The First Thing You Should Do When Building Your Brand (Hint: It Isn't Pick Out a Logo)
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When you're launching a new business, it's tempting to go straight to the fun stuff -- the logo, the colors, the mood board. But, before going down the Pinterest rabbit hole, it's important to establish the core purpose and belief system of your brand.
Related: The 8 Laws of Branding
Indeed, studies show that companies with purpose grow twice as fast as those with a low sense of purpose. So, a beautifully designed visual brand identity without a clearly defined purpose is like an exquisitely wrapped present that's ... well, empty.
Despite this, a Gallup survey shows that only 41 percent of workers know what their company stands for and how it differs from competitor brands. That's a problem. Because informed and engaged employees are often the front line ambassadors for a brand, this disconnect can lead to customer confusion or worse, indifference. The snazziest logo in the world can't save the business that neglects the heart of its brand.
As a brand strategist, one of the first steps I take in developing entrepreneurs' brands is to help them to establish their core purpose. Having a clearly defined and expressed purpose not only serves as an internal compass that guides their decision-making and strategic direction, but it also acts as a beacon for their ideal customers -- making it easier to understand, relate to and remember what the business represents.
The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out. It's like constructing a building: you need a strong foundation. The following three steps will help you to understand and articulate the heart and soul of your brand.
1. Create your mission statement.
Articulating your mission is one of the most important, yet often overlooked steps in creating a powerful brand. Simply put, your mission reflects what you've set out to do.
What makes a great mission statement? It should be clear, provide some strategic direction and inspire. When crafting your mission, think about your business goals, the value you'd like to bring, whom you serve and how you do it. Ideally, your mission will also be clear enough for people outside your organization to understand and concise enough for you -- and your employees -- to remember.
Let's take a look at how Honest Tea does it:
"Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our recipes, with sustainability and great taste for all."
The first sentence describes what's being produced (great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages), while the second sentence touches on important elements of the value the business brings (honesty, integrity and sustainability) and who it serves (for all).
After you've written your mission statement, revisit it regularly as you build your brand. You might find that it needs some tweaks as your business grows.
2. Define your vision.
If mission is the "what," then your brand's vision is the "why." Your vision is a future-focused statement that paints a vivid picture of what the world will look like once you've accomplished your mission. It's not just inspirational, it's aspirational. Rallying around a powerful vision can help everyone in an organization stay motivated, inspired and focused on the big picture when things get tough.
A great way to approach the vision statement is to think about the ultimate impact of the product or service you provide. A good strategy is to focus on the benefit of what you offer. Then dig a little deeper ... What is the benefit of that benefit? Keep going until you have a clear picture of what the future will look like when you've succeeded. Above all, think big.
Ikea's vision is:
"To create a better everyday life for the people."
It's a deceptively simple-looking statement. For anyone familiar with Ikea, the explanatory statement that follows is unnecessary, but it explains each component of the simple vision statement:
"Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them."
3. Identify your values.
Your brand (or core) values are like the pillars of your company. They are going to help guide your organization's actions, influence the workplace culture, help your team to make sourcing and hiring decisions and ultimately impact customer loyalty. Why? Because it's in our nature to want to align ourselves with people, products and organizations that share our values.
Think about what you stand for -- and what you'll never compromise on. Consider the beliefs and qualities that have a unique, direct and meaningful impact on the way you do business. While there's no "magic number," for brand values, more than five can be difficult to remember and internalize, and fewer than three isn't really enough to give the full picture of your business.
Once you've determined your brand values, write them as statements that exemplify how they're implemented in your business. A great example of this is Starbucks' values:
- Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
- Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
- Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
- Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
Imagine the difference if they had simply listed words like "Inclusion," "Courage," "Transparency" and "Accountability," instead of illustrating these concepts with these descriptive sentences.
It's not enough to simply slap some values up on your website and call it a day. Successful business owners know that it's all in the implementation. We must weave our brand's mission, vision and values into the fabric of our business. Everything we do and say, from our offerings to our marketing to our hiring approach, should not only align with, but reinforce our mission, vision and values.
Once you've laid the foundation, other elements, like a logo, will come easier to you, your team and any outside partners.