Your brand is not your logo
It's ironic that the discipline of "branding" has an identity problem.
As this is my first article for the Business Ninja, let's get one thing out of the way. Your brand is not a logo, set of fonts or a colour pallet. I know this is how some people might view it but "brand" has a much wider meaning. A meaning which is much more helpful. Which is strategic and powerful.
So what is a "brand" then?
In my book, Storyategy (http://amzn.to/2OR1VIN), I defined brand as "the meaning people attach to you and your offering".
The scary thing about this of course is this that you do not own your brand - other people own the meaning they attach to you. It's in their heads and hearts.
This is where "branding" comes in. "Branding" is the attempt to manage that meaning. To thoughtfully consider the meaning we want people to attach to us. To design the experiences and desired outcome of their interactions with us.
So the question is - are you managing the meaning people attach to you? To do this you need to understand your purpose. Who you are. Who you serve. Most importantly you need to appreciate why it matters. Why should anyone care?
These are strategic leadership questions. Once in place you can then design on top of them. Inside out. Until you finally consider your marketing communications and then yes, one expression of this might be your logo, some colours and a font.
I believe that to do "branding" properly you really need to consider in in the light of the following key business areas:
Culture - this would include leadership, your staff, HR, recruitment, routines, rewards and the environment your team live in. It encompasses what behaviours you encourage. How your team collectively behaves and how they interact with each other and the outside world. What is celebrated. What do you stand for and what do you not. What is considered ‘normal’. Have you designed your employee experience (EX) and do they engage with the ideas behind your brand?
Products / Services - if you exist to serve customers, are you developing unique products or services which truly help customers with their goals or needs? What you actually do, what you provide, ultimately brings meaning to a customer and branding cannot simply be a coat of paint at the end. We need to get serious about innovation and customer centric product development. We need to make better things. Branding should influence where you source your materials, how you treat partners, and how your products or services actually make people feel.
Customer Experience - have you mapped this out and do you constantly seek to improve it. Your CX is crucial to keep on top of as customer behaviours and desires change over time. How do you enhance them? How do you make your customer stronger? How is it different and how does it serve your customers in a unique way. What do they get from you they can't get anywhere else? Designing with customers and not simply for them is super important to get this right.
Marketing Communication - Finally we come to what we say and how we dress. Note how I've put this at the end and not at the start. Are your communications rooted in the longer term meaning you want customers to connect to you? Do they embody the character, tone of voice and style needed to build recognisable and distinctive meaning? Do you articulate your purpose? You're why and not simply you're what? Do you "dress" and "speak" in a way which your audience connects with? By connecting with you are your audience living into a desired identity?
So there you are. What we are ultimately talking about here is about creating value. Not simply in the features or benefits of a product. But in every part of a business.
Your brand is not your logo. It is the meaning people attach to you.
The question to ask then my fellow ninja's is; are you managing meaning?
Matt began his career 18 years ago in graphic design but soon moved from execution into strategy and branding. He was always frustrated with being asked to create design veneers which were not in-line with reality. In a quest for truth and determined to make a real difference, he took his design and creative skills into the boardroom to help businesses think differently about their brands.
He founded and ran his own design business for nine years, and then sold it. He has also helped run a Digital Marketing Agency, led an in-house team for a global corporate, written a book, worked with hundreds of clients including brands like Boots, Specsavers, Nikon, Fred Perry and Experian and spoken at all sorts of business events.
Today, his quest for helping businesses find and live their brand truth continues.