This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.
We all have that one friend populating our Insta-feed with seriously perfect, immaculate and downright envy-inducing imagery. Whether it’s an Amalfi throwback, a play-by-play of outfit inspo or some snap-happy moments from a sunshine-filled Saturday, you can always count on them to curate a perfectly cohesive and aesthetically-delectable feed.
She’s the gal with the perfect home, the knack for landing the perfect outfit and the always bouncy, always shiny hair. Her entire feed is like a perfectly glazed donut, beautiful both to look at and to ravenously consume. Meanwhile, you watch from your stained couch, hair in a topknot, surrounded by yesterday’s toast crumbs. She somehow manages to pull off the perfect life with not only a smile on her dial, but the most well-dressed toddler in tow. She is a picture of perfection. Her entire look, a carefully crafted brand.
There is no doubt that we’re living in an age of aesthetic, where our success and worthiness is measured on our presentation, both online and IRL. We live in a world where people are moved by looks first and function second. Even people who have no business, or interest in business are building themselves a brand. The very act of sharing our lives, our stories and our selfies is building a personal brand, whether we like it or not.
To say ‘branding’ is the buzzword of the century is a gross understatement. It’s almost as prominent as the phrase ‘fake news’ on Trump’s daily Twitter meltdown.
And there’s good reason for this. Businesses are popping up left right and centre. Nowadays, it’s never been easier to catch yourself an ABN and set up the most basic of business ideas on the internet.
Back when the store only carried one type of flour, brand wasn’t so important. But now, with the utter dominance of the internet in every facet of our lives, we as consumers are exposed to endless choice. The supermarket is an overwhelming place, why? Because we walk in and are instantly hurled with multiple iterations of the exact same product all screaming for our attention. It’s like walking into a room full of cute puppies, only the supermarket products aren’t cute, furry and we don’t even want to take them home.
Creating and building brands is my obsession-slash-divine calling and, joyously, also my daily 9-5. Over the last 6 years of running Smack Bang I have had the honour of building quite literally hundreds of brands. I am so entrenched in the world of branding, I swear to god sometimes I catch myself wondering how to leverage my dog’s name into the world, and all the clever and fun ways I’d go about doing it. Oh, if I had the time.
When you are building a business, no matter if you’re setting out to be the next Amazon or a solo one-man-band, one of the most critical areas of focus is creating a brand identity – that is, who your company is and what it stands for. And I’m not just saying this because I’m biased and currently sitting in a branding studio with 15 other total brand geeks. Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that branding is the single most important thing you can do, outside of figuring out what your business model is. In fact, figuring out your brand DNA should arguably be your first order of business – before any products stock the shelves or Insta stories are shared to the masses. It will bring value to your backend and your bottom line.
Your brand identity is a necessary component to helping your business grow because your business identity encapsulates what your business stands for. It’s the purpose, the mission, the look, the feel, the tone and the voice of your company. It’s the determinant of how the audience will perceive you. So many people make decisions about the name, the logo and the colours they use so casually. They are forgetting that each of these decisions should come from the brand identity. There is a science and an art to it. And without it, you will have a difficult time really building your business.
So, building a brand hey… sounds simple enough, right? But it’s layered with complexities. Your brand is your business, and your business is your brand. It’s an all-encompassing entity and a complete manifestation of your business’s values, goals and mission. It’s the catalyst that sparks the emotions you want your customers to experience. It is your true compass – guiding every decision you make, from what design aesthetics you use to the tone of your Instagram feed to the employees that you bring on to be part of your team.
It’s a gigantic, inconceivably tricky ball of tangled jewellery to unravel. But from my perspective, branding can be boiled down to a simple notion:
Branding is the story you tell and the story you sell.
Your brand is the narrative you weave to show people who you are, what you stand for and how you can improve your customers’ lives. It’s the way you position yourself in the market, the way your customers perceive you and the reputation you create for yourself. Your brand is your way of communicating to the world, and to your customers, who you are and just as importantly, who you are not.
A successful brand knows what it is, knows why it’s different and knows why people want it.
But what does a brand do for a small business like yours? And how is building a brand going to change your bottom line?
Well here’s the thing, a brand story isn’t just a valuable marketing asset, it’s also a brand’s guiding principles and impacts every facet of the organisation. In other words, it’s not just a marketing message, it’s also your sales pitch, your guiding compass and a roadmap for your A Team. Branding provides a platform for connection — both with your customers and your suppliers/employees. It allows them to see you for who you really are and therefore allows you to attract the right people into your biz.
So where do you start? What are the guidelines to this process? How do you know you are doing it effectively?
Building a brand is not something that should be rushed. It takes time, a lot of thought, and a lot of soul searching (hemp pants not compulsory). You need to dig deep to get to know yourself, know your audience, the reason why your brand exists and to think long and hard about your future.
When a client waltzes into our Smack Bang studio ready and raring to brand themselves a new Richard Branson-esque empire, we start with the million dollar question, “Who are you?” This question can be either simple or complex, depending how philosophical you want to get and how in touch you are with your existential side.
So how do you figure out who you are, and blend that with the business you want to be known for, even if you’re the type of quirky human who really enjoys plucking the feathers out of your cushions and planting them in the yard? We put together a few thoughts to get your wheels in motion…
To continue reading and get access to another 12 of our favourite tools of the trade that will save your life, download our ebook and head to chapter 3.
Image credit: Panos Moesis