Growing up, when it was my parents turn to host the annual family Christmas gathering, we went into lock-down.
In the week leading up, lawns were mowed, decorations hung, even the toilet was polished to an inch of its life – if you were looking from the outside-in, you’d have thought we were mad (and we were a little), but it was all in the name of creating a special experience for our guests. A Christmassy home added a sense of excitement and joyfulness, and provided my folks with the platform to host a memorable day.
I don’t think there are many better analogies when it comes to branding your business.
If you haven’t got your house, or in this case, your brand in order – your customers won’t form a good impression of you. They probably won’t even step through the front door.
But what am talking about when I say ‘brand?’
A brand is so much more than just a logo, business card or website. At its absolute core, your brand is the culmination of your business’s actions, causes, reputation, expectations, visuals, product quality, employees, customer service and much more. From the attitude of your employees or the look of your invoices, every touch point helps the consumer build a perception of your business, and it’s this perception which makes your brand.
There are many cogs at play, from company values to HR, and whilst we can’t fix a faulty product or bad customer service, great creative agencies (Kick&Co included) are experts in creating the ‘identity’, the visuals, symbols, words, meanings and feelings used to represent your business, influencing the consumer perception of you. Over time (if you do it right), this unique impression becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction that differentiates you from the pack.
Take Airb’n’b for example, would they be where they are today without their massive 2014 visual rebrand? Possibly, the foundations of a great business were in place, but I’d argue that their growth was a much more rapid one with the visual update of their logo, website and marketing material. Suddenly they were seen as a fun, caring and most importantly, a trustworthy brand. Any prior safety concerns in using the service dissolved.
Creatively nailing your brand’s image comes down to brilliant basics.
These are my top five:
We remember people and places that do things a little differently and that are original and thoughtful. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I believe creativity should be at the core of all good brands. Even if you’re selling something as seemingly uncreative as a basic $10 coffee table, you can still appear interesting. Some people think that creative branding means to be overtly cute or fluffy – but to be creative simply means to use imagination and original ideas to create something new. Whenever I get a brief to create a brand, this is my goal.
Tying in with creativity is cleverness. There are countless ways to weave a little cleverness into your branding, including:
- Logos and images with double meaning
- Incorporating optical illusions
- Impactful taglines that play on words
- Using humour or irony
- Acknowledging industry norms and bucking the trend
Nothing solidifies a message more than repetition and reinforcement, and this is essential for branding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you JUMP DOWN PEOPLE’S THROATS with capital letters. Instead, a good brand consistently applies colour, messaging and visual elements across all the platforms it uses to communicate, so that over time you’ll be remembered. This is where a style guide comes in handy. As part of developing a good brand, these holy documents set the rules for what branding elements your business can use and how – and I’ve never seen a business truly nail consistency without one.
Keep it real. Be yourself. The truth will set you free. Okay, I’ll stop speaking in bumper stickers – but take the hint, our tolerance for bull-(you know the rest) is at an all-time low. Being authentic doesn’t mean being unprofessional and talking to your customers like you’re with your mates at the pub. It means being self-aware, understanding your strengths and limitations and communicating these honestly. Lead with your talents and own what you’re good at, just don’t over-promise.
When I collaborate with business owners and marketing managers to build brands, I often take their blinkers off. We sometimes fixate so much on our immediate challenges and goals, that we forget to think about where we’re heading. Your branding should capture not just your current state, but also your hopes and dreams for the future. Why do you exist? What’s your guiding vision or ‘purpose’? Where do you want to be in two decades, your ‘mission to Mars’? It doesn’t matter whether your vision is world peace, or to stock one of your high-quality hammers in every home – all that matters is that your driving motivation comes through in your branding.
Every organisation has an agenda – no matter what yours is, the first place to start before setting out into the world is your backyard. Fine-tuning your brand’s identity and making sure that prospective customers clearly understand what you do and how you help them, ultimately makes achieving your goals that much easier.
Creating a world-famous brand doesn’t happen overnight but if you’re creative, clever, consistent, authentic, aspirational and a little patient, I guarantee rewarding results will follow.