So many professionals use the term ‘brand' nowadays that it can get a little confusing. There are so many colorful (re: made-up) derivatives of the word that it can make a sane person a little crazy. Titles like ‘brand manager', ‘brand ambassador' and ‘brand guru' are each different, yet they basically offer the same services. While this phraseology is admittedly sexy, it can be intimidating for a small business owner who is trying to brand his or her company. For the purpose of clarity lets just call them all brand professionals. The quest for a good brand professional should not be the tortuous quest for the secrets of Smaug. Once you know what you're doing, choosing a brand professional should be as simple as choosing a good plumber. It's time to unclog your business!
Without a doubt ‘branding' is the most overworked marketing term on the planet. To understand what your brand professional can do for you, it is important to first know what a brand is. In business, a brand can best be described as ‘the perception of a product or service that consumers can connect with'. A brand professional is therefore someone who shapes the public's perception of your company. It may all seem like cracking the Da Vinci Code, but the commitment to branding your company can be as easy as putting on a pair of jeans.
Are you confused? Well, think about it this way:
Each time you get dressed you make decisions about how you want to be perceived. On some level the jacket you wear, the way you comb your hair and the way you conduct yourself in a business setting are all decisions you have made to guide a certain perception from the people that you interact with. With each of these choices, you shape the public's of you. If you compare defining your company's image to defining your own image, the concept of branding becomes much less intimidating. In the very same way that your diction or style of dress alters peoples' perception of you, your business card and your sales announcements affect the public's perception of your business. When a person reaches a level of visibility wherein they feel their image needs to be managed, he or she hires a stylist. Likewise when a company reaches a certain level of visibility, they hire a brand professional.
Hiring a brand professional is like building a relationship. A lot of people are so daunted by the business of branding, they hire the person who impresses (re: intimidates) them the most. They incorrectly believe that if the brand professional is imposing, they must know what they're doing. Your relationship with your contractor should be much more symbiotic. When looking for your brand professional, find someone you feel comfortable with. Try to avoid all of the ‘brand demigods' and ‘brand sensei'. Feel free to leave those superstars to companies that can stand to waste 15,000 researching the color blue. Find a person that works with your style and your budget. They're out there!
In choosing a brand professional, be sure to do the following:
1) Know What You Want: Do a little research before you sit down with your brand professional. The first thing a new brand professional does when beginning a new account is to research your direct competitors. If you do a little research on your own, you'll be more comfortable making decisions. Have an idea of your company's image problems, so that when your brand professional speaks to a solution that works for your business, you can more readily connect to it.
2) Find Someone You Trust: Does this person demonstrate the competence to navigate in your industry? Do you feel listened to? Just like a doctor, a brand professional should demonstrate a good bedside manner and a willingness to make you comfortable. If they intimidate you, you may feel pressured to make decisions that later feel uneasy about. Find a professional who gets you and your company.
3) Ask for Data: During the branding process some decisions are a no-brainer. However, if something doesn't make sense to you, ask your professional to back up their suggestions with research. Once you are more informed, you can make a better decision.
4) Keep an Open Mind: Be diligent about parts 1 & 2. Once you have a brand professional you trust, give them room to do their thing. Don't be so rigid about what you believe the solution should be, that you don't allow room for an even better solution.
5) Branding is Forever: Once you begin to brand your company, prepare yourself to be in it for the long haul. Brand professionals may come and go, but your company is here to stay. So lace up your cleats and get ready to step into the big league.
6) Continue to Educate Yourself: Education empowers you to make the best decisions for your brand. As a rule of thumb, you should always have a general knowledge about what your contractors and staff are doing. The more you know the better you can grow your brand.
For a detailed explanation of brand design, go www.thejamgrp.com and download the free pdf ‘Design is a Verb'. This educational pamphlet is just one of the many tools in the ecosphere to help you on your journey. Best of luck! And remember, it is a jungle out there and all it takes to go from tabby cat to tiger is a little good old-fashioned branding.
Creative Director / Brand Enthusiast!
The Jam Group
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