All 'Bout Branding: Smart Questions Blog

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All 'Bout Branding: Smart Questions Blog

All 'Bout Branding (worksheet included): Smart Questions Blog + shop

Apple. Coke. Caterpillar. Heinz. KitchenAid. Lego. Shell. Starbucks.

The psychology behind why the largest companies do what they do comes down to one simple word:


And they sell it to you, to me, to the world - if only for a second, or for a hundred years.

What makes Disney so successful? It's not because of the television shows or movies, the fun rides or even the food. It's that "magical experience" you FEEL when you watch your childhood favorite or walk into their theme parks.

Why does everyone wear Tom's shoes? It’s not like it’s the only shoe that exists, or that it’s made of gold, or causes you to fly. People buy this shoe for two reasons: 1) The brand name, and 2) Social good (which is what made the brand name so popular in the first place). The feeling (experience) consumers get from this business model allowed Tom’s shoes to grow.

Companies behind brands have spent years trying to figure out that consumers, although they want a great product at an amazing value, desire even more for a great "experience" to come with that product, that service, that brand.

Whether it be a caramel macchiato from Starbucks, everything you could need at Target, or dirty bathrooms at gas stations (not naming names here), every brand sells an experience, for better or for worse.

In order to strive for a brand experience of your own, your must learn about your brand, and then help others to do the same. Chick-Fil-A didn't just arrive at quick drive-throughs, or cheerful employees with signature responses. They created every possible facet of their brand, with intention, on purpose, and then created a system to spread that vision to every single franchise owner, employee, and customer.

Below you'll find common questions that have been asked that I've answered, as well as this great pdf download for questions to ask and answer yourself.

What are the differences between marketing and branding?

Marketing is getting your product in front of your audience through different mediums: storefront, ads, website, social media, local media - however much or little, expensive or free. Branding is what makes up those marketing efforts; what drives them, what gives them vision, boundaries and a clear path to follow. Marketing finds consumers to buy the product or service, while branding creates loyal advocates out of those consumers. It is essential for both marketing and branding to intertwine for any company to profit, any brand to grow.

How early should I start investing (time, money, effort) in branding for my business?

Your brand starts with you, even if you don’t have a logo or know when your next sale will come. Be the kind of service you want to back your brand. Sell the kind of products you want your brand to be known for. From saying “thank you” to every sale, like or retweet, to responding to every kind comment, to answering every question, give your customers the best experience you can with what you have in the moment. Your brand is built from day one. Act “as if”, and your brand will follow.

Is building an emotional connection with our consumers as important as most markers say it is?

Absolutely, 100%. It’s great to talk about how you’re the best in your trade, or how you’ve been in business 100 years, or how your product trumps them all. But what’s even better is talking about the customer. What needs of theirs will you fill? What problems will you solve? What dreams will you help come true? A brand without a great emotional connection only has itself to fall back on. Nobody wants to hear you talk about you. Everyone loves to talk about themselves. So talk about them, not you.

How do we ensure that our brand is appealing to our target market?

The first step is to create a demographics/psychographics persona for your #1 ideal customer. From there, your brand should follow suite. Easier said than done, but the framework pretty straight-forward: Your customer persona(s) drives your brand identity. From the look of the logo to how you display product in your store to the design of your email marketing campaigns, your customer persona must decide it all in order for your brand to succeed. Don’t believe me? Take Colgate, for example. They decided it would be a great idea to sell frozen meals next to their toothpaste (okay, maybe across the store in the frozen section, but you get the picture). This idea quickly bombed. When people think of Colgate, they think of toothpaste, not yummy frozen meatballs. Another example? Jell-O for salads. Not IN salads, but FOR salads: celery, vegetable, tomato, Italian flavored goodness for “healthy” salads. Ew. Why did these two product extensions fail? The brands didn’t understand their customer personas, or at the very least didn’t reference them when creating these wonders. Find your customer persona, follow the roadmap you create, and your brand will have a much clearer path to your target market.

How do I know when to update my current brand or re-brand altogether?

How does your current brand fit your customer persona(s)? How well does it represent your product or service? Does it exemplify your values, mission, company culture? Does it provide for growth and expansion or is it too defined and narrow-minded? How does it blend with your current location and local community? These are great questions to spark the conversation, but only you can find the correct answer. Talk with your employees, customers, friends and family to see what perceptions they have based on your current branding. Consult with a branding expert on your ideas for the future, current concerns, and any questions you have. Move forward based on your findings!

