Business is tough. It’s moving and changing faster than a chameleon on a go-kart. We need to juggle so many priorities at once that it can often seem overwhelming. It’s easy to get your head down in cash flow, inventory, profit and loss, employee matters, marketing, sales, operational efficiency, what kind of coffee you get for the machine, and the list goes on. And so we have our eye out for that silver bullet, that ‘1 thing’ or ‘5 steps’ or ’10 rules’ that we can follow to get our brand right and become an overnight success.
Well, it doesn’t exist. There is no quick fix or easy way to get your brand right, but there sure as sh*t is a way to get it wrong! Please, don’t be one of the brands that get it wrong.
‘Now, C’mon. I thought this post was supposed to help me get my brand right!?’ My friend, I have some good news for you: it is! There is ‘1 truth’ that can help point you in the right direction: branding matters. Your brand matters.
And when I say brand, I don’t mean your logo and your tagline — those are important elements of your brand but they are just pieces of a much larger and more impactful whole. Your brand is what holds value. Your brand is what actually reaches people. Your brand is the story and the experience that lasts far past a purchase. It’s the feeling people get when they think about you (ooo la la!), the truth they believe about you, the idea of what you are, and the intangible trust they have in what you stand for and what you believe in. Your brand is what makes you stand out.
Deep stuff. I just got chills and if you did too then it’s important that you get this right. Like I said, there are no quick-fix rules but here are some of the key truths to ensuring that you get your brand right:
Know your ‘Why’
Simon Sinek is famous for coining and popularising this phrase, but it’s been at the core of every successful brand since before Shakespeare was in diapers. Your ‘why’ speaks to the reason that your brand exists and this reason guides and binds everything about your brand. Pro tip: the reason that your brand exists is not to deliver the services you offer or to make the product you make. True story. The reason your business exists needs to transcend what you do as a company. It needs to embody the beliefs you hold most dearly. Now, this is tough stuff and it takes time and requires you to dig deep, but once you find it you have a strong foundation on which to build. Know your ‘why’ and build everything out from that.
Define your Mission
What’s the reason you get out of bed? What excites you about the possibility of each day? You know why you’re in business, so now you need to define your purpose. One of the best ways I find you can come to a definition on this is by asking yourself this question: what is the change you seek to make in the world and for whom? Simple, right? I wish I could say it was! Just like finding and knowing your ’why’, defining a concise and clear mission is difficult. It means saying ‘yes’ to a clear path and saying ‘no’ to everything else. Your mission is your North Star and your guidepost. It’s your map to where you want to go and it’s the only thing that will let you know when you’ve arrived.
Clarify your Positioning
Did your mother ever tell you that you can’t please everyone? It’s true! Yet as businesses, we so often default to trying to be all things to all people because we mistakenly think this is how we ake more money. This is not the way to go. Specialize in something and do that better than anyone else. Specialists get the big bucks. Specialists have people coming from across the country to work with them. Specialists put in the work to get very good at something, not everything. A brand with focus and nuance is far more powerful and valuable than a brand that tries to be something for everyone in a race to the bottom. Clarify your positioning and be the ‘only [business] that provides [what] for [who]’, and you’ll find growth comes faster than you can handle.
Understand your Customers
Here’s a crazy truth that most businesses don’t like to hear: it’s not about you, it’s about your customers. So, make it about them! One of the best things you can do for your brand is to spend the time and the emotional labor to truly understand your customers and what they need. Consider speaking with your customers, as a human does, and getting to know what they really value about you. After all, the change that you seek to make in the world — the change you identified above — is with them and it will only happen if you can authentically meet their pains and their needs and their interests…and you can only do that if you actually understand them.
Create your Creative
Once you know why you’re in business, what your mission is, and you’ve positioned to reach the right customers that you truly understand, you’re ready to do the part that everyone else can see, the creative stuff — your logo, website, copy, content, marketing, etc. These things matter as much as the rest, but only once you’ve done the pieces above. Otherwise, they hold little power and (dare I say) little value. Professionally and intentionally designed creative can truly move mountains and catapult your rock-solid brand into the heavens. Work with a creative partner who aligns with your brand, someone who values what you bring to the world as much as what they can bring, and someone that is very, very, very good at what they do. You get what you put into it, so if your brand means something to you, prove it.
Again, this isn’t a rule book for success. I don’t believe in those. In fact, the best way to be successful sometimes is to break the rules; however, these are foundational truths of any good brand and they do produce great things.
Do the hard work first and all the creative parts will fall into place more easily, in less time, and with 1000% more impact than if you didn’t. Invest the time and thought into your brand that it deserves. We need more brands like that in the world.
Tom Collver is Co-Founder and Head of Growth at pb+j and Lunchbox, a web design and digital strategy agency that partners with trailblazing marketing and creative professionals. From Hollywood producers and Harvard start-ups to celebrity designers and New York Times Best-Selling authors, pb+j has worked with over 500 game-changing clients from across the world.