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The First Thing You Should Do When Building Your Brand (Hint: It Isn’t Pick Out A Logo)

The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out.

Rebecca Horan

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When you’re launching a new business, it’s tempting to go straight to the fun stuff – the logo, the colours, the mood board. But, before going down the Pinterest rabbit hole, it’s important to establish the core purpose and belief system of your brand.

Indeed, studies show that companies with purpose grow twice as fast as those with a low sense of purpose. So, a beautifully designed visual brand identity without a clearly defined purpose is like an exquisitely wrapped present that’s … well, empty.

Despite this, a Gallup survey shows that only 41 percent of workers know what their company stands for and how it differs from competitor brands. That’s a problem. Because informed and engaged employees are often the front line ambassadors for a brand, this disconnect can lead to customer confusion or worse, indifference. The snazziest logo in the world can’t save the business that neglects the heart of its brand.

As a brand strategist, one of the first steps I take in developing entrepreneurs’ brands is to help them to establish their core purpose. Having a clearly defined and expressed purpose not only serves as an internal compass that guides their decision-making and strategic direction, but it also acts as a beacon for their ideal customers – making it easier to understand, relate to and remember what the business represents.

Related: Are You A Commodity Or A Brand?

The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out. It’s like constructing a building: You need a strong foundation. The following three steps will help you to understand and articulate the heart and soul of your brand.

1. Create your mission statement

Articulating your mission is one of the most important, yet often overlooked steps in creating a powerful brand. Simply put, your mission reflects what you’ve set out to do.

What makes a great mission statement? It should be clear, provide some strategic direction and inspire. When crafting your mission, think about your business goals, the value you’d like to bring, whom you serve and how you do it. Ideally, your mission will also be clear enough for people outside your organisation to understand and concise enough for you – and your employees – to remember.

Let’s take a look at how Honest Tea does it:

“Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our recipes, with sustainability and great taste for all.”

The first sentence describes what’s being produced (great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages), while the second sentence touches on important elements of the value the business brings (honesty, integrity and sustainability) and who it serves (for all).

After you’ve written your mission statement, revisit it regularly as you build your brand. You might find that it needs some tweaks as your business grows.

define-your-vision

2. Define your vision

If mission is the “what,” then your brand’s vision is the “why.” Your vision is a future-focused statement that paints a vivid picture of what the world will look like once you’ve accomplished your mission. It’s not just inspirational, it’s aspirational. Rallying around a powerful vision can help everyone in an organisation stay motivated, inspired and focused on the big picture when things get tough.

A great way to approach the vision statement is to think about the ultimate impact of the product or service you provide. A good strategy is to focus on the benefit of what you offer. Then dig a little deeper … What is the benefit of that benefit? Keep going until you have a clear picture of what the future will look like when you’ve succeeded. Above all, think big.

Ikea’s vision is:

“To create a better everyday life for the people.”

It’s a deceptively simple-looking statement. For anyone familiar with Ikea, the explanatory statement that follows is unnecessary, but it explains each component of the simple vision statement:

“Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

Related: How To Build A Community Around Your Brand

3. Identify your values

Your brand (or core) values are like the pillars of your company. They are going to help guide your organisation’s actions, influence the workplace culture, help your team to make sourcing and hiring decisions and ultimately impact customer loyalty. Why? Because it’s in our nature to want to align ourselves with people, products and organisations that share our values.

Think about what you stand for – and what you’ll never compromise on. Consider the beliefs and qualities that have a unique, direct and meaningful impact on the way you do business. While there’s no “magic number,” for brand values, more than five can be difficult to remember and internalise, and fewer than three isn’t really enough to give the full picture of your business.

Once you’ve determined your brand values, write them as statements that exemplify how they’re implemented in your business. A great example of this is Starbucks’ values:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

Imagine the difference if they had simply listed words like “Inclusion,” “Courage,” “Transparency” and “Accountability,” instead of illustrating these concepts with these descriptive sentences.