What are some common branding mistakes?

- No plan
- Poor execution
- Inconsistency
- No self-education

A lot of companies go into their branding strategy… without one. They don’t take time to create a working plan, put it on paper, and move forward with execution. Even if it is executed, there are no guidelines or standards; it’s a free-for-all, and inconsistencies abound. Even if all of the above are in working order (maybe you’re having a branding expert handle it), you’re not learning for yourself (asking questions, reading up) so that you can then educate your team. No plan = poor execution = inconsistency = endless cycle.

What is the branding process and why should I follow it?

In a nutshell, the branding process looks like this:
1) Identify - Target audience (demographics)
2) Research - Customer persona (psychographics)
3) Develop - Brand position & strategy
4) Design - Visuals, look & feel
5) Refine - All of the above
6) Refine - Again
7) Implement - Plan, launch, do
8) Educate - Yourself, internal employees and external consumers
9) Repeat, repeat, repeat 7-8
10) Keep a close eye on 1-6 to continue to evolve

What is the value of aided vs. unaided brand awareness?

Would you believe a nice acquaintance over a loyal friend? As already touched on above, brand awareness is created through the emotional connection and experience your customers receive. The framework takes time to build, and the loyal customers that follow take even longer. “Buying” this type of loyalty only takes you so far, and only lasts so long. Customers don’t want to be bought, they want to have an experience.

What’s the first step in “launching” my brand?

Plan!! A great plan, executed well, can mean a great launch for your brand. Here’s a condensed step-by-step guide for launching your brand (or product, service, event):
Develop - Physical, web, digital, social, local presence
Partner - Local media & PR
Create - Content & supporting materials
Schedule - Launch dates, appearances, editorial calendar, events
Execute - Put all of that developing, partnering, creating and scheduling to work
Celebrate Success - No matter how small or large, a completed launch of any kind requires celebration. Plan for this, too!

How can I find my brand’s personality?

A brand personality can be fun to conceptualize and create. Do you want it to be energetic and outgoing, humorous and clever, forward-thinking, out-of-the-box, family-friendly, easy-going, very corporate… There are a lot of options. Your customer persona or set of personas (yes, you may need a few) are a great place to start; a customer persona identifies the customer needs and wants, while a brand personality attracts them. What types of personalities compliment, work well with or otherwise relate to your customer personas? What attributes and characteristics can you glean from your personas that will help you create the type of brand personality you desire? Pulling from personas will guide you to the best personality possible: one that attracts and retains loyal customers.

How can branding represent my company’s personality?

The way a personality shines first and foremost is through great content. From copy to images to consistency, what a customer sees, reads and hears (and how often) gives them an indication of what you care about, where, when and how. There are many mediums through which to portray your personality to your audience; here’s the long and short of it:
Content - Images, copy
Digital - Website, social media, blog, television presence
Customer service
Storefront/visual merchandising
Internal - Communications, training, leadership (employees need to learn, too!)
Literally anything you put out!

How does brand image and marketing affect market share?

Image and marketing definitely impact market share; they can break out of the mold, capture attention, relate in ways no other competitor can, fill needs that aren’t being met, create desires that only they can fill, and more. You can probably guess what I’m going to say next… Ultimately what creates a better overall brand image, causes your marketing efforts to work, and therefore takes over more market share is the experience you provide. What will customers remember about you? What do you want them to remember about you? Make them feel that. (Easier said than done, I know!)

What does a “brand ambassador” do and should I get one (or a few)?

A brand ambassador could have many different duties, but the gist is that they are paid to represent a brand in a positive way. They receive compensation through monetary pay or free products. The most popular method I’ve seen is through free product; the business doesn’t have a lot invested, and the ambassador can actually use the product to review, take pictures, and promote themselves. It’s a win-win for both parties, if the brand loves what the ambassador puts out, and the ambassador is an avid fan of the brand.

Does branding affect the internal employee experience as much as the external customer experience?

Absolutely! Branding isn’t just for consumers to learn about your company, but for your employees to learn about your culture. After all, your employees are the very people that make up and therefore promote (or not) the culture you so desire to create. Education of your brand values are vital for internal expectations to be met, employee growth, and consumer satisfaction.

Where can I learn more about branding?

These are some of my favorite places to go for branding and business knowledge:

Don't forget to download the free worksheet!

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All 'Bout Branding (worksheet included): Smart Questions Blog + shop


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