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Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

How to create strong branding that kicks your fear to the curb so you can soar

In my last post, I talked about the fears that plague entrepreneurs as they set out to craft and share their Big Idea with the world – the power of the its-all-been-done-before belief to shut us down before we’ve even begun. (If you missed that post, go back and read it now (please). I want you to be in the right frame of mind before you read any further.)

Ok – all set? Ready now? Good.

“Brand experience” sounds suspiciously like some kind of marketing buzz word, but I promise you it really is the key to kicking your fear to the curb so you can get on with gettin’ on and making things happen. First let’s set some ground rules:

Ground Rule #1: Your “brand” is much more than your business name, logo, tagline, and content. It is a “living” asset that evolves or devolves based on the quality of the relationship between you and your customers.

Ground Rule #2: Your brand isn’t defined by what you say, it’s defined by what your customers say. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. What your customers say is influenced by one thing – their experience with your brand, hence “brand experience.”

Ground Rule #3: The stability and authenticity of your brand is at least as important to you as it is to your customers. A strong brand gives you a firm foundation to stand on. It brings clarity and boosts your confidence so that you can go forth into the world and deliver your Big Idea with persuasive conviction and contagious enthusiasm.

 

5 Magic Elements for a Kickass Brand Experience:

The traditional brand development process covers things like market analysis, perfect customer personas, value propositions, messaging frameworks, and … are your eyes starting to glaze over yet? There is value in these things, and I work with many of my clients on exactly these types of exercises, but they aren’t the whole story. A delightful brand experience needs something more – a little pixie dust, if you will.

 

Philosophy 

Philosophy is the “why” behind what you do. It reflects how you see the world. It is what ties all your values together. It is your war cry, your soapbox monologue, your manifesto. Philosophy permeates everything you say and do. It’s part of your DNA and should also be part of your business’ DNA. Some people might refer to philosophy as “passion,” but – although I appreciate the fire-in-the-belly nature of passion – I like the way a philosophy conveys a sense of deep thought and conviction.

What’s your philosophy? How does that translate into your business’ philosophy? Could you write it down as a campaign slogan? How about 10 commandments? As a love letter?

 

Personality 

Ah, the cult of personality. This is the “who” of your brand. Integrating your personality into your branding helps you stand out, connect more deeply with your audience, make a memorable impression, and feel more “at home” in your marketing. Often, personality is the only thing that differentiates two (or more!) similar businesses. Don’t miss the opportunity to give your brand something extra by bringing your unique and genuine personality to the party. People buy from people – not brands. More importantly, they buy from people they like. Don’t be afraid to be your best self – fully and honestly.

What are you sharing through your branding that expresses your one-of-a-kind personality?  How do the people you admire bring their personality to their brands? Can you apply what they do to your own branding?

 

Approach 

Your approach is your “how.” What’s your roadmap, your plan of attack, your process? How do you get people from A to B? How do you break things down and put them back together again? Your approach stands firmly on your philosophy and includes a healthy dash of your personality. It’s a reflection of how your mind works – how you solve problems. Your approach might be very methodical or more freeform. You might come at things in a very direct way, or meander towards a solution by way of lengthy conversations. Your approach could involve a lot of formal documentation, or none at all. You might solve problems in a single session, or over the course of a longer engagement. Your approach could include research, role play, mind mapping, list making, hypnosis, tarot cards, or neuroscience. How you get things done is a big (and often overlooked) part of your brand.

Do you have a typical process? Have you mapped it out? How can you pull the concepts, benefits, and individuality of your approach into your branding?

 

Story/Metaphor

Humans are built for story. We live in stories. We view the world in stories. We express ourselves in stories. How you use story and metaphor to shape your message also helps to shape your brand. I tend to use a lot of nature metaphors, for instance. Being out in the natural world is a big part of my life (personality) and I believe it has huge benefits (philosophy). It helps me see things more clearly so that I can solve complex problems (approach). (See how all these elements work together!) Stories bring context and texture to your brand. They give people an easy way to identify with you and your ideas. They are more memorable than lectures. Stories help you draw people into a circle around the campfire of your brand.

How do you use stories and metaphors in your branding? What stories can you tell that will help convey your philosophy, personality, and approach? What types of metaphors do you use to explain complex ideas? What do those metaphors say about you and your brand?

 

Experience

Finally – experience. This is what it all boils down to. You put philosophy, personality, approach, story, and metaphor into a big pot and stir. Your customer spoons a mouthful of the savory brew into her mouth. What does it taste like? Does it nourish her? Does it fill her up? How does it make her feel satisfied, tantalized, energized, relaxed, reassured, excited? Everything up to this point you can (but shouldn’t) fake. But, when it comes to experience, we’ve reached the point where you’re either walking the walk, or you’re not. People will know the difference. Crafting an “authentic” (to your philosophy, personality, and the rest of it) brand experience is about integrity – being who you say you are, doing what you said you’d do, delivering the goods and then some.

