You have a great business idea, you’ve written your business plan, and now you’ve engaged a graphic designer to design your logo- but stop! A logo does not represent your culture, your people, or your story, and no, it does not legitimize your business. So let’s take a step back from the tantalizing draw of having a shiny new logo.
What makes you personally go back to a company time and time again? It sure as hell isn’t their logo, but it could be one of many other, less seemingly tangible, things. For instance, it can be the trust you have in their service, their reputation, the culture, the values of the company or what they stand for. When these qualities are defined, organized and aligned into a business strategy, they then represent a “brand,” and when combined with confidence, clarity and consistency, you’re on the road to building a successful brand. Once you have a brand in place, your logo is merely an associator, a clear and easily recognizable mark that represents your brand in your target audiences mind.
How, then, do you define your brand? I suggest you “start with why.” Simon Sinek has coined this phrase (see www.startwithwhy.com), and it’s a great place to start. Why are you building this business? “To make money” isn’t a response that will drive loyalty or inspire you, your employees or your customers. Find a greater cause or belief, and let that be your guiding principle. You believe you can change the world, or you want everyone to have access to creative education- whatever your cause may be, find a genuine reason that will make you want to get out of bed and make it happen; something your people and your customers can get behind.
One way to approach this is to make a vision board filled with words, pictures, and drawings that resonate with your business. Ask yourself questions like: why did I want to start a business? What motivates me? What does success look like for me, my customers, and my employees? This might seem a little fluffy, but understanding the essence of a company is at the heart of branding. But your “why” has to be genuine, something that you can truly live as an organization.
Your “why” articulates what matters to your brand. It is the driving force, and it should become a valuable resource for employees, as it serves to unite everyone around a set of values. With your “why” statement in hand, you should now ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your target audience? Make this as narrow as possible.
- What problem do you solve?
- How are you different?
- What voice do you speak with?
- What should the experience of dealing with you be like?
- Can you make of all the above answers shorter?
If you are able to clearly communicate the answer to each of these questions with only a few sentences for each, it will be easy for your customers to understand your business and your services, and for you to share your brand values both internally and externally.Now you could ignore all this and go ahead and create a logo, of course, that pizza joint down the road is a business and has a logo, but is it a brand? Your maid service has the same story- it is a business with a logo, and they both probably do fine. But if you want to create a brand and not just another business, start with a bit of self-reflection and define yourself, and only then start thinking about your logo and corporate image.
With a clear message and defined target audience, your logo and design style can be crafted to be in line with your strategy, and in turn, a better reflection of who you genuinely are that appeals to and talks directly to your potential customers and employees. Never forget that your brand needs to also appeal to your employees, as a business is really about people. People bring brands and businesses to life, and your employees will become your brand ambassadors.
What if you’ve been running your business successfully for a few years, you have an established client base, and you have a logo that your nephew designed for you in his summer holidays? Can you create a brand retrospectively? Yes, absolutely, and it will follow the same steps as above. Start with your “why,” and really look at what you want to set out to achieve. You can use what you’ve learned by running your business to-date, speak to your existing clients and employees, and create a genuine brand that will help give you future growth and direction. I often deal with clients in this exact situation, and although it can be a little more difficult to adopt the change, it can also be hugely beneficial.
You're excited about your business; now go and communicate this in a way that will get your clients and employees excited about it too. Don’t just get a logo- get a logo that is a genuine reflection of a brand worth knowing about.