This article was contributed by Emerson Stone.
Branding is more important to your business than ever. A strong brand identity increases the value of your company, motivates and provides direction to employees, and creates a strong follower base.
Contrary to what many believe, branding comes down to much more than memorable logos. Your brand is the sum of people’s perception of your products, vision, and content. Everything from your voice on social media to your packaging design influences the perception that others have of your brand. Branding can be the difference between customers buying from you or buying from your competitors.
Improving your brand identity begins with understanding your current brand identity. If you don’t exactly know your brand identity, here are seven questions to help you uncover your company’s brand.
1. Why Does Our Company Exist?
This is a question that you should ask yourself every day as a business owner or investor. Simply put, why should people care about your company? Why do you get out of bed every morning?
Simon Sinek gives a great explanation of why some businesses are great and others aren’t in his TED Talk.
The best businesses follow the “Golden Circle” concept; they focus on the “why” behind their business, rather than what they do or how they do it.
Apple has become one of the most powerful companies in the world by employing this exact mindset. Rather than create commercials about the features of their products, Apple creates commercials that glorify those who challenge the status quo. Just look at their famous “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” commercial from 1997.
All businesses know what they are creating, but very few understand why they create their products and services outside of monetary profit.
People do not buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
Simply put, your branding should resonate very closely with your mission and vision statement.
2. What Is Our Story?
It is important to understand how you tell the story of your brand. Telling a story is a powerful way to build relationships with your customers. It’s an age-old concept that brings people together and keeps them engaged.
When telling your story, it’s important to emphasize the hero in your company story – the person who succeeded because of your company, whether that is one specific individual, or a persona that you have created. People don’t only want to hear why you created your company; they want to hear how your company has helped others like them to become successful.
Your “story” is a great opportunity to highlight your success stories while sharing your vision with your customers and employees. Our favorite example of this was Subway’s hiring of Jared, a man who lost over 200 pounds while living on a diet of eating at Subway, to be their spokesperson for 15 years. Although his sex scandal unraveled this brand equity.
Think back to your customers from the past year and compile 1-2 case studies that tell the stories of the customers that you are most proud to have helped. Come check out our case studies for a few examples of how to get started.
3. What Problems Do We Help Our Customers Solve?
While it can be easy to get wrapped up in your product features or amazing deals, it’s important to step back and think about the problems that your customers are facing.
Is there something that your product is missing that your customers need? What are competitors missing out on when it comes to helping solve customer problems?
With the growing number of consumers researching brands and products online before making their first purchase, it’s more important than ever to create an outstanding first experience.
Learn as much as you can about your target customer’s behavior, needs, and desires, and find out what concerns they may have about a specific product or the industry itself. Interview your potential customers to understand how you can build a better solution to those needs and desires. You may be surprised to find important information about your market before the competition.
4. Why Do These Customers Trust Our Team Over Our Competitors?
It’s important to understand who you are up against, but also understand what makes you uniquely better than each of these competitors. Other companies may have a deficiency in specific areas that you excel at, or perhaps you offer a diverse suite of services that no one else offers. What makes customers purchase your products over a competitor’s?
You won’t be better than your competitors at everything, but your company should be better than each competitor at something. Perhaps you have the best customer service, or maybe your business caters more to a niche market than any other company. Start by running a SWOT analysis to determine what your business does better than each of your competitors.
McDonald’s doesn’t claim to have the best cheeseburger. They claim to have the most consistent cheeseburger at an extremely affordable price, and that is exactly why millions of people go to McDonald’s every day.
5. What Brands Do We Look Up To?
Which brands did you look up to when first building your business? Whether they were top competitors or powerhouses in other industries, you likely borrowed some brilliance from other great businesses when you started your company.
Looking at brands that inspire you can give a great indicator of the values that are most crucial to your brand, as well as the best way to ensure that those values are properly implemented within your company. You don’t have to copy them completely, but you can take some of their ideas and transform it into your own. For example, many companies look up to Apple for their emphasis on individuality and uniqueness.
6. What 5 Characteristics Would Our Employees Use to Describe Our Brand Today?
How do your own employees perceive your brand? How many of your employees know your company’s mission and vision statement? Your employees’ perceptions about your business are often very different than your own, and they give you the best perspective of how those immersed in your brand 40 hours per week feel about the brand itself.
Find out what your employees see in the company’s brand today. Send out a company survey or call for a meeting to bring everyone together. Brainstorm and find those characteristics that the majority of employees see in your company. Try starting out with a list of conflicting adjectives and asking your employees to identify the adjective in each group that best resonates with your brand. Some examples could include formal vs. informal; funny vs. serious; and customization vs. consistency.
From there, ask yourself whether these five characteristics are consistent with how you want employees to view your brand. If they are not, then it may be time to start thinking about how to change those perceptions.
7. What Is Our Brand Voice?
Your brand voice is the heart and soul of your communications. Your brand voice is the tone in which you speak to and connect with your audience. Identifying your brand voice will help employees communicate properly across blog articles, social media, interviews, etc.
Whether your brand voice is authoritative, informative, fun or serious, your voice must be 100% authentic. Consumers are more likely to purchase from a company that they connect with on an emotional level. Find the voice that matches best with your brand’s characteristics and vision, and then implement it into everything that your team creates.
Finding your brand identity may be difficult. However, finding maintaining a consistent brand identity will help you build a strong following amongst consumers and employees. Not only will consumers feel more confident about purchasing your products and services, but your team will also have a better understanding of your vision and your “why”.
Looking for more insight on your brand identity? Is it time for your business to re-brand? Explore our to see if we’re the right company to help you out.
About author: Emerson Stone is a product-centric design agency based in Boulder, Colorado. They help brands to take their business to the next level through branding, strategic consulting, application development, product development, and much more.