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 should connect with your audience, strike an emotional chord and, ultimately, distinguish you from your competitors. Furthermore, capturing all of that in a name, tagline, logo and message requires a vigorous process of research, open dialogue and understanding even before the pencil first touches the paper. (Yes, we still use pencils.)
The brand identity development is rarely a smooth process.
Creating a brand identity that is meaningful to your audience begins with uncovering your brand promise. Your brand promise is what your audience will gain from what you have to offer. It’s not about you; it’s about them. It’s what you want them to think of when they hear your name.
Uncovering our own brand promise was the result of exploration, introspection and pages and pages of notes. It all eventually coalesced into a vision. There were no shortcuts. However, getting there was only the first part of the journey toward creating a brand identity that would stand the test of time. We still had to set the right tone and find our voice. From there, we had to connect it to our audience and develop a name, tagline and message that meant something to them.
While developing our business name, we ran into obstacles that pushed us in creative directions we never anticipated. 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. It forced us to focus on the “why”s instead of the “what”s from a number of different perspectives. But we got exactly where we needed to be. And we could only have arrived there through that long and sometimes daunting process that forced us out of our own comfort zone.
And, even then, that was just the brand identity.
Uncovering your promise and developing an identity are foundational steps. The real brand building comes next. You need to concisely articulate the brand promise, promote its value in meaningful terms, become the trusted resource by educating your audience, and, above all, consistently deliver the goods. That takes commitment, diligence, persistence, time and, above all, patience.
When we work with a client to create or retool their brand identity, it’s crucial that, whatever the end result, it’s something in which they feel genuine ownership. (After all, it’s their business, not ours.) We get there by including them in every stage of the process. But it also relies on their openness and willingness to be challenged. Often, we have to push them out of their comfort zone. It’s vital that they be compelled to see their business the way others do before they can be objective about what they truly stand for and why it matters.
If you’re looking to create a new brand identity or enhance your current one, expect to be deeply involved, regularly challenged and perhaps a bit frustrated. It surely won’t happen overnight. But your patience will certainly pay off.
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.”