Every company we work with wants to walk away with “a brand.” On one hand, we’re a branding firm, so that’s fair. But on the other hand, it’s misplaced to think of a brand as a thing. At the end of the day, a brand really isn’t one thing, it’s an amalgamation of all things that make your company tick. Every employee, every consumer touch point, every advertisement, every invoice, every email makes up your brand. It’s not entirely about branding elements like a logo or a color palette, it’s about creating a visual identity, voice, and experience that is authentic to who you are as a company.
So how can you do that? Creating a truly great brand isn’t easy, but I’d liken it more to baking than I would to science. It’s about having a recipe you can commit to, working with the ingredients you have, and letting it bake without touching it.
This is the recipe that I’ve seen work for countless companies in the past, and will surely work for your DIY branding project.
The first step of branding is always self-reflection. What makes you tick? What makes your employees tick? What makes your customers love you? What makes your former customers hate you? These are your ingredients. This is what you have to work with. If you’re happy with the ingredients you have, congratulations! You’re ready to start cooking! If you’re not, go to the grocery store - read: start hiring! - and don’t come back until you have everything you need to bake what you want to bake!
Okay, so what does this mean outside of the baking metaphor? Branding always starts with who you are. If the “ingredients” you have to work with are “analytic insights” and “creativity,” great! If your ingredients are “cheap” and “efficient,” great! Use what you have and who you are.
Look at H&R Block’s brand and versus TurboTax, or Nordstrom versus H&M. These organizations work with what they have and they don’t try to be someone else. If you want an easy template for this, use our free brand audit to find the right “ingredients” for your brand’s recipe!
Hopefully you’ve uncovered a lot of ingredients that you can use, but there are four primary ingredients you’ll want to focus on.
These four ingredients will be your most important “base” ingredients, but anything else you uncovered makes for great spice! You’ll want to mix all of these elements together to see where you stand against your competition. These answers should inform every aspect of what you look like, sound like, and act like. If you need help, try simple exercises like word bubbling all of these elements and seeing where there’s overlap. You can try the same exercise with your competitors to see what they’re emphasizing and, subsequently, what you should avoid.
You should walk away from this step with a singular identity for your brand. Think of Disney, whose essence is family entertainment, or IKEA who focuses on affordable, modular furniture.
This is the most fun part, the practical application. How do you put your brand’s essence into action? Start by taking your brand’s identity and crafting it into a personality. Are you approachable, refined, fun? Why? Next, map out all of your brand’s customer touch points. Whether it’s your receptionist answering the phone or an invoice a customer receives, it should look, feel, and sound the same as every other aspect of your brand’s personality. Make sure you take advantage of every opportunity to share your brand!
Finally, make sure you let it fully bake before you take it out or start playing with it. Far too often, people will look at a brand two weeks after it gets developed and say “what if we tweaked this or changed this?” What you’re doing, in essence, is pouring more flour into your cupcakes because 2 minutes in, they don’t look done enough. Be patient and ride out the storm, you’ll be glad you did!