The very first thing to understand with branding is that it isn't just about your logo or other visuals. That's a common misconception. These things are important of course, but your brand goes far deeper than the surface level visual.
For that reason, the concept of branding can seem abstract, but it really just boils down to the perceived character. The perceived character of you if you're a blogger for example or the perceived character of your business.
I say 'perceived character' several times above because as you'll find out below, your brand isn't what you believe it is, it's what your visitors and customers believe it is. The tips below can help you to establish and grow a strong brand, but maintaining it over time will depend upon you staying informed of the perception people have of your brand, and making choices that will help keep that perception where you want it.
A brand is built on trust. Your brand is a promise that you make to visitors or customers, and the trust comes in keeping that promise. Your promise is:
- Who you are.
- What you stand for.
- What benefit you offer (and will deliver).
You need to be crystal clear on your promise. If there's any ambiguity your brand will be weak. You'll build your brand (and trust) up over time by living up to your promise.
Originality is why people care. If you're not unique in some meaningful way, why should anyone read your blog or buy your products when there's always plenty of alternatives available to them?
Think of a tech blogger starting out. There are already dozens, if not hundreds, of established tech blogs and news sites out there, so how does a newcomer stand out?
The answer is originality. Originality in the promise of your brand, and originality in the keeping of that promise.
In this example, the tech blogger might realize even though they're blogging about technical topics, their primary audience isn't silicon valley, it's blue-collar U.S.A., so the new blogger covers the topics and gadgets of interest to their audience and creates content in a voice that audience recognizes.
Be On Message
Remember that there are already multiple parts to your promise. Who you are, what you stand for, and what benefit you offer. Stay focused on these and only these with your brand.
Trying to add on to the promise is often a sign of weakness within the definitions of your promise, and will only dilute your brand.
This doesn't mean your marketing shouldn't focus on razzle-dazzle now and then. Gimmicks can be fun and work great as part of your marketing efforts, but they need to support the brand you're already building, not expand it.
Consistency is vital to a strong brand that grows. Inconsistency breeds confusion and weakens a brand. It takes a long time to build and grow a brand, but it can be demolished overnight with poor choices or straying from the core promise.
There's never a second chance to make a good first impression. Your message and promise need to be communicated to visitors and customers clearly and near instantly.
The good news is when you get this right you will start off on a footing of authority, quickly establishing yourself as the "go to" source in your field.
Continued clarity and transparency can lead to gaining brand evangelists, even among those who have had a negative experience with you or your service or products. The power of clear and candid communications is immense and all successful brands use this to their benefit.
In addition, clarity requires keeping your promise confined. It's easy to try adding on to it over time, especially with marketing campaigns, but it's vital to remember that everything you do should be in support of your existing promise, not expanding it.
In the end, your brand is what your visitors and customers perceive it to be, not what you see it as. Constantly monitor perceptions and feedback. Solicit input. Measure what you're doing against perceptions to see what is connecting and what isn't.
You may know that you're keeping your promise, but if visitors and customers don't believe you are then that's their reality and you need to find a way to change it for them, fast; which can only happen if you're aware of where their feelings towards you or your business are.