Everything You Need To Know About Branding In 7 Easy Steps

“In good companies, the story and the strategy are the same thing.” — Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Our clients are small businesses, nonprofits and startups. We make our living by applying the tools and tricks that big brands and Fortune 500 companies use for branding and marketing to organizations that typically can’t afford them.

The unfortunate thing is that many people who work with small businesses, nonprofits and startups don’t seem to understand the principles of branding, and the ones who do often go after the money and target big brands and Fortune 500 companies.

For example, one of the most striking differences I see between the way big brands and Fortune 500 companies do branding and the way small businesses, nonprofits and startups do branding is that the latter think branding is just a logo.

Branding is about strategy. The most beautiful logo in the world probably will not get you any more business, but a great strategy can explode your revenue.

Another striking difference I see between the marketing professionals who work with big brands and Fortune 500 companies and the folks who typically work with small businesses, nonprofits and startups is the latter think branding is an art.

Branding is a science. People — as much as I hate to admit it because I happen to be one — are typically not these independent thinkers that they like to believe they are. Collectively, they are what’s called a “superorganism,” much like ants and bees, and as such — like ants and bees — they often behave in very predictable ways.

Branding is all about human behavior and what triggers human behavior.

The science of branding works like this:

Step 1: Learn about your competitors.

Learn what they do well and what they do poorly. The reason you need to know what they do well is that you need to be at least as good as they are. You need to know what they do poorly because that represents opportunity.

The term we use for this is “landscape analysis.” It is the understanding of the competitive landscape.

Step 2: Once you’ve learned about your competitors, articulate what it is that you do differently and better.

It’s that simple. If you can do this, it’s just about getting your brand in front of as many people as possible, and never in the history of the world have there been more people or more places to do this.

But don’t confuse simple with easy. This is like the game of Go; it takes a second to explain and a lifetime to master.

The term for this is “value proposition.” It is the reason people will want to work with you, buy your products or join your organization.

Step 3: Make it believable.

This is where your story comes in. Tell people why you do things differently and better. Be careful, though — focusing on the story alone may be interesting and nice, but if it doesn’t support your value proposition, people will remember you, but they won’t buy your products or services or join your organization.

The term most agencies use for this is “brand story.” I hate that term because the acronym is BS. We prefer “organizational story” instead because if done right, it is anything but BS.

Step 4: Make your name do some of the work.

Naming is one of the most challenging things we do because everyone tries to make it personal. They want their organization’s name to be meaningful to them. And, sure, you can make a personal name work. Organizations like Walmart and McDonald’s have certainly been successful using personal names, but it’s much easier if you make your name meaningful to your customers like Apple, Nike and Tesla do.

Step 5: Run your slogan through the “different and better” filter.

A good rule of thumb is that your name makes people remember you and your slogan does the selling. My all-time favorite slogan is one that TBWA/Chiat/Day created for Apple: “Think Different.”

Step 6: Run your logo through it, too.

I’m not implying that a logo isn’t important. A great logo can be iconic. It is just not your brand, but an expression of your brand. It is your stamp of approval. And if you run the logo through the “different and better” filter, then something truly special happens. Take the Nike swoosh, for example. I love the way Nike co-founder Phil Knight responded when someone asked what the now-famous swoosh means: “It’s the sound of someone going past you.”

Step 7: Build a great website.

People often ask me why we build websites, and my answer is this: Your website is the most important communication tool your organization has because it is often the first point of contact people have directly with your brand. Get this wrong, and the first six steps don’t matter.

One of the big mistakes that organizations make with their websites is they use the valuable real estate above the fold to tell people what they do or why they need them.

I’ve never understood this because by the time people get to your website, they certainly know what you do. (Seriously, how else would they get there? Did they randomly click on links?) And they also probably have a good idea why they need you, too.

An extremely effective approach is to treat your website like an infomercial for your brand. Have the menu at the top tell people what you do, so as not to waste space, and then use the banner and headline to communicate what you do differently and better. Then, like an infomercial, have the next section as they scroll give another reason why you are different and better, and so on and so on as they scroll down the page.

Don’t try to convince people why they need your product or service; convince them why they need you instead.

Branding is science, not art. Use the right triggers, and watch the magic happen.

Read More at: www.forbes.com

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