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Work on Your Branding

One of the things I work on with my mentoring and consulting clients is their “Brand”. Having that outside viewpoint and guidance can help them get to a stronger point than trying to struggle alone. It is difficult to be objective about ourselves.

What, though is a strong brand? How do we create one? Do you even want to?

Unfortunately “Brand” is one of those words. It is associated with woolly thinking at best, and BS at worst.

Simply put, the largest and most important aspect of your brand is your reputation.

Famously, whatever is said about you when you are not in the room.

A brand is a triggered memory, a remembered feeling or experience, the association between stimulus and response.

It might not be any one thing but a combination of elements that brings to mind someone or something. Or it could be the minutiae that matters.

Most brands are actually accidental. There are very few individuals or companies that have the time or resources to go so heavily into designing and defining their brand as the Fortune 100.

It works the other way though, and anyone can do this.

Rather than start with what you want to project, discover what people already associate with you. It can be an extremely illuminating process.

Why Branding?

What do you want people to think about you? What do you want people to say about you?

When people have a positive experience and they clearly understand what you are about, then you get referrals. You get positive word of mouth.

Now part of that is being awesome with everyone you work with, and another part is around your messaging so people know and remember what to say. Much of it though is getting all of your communications in line and focusing what people see, hear and read in your communication and behaviour.

When you drill down into what people are already experiencing, when you audit your website, your content, speeches,  your products, networking and your social media activity, then you have something to work on.

The positive aspects you can build on. Draw attention to the good points and discover where those attributes originate.

Negative aspects are challenges for you to counter.

Associations

We often think of brand as being important only when considering products and customers, but brands can boost or harm other relationships too.

Put it this way, if you were going to partner with someone or a company, could you name brands that you would want to be associated with and brands that you would run far away from?

There are brands out there that could improve your reputation by association, and others that, well, some smells don’t wash away so easily.

You need to consider this when working with others, plus you want your own brand to be a magnet rather than a stink bomb waiting to go off, right?

The experience of dealing with you or your company will have a lasting and vivid impact. While this should be common sense, we all have so many bad experiences with people and companies we could not ever suggest that is “common” knowledge.

Hidden Damage

When I pulled my services page down during the Summer and Autumn a part of me wanted to take the services away permanently to focus on lower cost and less time intensive products. What has changed my mind was partly the negative reaction from a few people who had been considering taking me up on these services. People expected to be given the option of access and 1:1 advice from me, even if they were not ready for it right away. Having that available from someone they felt they could trust and talk to was a comfort factor. I hadn’t realised that aspect of my reputation or brand and taking it away could cause an issue if left untreated.

Essentially my behaviour and communication was leading towards a next step that no longer existed. While probably not a deal-breaker, it is certainly an area ripe for causing frustration for the people who need that solution.

You likely have an aspect to your brand that you are overlooking right now. Who knows what confusion or frustration you could be causing.

A better brand can give you more exposure and profit, a bad or inconsistent brand will slow or hurt your reputation and cost you money.

Get Clarity

You are making promises and you are leaking information about yourself and your offering. Most people who do not get a grip on this have mixed messages and incongruent behaviour. This can lead to people misunderstanding, having a cloudy or vague idea, or being very disappointed when the reality doesn’t match what is in their imagination.

Poll, interview, survey or email your customers and your readers. Talk to your friends and peers, the ones unlikely to give you only the good news. You might find that you don’t get clear answers, but work through it.

Perhaps your brand is built from what you are not? Do your customers and audience express your attributes in terms of who or what you are different to? This is also important. Positioning your point of difference is crucial to standing out.

Could it be what you think you are projecting is not what other people remember?

I’m still working on a way I can bring back my mentoring program. First step was to rename it to Mentoring Program 🙂 If I can work out a way to offer it where I will not tie up all of my time then this will have been a super valuable insight and the few people who get in will get a lot of support from me as it is obvious that is what you want, I was just too stubborn to recognise that. Sometimes the painful truths turn out to be the best over the long term!

Bottom Line

The key message here is not that you need a new logo. It’s much, much deeper than that.

Your impact on people is going to make a huge difference to your business, for good or bad.

Step 1 is discovering the good or the damage that has already been done!

Are you aware of your brand? Do you consciously work on it? Please share your thoughts in the comments …

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Comments

  1. I’ve decided to work on personal branding.

    I need to become the symbol of my crowd: the folks that just want their websites running, working, and done right. So, I’ve decided to chart a course. Once I get through the current issues with my server, the next task is to brand myself.

