SEVEN PRINCIPLES TO BUILD A DISTINCTIVE BRAND
Branding is much more than just a cool logo or well-placed advertisement. Just like your personal identity makes you uniquely you, your brand identity is all about what makes you tick. It is shaped by every decision you make and it’s crucial that it accurately portrays who you are. But where to start?
1: Find your place in the world
When deciding where you wanna spread your wings, it isn’t about being the biggest and brightest, but about finding the right place for you. You have a whole menu of choices, different places will offer different conditions and benefits. In the right pond, you might no longer be just another duckling, but transform to a swan. We aren’t just talking about a physical place, but finding your place also refers to the people you engage with, the places you show yourself. Everything you do will influence how people perceive your brand and form the path to where you’ll end up. The old “Quality over quantity” motto is applicable to many areas, so always look at the big picture before throwing your name or logo out there. You might wanna scream your name from the rooftop, but remind yourself that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. If you put the right strategy in place, meaning a strategy that is in line with your voice, identity and audience; you will get there!
2: Show your true colours
Nonetheless, before you set course, you have to find out who really are. It sounds easy, but you might discover that how you perceive yourself isn’t necessary aligned with what other people think about you.
So, don’t hesitate to get an outside opinion. Ask random people if they can tell the difference between you and a similar brand. If possible also ask why they chose you and pinpoint the recurring points of difference. Delve down deep to figure out what makes you really you.
Ask yourself, if your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have? Are you an introvert or a social butterfly? Do people think of you as down-to-earth or very upper class? What is your drive, why do you do what you do? It often helps to visualise your thoughts, brainstorm word clouds, sketch it, it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you find a way to get everything out. Don’t just focus on the good but also on the bad. What are the elements you want to focus on and what are your working points? Once you figured this out, it’s time to show your colours, make your mark and conquer your place in the world.
3: Who do you want to meet on your journey?
Very few things are a one-man show, so it’s time to admit that walking the path to success means you’ll need to engage with different types of people. Choose them wisely and these people will aid and reward you for your endeavors.
The first step is to identify a mentor, someone you can look at that has already walked the path you’re on. Your mentor(s) can help you achieve your goals, you can turn to them for guidance or inspiration. It’s a waste of time to reinvent the wheel, if you can build on a strong foundation.
Next on the list, is identifying who you want to hear “yes” from. Basically, who do you need to influence? An investor? A type of client? Get clear about your target and ask yourself; “What drives these people to seek you or competitors out?”. You need to know who you want to approach before you can make your idea most appealing to him or her. Don’t just go out from gut feel, but do research so that you can capitalize on their most pressing issues, problems or desires.
Once you figured this out the time has come to think outside the box. Instead of getting comfortable, take a closer look at other people that could help you on your journey. Be on the lookout for possible collaborations, relevant membership associations and professional development opportunities. Make a list of valuable contacts from your network and get in touch with them.
4: Create a common thread
If you want to create a brilliant and competition-killing brand, make sure you have a common thread in throughout all your activities. Not only are you way more productive when you have consistency, but it will also be easier to get results. Your common thread should be based on a solid foundation, but also leave room to grow and evolve. This requires deep thinking and foresight.
Take design for example, it is said that nailing your identity goes hand in hand with nailing your design. However combining a logo, color, and fonts in any which way, doesn’t necessarily create consistency. That’s when brand guidelines come in handy. The guidelines will help replicate the identity successfully across all mediums by enabling you to hold on to examples, use-cases and other practical information. Which brings us to the next step.
5: Navigate the path that suits you
As the old saying goes, “All roads lead to rome”, but do they really? It takes much longer to get anywhere if you don’t know how to get there. So start navigating your path, do you feel more comfortable taking the save route or are you ready to shake things up by being disruptive? Whatever route you decide to take, make sure it’s clear.
Take the time to visualise a proper plan that guides you through. Include pivotal moments, important mentors and key decisions that will help shape your story. This doesn’t mean you have to have everything figured out and follow your “map” exactly, but it will help establish a tangible general direction. Realize that finding your path is not a one-time effort, it is layered and you’ll continuously have to sculpt and test what works for you in order to stay relevant. After all, the brands that kill their competition, are those who found a way to use insights and ambition to stand out and refine their brand. Be aware that there will be obstacles along the way and that things will not always go according to your plan. However, as long as you see a speck on the horizon those obstacle might create a new opportunity on your path to success.
6: It’s about the journey, not the destination
While you’ll probably be moving mountains’ worth of work, make sure you don’t jump on a habit train, we stop seeing things when we move on autopilot. So take the time to stop, breath, and look around you. Continue to be adventurous, laugh a lot and try new things. Enjoy the ride, it will shape what will ultimately be your brand. You probably already heard the saying “Thoughts become things”, so be an optimist. Let the hard times come in, acknowledge them and watch them float by. Your positive thoughts will rub off and inspire people around you. That doesn’t mean you have to live with your head in the clouds, it just means you use every moment, good or bad, as a useful experience to draw lessons from for the future.
7: Make sure your work continues to excite
Let’s not sugar coat this, not every step of building a brand will be a bliss. Not even close. However, if you enjoy what you do, you won’t mind putting in a lot of effort for results that might take a while to show. So find what excites you in your work and avoid your mind getting bored. Switch up your tasks, your relationships, identify ways you can do the things differently and continuously force yourself to explore new options and insights. When everything becomes a bit too much it’s time to take a break, relax, and re-energize. Remind yourself that brand building is a process and trust that the ongoing effort will result in establishing long-term relationships with your stakeholders, colleagues and clients.