What is your brand? Ask most business owners or marketers that question, and they’ll usually start talking about their logo, catchphrases or even their color scheme. Particularly savvy businesspeople might even describe their market niche and competitive advantage.
But, while all of those points are important parts of how your business represents itself to the public, they aren’t your brand.
Take Apple, for example. If I asked you what Apple’s brand is, you might be tempted to say “an apple with a bite out of it,” but Apple’s brand is much deeper than that. Apple’s brand isn’t about fruit or even technology – it’s about making people feel cool, connected and cutting-edge.
So, when it comes to branding your business, you can’t just stop at creating a logo. Your brand isn’t about what you do or how you showcase your products – it’s about who your business is and how you interact with and affect your customers.
If you truly know what your brand is, marketing and sales are easy. But, if you don’t take the time to really identify and define your brand, you’ll always struggle to know how to relate to your target audience.
The good news is, in this article we are going to go over three simple but powerful questions that will help you figure out what your brand is and how it fits into the lives of your current and potential customers. Let’s dive in!
1. What is the point of my business?
To begin, let’s go back to the basics of your business. Every business exists because someone discovered a need in the marketplace—a need that they could get paid to fulfill.
Let’s talk about Apple a bit more. Was Apple the first business to create a smartphone? Not by a long shot. IBM released a smartphone called the Simon Personal Communicator back in 1994 – over ten years before the iPhone came out.
Now, you might be thinking, “Surely that smartphone had very limited capabilities compared to the iPhone,” but honestly, the Simon Personal Communicator wasn’t all that different from the first iPhone. It had a touch screen and most of the functionality that we’ve come to expect from our modern devices.
So why doesn’t IBM dominate the smartphone market? Because back in 1994, IBM had its branding wrong.
Unlike the Simon Personal Communicator and even the Blackberry, Apple didn’t market their smartphone as a gadget for tech geeks. Instead, they built on the success of their simple, intuitive iPod and marketed the iPhone as a classy, must-have device that made you the cool kid on the block.
With that kind of branding, it didn’t matter whether or not Apple had better features than other previous smart phones. The iPhone empowered their customers and made them feel like they were on the cutting edge of technology – regardless of how tech-savvy they actually were. It’s a simple strategy, but one that was incredibly successful.
Apple’s isn’t a technology company; it’s a company that empowers people through technology. By correctly identifying its brand and how it fits into the marketplace, Apple brought in new customers in droves.
You can do the same, but you need to make sure you understand the real market needs your business addresses – not just what you sell or how you want to be perceived.
This becomes particularly important when you start marketing your business. If you don’t know what the point of your business is, it’s very hard to create content that people connect with.
Just take a look at most “branding” video ads or corporate social media accounts. They’re either so vague that it’s hard to figure out what the business actually does or so focused on the company and its values that you have no idea what they do for you, the customer.
Identifying the point of your business gives you a meaningful focal point for your advertising. Every Apple ad revolves around its brand message, giving them a powerful theme that people connect with. Once you know what your business is all about, you can do the same.
2. What are my goals?
While your brand needs to be based in a market need, but people don’t buy into market needs – they buy into the vision.
For example, you can buy athletic wear from almost any clothing store, so why is Nike such a big brand? Sure, it sells high-quality apparel, but so do a lot of other stores. What’s the difference?
The difference is Nike’s vision. Nike wants “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” They are focused on a goal that directly relates to their customers and a clear market need.
And that’s what sells.
When you think about Nike, what immediately comes to mind? New advances in sportswear technology? Or people doing amazing things with their bodies?
Nike understands that its customers aren’t looking to buy from “the most inspirational and innovative athletic wear company in the world.” They don’t care about how cool Nike is. Instead, they want products that help them look, feel and be awesome – which is exactly what they get with Nike gear.
Nike’s brand doesn’t have anything to do with its swoosh logo, “do it” catchphrase or high-quality apparel. Those are all just natural consequences of aligning their business goals with their customers’ goals. Instead, Nike has built its brand around a vision of a world full of inspired, innovative athletes – something their target audience can get behind.
Knowing who you are as a business is great, but if you don’t have clear goals for how you will make life better for your customers, it’s hard to get people excited about your brand.
This is why understanding your brand is so important. Your online marketing needs to show how your business is part of your customers’ story – how it will help them get what they want and be who they want to be.
Your brand story should focus on the hero: your customer. Your customers are the hero of their own story, and if you can show them how your products or services will help them achieve their goals, they’ll be much more likely to buy from you.
3. Who am I targeting?
Last of all, you need to understand how your brand fits into your customers’ world. We’ve already touched some on this in the previous sections, but let’s talk about how to identify your target audience in more detail.
To create a brand that really resonates with your target audience, you need to understand what motivates your customer base.
Consider the following:
- Why do they feel a need for my product or service?
- What personal goals do they have that relate to what I’m selling?
- What are their obstacles?
- What do they aspire to?
- How important is my product or service to my audience?
- Are there stories/values/emotions that are important to my audience?
To put it simply, whenever we encounter a new stimulus or situation, we ask ourselves, “Is this me?” If that stimulus or situation reflects our desires, values or goals, the answer is “yes” and we accept it. If the answer is “no,” however, we feel uncomfortable.
While there are ways to mitigate and overcome that discomfort, marketing is a whole lot easier when people feel like your brand “is them.” If your brand reflects their passions, interests, needs and goals, your audience will have a hard time buying from anyone else.
This is critically important when it comes to developing your marketing content. If the words, imagery, examples, characters, subject material, etc. don’t feel like “me” to your customers, they will immediately tune out your content – even if you think your content is great.
Remember, you are not your customer. It doesn’t matter how much you love your content if your customers don’t resonate with it.
On the other hand, if you take the time to figure out who your target market really is and what they resonate with, people will feel way more comfortable with your brand. In many cases, simply creating ads that are more “me” than the competition’s is enough to win someone’s business.
What is YOUR brand?
Building a great brand isn’t about creating a memorable logo or a consistent color scheme. Your brand is the way your customers think and feel about your business.
Fortunately, if you take the time to seriously consider the questions we’ve discussed in this article and identify the market needs your business meets, what your goals for your customers are and how to connect with your audience on an emotional level, you’ll be well on your way to creating a brand that people will love for years.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.