For years I used to poo-poo the idea of branding. A bunch of touchy-feely people arguing about the hue of green in a logo seemed preposterous to me. As did the price tag of branding agencies that charged tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
My background is in engineering. The only color code I cared about was to wire something together. My job was to troubleshoot what was broken and then fix it. Logic and troubleshooting were my skills – and I took those into database marketing and eventually on the web. Analytics were my schematics and I simply troubleshot back to the issues that were preventing customers from improving their conversion rates.
Over the last decade, though, my perception and appreciation for branding have changed significantly. Part of the issue was that as we logically troubleshot back to the source of the issue – we often identified gaps in the clients’ online efforts. If the client had a solid brand and voice, it was amazing how simple it was for us to grab the torch, produce some amazing content, and get it all working.
If the client never went through a branding exercise, it was always painful to understand how they were, how they were presented online, and how to develop a unified brand that people would begin to recognize and trust. Branding is the foundation of virtually any marketing endeavor… I know that now.
As I looked to those clients who were extremely well-branded, I wrote 8 specific characteristics that I’ve identified in their brand. For fun, I looked for words with the letter “V” to discuss each… in the hopes that it makes it easier to remember.
- Visual – This is what most people assume a brand is. It’s the logo, mark, colors, typography, and style of the visual assets associated with a company or its products and services.
- Voice – Beyond visuals, as we wander into strategies for content and social, we need to better understand the voice of a brand. That is, what is our message and how are we relaying it so people understand who we are.
- Vendee – A brand doesn’t simply represent the company – it also creates an emotional tie with the customer. Who do you serve? Is that reflected in your visuals and your voice? Coke, for example, has a classic appearance and a happy voice. But Red Bull is more pumped up and focused on its audience of hardcore sports enthusiasts.
- Vicinity – Who are the competitors that surround you? What industry are you in? Most companies are serving a specific industry and being branded both distinctively but also aligned with the industry is extremely important. There are disruptors, for sure… but for the most part, you do want to appear trustworthy and viable to your peers.
- Variation – And since you don’t want to look and sound like your peers, how do you differentiate yourself from them? What’s your Unique Value Proposition? Something has to be evident in the brand that sets you aside from your competitors.
- Virtue – It’s not enough nowadays to be great at what you do, you also have to have some admirable quality or property associated with your brand. Perhaps it’s something as simple as honesty – or more complex in how you serve the local community. People want to do business with people that are impacting change – not just making a buck.
- Value – Why is this worth paying you for your product or service? Everything about your brand must ensure that the value of your work outweighs the cost of it. These could be improvements in efficiency, building greater demand, lowering costs, or any number of things. But your brand should reflect the value that you’re bringing to your customers.
- Vehemence – What a cool word, eh? What is your company passionate about? Passion should be the secret weapon in every branding process because vehemence is contagious. Passion is an emotion that sweeps people off of their feet. How does your brand reflect your passion?
Keep in mind, I’m not a branding expert… but we pick up where branding experts leave off and have found it’s so much easier to troubleshoot issues and fill content voids when we understand, can match, and echo a company’s brand.
If you want to read more on branding, I’d recommend Josh Mile’s book – Bold Brand. It really did open my eyes to some key issues we were having with some struggling clients and other endeavors we were working on internal.
I get it now.