“Brand me!” It’s the phrase new businesses say to marketing professionals hoping to build a successful brand. Marketing agencies helped national corporations like Pepsi, Coke, and Kraft establish their brands, so it makes sense for a new business to ask a marketing company for branding.
The problem with this perception is that brands aren’t created like you’d create a logo or a website. Brands develop over time as a company builds its reputation. A brand is the personality of the company, and a strong brand is built through authenticity, transparency, and the determination to provide excellent service.
Anyone who says you can brand yourself by hiring an expert graphic designer, or by contracting a talented marketer only has half the story. Graphics, logos, and other marketing materials support – but don’t create – a company’s brand.
“A brand will help encourage someone to buy a product,” explains James Heaton, “and it directly supports whatever sales or marketing activities are in play, but the brand does not explicitly say ‘buy me.’ Instead, it says, “This is what I am. This is why I exist. If you agree, if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.”
If you’re going to build your brand, you have to earn it by doing the work.
You need a few foundational skills
To build a brand people love, you need determination, and you need to provide value, whether you’re selling a product, a service, or solving a problem.
Determination will push you forward while the value you provide will attract people to your brand. This is part of the magic formula that eventually develops into loyalty.
Some businesses only get half the formula correct and wonder why it doesn’t work. Imagine if the Wright Brothers had fierce determination, but never learned how to build wings. They would have launched themselves down that corridor over and over again, but they would never have gotten off the ground to achieve their famous 59-second, 852-foot flight. Determination alone does not create success.
Be determined to triumph
Looking at advances in aviation technology today, it’s hard to believe the Wright Brothers were ridiculed and discouraged from their efforts to fly. Back then, flying machines were a concept reserved for fantasies.
People love brands that triumph over naysayers and do the impossible. For example, Boyan Slat developed a system to remove the vast amount of trash in our oceans. His system will take years compared to the estimated millennia if done manually. Nobody thought it was possible to corral the plastic in the sea so quickly until Slat figured out how to use the ocean’s own currents to speed the process.
Being determined to see your projects all the way through, no matter what, will strengthen your brand. People love and admire both the Wright brothers and Boyan Slat, although neither is selling goods to the public. Their brand is who they are.
Get your team in alignment with your brand
Again, you need more than talent to build a strong brand – you need your entire team on board to represent your brand in all that they do, including interactions with customers and the public. How they interact with customers will determine your brand.
Scandals emerge every so often where the CEO of a major corporation is caught doing something that makes the company’s brand look bad. Even when they’re not on the clock, your team – especially higher-ups – are always going to represent your company in the public eye. They need to be prepared to embrace that responsibility and wear it well.
World-renowned hair stylist and industry innovator, Eric Fisher, knows this branding aspect well. He’s a master of his craft and a savvy businessman. You probably didn’t realize there are hairstyling awards, but Fisher has won two of them. He’s also one of four Americans to win the Global Business Award from the Anderson School of Business.
Fisher built his brand on relationships and runs three salons with teams of people who fully represent his brand. As a young boy, he spent time in the salon where his mother worked, watching her develop deep relationships with her clients. He saw them hug and kiss her before paying. When he decided to become a hairstylist, he vowed to embody her way of being in his own work.
From the beginning, Fisher branded himself on strong relationships. That reputation allowed him to create three prestigious salons, a namesake academy, training programs, and best-selling books and CDs.
In an interview with Rosy, Fisher revealed his most significant achievements and offered sound advice to others who wish to achieve their own success. His interview advocates for patience and determination. Being in love with what you do makes that easier.
Fisher said it took about a year to see a return on his investment. Despite this, he was building his brand the whole time. “This happened because we had a great training program and a commitment to excellence and quality,” he said, referencing his success. “Our entire team took ownership of the sense of purpose we had about doing quality work.”
When your entire team takes ownership of providing quality work, they’re taking an active role in building your brand.
If you have customer service representatives, they’re continually building your brand while you’re not around. They’re often the primary source of interaction your customers have with your company. How they represent your company will determine your brand’s reputation.
Brands emerge from reputation
The way brands emerge from reputation is easy to understand when you consider car manufacturers as an example. Each car make earned their brand through reputation influenced by customer preference. For example, Toyota has a reputation for building reliable cars that last a long time. BMW’s reputation centers on an enjoyable driving experience and quality craftsmanship. Subaru’s reputation is based on a superior AWD system.
Almost everyone has owned various types of cars throughout their lives, but at some point, some choose to buy only one make of car because they feel aligned with the brand.
You can only shape your brand reputation
Your brand is who your customers think you are. You don’t have complete control over what others think about you, but you can shape their opinion.
To build your brand, you need to work on building and maintaining your reputation constantly. Your reputation is shaped wherever the public has an opportunity to interact with or observe you. This includes your company website, your personal website, sales and marketing representatives, customer service team members, affiliate marketers, and anyone authorized to represent you.
While you can’t precisely determine what your customers think about you, you can shape their opinion by positioning yourself as authentically as possible. You can influence how people perceive you by providing a level of customer service that makes people say positive things about you and your company. Word of mouth is one of the most efficient ways to build a strong brand.