I’m going to open this post by talking about what branding is. When I mention that I work on branding for businesses, I’m most commonly met with the reaction that I must be a graphic designer since a lot of people equate a brand with a logo. I’m not a graphic designer (although I do sometimes help clients with the visual aspects of their branding).
Branding today is about every way that you present your business to the world – so whilst that incorporates your logo, it’s not only that. It’s the way in which you set out not only what your business does, but also how and why it does it.
Very few businesses are entirely unique in their fields, but the best brands tell a compelling, authentic and unique story, which enables them to stand apart from their competitors and make emotional connections with their audiences.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? So why then, do so many businesses overlook the branding process? I’m going to share the two most common reasons with you so you can steer clear of the same traps and get a head start for your business.
1. Lack of understanding
Branding is often misconstrued as a visual gloss to add on at the end of the launch process for new businesses; so a nice logo or pretty colour palette. But what about the brand story?
Let’s consider for a moment you’re planning to launch a new luxury clothing business. You’ve set up the production process, sourced the finest fabrics and most renowned designers and makers. You’ve invested in an all-singing website and set up your social media channels. Launch day is approaching and both energy levels and budgets are starting to run low. You remember that someone mentioned the importance of branding but you think, “I’ll get to that once the launch is out of the way.”
Launch day arrives but you realise you’re struggling to articulate everything you wanted to get across about the dream business you envisioned some months or years ago. You’re putting information out but it’s failing to hit the spot and the people you wanted to reach are not moved to buy. You look around and see your competitors doing a better job but you just can’t explain why.
The missing piece of the puzzle is branding. Your lack of understanding of its importance meant it fell out of the process at a crucial time instead of underpinning your launch.
A well-crafted brand story is based upon the very foundations of your business, its vision, mission and values. This is what makes it both unique and authentic; a story that sticks and resonates with people rather than one that falls flat and feels like a tall tale.
As such, work on your brand story should be started when the business starts to be built. Richard Branson once said “Don’t wait till you are big before you begin building your brand. Build a brand from scratch alongside your business.” Love him or loathe him, he’s done OK.
2. Lack of investment
Let’s go back to the luxury clothing business. You’ve imagined the idea, visualised the designs and worked tirelessly to put all the elements of the business into place. You know you want your products to sell at a premium price point. Are you going to choose the cheapest fabrics to make them to save as much money as possible? I would assume not, since you want your clothes to make the right lasting impression and your business to have a good reputation.
Not investing in your branding will impact your business just as much as not investing in the right materials for your products. When you fail to invest in the aspect of your business that everyone sees and interacts with, you send a subliminal message about a lack of conviction in your own business.
When it comes to crafting a brand message for your business, the upside of investing in this is that the business you’ve created will be supported by a solid and impactful story that can be told and built on for years to come. It will give your business a professional look and feel that will lead your customers or clients to see you as trustworthy and investable.
Branding is the difference between following the crowd and leading the way. It’s the difference between being the top of your game and being an also-ran. It’s as vital a part of launching a business as the products or services you sell.
Scrimp on this vital element and what you create will always struggle to hit the spot, for you and your audience. You’ll either find yourself settling for a business that struggles to reach its full potential or you’ll realise at some point that you need to go back to the drawing board and do the job properly.
We all know the old adage, ‘do it cheap, do it twice’. Don’t let it catch you out when it comes to branding your business.
Lidia Rumley is a brand consultant and the founder of Light Switch Brand Identity, helping businesses to get ‘PR-ready’ with great brand stories.