We all want to expand our presence in the marketplace. We all want a bigger slice of the proverbial pie. But there’s plenty of clutter in the marketplace already. Throwing more advertising at your audience may not be the answer.
Branding is a buzzword these days, and for good reason. Brands are quickly (or slowly depending on the industry) realizing that consumers don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. Thank you Simon Sinek for that valuable lesson.
So what is your company’s why? Your answer to that question is the heart of your brand, and good branding is how you get to the heart of your customers.
By the way, if you’re in an industry that’s been slow to adapt to modern branding trends, there’s glorious opportunity for more pie, but more on that later.
For now, let’s get back to the basics of branding.
What is a brand?
Your brand is how customers perceive your company. It’s how they feel about you after experiencing your product or service.
Experience means something different for every industry and every company. It could mean the in-store experience, genre of background music, internal office aesthetic, location, website functionality, website design, interactions with sales representatives, phone calls with customer service, brand collateral, you name it. If it shapes perception it’s valid.
Branding is how you adjust that perception. And therein lies the challenge, because it’s not easy earning real estate in someone’s limited headspace, especially if you’re competing with other companies to do so. But even if you weren’t the first in the marketplace, there’s a chance you can be first in your customer’s mind. Let’s talk about how.
If there’s a disparity between your branding and your product, there’s either a problem or an opportunity.
If your brand makes promises your product can’t keep, you have a problem. All the branding in the world can’t fix a bad or unoriginal product. Eventually, your customers will find out that your company doesn’t provide real and different value.
On the other hand, if your branding efforts don’t reflect your product’s value, then you have real opportunity.
The Branding Opportunity
In his book Zag, Marty Neumeier says the goal of branding is to “delight customers so that more people buy more things for more years at a higher price.” Sounds appetizing right? That’s the opportunity that good branding unlocks.
Marty also recommends focusing on your UBT, unique buying tribe, instead of your USP, unique selling proposition. For decades, companies have spent hard-earned marketing dollars on advertising their USP. And it worked for awhile. Until the marketplace became so cluttered with companies advertising their supposed points-of-difference that consumers stopped trusting. Stopped listening.
In contrast, by focusing on your UBT, you suck customers into the story of who they can become, what tribe they gain entry to, by buying your product. What tribe do your customers want to join? When they use your product, what does it say about them?
Think about the great brands as an example. Who do you become by owning a pair of Nike shoes? How about the latest macbook or Apple watch? What does owning these products say about you?
The UBT concept applies more easily and directly to B2C brands.
For B2B brands, the question becomes “how does your product help companies innovate and differentiate themselves?” And specifically for B2B’s with a B2C client it becomes “how does your solution help them stand out to their UBT?”
Okay, so branding is super important and opens new opportunities for your business. Now what? Let’s talk more about developing a brand so you can cut through the clutter and get into your customer’s head.
What is a brand book?
A brand book contains everything you need to know about a brand from a design and copy perspective so the brand is always implemented consistently.
Skittles treats its brand book as a marketing tool. Instead of listing out guidelines, the brand book itself is an example of how the brand should be implemented.
In contrast, Charity:Water’s brand book is a more standard, professional example of a brand book that can be used internally.
The standard brand book should include some combination of the following elements. You’ll see some of these in the Charity:Water brand book, but I’ve included others below that provide additional value:
- Mission & Vision statements
- Statement of Differentiation
- Internal Positioning Line
- Audience Personas
- Brand Values
- Brand Archetypes
- Brand Voice
- Copy Guidelines
- Brand Anthem
- Sample Messaging
We won’t dive into each of these elements in this post, but it is worthwhile touching on brand voice and guidelines—potentially the most important pieces of the puzzle.
How do you define a brand voice?
Are brand voice and copy guidelines really the most important features of the brand book? Not really. Every other piece acts as a foundation, and a dynamic, focused brand voice can only be built on that solid foundation. Let me explain.
Crafting a strong brand voice starts with research. You have to get to know the brand. Who is the brand? Who is the audience? Each step of the brand development process fleshes out your brand and your audience. It’s like going to counseling for your brand and then with those newfound insights getting coached on how to talk to specific people in the most effective way. Until you know the brand and the audience on an intimate level, you won’t know how to talk.
Once you’ve done the research, the best way to shape a brand voice and copy guidelines is by writing actual content. It takes experimentation to land on the right brand voice. But once you’ve struck gold, it’s important to assess what you’re doing to produce the voice.
- What is the brand’s personality?
- What grammatical rules do you find yourself using to give the voice a distinct tone and tenor?
- Does your brand speak in short, punchy sentences or in longer, complex sentences?
- Do you start sentences with conjunctions?
- How often do you use contractions?
Pinpointing these techniques, many of which you’ll find yourself doing automatically based on your intimate knowledge of the brand, helps you define the copy guidelines. But remember. Don’t create rules that restrict the brand voice. It should have room to breathe. And whatever you do, don’t write in your own writing style. Inevitably it will peak through, but by recognizing your personal style, you can mitigate its influence on the brand’s voice.
The Brand Development Process
Going through the brand development process effectively requires what the folks at Big Vision call a Brand Strategy Session. During this session, we gather key company stakeholders and collaborate through fun, interactive activities to identify the core elements of your brand identity. These foundational elements will shape all design and copy decisions moving forward and, ultimately, help you get a bigger slice of the pie.
If your business needs branding that “delights customers so that more people buy more things for more years at a higher price,” the Big Vision team can help. Contact us today.