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What is Branding? & Why You Should Care

Brand Strategy Basics Creative Entrepreneur

In the age of “I fuck w the vision, let’s build fam,” you may be tired of hearing people talk about their “brand.” I’ll admit, I’ve refrained from using the term when I talk about this site because everyone & their moms’ got a “brand” that you have to check out. But, if you’re an entrepreneur or artist of any kind, there are a few fundamentals about branding to keep in mind. At any rate, I’d like to break the shame & stigma I feel when I talk about “brands” because I believe great things happen when we own up to the things we aspire to be–creatively, in business, & otherwise.

In this article, we’ll go over the complex definition of a brand, why it’s important, and resources to help you define your brand.

WHAT IS A BRAND? 

In the traditional sense, the act of branding was to stamp or sometimes burn (ouch) a symbol on a product to represent a company or organization. However, business, marketing, and human tendencies have evolved, and branding needs to be much more strategic than slapping a logo on something. The Brand Gap, by Marty Neumeier defines the modern concept of a brand to the tee. First, to dispel some myths, Neumeier says, “A brand is not a logo–it is not an identity–it is not a product… A brand is someone’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” Why a gut feeling? Below is an excerpt from The Brand Gap.

Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is. Because we are emotional and intuitive beings, we tend to trust our gut feeling about a person or a business, and what we hear from our friends. This is not to say that defining your brand is completely out of your hands. But how can we possibly shape someone’s guts & feelings? Well, the literal answer is, you can’t. But metaphorically speaking, you can influence those gut feelings by being mindful of two things: 1) your voice & 2) your messages. What do I mean by voice? Take a look at some of Taco Bell’s tweets:

Moments later…

Taco Bell is playful, hilarious & apparently a little jealous–but hey I think those are things we all like about our significant other, right? These likable (& human!) traits are what many Taco Bell consumers enjoy, aside from their product.

What’s your voice like online? Are you sarcastic? Informative? Direct? Enlightening? Maybe all of it, depending on what social platform.

Let’s talk about messages. It’s safe to say that social media has just as much toxic content as it does positive, real as much fake (maybe), and for every inspirational video there’s one that’s just plain dumb/funny. Think about the type of media you share, and ask yourself where your content lies. And it’s OK to be in the grey, that’s life as a multidimensional human. But ultimately, are your tweets, actions, expressed thoughts, etc., congruent with the messages and causes you believe in? If you preach compassion, do you judge or place blame? Do you wear crystals but keep fucking up the vibe at every function? If you believe young artists/hustlers should shine, do you empower yourself & others to do so? Do you gas up your peers but never show any substantial support?

In contemporary layman’s terms, your “brand” is your vibe. To a limited extent, it is about what you say & how you say it, but ultimately, your brand is how others perceive it.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER? 

Although there are many external factors that will influence one’s perception about you or your brand, we can minimize the margin of error by being mindful of our voice & message. Bearing in mind these branding concepts will bring two essential things for success: clarity & consistency.

Clarity for yourself & others.

I’m sure you’ve heard the sentiment, “People will believe in you when you believe in yourself first.” The same goes for being clear on “what you do” or “who you are.” If you’re confused about what you do, chances are, so are others–& that’s just bad for business. This is still something I’m working on myself, as I’m not too fond of labels and I’m no stranger to existential crises. But the more I create/hone my craft, & the more I put shit out there that I’m actually proud of, it becomes more clear where I want to spend my energy and how I want to express myself and my work. If you’re still figuring it out, be patient with yourself–routinely putting a little time into your goals goes a long way, & don’t forget to have fun with it, too.

Consistency = trust. 

There are two dimensions to this concept. Consistency in action and consistency in style/design. We’ll talk more about the latter at the end of this article. For now, let’s think about consistency and how it contributes to an essential ingredient to commercial success–trust. Here’s an example that’s pretty obvious: YouTubers who post every [name the day of the week here]. These people continuously grow their subscriptions because their following can trust (& look forward to) a new video every week. With worlds of information at your fingertips, and waning human attention spans, the only way people will remember what you do is if you’re consistently doing it.

Clarity and consistency go hand in hand. The more consistent you are, the more clear the vision becomes. The more clear you are in your voice & message, the more consistently it shows in your actions. Refining your brand will lead you to more clarity and consistency, which is essential if you want to succeed at anything in life.

Lastly, you are you & that’s your power.

