Last week I contributed to a series of workshops that were being run by our client Honey Fizz.
Honey Fizz train medical professionals on new techniques in the field of non surgical aesthetic procedures (that's Botox injections and stuff to you and me!). On top of that they also advise these newly trained experts on how to kick start their business including business planning and marketing. I was asked to deliver workshops on branding.
Now, I think I've got a long way to go in my career before I'd feel comfortable walking around wearing a big 'Expert' badge, but the experience I've gained in the 10 years of running Toward has given me enough information to at the very least form an opinion.
I've been fortunate enough to deal with a big array of businesses and business sectors, who are all at very different stages of development but who all strive for the same thing; increase sales and awareness through various forms of communication. They all aim to portray a certain 'brand' to their customers hoping that there are mechanisms that will connect them and draw them in.
Now, we all hear the term 'brand' banded about a lot and am still surprised to hear what the term means to professional business owners, so the basis of my workshop was to get people to understand what I believe is the essence of a brand and how that applies to all businesses, big and small.
The discussion started by questioning what the term 'brand' meant to individuals. I wasn't surprised to hear the response "a familiar logo" or "a nice advert and leaflets that are all the same"
This, I believe is the biggest misconception, especially in the world of SME's (and one of the reasons why Toward is going so strong). People are getting the term 'brand' confused with 'communication'. They were highlighting the mechanisms but not the reasoning. Not understanding this is where a lot of companies trip up.
I believe (and this is nothing new!) that a 'brand' is the whole experience of a company, from the connection made in an advert to the reassurance felt in a handshake or phone call, or the initial impression of looking at a business card. This carries through to the feeling of delight and satisfaction at a job well done and the thought of "they really looked after me there" (hopefully).
All of this can be achieved by any sized company by simply offering a service that lives up to their own expectations and here, I believe lies the problem. Too many businesses and business owners forget what it's like to be a consumer. They struggle to remove themselves from their stressed filled offices to recall what would be their own perfect experience of buying their product or using their service. They need to almost have an out of body experience.
This is a technique that designers and brand experts have mastered through years of training and experience, which is why we say things like "that's way too much text" or "the logo really doesn't need to be any bigger" or even "please don't say the words clip art again".
It's because we've learned to remove ourselves from your business and look at it subjectively. With enough research on your target market, you will learn just what makes them tick, which will help you understand what they consider a great experience, and encourage them to return.
How does this then become a brand? Well, that's where communication and design plays its small but important part.
So the key areas of advice I gave were:
- Try to recall your what you would consider to be the best 'brand experience' you've received.
- Break that down to the parts of the service that really impressed you.
- Use these insights to create your own 'brand statement' or company ethos and then strive to emulate and deliver those key elements.
- Be true to yourself by developing an image that represents your personality.
- Look at your communication streams and deliver continuity in design and tone of voice.
- Incentivise your employees to connect with the brand that they too represent. Their connection with a customer is as important as your own.
- Believe in what you're offering.
- Always keep an eye on the brand statement.
In conclusion: There's a lot that we can all do to visually deliver beautiful looking messaging, but if beyond that there is a bad experience that doesn't match up then you'll always be fighting a losing battle to build your brand.
I'd love to hear your views on branding (even if they're different to mine!) so if you'd like to add anything please feel free to comment below. Of course if you'd like to talk more about your brand, please get in touch.