by Tory Johnson
Before you worry that this is oh-so-complicated—a task that only high-priced pros are equipped to tackle—relax. Branding isn’t brain surgery and you can master yours in no time, which is a must if you want to build a truly successful business.
Consider how often you pick up a box on a store shelf because the packaging catches your eye. Or how often you click on a link because you find the associated image inviting. Think of the times you listen carefully to a commercial because of a funny or intriguing tagline.
Those elements are all part of branding. Whether you’re selling products, services or information, branding provides the first and lasting impression that attracts attention. It highlights the specifics of what you offer and impacts how it’s positioned and sold. It also sets you apart from other options on the market.
Branding extends far beyond the look of your logo or website. It encompasses a lot—most importantly how you and your product or service make people feel. You can convey this many ways: visually through colors and design; aurally through music, sound and volume; and also through texture, taste, smell, and of course, words.
Take Facebook. At its core, Facebook is a technology company. Yet when we think of Facebook, “technology company” hardly enters the equation. We think of it as a place to hang out, connect with friends, share photos and do business. Facebook’s brand transcends its product or industry category.
TOMS isn’t only a shoe company; it’s an experience for socially conscious customers who want to feel great about the purpose and reach of their purchases.
This is effective branding at work, and you can flex your marketing muscle to create the same for your business. Here’s a fun branding exercise to get you going:
If your business were a color, which one would it be? Fiery red, sleek white, eco-friendly green? What one color comes to mind first—and why?
If your business had a dominant emotion, what would it be? A cupcake baker is focused on creating smiles, so it’s a happy business. A massage therapist brings comfort and relieves pain, thereby infusing her brand with calm.
If your business had a theme song or anthem, what would it be and why? Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” works for the life coach who’s guiding her clients out of challenging times, while Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is a great anthem for a matchmaker. At Spark & Hustle, we’re attached to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
What type of outfit best reflects your business? Is it a sexy bikini, well-worn jeans, a smart little black dress, a conservative suit or something else?
Which celebrity persona does the core of your business most closely mirror? Does it have the youthful edginess of Rihanna? Push the envelope like Lady Gaga? Let it all hang out like a Kardashian? Modern mom into holistic living like Gwyneth Paltrow?
Which place does your business most closely resemble? The natural healing of Sedona or the hustle and bustle of New York City?
Imagine throwing a huge launch party for your brand. What décor and elements would you use to boldly reflect your brand? What’s the dress code and what’s on the menu? What specifically would happen at this gathering? What would each guest receive as a party favor?
In addition to taking your time to brainstorm these answers, flip through the pages of your favorite magazines. Clip images that reflect you and your business. Paste them on a vision board and make a list of what these pictures have in common. Browse and create Pinterest boards that reflect your vision for this business. Through these tasks, you will envision your brand coming alive.
Use that inspiration to move on to what your clients and prospects will see: your visual brand, which includes your logo, website layout, text, imagery and even your personal appearance.
While there is no particular color scheme or image that will immediately make your income soar, consistency is key. Every aspect of your visual branding should be consistent with what you’re selling. If you’re selling upscale web design services, make sure that your own website is consistent with what your clients will want and expect. If you’re a virtual assistant, your bio should be well written, with an eye for detail.
Your brand is about you, but it’s also about them. Everything about it should appeal to the market you plan to serve. If you serve the young, urban executive, don’t invest in an image that reflects an aging company. Likewise, if your market is ultraconservative, stay away from anything racy or politically offensive. Before making assumptions about how your look will appeal to your designated demographic, test it by asking strangers whom they believe you, your logo and collateral material might attract. If the majority of responses don’t mirror your desired market, you’re missing the mark.
Finally, recognize that your brand is a work in progress. You reserve the right to tweak and refine as you develop and evolve your business. Staying fresh will be your greatest challenge, as well as your secret asset.
Join Tory Johnson and a top team of experts for the Small Business Boot Camp at the December 6 Massachusetts Conference for Women, where the morning session will focus on marketing and you’ll leave with ideas and inspiration to put into action immediately. Register now here for your spot in the workshop.