One of the first questions I ask new business owners is what is your company’s brand? More often than not I am met with a deer in the headlights stare, as if I am speaking a foreign language, which in a sense is true! They think that brand equals sales and the idea of selling themselves can be very uncomfortable.
I wait a moment while their discomfort and confusion fade at which point they typically launch into telling me about their company logo, designer colour pallets, social media posts and website design. This plays into the common misconception that company marketing (or logo) is the brand of the business.
Putting marketing before the brand is a common mistake that new business owners frequently make. They build all of their marketing materials (logo, web, social, print, products) in hopes that when these will all come together and a brand will take shape.
For ultimate success, the opposite is actually true. By doing the work of defining and building your company's brand upfront, you will create a guiding principle informing all current and future business decisions (marketing included).
Those without a clear company brand are often fumbling around in the marketplace trying many ideas, hoping one will stick. They ride the winds of change, opinions, and fads, continually moving and morphing the company trying to find that sweet spot of success. From the outside, your company will look like a rudderless ship, with outside forces pushing and pulling you around. This may sound like flexibility, but it is not. It is a lack of business and personal focus and almost always spells disaster for new companies.
So what is brand and why is it so important?
One of my favourite and easy-to-remember definitions comes from Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos. “ Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. This simply stated yet complex idea should be at the forefront of your mind when thinking about building your company.
“If you don’t give the market the story to talk about, they’ll define your brand’s story for you.” – David Brier
In business, your brand is your rudder. It is the core set of beliefs you use to steer your company. Every company decision you make (marketing, products, partners, and even employees etc) will be informed by the brand ideals you set out when you build your company.
Before thinking about building your company's brand, take a moment to think about some of the companies whose products/services you absolutely love and use frequently. I am talking about those products/services that when you speak to your friends about them, you absolutely gush about how amazing they are.
This is a starting place for understanding brand. Even though those companies are not in the room with us, we are saying great things about them to our friends and family. This is a testament to companies who have achieved their brand goal with us as a consumer.
Beyond this exercise, the companies we pick will give us clues as to what we value and help give us a starting place in building our brand story. (More on the upcoming article on how to build a killer brand. Stay tuned!)
As an example, three brands that often come to mind when I do this exercise are Apple, Lululemon, and Tesla.
All these three companies and their brands represent key factors that I respect and admire.
Break industry norms
Define the marketplace they compete in
It is not hard to see that by doing this we can quickly begin to understand what makes us tick and what could be important building blocks in forming our own company brand.
“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” – Howard Schultz
Here is what we strive for people to say about us here at Hopeful Builder:
Cares deeply about the success of all clients
Helps make complicated stuff simple
Cuts through BS stories standing in the way of success
Have fun while working hard
We are not done until you are completely in love with the results
Always learning more and passing it on
We all succeed together
Wants everyone to realize their dream of making a significant contribution to the world while doing something they love
What do you want people to say about you and your company when you are not in the room?
Up next …how to build a killer brand.