Okay so you’ve done the hard part and packed out your target audience (read it now). You’ve got a solid foundation of who your business is for and what motivates them.
It’s time to start a conversation.
Before you get confused, understand that your brand is simply a conversation between your customers and yourself. It’s how you let them know what you offer, why it’s valuable to their life and why choosing you is a different, better experience than hiring anyone else.
When you build your brand, step by step, think about packing a box. You add one thing, then another, all the time finding that perfect spot for your next item. The trick is to make all the pieces fit so the integrity of your box (the Total Brand System) doesn’t stretch or break.
That’s important for many reasons, but what you need to remember is that without identifying and peeling back the layers that make up your target audience, your brand simply can’t move where it needs to.
Imagine sitting in a hotel elevator. It’s a fancy place and you’re going to meet a friend. What if the door opened and in walked Oprah or Tony Robbins or Ellen. Seriously, she’s evil, I love her.
Look at her feeding on their terror. Ha.
They enter, stare you down and tiredly say, “You’ve got thirty seconds to even mildly impress me about your business and I’ll give you 2 million dollars.”
Now imagine smiling really big, cuz’ you know you’re about to get paid! Imagine opening your mouth to blow their minds and strike it rich.
Then imagine spending the next thirty seconds telling them how much you like a good glass of wine while you watch Gilmore Girls every night.
I know what your real-life Gilmore Girls is.
See? Branding for the wrong target audience is exactly like that. It makes no sense. That’s why I started you off in this Packout series by finding the right folks to talk to.
BEGINNING YOUR TOTAL BRAND SYSTEM
Most people tend to look at their brand as a logo and some colors. Slap that logo on something and use one of the colors you picked (or whatever feels good at the time) and done.
There’s nothing intentional about this type of lazy branding. It’s an afterthought. But it’s also understandable. Honestly, it makes sense for the product to get more focus. I mean, isn’t that what your customers are buying?
Guys remember, you can have the best product in the world, but people are money funny. They don’t like to give it away until they know it’s valuable to their life.
Take my money.
Think about it. A night at the movie theatre for two people is roughly $1500. No problem, right?
Add popcorn and that’s like ten percent of your soul. But it’s cool.
Now charge me four cents for an app that will do all the laundry and send my kids to college for free and suddenly I’m flat broke. Money doesn’t grow on trees so I can’t spare a dime.
A Brand Packout is all about perspective shifting. You’ve done the research to figure out what keeps your audience up at night. You know what their problems are and you know how they feel about their situation. It’s time to take all that data and combine it with the solutions your business offers.
Now take that package and hand it back to your customers in such a clear, appealing way they can’t help but think they solved their own problem by finding you.
And guess what? That’s actually the first step of your Brand Packout.
1) Write Out Your Brand Promise
What can your customers expect from you? That’s a pretty important question. Don’t get confused though. It’s a very different one from ‘what do you do?’
But by all means, do tell.
See, when I ask what can be expected from you in this context, I’m referring to your brand itself. Forget about your product and its features. If your brand is a form of communication, what do you want it to say to your customers? What’s its purpose?
I create websites for instance. I also create other forms of collateral like business cards, annual reports, flyers, posters, magazines, etc. Those are a few of my products. My brand, however, has a different mission. Its purpose is to build financially free military families by connecting them with free training and my branding process that capitalizes on common challenges faced by military spouses.
There’s no laundry list of services or features. I state what all forms of communication need to do (build financially free families). I identify the ‘who’ (military spouses) and the ‘how’ (connecting to my training and branding process).
This isn’t a slogan. It’s not a company mission statement either. This is purely for your brand management. Customers never need to see it.
By having a Brand Promise, you have a clear guide to bounce any part of your branding against. If it doesn’t fall in line with your promise, it’s either wrong or you need to expand the purpose of your brand.
2) Tell Em’ What Makes You Different
I used to struggle with this. It’s important, being different. I know this. But what does that mean in terms of your branding? Is it big enough to have its own heading?
Short answer: yes.
When you conducted your target audience assessment you had to look at your competitors. From them you learned who might be receptive to your business services or product. You even learned where they hang out, on or offline.
Here. They hang out here.
But branding is NEVER about you. Sooooo, let’s look at this from your customer’s viewpoint.
