Two secrets to effective branding

Below is an article I wrote for Ann-Laura Parks' Monsterful blog. I thought my readers may find a few useful hints, so I am publishing it here with edits.

I am going to share my two best secrets for developing an effective brand. Many organizations do not understand the power of a strong brand identity. But the only way to reach your customer in today’s media-saturated marketplace is with clarity and consistency of message.

Your brand is another’s perception of your product or service. Think personality, character or charisma! At the highest level, a brand is an expression of your company’s essence. At the most basic level, a brand distinguishes you from the competition.

Secret #1: Define your brand at the start.
Conventional wisdom suggests that client input or marketing research should drive your brand. But I believe that the spark that makes your business unique is paramount! The key is to honestly express who you are. To start, follow the steps outlined in the red berry blog post Homework. Then, use those statements to craft your visual and verbal communications.

Secret #2. Make it all match.
Truly! I’ve built an entire career around the concept of consistency. From online content to the lobby décor, every interaction with your client differentiates your brand. Visual or verbal contradictions can confuse your customer, thus diminishing your business.

Plan ahead. A common phrase in the business world is to ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have.’ This holds true for branding. From the start, the quality of your business materials needs to correspond to your vision and audience.

Name your business. A good name can reflect your company’s personality, mission or vision. Plus, a name needs to be appropriate to your industry. For example, my design and communications firm is called Red Berry, a brand defined as quirky, creative, and informal. Red Berry is clearly not a bank.

Establish the basics. You may need a logo, stationery set, email signature, website, social media design, print ad, product packaging, PowerPoint presentation, direct mailer, brochure, signage, catalog, client or donor gift, tradeshow booth, storefront, vehicle wrap, and design standards manual. Maybe more. Did I mention that these should match?

Promote yourself. Think outside the marketing box. In addition to traditional media, consider pro bono work with high visibility, or donate your resources to a worthy cause. This is free publicity, beneficial networking, and good karma. Seize the opportunity to reinforce the best of your brand.

My secrets seem obvious!  But many businesses skip these crucial steps. Once a brand establishes a well-planned and thoughtful program, maintenance is simple. Ultimately, good branding is about good communication with your audience. And that’s good business!