A brand is way more than a logo or messaging in marketing material—a brand is the personality of a business.
Just as in every other relationship, personality is what creates attraction, indifference or antipathy. And it’s not something you craft—it’s something you reveal.
Brand is a concept that has changed over time. Back in the day, it was simpler to explain.
A brand used to be…a logo or a design or a wrapper. Today, that’s a shadow of the brand, something that might mark the brand’s existence. But just as it takes more than a hat to be a cowboy, it takes more than a designer prattling on about texture to make a brand.
(Brand isn’t even a mission statement, although a company’s mission statement can reveal something of its brand.)
In the past, the company-customer interaction took place over a handful of mediums: television, radio, magazines and newspapers. But the internet changed all that, ushering in a new paradigm.
Today, the company-customer interaction takes place over many, many mediums. Not only do we have the traditional avenues of television, et cetera, we also have social media, chat rooms, online content and more.
Because of this, the relationship is a much more familiar one than it used to be. You can’t simply throw a few lines of text into a magazine ad and “sell” a customer. In fact, you can’t really sell customers at all anymore—they’re far too savvy and knowledgeable.
Customers and companies know each other better than they used to. Which vastly broadens what brand means.
Brand Is Personality
Your brand is the personality of your business. It’s all of the characteristics that come together to make your company unique, just like an individual.
It’s the sum of your differentiators, but not just the differentiators that make you better than your competitors—all of your differentiators, “good” and “bad.”
Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character and no public trust.
—Richard Branson, Virgin
No character and no public trust. In other words, if a brand is idealized, customers can’t relate to or connect with it. For people to emotionally invest in something (another person or a company), it needs to be real.
Know Yourself, Know Your Customers
Take a good look at yourself. Decide if that’s who you want to be, and if it’s not, take the necessary steps to become who you want to be.
Recognizing yourself isn’t an easy thing to do—humans are exceptionally good at self-delusion; they tend to see themselves (and their companies) as they want to see them and not as they are. However, it’s a vital first step.
When you identify yourself, identify your customers.
Sometimes you’re essentially the same. Sell musical instruments? You’re probably a musician, like your customers. Sell antiques, you’re probably into antiques, like your customers.
Reveal Your Brand
Great companies that build an enduring brand have an emotional relationship with customers…And that emotional relationship is based on the most important characteristic, which is trust.
—Howard Schultz, Starbucks
Trust is the basis of any enduring human-to-human relationship, and it’s the basis of any enduring customer-to-business relationship.
The way to establish trust in your brand is through words and actions. The words you take care of through your content marketing efforts (i.e., your messaging), and the actions you take care of through everything else.
Revealing your brand requires that everything is in alignment, always. If you’re a suit-and-tie kind of business, all your messaging should be suit-and-tie kind of messaging. If you’re a jeans-and-skate shoes kind of business, all your messaging should be jeans-and-skate shoes kind of messaging.
Essentially, be who you are, always. If you have a passion, and your customers share that passion, all you have to do is share your knowledge and expertise through your content. If you show your depth of knowledge and passion about something, customers will understand who you are and connect with you.
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.
Not Just a Logo
Your brand is your company’s personality—the complex, multi-faceted combination of things that make your company unique.
When you think of the customer relationship, think of it in terms of any interpersonal relationship. To make a connection, you have to know each other.
Start by understanding yourself. Then share the knowledge, ideas and values that make you who you are. Then cultivate the relationships that subsequently develop.