If you learn who, what, when, where, or why from competitors and copy all of that what incentive is there to switch to you? Your competition is already satisfying their needs in a particular way. You end up being a second-rate knock off.
Earlier, in step one of this article, you clearly stated what you and your brand do. Here you need to clearly state why you do business differently than anyone else and why your way is flat out better. Again this is why target audience research is so very crucial. You’ll learn the reasons why solutions from other companies are or are not satisfying your customers the way that they should. Or you might realize there’s a new part of the industry you might dominate instead.
There’s no time for humbleness here. Be confident. Be bold, not arrogant.
You’re better because you care more and work hard. Period.
3) Establish a Brand Personality
Before we get into Brand Personalities, did I mention finding your real target audience is important? I did? Oh, well let me say it again.
Your real target audience is the key to your brand’s success.
Remember the psychographic part of our audience research? From those indicators you picked up things like hobbies and interests. Another piece of info you dug up was attitude and opinion. Basically, you can learn how your target audience feels about any particular topics.
Best. Show. Ever.
That’s some tasty knowledge ya’ll.
Again, brands are forms of communication. If you wanna’ get funky with some next-level definition then realize your brand is a mixed representation of the values and beliefs you have about your own purpose combined with your customer’s ideal version of themselves. A version with the ability to fix their own problems.
Confused? How about we just say your target audience wants you to be just like Them, but also a SuperThem. A very specific hero that can solve a very specific problem.
The personality of your brand must, I repeat, must reflect your audience. Yes you can speak (or write) in a ‘down south’ accent and still sell to an audience that lives primarily in New York City. That’s because personality doesn’t rely on technicalities as much as sentiment. Even though your audience might not be from the south, they won’t have any problem accepting your brand if you hate what they hate or like what they like. Demonstrate a connection through interests and the attitudes as well as an understanding of their pains and WHY they hurt and your audience will latch on.
Okay, okay I know I said technicalities don’t matter much, but they do. If it’s natural for you, copy the way your target audience speaks. Remember, it’s okay to lurk on social media. Study the forums and the way your audience speaks. Every group has a lingo, a way of talking, unique to them. Find it. Use it if you can but don’t fake it. Being authentic is so much more valuable.
4) Build Your Brand Image
We’re getting’ to the good, good now guys. Image. Visuals. Pretty pictures. This is the area of branding most people jump to after they get their crappy logo from Cousin Pete.
Comon’ Pete. You don’t even try anymore.
It’s also the first thing to go when I’m asked to rebrand a company.
Your Brand Image is the parts of your company that physically interact with customers. While it can involve all 5 senses, we’re gonna’ focus on just one. Vision.
Sight is powerful. We make decisions all the time based on what we see and how we interpret that information. Oftentimes those decisions are made in a split second. That’s how quickly we process the things that catch our eye.
Your Brand Image needs to work its magic between the beginning and end of that split second. You’ve got to be recognizable, appealing and deliver your message before short attention spans kill your sale.
The easiest way to do that is by starting with your color palette.
I’ve explained the psychology of color in my Military Spouse Branding Toolkit so I won’t go into super depth here. What I will say is that every color has been proven to convey different characteristics and feelings. These can change depending on factors like sex, environment or color combos chosen.
You’ve really got to know your audience AND the rules of color to choose a palette that speaks to your audience. A misstep here can cost you the success of your remaining brand image.
Be intentional. Trust the science.
It’s rare to find a brand that doesn’t use photos. Photography is such a powerful medium to express ideas. You’d kinda’ be foolish not to use it starting out.
Now I assume a lot of things but I’m trying hard to keep this fairly detailed. For instance I assume you know blurry pictures are a no-no for your business. The same goes for images with faded color (unless your brand has that nostalgic look) or weirdly positioned subject matter. Pretty standard stuff, right?
Only we aren’t learning how to take pictures. We’re building a brand. And so far we’ve got colors to work with. Believe it or not, that’s more than enough to continue.
Just like everything else, photography becomes another way for your brand to speak. Because of that you’ve got to revisit your Brand Promise. What is it that you need your photography to say?
Showcase your target audience in your photography. Use the demographic and psychographic data you found to decide on relevant locations and environments for your pics. Remember, communication is about connection. Link your audience with your brand photography by highlighting common environments and situations.
