As a business owner you have probably heard the terms “branding” and “brand strategy” tossed around a lot more these days, and wondered what exactly that means, because you’re used to hearing things more like, “I need to get a new website and some business cards”.
So what’s the diff?
Is this just fancy-schmancy new terms for regular old stuff?
Well… the answer is yes, and no.
YES, because it IS referring to something that MOST businesses have already done or are doing on at least some level, whether or not they are calling it that—and NO—because it is not just a website and business cards. 😉
The difference is essentially this: as the age of entrepreneurship and instantly accessible information (the internet) has exploded, so has the knowledge, secrets and fancy-schmancy terms & tactics of big businesses been shared with all of us — and one of those secrets is that design is only as effective as the sincere investigation and vision it was built upon.
Branding is different than Brand Strategy, (and if you’re wondering what ‘Branding’ is exactly, you can read this post I wrote awhile back), but the short answer is that Branding is PART of brand strategy, but it’s not the whole thing.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear new terms that I don’t yet understand it can seem to imply all kinds of lofty, holier-than-though ideals that are unattainable or inapplicable to little guys like me. “Brand Strategy” may sound like something you can only do wearing a pantsuit in a mile-high gleaming white boardroom…
but you can put your pantsuits away ladies,
cause it’s all much simpler than that.
I was listening to a podcast interview a few weeks ago with Alicia Johnson, a creative director who’s worked with her husband on award winning re-brands for Jaguar, the BBC, Comedy Central, Cadillac, Sundance, Nike and more… and I just loved how she broke it down to three points.
Brand Strategy comes down to 3 simple things, and it’s the very same 3 things whether you’re Mercedes, Mazda, or Melissa’s A+ Quilts, and those 3 things are:
1. Vision: your core mission & values
2. Goals: objectives and what you most want to achieve
3. Tactics: the action steps you’re going to take to reach those goals & uphold that vision
Totally not rocket science… and no gleaming white boardroom required. You can do it in your PJ’s while munchin’ on a donut. It’s just about taking a bunch of messy ideas and organizing them into an outline and plan that honors your core values as a business (i.e. the thing you set out to do when you started all this).
And why is it so important?? Because it is sooooooooo easy to get lost along the way. It is sooooo easy to start making concessions to make things “work” or try the latest trend, that we forget what we set out to create in the first place. Our marketing gets out of line with our values and vision, things start to fall apart…
your audience starts to FEEL it. YOU start to feel it.
Design and creative is just one of the tactics that you employ to uphold your vision and objectives. It should always be informed by those two things FIRST.
That is why I have a lengthy form for my clients to fill out before we start any project. I also offer that form for free to anyone who would like to use it, because it is so helpful in just clarifying who you are and what you really want and need, and frankly, if I had had it when I started out, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money! So it’s my pleasure to pass it on.
That is also why I only take on 10 clients per year, so I can not only take the time to really KNOW my clients vision and goals, but to genuinely care for them, to help them clarify where needed, and to bring those things more powerfully into their tactics (action steps) through their design and messaging across the board. It helps me to uphold my main goal and vision with all this, which is quality working relationships, genuine customer care, and better quality of life for us all. So everything I do in my business is a decision I must make in support of that. And if it is something that would compromise that in any way, it’s got to go.
You may be wondering, “what are tactics and action steps?” There are MANY, and they vary depending on your goals, but they are things like: your design & creative, your tagline and core messaging, your marketing efforts, and then of course how you use that design and core messaging in your marketing efforts.
When these 3 parts of your Brand Strategy are all aligned, what that equals is a crystal clear and powerful focus, and perhaps more importantly, LONGEVITY for your business. Why longevity? Because it takes commitment to explore and plan for your business this way, and it takes commitment to endure as a business, and thrive.
Having a brand strategy helps you to stay committed, cause lord knows we all want to throw in the towel sometimes.
So… whether you hire someone like me to help with your branding and brand strategy, or you just take out a sheet of paper and jot it down on your own, you’ll have a much more solid springboard to launch from in the years ahead.
Maybe make a pretty one and hang it on your wall, or next to your computer so you can remember it when you’re up against next action steps. It’ll be like a good friend to your business… the wise one who gently reminds you NOT to call that a-hole that ripped you off last time, and points you towards the ones that treat you right. Can a piece of paper do all that?
Sure can. And it doesn’t give a rip what you wear or where you’re at in the process.
But whatever you do, whether you hire help or do it yourself, don’t “get a new website and business cards” without asking yourself these questions first. It’ll serve you and your business well for the rest of your days.
And if your vision or objectives have changed? It’s time for an update!
The good news is, you can update your brand strategy today, without any new design required! You can take those steps without investing a single penny. That way, any and every penny you invest thereafter, will be pennies all well spent. 🙂
So take a crack at it for yourself, or fill out my Brand Discovery Form if you need a little help (there’s an option you can tick at the end that lets me know whether it’s just for you privately, or you want to hear back from me about my services – so there is zero pressure and nobody’s gonna bug you unless you explicitly ask to be bugged).
It’s one small move you can make today that can begin to change things in a powerful way moving forward.