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First… please, please, please don’t stop reading just because I’ve used the ‘b’ word… I have to admit that even I struggle not to glaze over the moment someone throws ‘brand’ into a sentence… particularly given that nine times out of ten it’s because they aren’t actually using the word correctly and don’t understand what it means.

With all that said I was pleasantly surprised the other day when, at a breakfast networking meeting, I heard a local design and branding specialist (Jason Ward – JC Ward {Creative} explaining what a brand really is.

Sometimes it’s useful to go back to basic brass tacks and have a think about something so important, yet so often forgotten (or worse, over-analysed in a puff of hot air).

Your brand isn’t your logo

Myth number one is out there… Loud and proud.  How many times have we sat in meetings and heard someone talking about the brand when they actually meant the logo… or the colour palette… or the font?

So, if it’s not all of this then what is a brand?

Jason suggested an approach that, at first consideration, was worryingly simple… it very quickly became enlightening.

A brand can be divided into four elements: Character, Personality, Talents and Voice.

1.     Character

  • What do you stand for?
  • What are your values?
  • What’s important to you and your customers?

2.     Personality

  • Who are you?
  • How do you behave?
  • How do you do business?

3.     Talents

  • What do you do?
  • What value does this offer?
  • What makes us different from the competition?

4.     Voice

  • How do we speak?
  • What do we look like?
  • What do we have to say?

The important thing is that these need to be considered each in turn (and in this order) when putting together a brand for your business.  If you take this approach you will see that the logo/colour/font side of things comes as part of section four (voice) and as a reflection of the other three elements. They are the public voice of the fundamentally important elements that ‘make you, you’.

So, let’s be practical… how much navel-gazing are we talking about here?

I genuinely think that this discussion is something that should take place on a strategically regular basis. What do I mean by ‘strategically regular’? I mean, whenever you are reviewing your strategy or planning your marketing communications.

How can we actually use this?

It can be helpful to view this as a matrix and adapt it to you business needs. This means, walking through the process and challenging each step.  Ask yourself four questions at each bullet point:

1.     Where are we now?

2.     Where did we say we wanted to be?

3.     Has it worked? Why?

4.     Where would be like to be next?

If you write this up into a simple matrix then you can check against this the next time you review things. A simplified version could be used for planning out each piece of marketing communications as well… Yes that’s right… you need to think about these things before you put together each flyer and this is how you make sure things are actually all ‘on brand’… it’s not just down to making sure the logo is in the right place…

The future’s bright, the future’s…

The most important thing about a brand is that we understand that it comes as the result of us as individuals within a business. Just as the personnel change and develop over the lifetime of a business, so too must a brand. Just as we can influence the directions that we personally develop in, so too can we direct a brand’s growth. Unless we have gone through a clear structure and process to articulate the elements of our brand, how else are we to measure this and identify both success and room for improvement?