Three pillars of branding
A brand is a convenient handle that encapsulates both the tangible and intangible qualities of a business, a project, a product or a person.
Your brand is made up of your Actions, your Beliefs, and your Communications.
The first two elements – Actions and Beliefs – are the hardest to pin down and express. Many businesses gloss over, or are vague about these elements. Without these clearly in place, your brand risk coming across as shallow and lacking in realness.
The last element – Communications – is made up of the visual assets we normally think of when we think about branding: like the logo, stationery, website, signage; and the words you say publicly. It is through your communications that you express who you are, and make promises to the world about what you do and how you do it.
It is easy to be distracted by the more tangible communication aspect of branding.
It is tempting for designers to just get started on the fun visual design, for marketers to leap into writing copy and setting up keyword campaigns, and for advertisers to create the next best ad. It doesn’t help matters that many brand managers or business leaders also focus on the communication aspect of branding because they are dealing with actual deliverables.
Forgetting the A and B pillars lead to shallow, confused, and incongruous brands. Conversely, if you have clear and aligned A and B pillars, you will naturally engender clear and succinct Communications. The design and marketing won’t have to work as hard to cover up the inconsistencies!
Three steps to create a brand
- Start by identifying your values, the Beliefs you have about yourself and the world, that govern how you engage with life, respond to challenges and opportunities. We acquire our core beliefs and values as we grow up. In adulthood, these tend not to change significantly for most people.
- Align all your Actions with your beliefs and promises. Actions are manifested through your business processes; including how you treat people (HR for internal, and Customer Service for external people.) Even as your processes change in response to technology for example, you still need to align them with your beliefs. Integrity is consistently doing what you promise to do.
- Design appropriate Communications that show and tell the world about you, your offerings, and how you will deliver them. This is also the pillar where customer dialogues occur, and relationships are forged and maintained. Over time, this pillar of your brand can change in response to visual trends or market needs.
Step 1: Identify your core Beliefs
- What do you care deeply about?
- What are your strengths, winning qualities and skills?
- Why are you in business? Why are you doing what you are doing?
- What benefits are you promising to deliver to your customers?
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- What would the world miss out on if you did not exist?
- What are your hopes and dreams?
Step 2: Align your Actions with your Beliefs
- What is your business about?
- What services do you provide? What products do you sell?
- What do you do to sell your services, to engage with customers, to handle complaints, and create new services?
- What guiding principles can you derive from your Beliefs, so as to guide your actions?
- What will you never, ever do? And how do you avoid doing them in your processes?
- How do you express your strengths, winning qualities and skills in your processes?
Step 3: Communicate authentically
- Are you making truthful and real claims or promises?
- Have you set up two way mechanisms to communicate with your customers and internal people?
- How would you handle negative feedback? Spin and censor, or listen and take responsibility?
- Do you sound real?
- Do you like what you see and hear if the communication came from an actual person?
- Is your communication functional? Is it legible, audible or visible in their use-contexts?
- Could your communication have a negative effect on others? Is it sensitive and respectful?
Branding is more than a logo and marketing
Well crafted Communications will entice and attract. But if you fail to back that up with consistent, aligned Actions, you will not build a strong brand.
People will remember you by their engagement with you. Your Actions, guided by your Beliefs, matter the most.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that branding on about a good logo and good marketing.
Image: ABC blocks via Shutterstock.