It’s not enough to simply slap some values up on your website and call it a day. Successful business owners know that it’s all in the implementation. We must weave our brand’s mission, vision and values into the fabric of our business. Everything we do and say, from our offerings to our marketing to our hiring approach, should not only align with, but reinforce our mission, vision and values.

Once you’ve laid the foundation, other elements, like a logo, will come easier to you, your team and any outside partners.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Rebecca Horan is the owner of Rebecca Horan Consulting, a brand strategy consultancy. She has spent nearly 20 years working with established brands and emerging voices to help them forge a meaningful and lasting connection with their ideal customers, clients and students.

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Branding

Brush Up On Your Personal Branding To Cement Your Success As An Entrepreneur

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge.

Richard Mukheibir

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personal-branding

When you run your own business, you are the brand champion and the brand ambassador – in fact, you are the brand. That is why in all the turmoil of start-up or getting a new product launched, you need to spare a moment to step back.

Think about how you are presenting to the world the brand that is so precious to you and that means so much for your future. Your clients certainly want to know and even see evidence that you are deeply committed to your brand. But there is a fine line between living the brand and letting the brand take you over and cloud your better judgement.

This is where personal branding becomes as important as your innovative product solutions or your customer service excellence. Edgy entrepreneur is one thing – but clients might shy away if they think that you have stepped over the edge and are more involved in process than delivery.

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge:

  1. Time management: Despite traffic problems or transport schedules, getting this right is vital. If you do not make it on time to an initial meeting with a client, this will raise alarm bells. The client’s immediate thought is, “Can I trust this person’s word about delivering on time?” Time is money and not being on time could ultimately cost you money.
  2. Look the part: If you look tired, dishevelled or have poor hygiene, instead of giving you a high five for pulling an all-nighter trying to troubleshoot a new product, clients might simply think that you do not fit with their corporate culture. Ask yourself if you even fit with your own corporate culture? Is this the way you want to present your brand and your business to the world?
  3. Clear the decks: You might just get away with your office or workshop looking like a tip where only you know where to find something. But do not let that attitude spill over into the world outside.

That apparently friendly and innocent courtesy of being escorted to your car by your host when you leave the meeting could cover them checking you out. Many business people judge potential service providers or partners by their car – not the brand but what it looks like.

Is it covered in dust and badly in need of a wash? Is it full of the rubbish of several lunches on the road and a muddle of paperwork? It is likely that they will deduce that this is how you run your business and how you would run your business relationship with them. In other words, the state of your car might get you the thumbs up or put an end to what had been a promising negotiation.

You can be how you like, do what you want when you are off duty. But when you are on your own business’s time, you are your own brand and you need to live up to it if you want to make your mark.

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Branding

5 Things You Can Do To ‘Humanise’ Your Brand

Face it: Consumers don’t automatically trust your brand or anyone else’s. Whaddaya gonna do?

Syed Balkhi

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Let’s face it, consumers don’t trust brands. Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear. So, if your company wants to win over more customers, you’ve got to get them to trust you.

In fact, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018, more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer. How do you get consumers to trust your company? You do it by showing them the human side of your brand. That will inspire more trust from consumers and boost your conversions.

To form meaningful relationships with your audience, check out these five ways to humanise your brand.

Show off your funny bone

netflix-tweet

One easy way is to show off your funny bone. According to researchers from the Turku PET Centre, Oxford and Aalto universities, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. So, if laughter can make us feel good and encourage connections between people, you should consider using it to get the same results for your business.

Not a comedian yourself? Don’t worry; you can share popular and funny content that already exists. It’s what Netflix does when the media giant shares funny images from its shows.

Showing your more playful side will help consumers see that you’re not just a business focused on selling a product; you’re a human who can put aside your seriousness and have some fun.

Related: Boutique Branding Consultancy Morake Design House

Put your team members in the spotlight

Letting consumers see the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. If consumers are looking at just your logo all the time, they might not see your brand as human. So, put your team members in the spotlight.

Shoot some quality photos of your staff members and display them on your website and your social media platforms. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; iPhones today can take some pretty stunning shots. You might even share your employee of the month and include a story about what makes that staffer so great. Seeing the amazing people “behind the curtain” will help consumers put a face to the brand name.

