Branding isn’t the usual thing that growth marketing nerds talk about. We like to stay away from the fluffy stuff and focus on the measurable and data driven.
Yet, branding is an incredibly powerful vector in your overall growth mix and you can’t really ignore it.
And here lies the problem…
Entrepreneurs misunderstand what branding is
When most startups decide they need to do a “rebranding”, they focus on a new logo, and maybe style directions like fonts, colors, and other such matters.
But that’s not branding.
That’s your visual identity.
The confusion of marketing limbo is common, but here it hurts… We just reduced something important to something rather marginal. Visual identity isn’t going to make-or-break your startup —branding is.
So what is branding then?
Branding is about owning a concept or a “name space” in a prospect’s mind
The real purpose of your branding must be to own a piece of conceptual property inside your customer’s mind. The most powerful version of this is owning an actual word. Or even replacing a word for your brand name. Some examples:
- Do you want to “find an answer online”? —> Google it
- First “electric car” that comes to mind? —> Tesla (any other?)
- Wanna grab a cab -> Why don’t we just Uber
- Those sneakers with air inside -> Nike Airmax
- Cheap shopping -> Amazon (or Alibaba)
Whenever people think about a certain “concept”, they automatically connect it to a company. That company “owns” that concept, or owns that description (in your head).
This idea applies to much smaller concepts, too. Imagine you want to take your girl out to any expensive cocktail bar in the world.
Think about that for a second…
Which place would you take her to?
For me, Speak Low in Shanghai pops up (really nice speak easy bar inside store). Of course it’s not the same cocktail bar that you had in mind right now… because that image is unique to me, and to you. Even someone who lives right next to you, might have another idea of what “high-end cocktail bar” translates to.
But in either case, someone owns that concept.
Okay, let’s move on…
How you can improve your branding
The first thing to realize, is that against the previous definition, your logo won’t make a massive difference to your brand. I don’t know what the logo of that cocktail place looks like… and frankly, I don’t care.
To improve your branding, you want to first decide what “name space” you want to own in your prospect’s mind, and then make sure that everything you do strengthens and supports that idea.
Problem you’re solving
This is the most fundamental building block. Defines the category you’re in, so people can mentally “archive” you into a certain label. Tesla makes “cars”. Growthcasts “teaches you marketing”.
Unique approach / magic sauce
Each category has many segments, and even if many companies solve the exact same problem, there are always different ways to go about it. What’s your unique approach?
Besides the approach, there’s the philosophy—the “reason why”. This is more emotional. It’s the reason you get out of bed every morning. This explains why your approach is the right approach.
The people that you serve, and maybe the location that you’re in. Even though there are millions of Thai restaurants, you can own the best one in town. Growthcasts is online, but teaches to entrepreneurs. That’s an audience.
Tone of voice
How do you communicate? How do you talk? Do you speak the language that someone expects from a business like yours? If it’s unexpected, is it unexpected in a way that supports your brand?
Yeah, finally! Your visual style either supports or conflicts the other components of your branding. Growthcasts stands for storytelling and “making things simple”… so our visual style focuses on readability and keeps things plain and simple.
How did you end up here? Why do you care? Who’s behind this? —Your origin story tells where you come from. Explaining your history helps people understand where you’re headed, too.
Each component of your branding can either support the other pieces, or conflict with it. In order to win the battle for your prospect’s mind, you want to build a brand that’s clear and crisp.
It’s something you work on iteratively, over time.