, mission and values?
- What is at the core of your business, both tangibly and intangibly?
- Why does your company exist? (To provide a service or product to improve the quality of life, to empower someone, to provide education, etc.)
We're assuming the genius who started Nordstrom had a passion for dressing men and women to feel confident in quality clothes, all while enjoying the experience of shopping. Likely, this wasn't a person who couldn't care less about clothes. With passion as a foundation and other equally important values and strategy to be pillars for your business, you will have a much more successful company.
Going into business armed with these extremely important foundations laid will give you a huge leg up. They will also make you a unique, trusted brand. Developing your brand (what you do being displayed through your logo, marketing materials, website, and social media presence) and branding (the experience people have with your company) will only aid you in doing what you love even better.
If you are interested in learning more about branding and defining your business goals and plan, meet with us at one of our two Bloom Bash intensives! Click below to learn more!