The one branding question you should never ask
Business owners ask this one branding question all the time without really thinking about their request:
“Will you create a brand for me?”
Absolutely, positively NO.
A brand isn’t something that a designer can create for you. Any designer that says they will is setting you up for failure.
The common misconception is that a brand is a logo. While a logo (or business card or website) is one element representing a brand, it’s not a brand by itself. What a designer does is translate the existing, intangible qualities of a business into a visual, sensory, or interactive form. The actual brand creation is something clients have already done themselves — many times without even knowing it!
As I designer, I come to the table with a ton of questions for my clients. These are things only they can answer having already lived and breathed their business for many years. If a client isn’t able to produce the answers, I recommend bringing in a marketing professional to dig deeper and do some research into how a brand is already positioned and perceived. Sometimes, it’s a case of the client just feeling overwhelmed by the process, time taxed, or maybe a little lazy. I’d say that more often than not, it can be difficult to take an honest look at the brand they’ve created and it can feel vulnerable stepping into a truer reflection of themselves, too.
To get full value from your designer, don’t gloss over their questions with generic and safe responses. I need to know the nitty-gritty, distinguishing qualities of the brand YOU have created in order to visually put it on paper or online.
You have created brand values
Brand values are truly the steering directives for how you make decisions, which then shapes your reputation and determines how your business grows. Whether they are formalized or not, you have guiding principles that feel good in your soul. Your customers know how you roll at the very heart of it all. Do you value non-conformity? Do you always initiate change? Is your focus on doing more with less? Tell me about that!
As an example, check out my friends at Zappos who put their Ten Core Values at the center of every experience.
You have created a brand persona
Your brand already has a history to reveal…and a distinctive style that tells the story! Whether you’re the rags to riches entrepreneur or a third generation owner with millennial motivations, you’re missing out by not expressing the human component to your existing brand. When a customer sees a bit of themselves in you, it’s incredibly endearing. Ever heard of the Milwaukee boys, Harley and Davidson, who worked for years on their first motor-pedal bike, which was not an immediate success? How about a young lad named Walt whose childhood art classes propelled him to dream up the world’s most incredible theme parks? Would Oprah be as dimensional without us knowing the hurdles she’s overcome? Or would Trump be as easy to impersonate? Own your starts, your story, and your swagger.
You have created brand expectations
This one always seems clear to the business owner, but can be murky for the customer. A really common one I get this this: “Our brand delivers a luxury experience. We are high-end at every touch point. Our service costs more, but we are worth it.” Got it. Luxury, high-end, big price tag, huge value. And then 9/10 times, there will be a point where the client says, “We only want to pay 5 cents for each business card. Isn’t there a cheaper paper?” Whoa, Nelly! So, you’re telling me in that one-chance-to-make-a-first-impression moment when a customer has eyes and hands on a tangible expression of your high-end, luxury brand…that’s worth 5 cents? Call me crazy, but if it only takes me 100x that price for a branded piece that will knock their socks off and make them want to pay me top dollar forever more, I’m gonna do it!
So tell me, do customers expect your brand to be cheap? Philanthropic? Cutting edge? Like grandma used to make? Let’s get real and make it gospel in the design process. I’m gonna hold you to it. And I’m a black belt.
My challenge for you
If you want to really stand out in your industry, you need to be daring and embody brand qualities that are outside the norm (the marriage counselor with a 200% money back guarantee, the toy maker for girls who never uses pink, the rapping accountant, etc.).
What will you commit to in order to push the perception of your brand a little closer to the edge?
Oh, this question makes me all giggly because it’s the absolute GOLDEN TICKET to fantastic brand styling! If you’re willing to take a chance and answer that question, be sure to share it with me below or in a private message. (Squeeee! High fives for the rebel in ya!)