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Q: How'd you know marketing was for you and what advice do you have for first timers crafting a brand?
A: This is a fun one because I honestly didn’t think when I was young that I would end up in marketing. I did however love asking questions and was particularly interested in why people did what they did. I remember my mom once said to me “when you grow up you’re going to study why people behave the way they do.” and I think that is really at the heart of what “marketing” is all about.
My undergrad degree is in journalism and digital media and my masterss Degree is in online media and persuasion. So at the heart of telling good stories in digital ecosystems, I found myself obsessed with digital marketing. I wouldn’t say I went looking for marketing but I am so darn happy that I stumbled into it, and it feels like a perfect match for what I really love to do -- have a beautiful impact through building brands and creating amazing stories.
For those first timers crafting a brand, I’d offer up a few tips that have served me well over the years. I’ve worked through two large rebrands, led brand for a number of companies and advise dozens of startups on brand development, so I’ve seen lots of things work and other things fail. Time and time again it comes down to a few core pieces to help steer your brand toward success.
1. Figure out your why. If you haven’t spent time trying to figure out WHY your brand exists, it will be really hard to build a brand. You need to go beyond “what” you build and “how” you do it but get to the heart of the why. This will act as the foundation in which you build everything on. It’s something you can return to, and it will steer you during the most important brand decisions you’ll inevitably be faced with.
2. Take that and flesh out your brand story. The broader view of your brand is your brand story, and it should absolutely be documented and circulated with the entire team. This will walk through who you are, what you offer, how you differentiate in market and why you are special. This should pull at the heartstrings but include all the assets a traditional SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis would. This is a forcing function so you have to think through “how would you talk about your brand?” From your brand story will come some amazing one-liners you can leverage in press and bios and possibly even a byline you want to hang your hat on.
3. Spend time on the brand identify. Many companies think this happens organically, but the more intention you can give this the better off you will be. Sure your brand identify will change over the years, but when you are first starting out, if you align it with your founding team and yourself everything else will feel much more natural. Your identity includes the visual elements of your brand. This is everything from communications to logo to colors and fonts, among other components. You’ll be surprised how putting an afternoon into this early on can help the subsequent iterations fall into place faster. You’ll also be able to hire designers faster, because you have more of that foundational identity to point to.
4. Allow it room to grow. I am bullish on believing in brand coherence but not getting caught up in brand consistency. If you focus too much on “staying on brand” you won’t allow it room to grow. Especially early on your brand will likely start to take on a life of its own -- or at least I hope so! If people start sharing and connecting with your brand, they might use it in ways you hadn’t planned. They might suggest changes to the logo or create hashtags for you. Don’t shoot them down because they aren’t “on brand.” That stifles the brand and takes away the very lifeblood that breeds brilliant brands. Allow it room to grow.
5. A brand is created not defined. Don’t be fooled, you do not “define” your brand. You build it, you ship it, you help it grow and participate in how it is received. But you do not “define” it. The best brands in the world take on their own life. Brands may include aspects like your logo, colors, voice and story, but they also end up including a markets reaction, your customers, a greater philosophy, among other things. Great brands end up representing a perspective larger than one company. It just happens to be the company that found and shared the perspective.
Hopefully this is a useful list of things to keep in mind when you are creating your first brand. I am so insanely passionate about the practice of building and sharing beautiful brands. I wish you the best of luck on your adventure!
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.BigDoor, a customer loyalty technology startup.