Brand structure: visible and non-visible pieces
3 basic steps to create a brand foundation
Most entrepreneurs and business owners get into a particular field because they saw an unmet need, were they instinctively felt inspired, driven, and passionate about helping themselves and the others.
Most of the times initiatives come from their personal experience of not getting what they need or want. Itchy strong emotions are definitely involved.
On the next step, they promptly order a business plan, vision, mission statement and put a logo on it and out into the blue business ocean. The passion and drive and inspiration is buried deep under the marketing and promotional communications in a competitive battle.
Instead, they should share a story of how they felt and why they started. Tell a story of what, how and why. Build a brand foundation from that point.
If not visible - not important either?
Yes, usually companies skip that invisible part. While it is tempting to go straight to the visual stuff, that your customers will see - logos, brand identity, brand style guides, create campaigns to promote your business. And get sales.
Nevertheless, it's necessary, but it is nonsense to make it as a foundation of your brand. It is a short-term vision tactic.
What about the NON-visible elements - the belief system that is based on the values, brand promise and the story to support it, the brand experience overall you want your customers to have? How will they think about your clever negative space logo and your company overall, if you don't care how your customer feels when you keep delaying the flights.
It's not about your logo, nor identity, nor the packaging… it's about the vision, a dreamland you want your customers to take and make them feel, or better, go there together.
Branding should be the birthplace of everything you do, not how you represent visually, nor how great your logo is or incredible brand identity system.
1. Share the purpose.
First of all, people seek connection. They are wired to make bonds whether with like-minded people or brands. They want to feel understood and to belong somewhere.
If your story reflects on how they feel, share the same values and belief system, you may gain a connection.
And that's the first step. Create a story incorporated with the purpose others can relate to and share the same "itch" you had in the first place. To make them feel understood by sharing how you felt. Give them a reason to be in your tribe. Give them why you exist as a brand. As a company. As an entity. Give them company's purpose.
2. Brand promise.
Secondly, create another thread for connection by giving a brand promise. A shared vision of the journey where you want to take them.
Identify what others want and based on your findings make a brand promise. Promise what you some time ago failed to find. Exceptional quality. The light speed delivery. Or support towards their goals. Or never to delay the flight ever again.
You can promise anything. A wonderland. As long as you can create it.
Make a promise based on the values and beliefs in your story and lead your tribe towards it.
The brand promise is in the heart of your brand and should be reflected in every facet of the businesses. Your company inner and outer communications should irradiate the brand promise.
By making sure to keep your promise whether for your customers or employees you build trust. Trust is the only bridge in maintaining devoted tribe members attached to you.
Live up the brand promise.
3. Influence the character of the brand.
Brand personality is made up of features describing how you will deliver your story and brand promise. With gentle touch? Or bold statements? Stoic approach? Or with the care like Mother Theresa?
Although the brand is not created by you (company CEO), nor by your marketing team, or brand strategists. Cause it's simply the gut feeling people have in their stomachs from every interaction cross-points with your brand. It's the call center tone of voice and the messaging on your website. Everything counts. But you can influence it.
Think of your company, and then try to make it into a person. Think of as many traits as possible. Male or female? What is the relationship with the customer? Are you a friend, partner, advisor or something else entirely?
Choose brand characteristics that the tribe would relate to. That younger self could relate to. Make sure they represent the values and beliefs of your why and sustain a brand promise.
Again, these values just become meaningless words on a page unless you back them up with consistent action over time. Which brings me to the last point (I lied about the "3 steps" )
4. Create an appealing visual design
Brand identity made based on the brand story and promise with the brand character in mind is far more ahead then the perfect business plan with the logo. The right visual design can support a brand foundation.
To the record, it should be stated that the designer cannot "make" the brand - only the tribe (the audience) can do this. A company can only influence it by creating the right foundation for the brand. A designer forms the foundation of the brand.
Without a strong brand foundation, your marketing efforts will surely crumble.
Building a brand is an ongoing process. The brand foundation is the starting point. And it's more than just a good writing or an elegant piece of graphic design. It is a brand story of why, how, and what.