When I first began my journey into branding my first Etsy shop and graphic design business, I was confused myself as to what a brand really was. I told people, “A brand is when you have all matching designs for your materials!” “It’s having a pretty business” is basically what I thought. And then when I couldn’t get sales on my Etsy shop, and wasn’t getting as many graphic design clients as I wanted, I began researching and studying what a brand was exactly. It was surprising to learn just how deep branding truly takes you as a business owner. And as I understood branding more, I realized that everyone who has a business has a brand already, whether they think they do or not.
Your brand is your business’ recognizable identity. And if you don’t have a clearly defined identity that YOU are teaching your clients about yourself, your clients and customers will do the defining for you in their communication about your brand to others. You MUST be constantly educating your client about who you are and what you do, in repeatable phrases and messages, so that when they talk about your business with others, the messaging stays the same. When someone says Pottery Barn, no one actually thinks of pottery, because of their clearly established identity as a home goods store.
When you build a building, you don’t just start putting up walls and windows and doors, you have to break ground (sometimes hard ground), and dig deep. The higher you want the building to go, the deeper the foundation needs to be so you can balance out the weight that is going to be placed on the foundation. In this analogy, your foundation is your brand strategy and the building is business structure. If you want your business to grow and scale, you need a deep foundation of intentionally planned, designed, and thought through brand strategy.
What is a brand strategy composed of? Your personal why behind starting a business, your values, your vision, and your mission statement will drive everything you do as a business. This gives you clear boundaries for your business that you will stick to as you grow. And then you have to determine who these things will be applying to as you identify your niche audience. Finally, you will determine how you communicate to your audience through your brand voice, so you can stay consistent across all platforms, whether in video, instagram stories, posts, emails, flyers, etc.
On top of the foundation comes the business structure, which would be your actual business. The components that make this successful are marketing, sales, customer service, product development, services provided, etc. And your brand design strategy is implemented in this area. Throughout all of these customers interactions with your business, how are you communicating your brand values as consumers walk around your store? If you have an online store, what is their user experience like? Are they able to easily navigate your website? Is it captivating? Do your words and phrases reach out to your core audience and immediately connect? Do you build trust with them through your brand photos, blog posts, or If you have a physical store or office building, do your customers or clients feel warm and cozy, do they feel inspired and romantic, do they feel like this is the most fun and upbeat store in their city? Whatever you want the atmosphere to be, you get to create that through strategic visuals, signage, colors, materials, packaging. You can even up the ante in your client’s experience by including thank you gifts, coupon codes, and exquisitely designed stationary that is sent out after purchases to really ensure that you are communicating the importance of your customer or client to your business.
Once brand strategy and brand design are established, creating a cohesive online platform is essential to maintaining that brand identity. You need a central hub for your tribe to find you, learn from you, get updates, and purchase from you. You also need a central place where you can confidently invite new visitors to an email list, launch new products, share videos, and inform potential clients and customers how they can work with your or purchase from you. Your brand strategy and design strategy will drive your online platform and make it much, much easier to come up with high converting copy that speaks directly to your ideal clients.
I will be talking more about these things individually in the coming months, but this is a general overview of what makes up a brand. And if this post didn’t already answer the question of ‘do you really need branding’ for you, the answer is… YES! Because you already have an identity that customers and clients are assuming unless you directly tell them otherwise.
Here’s to teaching our tribe about who we really are and what we really stand for!
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