What differentiates you from other businesses?
Here’s a hint. It’s not your logo, your tagline, or your catchy slogan.
Many small business owners try to build a branding strategy around their logo or tagline because they believe these are all it takes to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
While these things may be part of your branding strategy or how you package yourself and your services, they are not, by themselves, differentiating factors.
What is a Corporate Identity?
Your corporate identity the combination of your logo, visuals (typeface, colors, imagery), and tone for your company’s image. Large companies have style guides that define exactly what you can and can’t do with their logo. If you are an employee and are going to publish something under their company name, they’ll have specific pictures or fonts you have to use – so all of their marketing and promotions look consistent.
What is a Brand?
Your identity is not your brand. Your brand is the perception your prospects and clients hold about you or your firm. A designer cannot design a brand. You must strategically determine who you are, what you do, and why that is meaningful to your target audience. Then, your identity and marketing materials communicate that message.
Your brand is the collective sum of how each person you come into contact views you and your services. It’s the positive feeling they get when they think about you. It’s how they expect to be treated when they call you on the phone. It’s the service they anticipate when they hire you. And it’s how they convey who you are and what you do to their friends, family and coworkers.
What is Branding?
Branding is about trying to shape the impressions people have about you and your company. It’s not about manipulating people. People are much too smart for that to work. No advertising or branding campaign will help you if you are nasty, unethical or incompetent.
Instead, branding is about understanding who you are at your core and explaining clearly why people should do business with you (or on a personal level, have a romantic relationship or be friends with you.) It’s about making sure that every interaction people have with you is consistent with that core message.
Brands take time to build. In most cases, small businesses give up long before they have a brand established. In service-based businesses, you build a brand by presenting yourself as a specialist in a niche market, you become a leader in that niche, you consistently communicate your expertise by educating your prospects with your marketing, and you build up your reputation as happy clients talk about and refer business to you.