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Branding is more than a logo.

A branding strategy for start ups, small business and entrepreneurs.

Nobody does it better than Ralph Lauren. When you put on any piece of clothing bearing the Polo logo, you instantly get transported to a world of glamour, beauty and timeless elegance. PHOTO COURTESY: RALPH LAUREN.

As entrepreneurs we face constant challenges in growing our businesses and carving our own niche in the market. How can we compete in an ever changing and uber competitive world? I am sure you have heard the saying, "I have a superpower and that superpower is me!" Indeed. Your identity and that of your business are your superpowers. So how do you build on your own personal identity and how does that translate in the branding of your business? Let's break it down... Whether you’re just starting out from scratch, or you’ve been in business for a few years and want to do a complete redesign, it’s never too early — or too late — to build your brand.

Starting a new business is always exciting - there's a fresh idea, a million to-do lists, and all the passion and drive to bring the concept to life and give it wings.

It is essential to take time to articulate your vision, mission and values behind your new company. When you have these three key elements buttoned up you can move on. I will explain these in more detail below.

Think of the VISION statement as your WHY. Your reason for being. And think of the MISSION as the how. And when it comes to VALUES they are the core fundamentals that will guide you throughout your decision making for your business. Consider asking yourself these questions.

VISION - Your solution to the problem

  • What's the problem my business will solve?

  • Do others care about this problem?

  • What makes me an expert at providing this solution?

MISSION - How you are getting there

  • What are the concrete details of how I will solve this problem? Does it involve developing a product, creating a website, a service, writing a book, or ?

  • Is the solution I am proposing attainable? Do I have enough funding? Am I passionate about this work?

  • Will the solution of services or products I provide to my clients be satisfactory?

VALUES - What are your core values?

  • What drives you? Do you want to make a difference in the world?

  • Are you doing it for the money? (wrong question) Never do anything for purely money. Be passionate and authentic and the money will come.

  • What makes you feel proud about your work?

  • What traits do you admire in people? In other businesses?

All this will then lead into what we call BRAND MESSAGING. Brand messaging is a standardized way of communicating your brand's essence.

A strong brand message will clearly communicate what your audience will get out of the the relationship with your brand. An example of a great brand message is NIKE's ubiquitous slogan JUST DO IT. Message received loud and clear.

Another element to consider when crafting your brand strategy is your brand voice. If your brand message is what you have to say to the world, the voice is how you go about saying it. Your voice brings out the personality of your brand. Think of GEICO insurance using the lovable gecko. You know it will be humorous and self deprecating, making the company relatable and likable.

Finally create a target audience. Segment it into different personas, representing the different types of people who will buy from you. Adjust your brand voice and messaging accordingly.

Imagine you have your own real estate business. How you approach a first-time buyer is very different to how you market to an existing home owner. Pivot, but always be consistent in your image and touch points throughout.


Here comes the fun part! Design and color!

Possibly the largest misconception about branding is that it centers solely on logos and design. While those certainly are a component of effective branding, it’s more about how a business makes their clients and customers feel.

Ralph Lauren is without doubt the master at making his customers feel like a million bucks. Through his campaigns and beautifully curated images, branding and messaging, he convinces you that if you wear his clothes you automatically become part of that glamorous lifestyle. Think about it. If you ever bought a Ralph Lauren polo shirt back in the 1990s. I will never forget. Mine was navy blue, with a red Polo player logo (the small version). I instantly felt I was this young heir to a huge fortune.

So what’s the secret to developing a brand that people love and keep coming back to? It takes time, thought, effort, a disciplined approach to design, and a keen understanding of customers.

Stick to the same look, feel, voice, and messaging across all communication channels. From your website and business cards to the language in your automated emails, present a unified tone on every platform. This creates consistency for your brand, and builds recognition and — even more importantly — trust.

Have your designer or agency create a set of design standards and guidelines to make sure that any future assets created will be consistent and adhered to by all stakeholders.

And finally what are you waiting for?

Go out and change the world! And don't forget what George Eliot once quipped, "It's never too late to be what you might have been."

-Christos Joannides



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