In a world overrun with thousands of entrepreneurs and wannapreneurs, achieving success is tougher than ever. This goes for any type of business or personal venture.
Regardless if you run a digital marketing agency, sell toiletries, diagnose medical problems, or author books, you must stick out among the noise.
And it all begins with building a strong brand identity – an element that includes not just logos or taglines, but every form of communication or business strategy.
The mission doesn’t stop there. Once you achieve a strong brand identity, you must sustain it.
Think about music for a second – don’t strive to be a one-hit-wonder like Right Said Fred with “I’m Too Sexy.”
Put in discipline and go for the proverbial gold. Let’s discuss The Beatles.
The group achieved success by working harder than most bands during the 1960s.
From 1960 to 1962, before they gained any popularity in the UK or the states, the band played 270 nights in the rowdy town (read – drugs and prostitutes) Hamburg, Germany – a few of those nights as long as eight hours!
This hard work paid off, helping the four achieve a brand identity like no other. But once on top of the charts, The Beatles were also smart enough to transform with the times.
The Beatles went from pop superstars with the release of the debut album “Please Please Me” in 1963, to psychedelic superstars with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” in 1967.
That’s creating and sustaining a brand identity like no other.
Though the Beatles are no longer, its band leader Paul McCartney continues to leave a legacy by releasing more and more music and combining his efforts with current pop stars.
Remember “FourFiveSeconds,” a song that McCartney collaborated on with Rihanna and Kanye West in 2015? Just its YouTube video has over 435 million views…
You can’t create a strong brand identity through a cookie-cutter process. Every business or personal journey will need to be personalized.
With that said, though, a few essential elements are required, which are listed below.
Jeff Bezos says: “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Many have different definitions for branding, brand identity, and brand awareness.
But let’s keep things simple:
When you have created a strong brand identity, it takes care of branding and brand awareness.
Here’s how to make sure all perceptions about you or your business are positive – and, as important, make sure those perceptions remain positive.
1. Find & Focus on Your Target Audience
One of the most important lessons I learned over the past two decades as a writer is to first understand the intended audience.
Know their passions, goals, decision-making processes – basically whatever is needed to speak directly to them in the most fluent way.
The same goes for building your brand identity. Once you know who you are speaking to, you can adjust your brand-building tactics to reflect that audience’s needs and make a larger impact.
Again – think of when The Beatles began. They were focused on the teenage audience and its needs for young romance and rebellion, to name a few elements.
This focus helped The Beatles shape their music, image, stage show and chosen venues to tour and have the largest impact.
Businesses and personal brands need to achieve the same effort when seeking their brand identity goals.
If your business sells health products for animals, you must first know who your customers are – from their frustrations (my cat doesn’t swallow pills!) to when they’re most actively thinking about their pet health to how they interact with other health products on the market (quick social media search makes this easy).
First, find that target audience by researching competitors and what questions are being asked across social channels like Quora, Medium, Reddit and the typical outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
Next, build a persona file by asking and outlining the following of your target audience:
- What are their goals?
- What are their frustrations?
- What prompts their decisions to act?
- How do they interact with other brands and their services/products?
With that persona in mind, begin building your brand identity around them. What mediums does the target audience favor? Video or personal interaction with other users of the product/services?
Or, if an author, does the target audience mostly read the actual books, or absorb the book through what others think of that author?
These questions and answers can shape everything from your website’s design to your social interaction to your personality to your writing style.
It’s easier to market to a target audience versus everyone. Find them, and tailor your conversation for them.
2. Create a Unique Selling Proposition
What makes you different? Or as Seth Godin says, what makes you “remarkable?”
In simplest terms, the answer is your unique selling position, or USP.
Here is where a major problem occurs when attempting to create strong brand identity. Many people immediately study the businesses or individuals who have the largest market share and popularity, and intimidate those top players.
I deal with these types often when helping clients create their content marketing strategies for a strong brand identity.
“If it’s working for them, why can’t it work for me?” My answer is because your values are likely different, and what works for one business/person doesn’t work for the other.
My agency’s USP is to help companies first define and refine their USP, then exploit and amplify that USP through storytelling via SEO-friendly content.
I find creating a genuine USP is where many lack creativity and become lazy. They want to focus on the guarantees or past performances versus creating something different that will fuel and sustain new business.
If a client gets stuck I provide some cliff notes to one of my all-time favorite strategies in business – Kim and Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy.
Don’t seek on taking market share from a competitor and compete in a “red ocean.” Rather, create your own market and create a “blue ocean” of opportunity.
This principle needs to be reiterated over and over throughout the business or personal adventure, and it becomes part of the fabric of your USP and, eventually, your brand identity.
What makes you different? Or what can you do to differentiate yourself from the others?
Spend much time on this and make it an essential element to exploit when building your brand identity.
3. Expose Your Core Values – But Remember They’re Built on Perceptions
When you think Apple, how do you perceive their core values? How about Tesla, or Starbucks?
Now think of Enron. The Weinstein Company. Phillip Morris.
Can you see the difference in the perception of core values among these six companies?
The initial group of three is typically perceived as having a tech-forward advancement for the good of the world, whereas the second group is perceived as faulty from environmental tragedies to sexual harassment to cancer.
