When I say, “Your Brand” what exactly do you think of? Your logo? Your product? Your company’s reputation?
Years ago I was consulting for a company in Park City, Utah. Their logo and sales materials were carefully crafted, their website was beautiful. They clearly understood how to present their brand to their clientele. One day they got a call from someone who had seen one of their branded vehicles driving in what the caller thought was a reckless manner. He said in his message that he would never do business with that company because of the carelessness one of their employees exhibited while driving.
I tell this story to illustrate the fact that as careful as you may work to create a brand that is exactly what you want it to be on paper, there may be things you haven’t considered that will intersect with people’s experience of your company and therefore become part of what “your brand” represents to them.
Your brand is the sum total of all the touch points your customers—potential customers, employees, etc.—experience when they encounter your company. It doesn’t exist anywhere but in the minds of your various audiences. Let me repeat that. Your brand exists only in the minds of the people who encounter your company in one way or another. And it is their experience at each of those touch points that shapes their perception of what you stand for as a company.
I read an interview with James Dyson, who said, “There’s only one word that’s banned in our company: brand.” He says, basically, that he doesn’t care about or pay much attention to “the brand,” focusing attention solely on the products Dyson produces. His feeling is that if they remain focused on producing the best products possible, the brand will take care of itself.
That would be sufficient if, and only if, the products are the only place your audience will experience your company. I think it’s important to understand that your company will encounter people with differing levels of exposure to it—people who are at different points in your Funnel of Influence (see below), and to create an experience that is appropriate for each of those points in the funnel.
So, how do you start branding your company? I believe the secret to creating an exceptional brand experience, you should look at everything you do as “branding”. Every component of your company’s interaction with people is an opportunity to influence the experience they have with you. The music you play in your café. The color of your walls. The typeface you use on your website. And on, and on.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many decisions to be made. I suggest you start by clearly defining the experience you want each person to have when they encounter your company. If you can articulate that, you can measure how effectively your choices create that experience for a particular audience. Keep in mind too, that your brand is something that evolves over time. Keep refining your choices and testing them in the real world. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from those very people for whom you’re creating the experience to see where you need to adjust.