    • The thing is, like it or not, you already have a brand 🙂

      You are already branded, but is it the brand you WANT? 🙂

      • What a great question, Chris, You are already branded, but is it the brand you WANT?

        Cue the “ugh oh” noise from my end of the conversation. I’m not too friendly with the concept of brand because I feel that it’s a constant battle to try to create a brand that can evolve with me and not stay grounded in the past, what I’ve already done and been known for — much of which is positive (but I’m modest so don’t tell anyone I said that!). So the issue for me is rethinking branding in terms of what I WANT and not feel like I need to stay stuck in what others want because it made sense and people seem to really like it.

        Personally, I want change – so I guess that is the place to start from!
        Thank you for this insightful post, Chris, and for your comment @Chris Johnson — truly grateful :).

  2. Chris,

    Great post here! I’m working with a nonprofit to help them “re-brand” themselves, and the first place we’re starting is with what people are saying (and not saying) about them now. What do people love about you? When they describe your org to their friends what adjectives do they use? What images do they use? Are these things they really say, or just what you want them to say?

    A challenging process indeed, but much easier if it’s done unflinchingly and honestly.

    John

  3. Very well stated. Coincidentally, I just finished reading Pleased But Not Satisfied by D.L. Sokol, the President of one of Warren Buffet’s investments.

    Sokol addresses the brand concept similar to your angle. He goes on to quote a speech where it’s stated, ” … a company builds brand the hard way, the only way–through personal experience, and by building and keeping the customer’s faith, day in and day out.”

    Great feedback, thanks.
    Mark

    • Exactly “keeping the customer’s faith” – branding is not something we have complete control over, we only have influence on it so much as we control the customer experience 🙂

  4. Love this topic Chris, and it’s one that I’ve thought about more and more these past couple of years. I’ve come to the conclusion that although branding does vary in terms of one’s goals, just about everyone (companies, business owners, etc) should share these objectives:

    -Be known as someone with opinion, not living in the world of grey…

    -Be known as an educator and teacher of the masses regarding your product

    -Be known as one that doesn’t just accept the status quo in your industry, but rather a thinker, innovator, etc.

    -Be known as a giver

    I know these phrases may sound cliche or silly, but I feel they are a great base to start with.

  5. Great post, Chris. You have real action items here, not the standard fluff.

    I have one thing to add. I see small biz owners, especially solopreneurs, forgetting that they are their brand. I cringe when I see people on twitter griping about subjects they are supposed to be experts in. Off brand conversation is humanizing, but too much transparency will kill credibility.

  6. Chris,
    Love this – it makes so much sense. (Imagine that!) 🙂

    Just like we writers are always told to “show, don’t tell,” I think this approach to branding requires a company to demonstrate its value through actions vs. words … or, rather, to translate actual actions into words (vs. – as with a lot of branding – skipping the action and just serving up the words). A brand built using this method will have deep roots and longevity.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. It is interesting—I did a 360 assessment—and my brand really was illustrated. Made me feel good that I was obviously on the right track. Now, of course, have to take advantage of what I know about my brand–thanks for the reminder.

  8. Thanks for excellent post.

    I think we have to differentiate between branding and formulas for brand. Often, discussions around branding end up with lists of what your brand should look like. But the whole point is that your brand is absolutely unique. There’s no right or wrong about branding – it all depends on your objectives!

    I also think it’s curious that we never know exactly what our brand is at the present moment. It’s something we can image in the past, or project on the future, but ascertaining its definition right now is tricky indeed.

  9. Ha ha.. great post Chris.. I was actually sort of an “accidental brand” with BGB.. it was not my intent to to create a blog like BGB when I first started.

    And the name biggirlbranding, was chosen totally on a whim. lol

    But somehow I’ve found a groove and it works for me. But you’re right in that it definitely goes way beyond a simple logo or what you “look” like. So much more to a great brand that just the visual elements.

    Warmest
    C

  10. Not really. My brand is about authenticity and that is what matters to me – so hopefully they match.

    From what I can gather from stats (not much) few of those who subscribe or comment have ever responded to requests for feedback. So I’m almost completely in the dark about what people think about me.

