Laurel Mintz J.D., M.B.A. is the CEO and Founder of award-winning, Los Angeles-based marketing agency Elevate My Brand. Laurel's gift is connecting with people and their stories. After all, companies are made up of people, and stories are just narratives that are the foundation of great marketing. Laurel's energy has been the driving force behind the agency's growth since it launched in 2009. Her awards include: 2017 Patrick Soon-Shiong Innovation Award; 2016 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Company; Los Angeles Business Journal 2016 Women In Business Award; and more.
With COVID-19 upon us, branding is more important now than ever. It's a scary time and people are looking out to see how their favorite brands are dealing with the situation. While it may not be the time to be pushing sales, it's certainly the time to put your best foot forward and showcase your brand values in order to build a community. In order to market successfully during this time, you have to be able to connect with people and their stories. After all, companies are made up of people, and stories are just narratives that are the foundation of great marketing.
â€�"Buyers make most of their decisions by relying on their two-second first impressions based on stored memories, images and feelings.â€ This quote from Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, powerfully expresses how your customers think. In layman's terms, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
What is Branding?
To begin, it's crucial that you understand what branding is and what it is not. Branding is not telling people who you are, it's managing what other people say you are. What will your audience associate with your brand? It's up to you to create this emotional connection through your branding. Specifically, branding is the look and feel of a brand, the characteristics, values, tag lines, logos, energy, etc. Branding includes all the ways your company shows up in the world and how you hope a consumer will relate and engage with it on an emotional level. However, before you can even begin to market your brand out into the world, you must start by building a strong foundation. Here's how.
Defining Your Brand
When establishing your personal or corporate brand, it's critical to begin by defining what you want your brand to be. This starts with developing a name and logo that speaks to your target market and evokes a specific emotion, adjective or sensory experience. You can go about this in many ways. When working with a new client, one of the first things we do at my company, Elevate My Brand, is take them through a branding exercise that we call â€�"Word Vomit.â€ It looks like this:
1. Write down a list of words, potential names and/or concepts that you might want to start with. (This is if you don't already have your company name.)
2. Write down a list of adjectives and emotions you want your potential client to feel when they see your logo or hear your brand name.
3. Go out and find 5-10 logos you like and 5-10 logos you don't like and describe in detail why you do or don't like them. The creative process is extremely subjective, so before we start throwing ideas at the wall, it's crucial that we know what your aesthetic is. Knowing what you don't like is as important as knowing what you do like.
4. Similarly, determine a list of colors you like and don't like and types of designs you do and don't like. (e.g. I like Asian style lettering and I don't like figures in logos.)
This exercise allows you to get clear on your brand values, decide which words you want associated with your brand and, almost as importantly, which words and sentiments you don't want associated with your brand. This type of exercise can help with buy-in, can also spark creativity and should be a lot of fun.
At the end of the day you get what you pay for, so remember, this logo will live on your business cards, web site, and all marketing materials that you will create for your company, which are the first things a prospect sees, even before they get to know you. So putting your best brand effort first is key.
Let's just get this out of the way. Yes, you absolutely need a brand book. A brand book is a document that outlines every detail about your brand. It's basically your brand's DNA. At its most fundamental level, a brand book must include your mission and vision, your logo and colors, your typography, and sample imagery. The best brand book, however, has more than the basics.
As important as it is to define your brand, it's equally important to define what your brand is not. What words or phrases are off limits? In order to stay on brand, you must know what it means to be off brand.
I said it once and I'll say it again. Branding is not telling people who you are, it's managing what other people say you are. In order to do this, you must know a little bit about your target audience. What do they like? With your target audience in mind, how can you shape your branding into something they can appreciate and recognize?
Ultimately, your brand is the foundation for all aspects of marketing. It's critical that you get it right from the start and build a lexicon around it so that, as you build and scale, the original ethos of the brand remains intact.
Need help figuring out how to do this for your brand? We can't wait to talk. Reach out to us today to get started.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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