Brand colors get a steroid boost when pulled into your photography. Don’t go overboard with them. If you have a product you’re trying to sell, choose a photo with one or two important background items that match your brand palette. Alternatively, you could have a flat background color that matches your brand and leave the other elements of your photograph to stand apart.
Either way what you’ve done is pull your photography back to your brand, instead of them dominating as pictures tend to do.
I’ve lumped these elements together for one simple reason. Illustrations and patterns can be a sweet replacement for picture heavy brands. Patterns especially are an elegant solution to flat, boring or text-heavy sections of your marketing materials.
Just be cautious. Whatever the style, they all need to match, or compliment, one another. An easy way to do this is by using the same designer to build your sets.
Again, unity is the name of the game. Without it your Brand Image can slip from ‘Tar-get’ chic to ’Dollar Store’ crap super quick.
Some people just want to watch the world burn.
Choose illustrations, symbols and decorative elements that are relevant to your business and, more importantly, to your audience’s perceptions.
Just like colors, I’ve gone into pretty thorough detail about the science behind fonts, or typefaces. Get my Military Spouse Branding Toolkit to learn more about it.
The thing about fonts is that you’ve got to know the basic categories and what characteristics they possess. By bouncing these characteristics up against the audience research we finished, you get a sense of what typefaces speak the correct language you need.
If you’re starting to see a bit of plug and play happening, get excited.
That’s exactly what building a brand on solid research is supposed to do.
5) Create Your Brand Identity (Logo)
I know, I know.
Logos? At the end?! What kind of monster am I?
Dunno’. Something like this I guess.
There’s a lot that goes into logo design and once again I’ve got ya’ covered. Get your Free toolkit here. But answer me this while we’re here. There’s a guy named Mike that lives in Washington State.
Do you care?
Now what if I tell you Mr. Mike lives in Washington and every Thursday he gives $1 Million dollars to anyone that answers a Golden Girls trivia question?
I bet you’d know all about Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and…and…damn, was her name just ‘Ma’ or what?
What I’m getting at is that names don’t matter…until they matter. Neither does your logo. The only purpose it serves is to be an instantly recognizable part of your branding. Seriously, that’s its only function.
See? Flav just gets it man.
So if recognition of your brand is its only purpose, how can you have a successful logo without one?
Yet we see it time and time again. Businesses come up with a logo, print that bad boy and off they go. Matter-of-fact, most designers you hire will start with your logo.
That should be a red flag guys! That’s a sign your designer is out to please you at all costs. Sounds nice, right?
Except what you really need is a brand manager that will fight to make sure every aspect of your brand is laser focused on communicating with your target audience. Without any research behind it a logo is just a mark you made up to satisfy YOURSELF.
It’s a representation that speaks to you and your ego. Nothing more.
You might get lucky and appeal to your audience as well, but if more than half of businesses fail in their first year I wouldn’t roll that set of dice.
Think about it. Logos have color, but if you don’t base color choice on the attitudes of your audience your logo may say something irrelevant, offensive or nothing at all.
Many logos use fonts. But if you don’t understand the basics of font design you’re going to pick ones that rub your audience wrong. It could be subtle, but even that’s enough to affect whether or not they will pay you.
Guys, we don’t even have to be all negative. Having research-backed logos means you have an amazing opportunity to use insider symbolism that means a lot to your customer community. Knowing your audience down to their nooks and crannies and using that knowledge to build a logo showing off your intimate understanding can immediately give your business a foot in the door of their tribe.
At the end of the day, building a brand for your business can be time consuming and amazingly complicated…
…if you let it.
Just like your milspouse predecessors who found a better way to PCS by developing Packout strategies, your brand just needs a bit of Packout love. For both the hardest part is just starting.
Follow along with my Total Brand Packout strategy and start creating. Piece by piece. Concept by concept. Before you know it, you’ll have a real brand. One that’s focused on a target, cohesive, engaging, and relaxed.
Do this and I promise your confidence, down to the way you speak about and think about your business, will rise exponentially. Face this rat-race we call entrepreneurship with skill and planning rather than a wing and a prayer.
Guys, the life you want is here. It’s waiting.
We’ve got work to do. Let’s get to it.