Branding is more than a logo or a tagline; it’s a promise.
That’s the basic message of a recent panel discussion on “3D Branding” for IABC/Toronto’s Professional Independent Communicators (PIC). Here’s a brief look at what each speaker said about the three dimensions of branding, particularly for our group’s small businesses:
You can’t just focus on the visual elements of your brand, like a fancy logo. You need to “Brand from the inside out,” says Priya Bates, ABC, MC, CMP, IABC Fellow, and owner of Inner Strength Communication.
This means doing your research to define how you solve a customer’s problem (the value proposition) and your strategy well before you think about design. Who are you? What’s your purpose and personality? Who are your customers and what do they need? What do you want people to think and feel? When and where does your brand come to life?
Design springs from that value proposition, or what Cathy Ledden of Ledden Design iT calls “your superpower.” To connect with your customers emotionally, think about what clients say about you. What are three to five words they would use to describe you? Do you convey strength and knowledge? Are you friendly, prestigious, innovative, refined? The words will direct the look and feel of your brand.
Choose a name for your brand that is meaningful, distinctive and positive. A logo can build meaning and establish trust, acting as the gateway to your brand. It should be memorable, immediately recognizable, consistent, clearly communicate the aspects of your personality, and work in both colour and black and white and in different sizes.
Once you’ve done the work and have a strong sense of who you are, now what? Nathalie Noël, strategy and brand coach, described these steps to develop and nurture your brand:
- Create internal tools. Write down your values, positioning and brand promise.
- Audit the places where your brand connects with people (“touchpoints”), such as your website, LinkedIn summary, social media accounts, stationery and voice mail. Write down the specs, such as word count, images and bio.
- Create content (words and visuals) and align these across all touchpoints. Start from your brand platform and make sure the language, tone, images and values are consistent.
- Update your touchpoints with new content. Be sure to test links and forms.
- Monitor your efforts and revise as needed. Have patience and give your brand time to build.
The passive way to monitor and nurture your brand is by tracking followers, responses, calls and other metrics. Take action by writing blog and LinkedIn posts, going to events, looking for speaking opportunities, volunteering and getting out there.
To check your progress, use surveys, or measure participation or money brought in. A simple way might also be looking for misalignment. Are people asking for things you don’t do? Go back to how you have presented yourself.
PIC is a special interest group of IABC/Toronto. The group serves independent IABC/Toronto communicators through professional development sessions like this one, networking opportunities and marketing support. I am PIC’s Director of Communications and (no surprise here) edit its monthly newsletter. Learn more about PIC and see our newsletter archives up to summer 2016.
Other PIC session recaps:
The “five arrows in the marketing quiver” and other secrets of successful independents
Focus and five steps to be more productive
Capture attention and interest with your elevator speech