“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
~ Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com
When I launched Visibility Marketing Inc. in April, 2000, I was told a web site was a “must have.” As I sat down to think about how I wanted VisibilityMarketing.com to look: The colors (of course it will be purple since it’s my favorite); the photos (they must be professional); its content (What will it say? Who is the audience?), all swirled in my head. I didn’t know that I was branding my company. I thought I was doing what was needed to let everyone know that Visibility Marketing Inc. could “Make You More Visible” (the tagline).
After almost 17 years, the branding world has changed. The one thing it now includes is you – the business owner.
In 2013, there were nearly 29 million US small businesses.
Think about it. Every business needs a brand. That means there are at least 29 million logos, web sites, messages and business owners trying to influence potential customers in making their purchasing decisions. How will you stand out above the noise?
Let’s begin with this question: What’s a brand?
I like this answer best:
“A brand is what distinguishes one company or product from another,” explains Juily Gite, a design consultant for Staples Design Services. “It is a promise to the consumer, communicating to the consumer what to expect when they buy from you; whether your brand is built on ‘fun’ or ‘easy to use,’ or ‘looking cool,’ it serves as a way to make the buying decision easier for a consumer faced with many choices.
I remember my mother telling me, (more times that once), that I should never “toot my own horn.” “Let others do it for you,” she said. I guess, like most children, I was bragging a little too much.
As a small business, your brand is your personal brand. People are buying you. That’s something I had to get used to.
“A brand is the sum total of many activities and communications that communicate who you are, what you stand for and why you are different,” adds Gite.
In this new day of branding and social media, it’s okay to tell the world how wonderful you and your product are. It’s expected. However, there are a few things you must keep in mind to ensure that your branding resonates with its intended audience.
To be effective, incorporate the three Cs: Clarity. Consistency. Constancy.
Clarity: Strong brands are clear about who they are and who they are not. For example, Richard Branson of the Virgin Group is a risk taker. He doesn’t depart from it. No one questions what Nike is and what the company does.
Consistency: Is the message the same? Are you fickle on the reason you are in business? Oprah is a brand. You know what you get when it’s “Oprah.” She is “human,” concerned, empathetic, genuine and warm.
Constancy: In addition to being clear and consistent, are you constant? Are you always visible, available, and in front of the people who will purchase your product? Oprah is a constant brand, serving us with a web site, TV show, magazine, movies and a network.
In effective branding, think hard about what makes your company/you, interesting, relevant, compelling and valuable. Then act on it.
Branding is authentic. Unique. Real.
Remember in your messaging to be clear, consistent and constant. You and your company will be in a better position to communicate an authentic, unique and real brand.