How Do You Build Your Brand?

The strategy for brand building has lost its way. Don't get caught up in all in the BS.
PJ Haarsma
April 12, 2022

Building a brand is simple -- once you have a clear view of what is meant by the word “brand.” Unfortunately, it is the most misunderstood concept in marketing. All too often, when a small business owner is asked about their brand, the first thing they start talking about is their logo.

This is not your fault. It’s our fault as an industry. Over the years, we’ve buried the otherwise straightforward meaning of “brand” underneath layers of esoteric BS.  

Your brand is your reputation, plain and simple

"Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Jeff Bezos

Wise words from Jeff. Just for a moment, think about your brand as a person. Intuitively, you know everything you say and do can affect your reputation. You might be tall and handsome, but you seldom follow through on your promises. So what sort of reputation will you earn, and can you fix it by dressing up in a new suit?  

Billionaire bon vivant Jeff Bezos spent most of his working life in corporate boardrooms. Donning a cowboy hat for the Texas launch of his big rocket doesn’t all-of-a-sudden make him a cowboy. That cowboy hat blunder was like putting out a press release shouting, “I want you to believe I’m rugged, rough, and tough now.” The trouble is, who’s going to tell him the hat doesn’t match his brand personality?

"That’s like putting lipstick on a pig.”

Anonymous Cowboy

It’s the same with your brand. To promote your business, you can change the logo or advertising all you want, but it will not change your brand’s reputation if you don’t follow through. You must address any issues, or it won’t affect what people think about you and the promises made by your company.

Companies that want to change their reputation spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Unfortunately, many end up spending their money on a refresh of their brand id or ad campaign instead of doing the hard work necessary with their products and services.

Again, this is not your fault. It’s our fault as an industry. There are too many agencies ready to take your money without asking you any of the tough questions. Without these, how will you make sure your brand differentiates itself from your completion? Instead of working together with you to get results, they walk in with all the lipstick colors in one hand and the other hand in your wallet.

Here is a list of questions to help you create brand-building strategies.

Learn to know your brand

Let’s take a look at the automaker Kia. Recently, they redesigned their logo, and it has earned them rave reviews. Their new logo embodies modernity, innovation, and a clever tip of the hat to their Korean heritage.

the new kia logo

Did the rave reviews come from people who admire the design of the logo, or was it because a car company that has been leading the way with modern, well-made, and well-designed cars now acknowledges these achievements with a new logo? Would a new logo have made the same impact if Kia made awful cars?

Changing the logo or changing the advertising campaign might well bring you more brand awareness but are you ready for it?

How do you know what they’re saying about you?

Are you sure you know what your existing customers and prospects think of you and your products or services?

If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions and then get the truth from your customers and prospects:

  • Do your customers and prospects trust you?
  • Do they think you’re “nice” but behind the times?
  • Do they think your people are great but what you offer is lacking or vice versa?
  • Does anything other than the lowest price keep them coming to you?
  • Do they see you like a bit of a rebel who’s shaking up the marketplace with new services or innovative products?
  • Do they see you as a reliable authority and an expert in the category?
  • Do they see you as a dinosaur who’s ready to be taken out by a newcomer?

There are literally dozens of additional questions you can ask your customers and prospects to capture and define your current reputation. Once you know where you are with your target audience, you can then set a goal and create a brand-building strategy to get there.

Are you about to fall into the brand trap?

Which of the following do you believe is correct?

  1. Your brand is what people think of you
  2. Your brand is what you want people to think of you

Both are correct if you can keep the cart before the horse. Like it or not. It’s all about your customers and prospects. You can try to steer your brand all you want, but it’s not going to work if your target audience isn’t on board with you.

Your brand is everything they think about your company, your people, products, services, and position in the marketplace. This happens through their direct experiences with you, what they learn about you from others, and finally, what you communicate to them through every aspect of your marketing – not just your advertising.

Do you have a brand gap?

A brand gap is the difference between what your customers/target audience think of your brand and what you want them to think. The bigger the gap, the more work you need to do. The good news is that being aware of your brand gap helps establish your goals and set your strategy for getting there.

know your brand gap

Set your true north

How do you navigate your brand gap? How do you deal with the complexity of multiple social media platforms, expensive pay-per-click buys, and sophisticated search engine optimization plans? Whether you own a local business or operate nationwide, be crystal clear about the reputation you have and the reputation you want. This is your true north, and it will help you find the results with the money you have.

It makes no difference if you’re a consumer or business-to-business brand; hold on tight to your true north. It will help you guide you whether you’re simply trying to decide which email list to buy or if you’re taking on the challenge of creating a unique national television campaign. Know your true north. Know your brand.

hello world!

About the author:

PJ Haarsma is an author and Emmy winning producer. He has been entrenched in the world of advertising for over 30 years and is certified by MIT in data analytics.
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