Not long after humans began creating products to trade and sell, they strove to get others to know them. Branding was born. Craftspeople used brands and marks to express their pride in workmanship and to let the marketplace know who made their product. (Here is a fantastic article about the history of branding from Advertising Educational Foundation.)
Today’s businesspeople are like all makers through the ages. We want people to know who we (and our organizations) are and what we stand for. Our desire for people to identify our name with the quality of our product or service is the root of all branding.
A brand is the totality of how the public sees your organization. It becomes shorthand for the workmanship of your product, the source of your raw materials, your staff and vendors, the quality of your service, your civic and charitable activities, the history of your organization. In other words: your story.
When done right, and honestly, your brand helps people know what to expect of you – not only what you will do, but also how you will do it.
Understanding your brand’s story
To establish a powerful, effective brand, you need to thoroughly understand – and communicate – the unique characteristics that make your organization’s story. This series of questions will help you.
It’s critical for everyone involved in the organization to understand the foundation of the brand – the brand character. Answer questions like these to understand the story you’ll need your brand to communicate. If you’re working with an outside branding, graphic design, or marketing firm, they might help you answer these questions. At the very least, they should want to know your answers.
When we work on a branding project at Kim Schlossberg Designs, we help the client work through these questions as the first, most important step in the process. These questions form the foundation of the later branding work, and of the organization’s identity as a whole.
- What is the origin story of your brand? How did it come about?
- Who are you serving, and how are you helping them?
- What is the unique service you provide? How do you provide it?
- Why does the world need your organization?
- What makes you unique – how is your organization different than others?
- What is the desired outcome of the product or service?
- Do you have good human stories to share? What is the common thread?
- What attracts your most important audiences? What compels people to purchase your product or services? What inspires people to buy from your company, give to your organization, or volunteer or work with you? Why your organization and not another?
- What emotions or perceptions do you want people to feel when thinking about your organization? Maybe safety, compassion, fear, pride, obligation. Each organization will have a slightly different intangible feel, even if the work they do is similar.
- What words, colors, images, symbols, might support those feelings?
The answers to these questions can be woven into an integrated brand that powerfully and clearly communicates this story to all the right audiences. Stay tuned – next time I’ll discuss the ways your brand can express this story.
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