What's a Brand?
Branding means a lot of things to a lot of people. A well know version is sticking a hot iron with a rancher's logo on the back end of cattle, so they can identify them as theirs. There is also ‘Business Brand' which could include a name, logo, slogan, and/or design like colors, fonts and more associated with a product or service. There is also personal branding used in promoting celebrities or job seekers.
A brand can also be defined as “A type of product manufactured by a company under a particular name.”, but in the real world it’s so much more than that. In one of my favorite ‘Old School' books, Tom Peter‘s “In Search of Excellence”, he explores the Disney Theme Park experience as a brand. Everyone you meet, from the person who sells you tickets, to the person sweeping up trash, is in ‘Character’. That character is there to create the perception of a fun experience… from newborn to grandma. Employees are extensively trained to make sure that ‘YOUR' experience is undistinguishable whether you are in theme park in Florida, California, Europe or Far East, or on a Disney Cruise.
Seth Godin takes that concept a bit further. He says in his blog “Here's my definition: A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer. “.Often Used as Generic for Tissues
Brands totally transcend our traditional concept of Kleenex or Coke (tissue or soda). They encompass everything from your website, your receipts and invoices, to the way you communicate with customers, contractors, vendors, and so much more.
Your brand is everything in and around your business.
Some solopreneurs will spend hundreds or thousands a month to rent space to look and act like a bigger company. People completely wrap their cars or trucks in graphics like a mobile billboard. I see people showing up in informal networking events in a suit and tie (when their actual work requires them to crawl around on the ground). Depending on your budget, brand, and business, these can be awesome or awful!
Some of these same people pass out business cards from Vista Print (or some other free service), Some have logo's bought for $199. Most of those are done by shipping the work over seas, where they have no clue what the business does or what clients expects from a product or service. Some have a “Do-It-Yourself” website where you need a secret decoder ring to find a way to contact them. Others simply cannot communicate in one-on-one situations (often selling too hard or just misunderstanding a potential clients actual needs).
Your brand is the essence of your business and everything you do, and especially what you communicate and how you communicate it! I totally understand that you may not have the time or budget to have everything professionally created or executed, but you need to periodically review what you have and ask yourself, “Is this helping or hurting my business?”. Ask your colleagues, clients, vendors, friends and neighbors for some feedback. Take it all in… keep and act on what you find helpful. Toss or file the rest. The world is your focus group (unless you can pay to have people put behind a two way mirror!).
Social Media Brands
In the next post, I will explore what Social Media says about you, your company, and your brand. What have you learned over the years about what your business does to promote your brand… and what your brand does to promote your business?