What's your brand?

There tends to be a lot of confusion when it comes to branding and what it really means for businesses – especially those selling services instead of products.

Branding is a larger topic than most people consider, and it goes much deeper than just the visual look and feel of your marketing communications.

In fact, the term ‘brand’ is nearly synonymous with ‘business’ because it touches all aspects of your organisation – from your messaging, right the way through to how you deliver your services and your employee culture – so it’s an important thing to get right.

A logo is not a brand

To begin, I want to start by explaining that a brand is so much more than a logo because a logo is really just the face of a brand.

Don’t get me wrong, the visual aspect of branding is important because it’s usually the first impression people get of your organisation, but your brand goes beyond aesthetics.

In my definition, a brand can be described as the thoughts, feelings, and meaning people associate with an organisation or individual.

And I also quite like the definition Jeff Bezos uses:

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.”

So to clarify, once a person has come into contact with your business in some capacity (whether they are an existing or potential client), they will be left with an impression of you.

This is where the importance of brand-ing comes into play – the act of making decisions about your business and offering to influence people’s opinions.

You don’t own your brand

It’s counterintuitive, but because a brand is really just person’s perception of an organisation, you don’t actually own your brand.

All you can do is attempt to manage the meaning people associate with you and shape their opinions so they are left with a positive impression.

As I mentioned, this applies to both your existing and potential clients.

When it comes to current clients, you want to give them an experience so valuable that they are keen to spend money with you again and recommend you to their peers.

And in terms of attracting potential clients, it’s all about drawing people in to your orbit to influence their buying decisions.

The ultimate goal is to frame your business in a way that encourages them to choose your offering over the competition.

In order to do this, you want potential clients to see you as the best viable choice to deliver the solution to their problem.

Avoid the race to the bottom

When it comes to crafting your branding to influence the way potential clients perceive you, it’s important to stop competing on price, and instead look for other ways to create value in their eyes.

These alternative sources of value can include things like delivering a tangible benefit or result, a fantastic client experience, or potentially even aligning your offering with a greater social purpose or belief.

The race to the bottom, (ie competing to deliver a service for the lowest price) isn’t one that many businesses can win, so it’s probably not worth considering as a potential strategy.

The real goal is to develop a strong brand that’s viewed as being in a league of its own because these organisations can justify premium pricing – think Apple.

Even if a brand like Apple decides to increase its prices, their fans are usually still happy to keep buying from them because the value they associate with Apple and the individual purchase is greater than the cost.

Conclusion and action point

To conclude, your branding forms an integral part of your business strategy and goes beyond your logo and visual style. It really comes down to your overall proposition to the target audience and how you differentiate yourself from the competition.

So think about what you can do to stand out and strengthen your brand. Is there a particular aspect of your offering you can play to your advantage and use as a key message to attract clients?

If you are unsure, a good place to start with this is to do an exercise where you consider the conventions and norms in your type of business category.

List all of the negative assumptions a potential client might have about an offering like yours. Also include things that may not be overly negative, but something they might come to expect if they worked with your business.

Once you have a list of assumptions, go through each one and reverse it. See if there are any opportunities to use these points of difference to your advantage.

For example, an assumption potential clients may have about a website design provider could be that the designer is the only person that can implement content changes once the site has been launched. But a savvy website designer might flip this assumption and use it to their advantage in their messaging, for example:

“Post-launch, you can manage all of the website content yourself – no need to spend extra money with me every time you want to make an update.”

So if you come across a good opportunity like this for your business, use it in your messaging. This shows potential clients that you’re not going to deliver your offering in the way they expect from
a business like yours.

By saying that you wont do things like everyone else, you will strengthen your brand and stand out.