Understanding & owning “your brand” will help you stand out even if it’s true that there is “nothing new under the sun.” For example, there are over a dozen mobile phone manufacturers out there. But which 2 instantly come to mind and are dominating the market? Hint: One’s a fruit & the other has horrible Snapchat quality. Especially if you’re in the creative field, it’s likely that there are thousands of people who want to do what you do or likely that it’s already been done. But don’t let this discourage you. Instead, this should motivate you to further explore and reflect on all the variables that make up your “brand.” People have too many choices & not enough time. If your brand speaks to them on a deeper & emotional level, it’s easier for them to decide between the plethora of options available to them. I’m sure there are a bunch of blog posts that talk about branding and nothing I’m saying is new. But do those other blogs also have posts about psychedelic adventures, eclectic music playlists, or video discussions on female empowerment? Perhaps not. Your voice, your story, & your perspective are what makes your work unique. You can differentiate yourself by thinking about your brand.

TOOLS TO HELP REFINE/DEFINE YOUR BRAND

Now that we know what a brand is and why we should give a damn, here are some awesome (& free) resources to help you build upon your brand in a way that’s true to you:

Tumblr

If you use Tumblr on your off-time, this is a great starting place to see what your vibe is like and where your mind goes when it wanders. Through the images, quotes, stories, & gifs that you reblog,  you get a feel of what provokes your emotions, what inspires you, what brings you joy, and what your beliefs are.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a great resource for many disciplines–whether you’re seeking inspiration for design or archiving useful information, you can create boards for anything & everything. It’s a step up from Tumblr in the mood board sense because you can organize and create multiple boards for specific purposes, i.e logo design inspiration, 1960s counterculture, newsletter ideas, or business resources (where you would pin the photo below *wink*)

brand strategy finding your voice

Google Drive

This is by far my favorite tool for creating and organizing files, from word documents to presentation slides, and even crunching numbers with sheets (spreadsheet equivalent). All your files are accessible (on & offline) wherever–you just need your Gmail login and a web browser from any device. You can collaborate with other people on your files, and it updates in real-time. I use the presentation slides for brainstorming ideas and communicating plans with other creatives–as it’s highly visual & straight to the point. You can also use slides to start drafting your brand deck, the next item on the list.

brand strategy creative entrepreneur

Brand Deck

A brand deck serves as a guideline to you and your brand’s team. When you’re ready to lay down some definitive things about your brand, this is where to start. Here are common items found in the brand deck:

  • Ethos + Position Statement: The spirit & vision of your brand–your why/purpose. This slide defines what you do & who you do it for.
  • Logo/Logotype: Explains and showcases all variations of the logo and how the design represents the brand. Check out how MailChimp explains the proper use of their logo.
  • Typography: Most brands have 2-3 typefaces they use. Decide which typefaces will be used for headings and which will be used for text within paragraphs. This ensures consistency in web or graphic design.
  • Color Palette: Having a color palette will keep your visuals consistent. If you need inspiration finding one, use Coolors, a color scheme generator.
  • Voice / Language: Make sure your brand deck is also written in your brand’s voice. For help in finding your voice, refer to the Pinterest above. You can also write “dos” & “don’ts” for further refinement. E.g. Do respond to comments playfully, & don’t be an asshole.
  • Style of Illustration: You can pull images from your Pinterest mood boards. This can help you visualize the type of content you’ll be sharing on Instagram and other platforms.

Social Media Audit

Lastly, if you really want to refine your brand, I would recommend going through your social media and deleting posts that don’t align with the vision you have for yourself. I usually like to keep posts for sentimental reasons, but thankfully Instagram has introduced the feature to archive posts. Now you won’t ever have to see my embarrassing, awkwardly cropped, & over-saturated photos from 2012. It might be a good idea to go through your personal or brand’s Twitter and see anything that can be taken way out of context, or was simply something you tweeted when you were hangry.

THAT’S ALL FOR NOW, FOLKS.

I hope you found this post useful! You may or may not have noticed but BETTER IN DOSES is currently undergoing a rebrand. Lately, I’ve been in a creative rut, but through this process, I’ve regained inspiration & more clarity on what my goals are with the platform. One goal that I want to highlight, starting with this post, is sharing more knowledge and empowering fellow creatives. If you’d like to know more BTS insights, subscribe to our newsletter as I’ll be sharing details of the rebrand process in the upcoming week.

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