I often get complimented on my brand. And I feel good about that, because we worked extremely hard on it.
People love the look and feel of my website, the way my photos work with the text, the way my images look on social media. They sometimes mention that my brand seems to be an extension of my “real” life, because my Instagram photos of my dog or our family even seem to be on brand.
In fact, I’ve even seen entrepreneurs try to copy all or part of my brand — or someone else’s — for their own businesses. And while imitation is a form of flattery, I know in my heart that not only is it a bad idea to copy someone else’s brand from a legal standpoint, it’s also never going to work as well for the copycat as for the original — because the brand isn’t true to them.
Another mistake I sometimes see new business owners make is hiring a designer to create a logo or a website, or going out and getting photos made, before they’ve done the work to create their brand. The problem there is that while the individual pieces may be high quality, they aren’t likely to work well together as a whole. And, even more disappointingly, the business is likely to “outgrow” that brand quickly as the owner gets more clarity around the message she wants to convey.
So what is the best way to go about building your brand online when you feel like you need a website, a logo, a social media presence yesterday? The truth is, great brands take time, thought, creativity, effort, and consistency to create and maintain.
All that to say: Let’s slow down for a moment and get back to brand basics. To help you do that, I’m offering my Build Your Own Brand Book Workbook to you for free — click here to download it now! But before you start filling it out, let’s talk basics.
What is a brand?
The Business Dictionary says a brand is the “Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.”
Your brand is way more than just a name or a logo. Elements of your brand include every single touchpoint you have with customers from, yes, your website and logo, all the way through to your email signature, your business cards, your voicemail message, maybe even the clothes you wear or your signature perfume.
In other words, your brand is what people respond to in your business; it’s the look of your website, the feel of the writing in your emails paired with the imagery. It’s the photography that you post on social media. It is the outward and online representation of you or your businesses persona.
And it’s the way all those details work together to tell a complete story about your business.
Why is a strong brand important?
Your brand is a very important part of your business because it’s a potential customer’s first impression of you and helps build and maintain your business’ reputation. It sets up expectations for your products and services, and it makes you instantly recognizable anywhere someone might come into contact with your brand — from a business card or flyer to a pin on Pinterest.
Studies show that it takes less than two-tenths of a second for a viewer to form an impression of your brand online. In addition, 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand they already know.
Therefore, you want your brand to leave a positive first impression and be easily recognizable online.
For me, having a beautiful, compelling, consistent brand has been an important way to differentiate myself in my markets. The luxurious look and feel is not only a reflection of my values and tastes, but also a reflection of what people can expect from my products. That’s why we work so hard to keep our brand consistent across every touch point.
Building a strong brand is an important step to taking your business to the next level. It immediately makes you look more professional and helps potential customers and partners alike take you more seriously.
The one thing you need for a great brand
There are as many types of brands as there are products, but the best brands have one main thing in common: consistency. Every image, every tweet, every product, every email feels like it’s part of the whole.
Your goal is for people to recognize your brand wherever they encounter it, whether it’s in their email inbox, on your website, or on their favorite social media channel. But how do you create that recognition when your content is always going to be different?
That’s where consistency comes in. Solid brands use the exact same colors, fonts, photography styles, logos, language, etc. across every touch point. They are easy to recognize no matter where you encounter them.
Look at any one of your favorite brands, and you’ll find that they are extremely consistent in everything they do. The fonts they use, the colors, the photos and images, even the words they use to describe themselves and their products all follow a set of rules.
Branding is a process, and you certainly don’t want to have a hodgepodge when everything is said and done. That’s why it’s vital to keep things simple, be consistent, and keep a record of your brand choices.
In my experience, consistency is also one area of branding where new and small businesses struggle.
Strong brands achieve consistency — whether they have teams large or small — by creating and employing what I call a Brand Book: it’s a document that defines and lists all the details of your brand, from colors and fonts to word choices and photography styles.
The power of a Brand Book lies in both the creation of it, because it forces you to get serious about defining what elements make up your brand, and in the execution, because it helps you and any team members stay consistent and on-point.
And the key here is that these branding decisions must come first — before you design the logo, hire the photographer, or even pick out those killer shoes you want to wear. When you make decisions about the overall look and feel you want to convey first, you can create all the brand elements with consistency built-in. And that creates the feeling of a much more expensive brand, whether you’re hiring a big team or doing everything yourself.
That’s why it’s vital to start with your brand book — and you can start to do so by downloading our Build Your Own Brand Book Workbook right now. This workbook is part of a training inside Business Class, so if you get stuck filling out any of the sections, you may want to become a Business Class VIP so you can access the entire training!