Here’s a simple scenario: you run a business that’s bringing in profits, but most of it is from word of mouth or offline ventures (e.g. speaking at events, doing tradeshows, etc).
You’ve heard about branding and realized that your business doesn’t have a clearly defined brand identity, which is forcing you to miss opportunities and larger profits. The question is – what should you do next? Let’s dive into it.
Building Your Brand Identity: a Roadmap
Step 1: Understanding the concept of identity
When we’ve heard others discuss branding, there’s one thing that really frustrates us: people think branding and reputation are the same thing. They’re not. Reputation is an aspect of branding – it’s built over time and it can heavily influence perception. If someone meets you for the first time and hears you have a solid reputation in your industry, they’ll be biased from the get-go, and will often adopt a positive opinion of you immediately. Think of reputation as the long-term accumulated perception of your business – it’s hard for a business to go from a good reputation to a bad reputation (or vice versa) because that means a large amount of its audience has to shift their perceptions of it.
Branding, on the other hand, is a mix of perception and identity. It’s who you are and who people think you are, who your business is and how people see it (we like to think of businesses as living, breathing entities). When you’ve hired professionals to build your brand strategy, they need to split it into two core parts: identity and perception. The elements that compose your brand identity are your ideal origin story, client avatar, brand purpose, brand values and unique differentiator.
Step 2: Identifying your origin story
The ultimate goal of any brand strategy is defensibility – creating a brand identity that naturally undermines your competitors’ value just by existing in the same marketplace. One of the best ways to accomplish this is hidden in your origin story, and it’s done by incorporating protected narratives into it. These are stories that are unavailable to your competitors, because they haven’t experienced them. Most of our clients think that what we’re doing is helping them gain a competitive advantage, when in reality, while that will often help you achieve success, brand defensibility is what will enable you to stay successful. Your origin story has 4 main parts: relevant story beginning, hook, internal and external transformation, and relevant ending (when placing it on your “About” page, you should also add a direct call to action).
Step 3: Identifying your ideal client avatar
The biggest issue with most businesses’ ideal client avatars is that they’re not comprehensive enough. It’s not just about demographics and pain points – it’s mainly about worldview. You have to find out how they see the world, how they see their own life situation, and make sure you’re not targeting people with multiple worldviews, as they’d require different messaging. While most agencies look for pain points, we see it a bit differently. If your ideal client is in a negative situation in relation to your product/service, and is desperately looking to run away from it, then you’d have to target their pain points to reach them.
However, if they’re in a neutral or positive situation, the pain points strategy won’t work nearly as well – because they’re not running away from anything. They’re running toward something, which means the best way to get through to them with your messaging is to target their desires. Create copy that makes them visualize the future and all that’s possible if they worked with you or bought from you.
In the first case, a good example is a person who’s trying to lose weight, and has tested many different ways to do so, only to find that nothing works. They’re clinging to their last hope of escaping a life where looking in the mirror is painful, and being with their friends feels awkward. They’d respond to pain point targeting because they’re too close to their situation to see a positive future yet – they’re more concerned with turning their present into their past.
In the second case, an example is someone who wants to hire a Facebook ads agency. If they’re looking to dedicate a chunk of their budget to paid advertising, their business is obviously doing well – they’re not looking to escape an unpleasant present (ha-ha). Help them visualize what hiring your agency could potentially bring them, hit every single desire – and you’re in.
Step 4: Nail your brand purpose
At the core of your brand identity, lies your purpose. Why do you do what you do? Why does your business focus on this? What’s the end goal? After all, A recent study from Korn Ferry showed that companies with teams focused on their organization’s purpose had annual growth rates nearly three times the annual rate for their entire industry. At Disruptive Brand Media, we like to look at it this way: people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. When they know your purpose, they feel more connected to your company, because they often self-identify with it. Your purpose has 2 aspects: internal and external. Think of your internal purpose as your “selfish purpose”. It’s what you hope to gain from serving others, the big why, but in terms of your own life. Is it to earn your family’s respect? Is is to prove to everyone that you can achieve anything? Is it to become the #1 top-rated expert in the world?
The external purpose is the altruistic one. How is your business going to make a difference in the world? This is the one you’ll consistently share with your audience, to attract the right people and build brand loyalty.
Step 5: Determine your brand values and unique differentiator
Your brand values are the representation of your core beliefs that you’ve imbued into your business. The most common mistake people make is that they confuse beliefs with values. The truth is, that values can rarely change – we grow up with them and usually stick with them throughout our life. When you’ve identified your values, it makes it easier to figure out your unique differentiator – the core aspect of what you do that makes you different from your competitors. The worst mistake you can make is to end up claiming the same unique differentiators as your competitors, which is terrible for your positioning and significantly decreases your sales, especially if you share an audience. A competitor analysis will help you Identify opportunities and threats, as well as give you ideas on what you can claim as a unique selling point.
When implementing your brand identity into the offline and online space, this means you’re working on your positioning – employing a set of actions to either change it, or solidify it.