    I think

  11. Chris, I feel strongly about branding, whether personal or corporate. Every aspect of your business should connect with your brand. At times I have to ask myself, “Does this fit in with my overall brand strategy?”

    In the bustle of the work day it’s easy to neglect the brand or put it on the back burner because it’s too big picture. Either way, we can’t lose sight of what we’re creating and all that ties into it.

  12. I like what you said about brand being your reputation. That is very true. I was fortunate to work for a corporate brand and identity company my first job out of school. I sort of fell into the job, but it has totally influenced my perception of businesses, products, etc. They always talked about branding being a consistent message across all mediums of your business, from your logo, to your message, to everything you do. I see many people that suffer from a lack of branding – meaning there is no clear consistent message of what they do. It is more a lack of focus to what they are creating/building.

  13. I totally agree with you on branding, everything should be congruent, from what you say, how you say it, your body language in videos, the whole thing has to represent your brand, but as you say, first you have to decide what your brand is, creating a statement about your brand, describing it, and then seeing if that matches up with reality is a good way to get started. Your brand needs to reflect your values and what is important to you for it to resonate with your audience in a sincere way.

  14. Oh I so agree with this – I think branding these days means a statement of everything about our business and the image and presence that we project (even down to the blogs we comment on lol!).

    Website makeover anyone??

    Cathy

  15. Rusti-Ann Blanke says:

    Very thought provoking Chris. I have been dragging my a$$ on a blog launch, and its the personal branding piece that is holding me back. You have given me even more food for thought, but in a way that I think will help me move forward.

    P.S. Loved the Calgary area pix – lived there for 12 yrs!

  16. Hey Chris, I think you are right in the sense that we have a brand whether we choose to or not. It’s just our reputation. Now some of us online entrepreneurs can worry less about building our brand and more about evolving it.

  17. Hi Chris,

    Back in the summer I read this in a magazine “if a brand successfully aligns itself with an idea, a philosophy, or a way of life – the value of that brand become priceless”…..

    I have purposefully ‘re’-branded what I offer, what I do etc., this past year. Originally it was out of Seth Godin’s suggestion after attending a day with him in NYC. Wasn’t too sure after his wisdome imparted on my ears how I’d do it, how it was going to happen, but now it is unfolding… my new “brand” takes a different hue and does focus more on deep values within people’s lives and it seems the more integrated your “brand” can be with people’s values the more poignant and laser-like the effect. Not to mention the stickyness being that much more sticky.

    If you do do a mentoring program, I’d be very interested. I too, live in Canada. Whistler, BC. to be exact. I have roamed the Calgary area quite a bit for past contracts etc….Be Well, IRene.

  18. Hi Chris,
    We often create branding around ourselves or business without intentionally doing it. Brands can be created completely by accident.
    If they are,do you run with it or change.
    Pete

  19. Consistency is really important online and it’s so easy to drop the ball and lose one’s momentum. That’s a mistake I’ve made several times myself.

  20. I am working on building by brand right now. I t is sometimes hard to keep everyone pleased though so you have to decide which areas are important for you with your branding.

    If you have a bad brand then you are less likely to have a successful business.

    Thanks for a great post!

  21. Great post, Chris. I believe branding dictates your position in the market. Precieved valued is greatly intensified. Not to mention if a picture is involved, the mere image of a brand can provoke feelings.

  22. You bring up some very good points. The overall impact that you and your company makes is, in my opinion, the most important part of branding.

  23. Great post Chris Thanks.

  24. Well aside from the fact that branding comes from putting your ownership mark onto a cow with a glowing red iron – which does not conjure up any “wooly” feelings at all…. i do love your blog post – and completely agree that it is absolutely essential for any company or even individual for that matter to think about what image they project – and for everyone, especially companies, to focus on ensuring that they are building the reputation that they want to project into the market place. I see way to many large corporation that have a wooly image in their advertising only to fall flat on their face with resolving customer problems and build up terrible reputation that is then difficult to shake off for years to come.

  25. Hi Chris!
    I have a question – why are you calling it a mentoring program rather than a coaching program? (this is interesting around the area of personal branding because the two are often confused and the differences rarely understood.) I’d love to hear why you chose to use mentoring rather than ‘consulting’ or ‘coaching’.
    Thanks!!
    Vicki

  26. I agree branding is crucial, especially when you are in an industry like real estate where the public thinks all Realtors are equal. Branding sets you apart from the pack.