Branding; The key to unlocking your secret identity

I have been in the design industry for a LONG time and have recently come to the realization that the term ‘branding’ has to be one of the most misunderstood words in the entire history of misunderstood words. Well… maybe not, but in the small business world – maybe. Most small business owners equate branding to a logo, a set of colours and a consistent image across all of your design materials. I thought so too!  Although this is a good start – and something that a lot of small business owners don’t actually see as important enough to invest time and money into, it only scratches the surface of what real branding actually is.

So What is Branding?

Branding goes way beyond just your logo and website. When you think about your brand, you really want to think about your entire company experience from the inside out.  What problems does your business solve for your customers, what value do you offer and what sets you apart from the competition?  How do the answers to these questions translate into a logo, advertising material, corporate identity, your company’s dress code and communication style? Good branding creates recognition, sets you apart from the competition and helps everyone understand your business DNA – your customers, your potential customers, your strategic partners and your internal team members.  To say it another way, branding helps you unlock your super powers and become a true super hero in the eyes of those who need you.

This does not happen overnight!  In fact, discovering your secret identity and presenting yourself as the super hero you want to be takes time, effort, money and a good dose of research, planning and creativity!  A good branding process includes a number of phases that subsequently build upon one another, creating positive energy and momentum along the way and culminating in a new image, a new message and a new identity for your business.  The process goes roughly like this:

Internal Discovery

During this process, you look inwards, analyzing in depth who you are as a company and what defines you – what are your super powers? You determine exactly who your target audience is and why they need you. You also need to identify your threats.  Every super hero has enemies and you’ll need to identify yours so you are equipped to defeat them.  The Discovery Process involves questionnaires, workshops and conversations that clarify your customer in relation to your products and services. It’s the first pass at finding answers to the essential questions that need answers to build upon.  It’s fun, interactive and enlightening.

External Discovery

Once your target audiences are clearly defined, some more in-depth research needs to be completed to find out more about them. Surveys, interviews, and statistical research are methods that can be used depending on the scope of the branding project.  You’ll talk to some of your customers, staff or partners and spy on your competition. New insights are used to gain an in depth understanding of the people who need you most so you can more effectively learn how to find them and prove to them that you are the super hero they’ve been looking for.

Creation

Armed with all of our new knowledge, you are now ready to start creating your brand.  This is where you design your costume, choose your colours and create a look that is going to make your customers feel like you’re the answer to their problems and the one who is best suited to save them.  A cohesive look to project your true identity is created using all of the information gathered and following the momentum and enthusiasm that has been created so far. Deliverables generally include: Logo, slogan, tagline(s), business card design, letterhead and other design elements. At Divine Designs, we also produce a set of brand standard guidelines to ensure employees and outside suppliers correctly and consistently represent your brand’s message and identity.

Internal Integration

A strong brand creates loyalty, guidance and additional motivation to succeed for your team members. When everyone understands who you are trying to save and why they need saving, it creates a real bond and gets everyone on the same page, fighting for the same things, trying to reach the same goals.  The new brand should be presented to your team members so that they understand it and then your company’s internal processes, communications, office spaces etc… should be optimized to match the new look and message.

External Integration

A strong brand relies on consistently communicating your super hero powers to the ones who need your help.  Every instance a customer could engage with your brand or a potential parter is come across your company, should be optimized to line up with your new brand guidelines and shout the same messages ensuring everyone knows you are the only superhero they would trust!

Branding is one of the most important processes a business can go through if it is serious about success. It’s the foundation that your company culture is built upon and sets you apart in the minds of your customers.  If you haven’t gone through a REAL branding process, perhaps now is the time to use the branding key to unlock your super powers and reveal your super powers to the world.

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