Monthly Archives: November 2010

Building Your Brand: Defining Your Message?

Think of building your brand like building a house. You have to have a solid foundation to build a strong stable home and it’s no different for your business. Branding is the foundation of your business and it needs to be solid and strong to build a stable business. It’s important to invest the proper time and resources to get it right the first time.

When people think of branding, they usually think of a logo. However, a logo is only a piece of a company’s overall brand. Your brand should speak about what your company stands for, what differentiates you, as well as how you want people to feel when they encounter your brand. Ultimately, branding conveys the overall personality of your company.

Your brand should drive everything from the look and feel of your marketing materials to how employees answer the phone. The most successful and memorable brands are the ones that have developed a strong brand message and have implemented it consistently throughout every aspect of their business.

A great example is Apple. They have branded themselves as a company that makes high-end, innovative products geared towards a hip, tech-savvy consumer. Everything from their product design, packaging, advertising to their store layout reinforces this idea.

Before you hire someone to create a logo, website or any other marketing materials, it’s vital to determine your brand message. Your brand message not only explains why customers should choose you but if done properly your brand will make them think that you are the only one that can solve their problem.

It’s important as a business owner to define your brand. You can hire someone to help you develop your brand, but you really need to do your homework and answer the following questions yourself. You and only you know the answers. You need to have clarity on who your business is in order to start the branding process.

Here are some simple questions that will help you define your brand.

  1. Determine what problem you solve. When you decided to start a business, you realized that you could fill a need in the marketplace. What is that need or that problem that only you can solve?  Remember, your business isn’t about you, it’s about filling a need.
  2. What is your area of innovation? As an entrepreneur, you have the unique ability to determine what is important to you and your business. What do you want your business to stand for? Quality? Price? Convenience? Think about one or two words or phrases that you want to define your business. Keep it simple. Otherwise, it will be difficult for you to communicate effectively and for your customers to identify.
  3. Who is your target market and why do they care? Understanding who your customers are and what’s important to them will help you develop an effective message to attract them. For example, do your customers want Quality or Value? Speed or Convenience? Experience or innovation? There is a huge difference between Walmart and Macy’s and you’ll need to determine where your customers are and what they think in order to develop the proper message. You can’t be all things to all people, so make sure your brand speaks to your target audience.
  4. What makes you truly unique and different? Part of branding is determining how your business stands apart from your competitors. Let’s stick with the dog-walking business example. If your business targets working mothers, you could include other add-on services that would be appealing to this audience. For instance, when you come to walk the dog, you can pick up or drop off the dry cleaning. Or, your service could include bathing the dog once a week. Listen to your audience. Research your competitors. Then, determine what makes your business different.

Building Your Brand: How to Create a Lasting Logo

The most important component of a solid brand is your corporate identity, or logo. It’s the cornerstone of your visual communications and brings together your business name and sometimes a graphic element to establish your business identity. Used consistently, logos help customers remember you when they need your product or service.

A common mistake business owners make is it to think that their logo has to include an image of the product or service they offer. A logo is simply a visual representation of your business. While it can be tempting for a financial planner to use a dollar sign, it doesn’t make for a very original logo. If every other financial planner in town uses the same imagery then your target market can’t tell you apart. The main goal of a logo is to connect with your target market and it can’t do that if it doesn’t differentiate your business from your competitors.

Entrepreneurs on a budget often decide to design a logo themselves. Although this may seem like a smart option, it can cost you in the long run. Not only can it be time-consuming to develop a logo yourself, it can also make your business look amateur. Even if you have a great idea for a logo, you may not be able to execute it properly.

Professional graphic designers have the skills and expertise to create a logo that will last. They understand how to use color, fonts and imagery to create a logo that matches your brand message. A professional designer will also keep into consideration the various uses of your logo and make sure it will look good no matter what the medium, from a business card to a billboard.

Hiring a professional designer does not have to break the bank. There are many talented freelance or boutique firms who can create a professional, lasting logo for a lot less than the large design firms.

Whether you decide to design your logo yourself or hire a professional, here are some things to keep in mind as you choose a logo for your business:

Design: Choose a design that reflects the style and personality of your business. And, almost more important, your logo should be appealing to the people your target market. For example, the logo design for a children’s clothing boutique would be vastly different from that of an accounting firm.

Scalability: When choosing a logo, make sure it will look good no matter the size. Your logo needs to be something that can be reproduced on both a business card and billboard. Logos that have too much detail can be difficult to recognize when distilled to a thumbnail.

Less is more: Some of the most recognizable logos, Nike, Mercedes, Coca-Cola and all have very basic, iconic designs. Simple logos are often the most effective as they are easy to digest and can more quickly communicate the essence of your business. They are also easier to reproduce in a variety of mediums like apparel or promotional items.

Uniqueness: As mentioned throughout this series, your logo should represent YOUR BUSINESS. Avoid using clip art, templates or other generic images.

I would love to get your comments…

Did you hire a designer to design your logo? Why or why not?