Exposing your core values is another essential element when creating your brand identity. For a personal brand, such as a self-development guru or fiction author, it’s easy to guide the perception of values.
Based on some quick perceptions, it’s easy to see that Tony Robbins is out to change the world to a more positive place. And Edward Snowden wanted to change the worldview of politicals and government by becoming a whistleblower.
For a business, though, guiding perceptions is not so easy. And the bigger the organization, the tougher the process.
If one employee’s core values are unethical and out of line, and that employee does something drastic, he or she can quickly take down an entire business.
Like a USP, exposing your core values is not easy work – especially because your brand is built upon perceptions.
Even if the Weinstein Company’s core value was to create the most unique films in the world to inspire relaxation among its audience, Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault rap brought down the entire company.
The ultimate reason to highlight your core values? If others share similar values, you’ll build a fan base quicker.
As Howard Schultz says, “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”
4. Unique Personality
When you have worked on creating your USP and combine it with your core values, your personality surfaces.
Is your personality passion-driven? Are you tech-forward in search of making the laborious task simple? Or is your brand highlighted by exposing the social talk around a certain subject?
Whether you like it or not, your personality is part of your brand identity. Remember this when building yours. For personal ventures, incorporating your personality is simpler because one voice exists.
But, just like values explained in the point above, when a business is involved – and many people help create that brand image – multiple personalities mix. This can result in a brand identity that may appear bipolar if not thought out.
Make sure everyone included within the company understands the personality that needs to be presented the same way across the company, from the salespeople to the marketing department to the CEO’s interactions with the public.
5. Consistency Across Every Channel
When creating and building your brand identity, keep your messaging and voice consistent across every channel of communication.
The social media channels are obvious but don’t forget your blogs, guest blogs, website copy, PR efforts, newsletters, email replies, paid advertising copy or conversations with everyone that you come in contact with.
Remember, also, that consistency across every channel is vital not only while creating but also while sustaining your brand identity.
6. No Me, Me, Me Talk; Be Genuine and Add Endless Value
This is one of the most annoying byproducts of many people when they begin building their brand – especially those who hit it big quickly. I call it the “me, me, me” talk.
When you see communication channels of a business or individual that only exploits what they have accomplished or what they offer, it robs any focus on the reader. These me, me, me talks don’t offer value to would-be fans of the brand, and dilutes any value that the brand intends to deliver.
Smaller businesses are notorious for this because they typically look at their biggest perceived competitor, and mimic what that competitor is doing.
Past accomplishments are an essential element to building a strong brand identity, but it shouldn’t be the focus. When a brand brags about their accomplishments, it’s a sign they are stuck in the past.
The brands that will garner the most brand identity strength are those that offer innovative services/products and communicate with a focus on the future over the past.
7. Focus on Positives
Zig Ziglar says “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”
The same concept goes for focusing on the positives over the negatives within your industry. People naturally attract optimistic thinkers – especially those who have proven their genuine over “me, me, me” talkers.
If your brand – personal or business – is living through a super down period in your respective industry, don’t focus on the negatives. Rather, focus on the positives. Show your perseverance for forward-looking thinking, and you’ll naturally attract a following.
Leave the negative criticism to the news writers. Focus on the positive future as Warren Buffett focuses on his stock picks – he remains upbeat by purchasing with enthusiasm during the downbeat market, and he continues to win.
8. Make Promises & Stick To Them
Those with the most powerful brand identity constantly make promises and stick to them.
From people like Steve Jobs who was out to change the world of personal computing to Starbuck’s position on improving education by offering school to part-time workers, these well-known brands make promises and stick with them.
Learn from these greats. If you can keep a promise, people will associate your brand with authenticity. And authenticity streamlines loyalty, turning customers/clients/patients/readers into fans.
9. Extend Your Brand at Every Opportunity
Your brand identity is mostly created through your communications, from your social presence to logos to website colors to how you speak to the media.
But other opportunities exist to extend your brand. A few I’ve witnessed and mimicked were:
- Email signatures that highlight your most valuable blog work.
- Business cards that are slightly different in design and feature a tagline.
- Even slides that differ from the majority during a presentation.
Think of every single area where you are represented, and extend your brand to that area.
10. Don’t Forget to Evolve
Don’t become stagnant. As the world changes, the strongest brands change with it.
Some, like Apple and Tesla, evolve due to rapid technology changes. But then again, they make an underlying promise to always adapt and deliver the very best products using the latest in technology.
Others, like The Beatles, evolved with the changes of popular music, from early teenage pop to psychedelics of the late 1960s.
Regardless of how some of the world’s most known brands changed, one thing typically remained – the core values of those brands. These are typically deep rooted and authentic, and when they shift people lose interest.
When people have multiple choices, they naturally refine their needs and become extremely picky.
This goes if they are choosing a self-development book amid hundreds of others on a crowded shelf or the multiple coffee drinks available and any coffee shop around the world.
The goal is to create a business or personal brand identity so strong that you’re the only choice. This takes time, patience and LOADS of discipline.
Keep this in mind and take some lessons from the tactics above. They have worked for some of the world’s leading brands and personalities, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t work for you.
Utilize them, personalize them for your best benefits, and become the genuine brand that naturally attracts attention.