If you think developing a brand identity is simply a matter of assembling the right pictures and words, think again. Not only does your identity need to reflect your brand promise, it also needs to connect with your audience, strike an emotional chord, whenever possible, and distinguish you from your competitors. Furthermore, capturing all of that in a name, tagline, logo and message requires a vigorous process of dialogue, understanding and research even before the pencil first touches paper. (Yes, we still use pencils.)
For example, our own brand was the result of pages and pages of preconceived notions that eventually coalesced into a vision. But, uncovering our purpose was only the first part. We still had to set the right tone and find our voice. We then had to connect it to our audience and develop a name, tagline and message that meant something to them.
Yet, the process is rarely a smooth one. While developing our business name, we ran into obstacles that pushed us in creative directions we never anticipated. For example, in light of ever-expanding trademark registrations and a shrinking pool of available URLs, we found that many of our best ideas were already taken. While that brought with it some validation of concept, our final result ended up looking differently than what we had first envisioned. But, we got exactly where we needed to be and could only have arrived there through that long and sometimes daunting process of introspection, exploration and affirmation.
And, even then, that’s only the identity. The real brand building still follows: concisely articulating the brand promise, promoting its value, becoming the trusted resource and, above all, delivering the goods. It all takes commitment, diligence, persistence and time.
When we work with our clients to create or retool their brands, it’s crucial that, whatever the end result, it’s something in which they feel genuine ownership. (After all, it’s their brand, not ours.) That can only be attained through inclusion in the process and their own flexibility and willingness to be challenged along the way.
So, if you’re interested in creating a new brand identity or enhancing your current one, expect to be involved, challenged and perhaps even a bit frustrated. And, it surely won’t happen overnight. But, patience does pay off.
As the year closes, ask yourself how your current challenges and objectives align with your overall vision. Have you lost your way, or are you sticking to your Brand Promise? Is it still meaningful to your customers and prospects? Have you allowed yourself the room to evolve with their needs, or have you boxed yourself in?
If your business is like ours, you don’t have a bottomless marketing budget to build awareness of a name that lacks clarity. We have to be more calculated and deliberate.
Business naming is the hardest part of what we do. Aside from the creative challenges, there are three major hurdles we have to leap. For every name we present, there are, literally, dozens of candidates that never make the cut. The client never sees any of those.
If your brand cannot adapt to change, you could end up burning cycles recovering what you lost instead of spending your time building on what you have. As Ben Franklin once put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Even if you’re selling widgets, there’s something more that you offer that distinguishes your business in a positive way. It’s what your customers truly gain from you that they can’t get from anyone else. It’s this frame of mind that defines your business more than anything.
Greatness cannot be achieved within a vacuum. It takes vision, perseverance and a team of experts to make it happen. It requires an understanding of what your audience wants, even if it’s something that doesn’t quite exist. You aim high, learn from your failures and never say, “It can’t be done.”
Building a great brand is never once-and-done. It’s more than a name, logo and graphics. It’s a frame of mind — an experience — with a narrative that stays relevant and makes its audience part of the story.
It’s important to look like you belong in your market. But, it’s more important to promote your own uniqueness. Remember, your brand and identity is about differentiation. It’s not about being like the others.
If any of these scenarios seem familiar, perhaps it’s time to consider retooling your brand.