Share user-generated content

Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two ways: First, it’s exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it shows other consumers that you have great relationships with their peers and that those people already enjoy your products.

Instead of being asked to blindly trust a company’s claims, consumers will see real-life people falling in love with your products, which will promote trust in your brand. Example? Airbnb does user-generated content well by sharing with its followers the amazing experiences its customers are having around the world.

airbnb-mozambique-holiday

If you don’t have any user-generated content, ask your customers for it. Do this in an email marketing campaign; add it to your branded packages for shipping; or create a post on social media encouraging users to take a photo of/with your product and share it in combination with a unique, branded hashtag.

Related: 5 Ways To Make Your Personal Branding Statement Stand Out

Tell authentic stories

Don’t spend all your time online just talking about how great your company is; humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons that you’ve learned will help customers better relate and sympathise with you. According to Psychological Science, research suggests that shared pain may have positive social consequences; shared pain acts as a “social glue” to promote solidarity and togetherness between groups.

So, tell your target audience members stories that they can relate to, instead of simply presenting your brand as perfect. You could even share stories of your customers who previously struggled but then achieved success with help from your company/product. This will not only humanise your brand, but boost sales too.

Show appreciation for your customers

Letting your customers know that you care about and appreciate them is one of the best ways to humanise your brand. So, show appreciation for your best customers by sending them company swag or offering special discounts with a personalised message.

Buffer thanked one of its stand-out customers with not only company swag, but a personalised gift. I’m sure that those customers then became lifelong fans.

buffer-value-adds

Not every company can afford to send out swag to all of their best customers, but sending a gift to just a few of your rockstar fans can go a long way. For a less costly strategy, show appreciation to new customers by simply sending a welcome/thank you email. Not only will such appreciation for your customers humanise your brand, it’ll turn those customers into brand ambassadors.

Related: How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Over to you

Be prepared for your business to have a lot more die-hard customers. With these tips for humanising your brand, consumers will be able to connect with your business, relate to you on a deeper level and want to have a relationship with your company for the long term.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

How A Strong Brand Protects Your Business

Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA.

Kyle Rolfe

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It is all too easy for small businesses to become victims of intellectual property theft and seeing their products and services copied by unscrupulous competitors. A clear case in point is that of Woolworths, which was recently accused of copying a baby carrier made by Ubuntu Baba, having a cheaper version made in China and selling it as its own in-house product.

Woolworths eventually apologised and withdrew its product, after Cape Town entrepreneur Shannon McLaughlin exposed similarities between the retailer’s baby carrier and that made by her company, Ubuntu Baba.

Small business owners can protect themselves from having their products or services copied by developing a strong and unique brand.

Brand uniqueness and an authentically developed product will give you a level of protection in the market, as it will be more difficult for a competitor to copy your offering.

What small business owners should avoid is the “white label solution”. This is taking any product, even one manufactured overseas, and putting your own branding and packaging on it and reselling it as your own.

There is nothing stopping your competitor from sourcing that same product and putting their branding on it and selling it as their own. In this case, as a small business owner, you would have no recourse.

Ubuntu Baba’s unique brand and authentically developed product, designed and manufactured locally, is what helped the small business successfully take on a giant retailer like Woolworths. They didn’t simply take someone else’s product and rebrand it as their own, they actually designed and built their own product.

A unique brand and product will position you as more than just a reseller and will give you a certain level of strength and protection in the market. It allows clients to differentiate you from your competitors and can also positively affect their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability.

Effective branding, that is well defined and distinct, will not only help build your reputation, but it will also make you stand out from the competition.

Ultimately, your brand is your business identity. It is the image that you show to your client, making it one of your company’s most valuable assets. Effective branding portrays a company’s values and attracts the right client.

A strong brand identity also has the benefit of making your company appear bigger and stronger than your competition and consumers are generally attracted to well-established companies. So, ask yourself whether your branding conveys professionalism, reliability and trust.

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