Have you wondered how to create a brand with an identity as powerful as Starbucks or Apple? Do you want to know where to start and how to figure out what makes you…you? Here at HatchMark Studio, we answer questions about branding with our clients all the time and know how complex the process can be. Businesses often come to us wanting to know how they can market themselves better and drive awareness. But before we can dive into algorithms and social media calendars, it’s important that you take a step back and know what your brand stands for and how it solves a customer’s problem.
Entrepreneur and author Seth Godin put it well:
“If Nike announced that they were opening a hotel, you’d have a pretty good guess about what it would be like. But if Hyatt announced that they were going to start making shoes, you would have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what those shoes would be like. That’s because Nike owns a brand and Hyatt simply owns real estate.”
There are a few important questions that you must be able to answer in order to confidently define your brand’s identity and purpose.
What Do You Stand For?
Defining your brand clearly creates cohesion across all facets of your business. There’s no better way to get your customers onboard than having a clear vision of what your business – and your team – stand for.
Where do you even begin? We like to say that a business is, at its core, made up of a group of people moving in the same direction and guided by the same value set and mission. A great place to start is by surveying your entire team to identify what values they believe, as an organization, they collectively hold. What are the five top values that the team lives by? What are the non-negotiables? What are some examples of this team acting on those values?
While the decisions will ultimately be in your leaderships’ hands, it’s valuable to determine whether those values are reflected throughout your team. If they are? You’re on track! If they’re not? You’ve got some work to do to enforce that cohesion. One way to help correct this is to include those values in your hiring practices to attract the right talent.
Beyond your team, you can also survey your customers to determine whether your brand values have reached those you’re trying to reach. Do your customers agree with your stance? Do they support your mission? Are you leaving a portion of your potential customer base behind by not giving them something to connect with?
Why Do You Exist?
Internally, there should be strong alignment around the purpose of the organization. What are we, collectively, working towards as a team? This includes your business’ mission and vision, as well as what your values are as an organization.
When there is an understanding across the board from your founders, to leadership, to those running the day-to-day operations, you can ensure that your goals and vision are executed effectively. This means your team can all be on the same page and all future decisions can be made easier with your brand identity and standards in hand. Furthermore, this is used to create internal and customer-facing messaging across all communications pieces moving forward.
How Do You Solve?
One of the most effective ways to define your brand is by uncovering what you do differently – and better – than others. Identify your competitors and seek out ways in which you can distinguish yourself from them. Do you have stronger customer service? Does your product have a money-back guarantee? Do you have a unique approach to a product or service that solves your customer’s problems in a way that’s newer and better? How are you helping them better than others?
What Do You Sound Like?
Imagine that your business is a living, breathing person. How would they act? How would they speak? How would they interact with your customers?
Your brand personality can be key to connecting with your clientele. From the top down, this personality can define how your employees interact with customers, your brand voice online, the images and font choices you make.
Is your brand serious, health-focused and authoritative? Is your brand playful, colorful and child-like? Does your brand have an awesome sense of humor, or is it warm and nurturing? Different approaches work for different industries, products, and services.
Why Do You Do What You Do?
Many brands build their business from a values-based mission, focusing on the positive social impact they hope to have. Brands like Toms, a shoe brand that donates new pairs of shoes to children in need, put their mission in the forefront of everything they do, and it is no question that their values are an integral part. Other brands may not prioritize a warm-and-fuzzy brand angle, but work to provide a quality product at a reasonable price.
Your ‘Why’ can be as unique as you are. But one thing is for sure, without a ‘why,’ you will struggle to simplify decisions in the future and may find your brand becomes unclear and even volatile.
One Cohesive Voice
One way to test if your brand is battle-ready is to explore your elevator pitch. That is, see if you can boil down your business in such a way that you can easily explain it in a pinch (in an elevator, for instance).
You should have several levels of detail and commonly used phrases to use when explaining your business and brand so you can connect with a potential customer at any level of their understanding. Get outside of your usual circle and have a turn at looking from the outside in.
Ultimately, strong brands are built of organizations that know who they are, how they solve, and spend the time educating their team on this. They develop a singular voice that is ultimately communicated to the market. Take the time to do this homework internally, or find a partner who can support you throughout this process. Doing so early on will save time, money, and ultimately eliminate any confusion in the market about why a customer should choose you.
Furthermore, brands evolve. Be sure to go through this inner work every couple of years to make any adjustments needed as the business develops and customer needs or internal capabilities shift. Doing these things will ensure you stay top of mind and ahead of the game amongst the competition.