There is more to business than making money. There is also your brand. Your brand identity is your business’ personality, it’s soul. Your brand is so much more than a logo and a tag line.
Why Does Brand Identity Matter?
Let’s do a little role play: Sam is a surfer. Sam got really sunburnt yesterday and now he wants to buy a cap. He needs something that will keep the sun off his face, that breathes easily in the heat, and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Sam heads down to the surf shop and takes a look at a couple of caps. There are hats in colours he likes, cheap hats, breathable hats, all kinds of hats. Then Sam spots the Quicksilver cap. It costs a little more than the no-name brand, but Sam buys it anyway. Why? When Sam sees the Quicksilver label he knows that this cap was made for surfers like him. He knows that the people who designed the cap are surfers like him. They understand what he wants and what he needs. They have the same core values as he does. Sam can relate to them because they have a personality. They have a strong brand. He doesn’t buy their product because it’s the best cap for the job, he buys it because when he sees that Brand name can almost smell the ocean, feel the sun on his shoulders, hear the waves crashing. Sam buys the brand because they feel the same way he does.
He doesn’t buy what they make, he buys why they make it.
So now ask yourself this question – why does your business do what you do? Heads Up – the answer you are looking for here is not “to make money”. All businesses exist to make money. The question is what specifically makes you do the exact thing that you do to make money? What is your why? Who are you as a brand?
There is a lot more to answering this question than most people realise. Just because you say that your brand values are X, Y and Z, doesn’t mean that you are right. Unless you are a Startup who exists because you are driven by a single goal and belief, like providing clean drinking water for poor communities, the chances are you are going to need a bit of help figuring out who you are, and why you are.
You need to look at more than just the CEO’s opinion. You need to talk to the people on every level in your company. You need to ask the guy in production, packing boxes, what he thinks your core values are.
Then you need to take it outside and get public opinions on who you are.
You need to find out who your competitors are, and what their values involve so that you can compare them with yours. Then you need to take all of this information and analyse it objectively before you can truly come to a conclusion about who the world thinks you are.
Then you have to compare your findings with who you feel you want to be. Your what with your why. Only then can you define your brand identity, and only then can you start the serious work of communicating your brand identity to the outside world.
For a lot of companies (especially bigger companies), this can be pretty labour intensive. Most people hire a specialist agency to help. If you are a small company, you might be able to start this yourself with a pencil and a notebook.
Either way – you need to sit down and give it some serious thought. You cannot deliver a solid brand presence if you don’t know who you are. You can’t know who you are if you don’t know why you are.
Take Apple, for example. Everyone knows that Apple is a brand for creatives. They are expensive, but their support is fantastic and their machines are designed to simplify your life, so that you can focus on creating. Hence their tag line “think different”. Now when a designer buys a Mac, it’s not for the great price (they are expensive!). Most of the time it’s not even for the great service or the great product – it’s because they are the brand that wants to create. They want to “think different”, they want to help you to create and think different. Mac users are the square pegs in the round holes, the ones crazy enough to change the world. See what I just did there? Eh?!
Your Brand Voice Is Your Guiding Light
Once you have defined your voice and your brand, everything becomes easy. Well, easier. Having a defined brand will help you in your decision making processes. It will be the lighthouse that guides every other aspect of your business. It also gives your marketing efforts focus and direction. Basically, it is the “Golden Thread” that brings it all together.
Your Brand Identity Should Inspire
Whatever your services or product, your brand voice should be aspirational. It’s more important for your brand values to be aspirational than achievable. Disney aspires to bring happiness to everyone. The chances of that happening are slim, as are the chances of Nike turning everyone into an athlete, but they are both good, inspiring brand values. Values that people share, values that people buy into and believe in. They are values that define and shape the brands and every marketing and production decision they make.
A strong brand identity is essential to your success. Even if you don’t have a company or a business. Even if it’s just you. Every person should have their own, personal brand, especially if you offer professional services. For the digital nomads, it might be about having the freedom to live your life, your way, while providing the highest quality services to your clients. A climbing gear company might be all about the rush of the climb – and everything they produce, everything they communicate, will be based around helping their customers chase that feeling.
Whatever your brand’s higher purpose is, you must find it. Because good business is about pinpointing what matters to you, and your customers, and making sure that your products, services, brand identity and public voice are all aligned to help them achieve it.