How does your brand experience stack up against your brand-on-paper? Are they aligned? What do your happiest customer say about working with you? What stories are they sharing about the experience of working with you? Are you making sure you’re recycling those glowing accolades back into your front-facing branding?

 

 

These are the elements that make up a deep, strong brand. If you build your brand with these pieces and questions in mind, you will give yourself a rock solid foundation from which to launch your ideas and your business. You will know who you are, why you do what you do, and how you do it. You will start to see stories and metaphors everywhere you look and you will learn to use these to tell your story and explain your ideas. You will understand exactly what you need to do to give your customers an amazing brand experience that will keep them coming back for more and telling their friends and colleagues about you.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

 

What do you think? Does your brand already include these elements? Do you think one is more important than the others? Have you seen any amazing examples of other people or businesses using these elements in their branding? 

 

Amazing and gorgeous photo by fiddle oak

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10 Comments

  1. Jamie,

    OK! I will be first.
    Here are a few lines that resonated with me.
    …..around the campfire of your brand. That’s hot! (NPI)
    …..delivering the goods and then some. That’s even hotter.

    So, as I read through this post carefully all the things you are saying here are ESSENTIAL to simply being a solid individual and ergo “brand”. This “kicks ass” over a ton of other brand development articles I have read and the common theme of “delivering the goods” goes a long, long way to having a kick as brand. Thanks for the tangible and practical advice.

    I was also wondering if you have read Simon Sineks book It Starts With Why? as you draw on a similar concept in your personality element. The idea is that you need to know why you are doing something before the “what you are doing” will make any sense to anyone let alone yourself. If you know why then it is infinitely easier to communicate the how.

    Bloody brilliant post lady. Keep ’em coming.

    • Jamie Lee

      Hello, Ralph!
      First – thanks for the pun … “that’s hot.” HA! :)
      Second – thanks for the kind words. I’m now wearing a smile almost as contagious as yours!

      I have not read Simon Sinek’s book (yet!), but I did see a snippet of his TEDtalk months ago. I remember being very taken with his presentation and making a mental note to buy the book. (So much for mental notes – I’d forgotten about it until you brought it up again!)

      I love that you picked up on the theme of delivering the goods. That’s really what it boils down to, isn’t it? At the end of the day, you want to make a difference for someone somehow. To do that, you have to be more than a collection of well-designed rhetoric.

      Thank you, thank you. For coming by and for reminding me about Simon. Off to make a REAL note this time!
      😉

  2. Jamie,

    What a great follow-up! Ralph goes for the hot stuff and I head over to the soapbox. As one who has, from time to time, been slightly more than a little opinionated on issues that I do and do not have any knowledge on, the idea of a guiding philosophy — the marriage of passion and critical thinking — really resonates with me. And, this is one of the areas of branding where I feel quite solid (perhaps not surprising giving my opinionated little self). Oddly enough, the part that I tend to struggle with the most is using stories and metaphors. In some ways it comes naturally (at least when I’m speaking), but letting my personality show through in my writing, and using stories and metaphors in my web copy and materials is something I find a bit challenging. My mantra this week has been “Embrace the power of imperfection.” I’m a wordsmith, and I terrorize myself by trying to make everything perfect (the first time). Thank you, Jamie. For constantly (and generously) sharing your wisdom!

  3. Hi Jamie,

    When it comes to branding development and fully fleshing out an experience that will benefit a small business or individual, I certainly think you nailed it! This is like a perfect worksheet to bring to your first client meeting to teach a small business owner the basics and why he or she should be incorporating all of these elements in the process.

    It would be very interesting to see if they could write down their business philosophy as a love letter (could be an interesting exercise for them:)) or really figuring out what really makes them or their service truly unique.

    Oh, and about the Ground Rules. Love them all and I especially repeat #1 often. You gave me some great ideas here. Thanks!

    Really great stuff!

  4. Can you say Resources addition? You broke it down here in a way we all can really use, with questions to make us think about our answers instead of just filling in the blanks. Like Craig said, this is perfect worksheet material.

    Do you tend to ask these questions of all your new clients?

    • Jamie Lee

      Thanks, Shakirah!
      Yes. This is absolutely part of the framework I use with my branding clients. I try to have some fun with the way I get at the answers to these questions – ask things in unconventional ways so that we get the real answers instead of the marketingese that people usually feel they have to provide in order to look smart. (You know what I’m talking about!) 😉

      TKS for the resources suggestion. Great idea.
      I’m working on some products and also a revamp of a beta branding class I taught earlier this year. Getting ready to have some fun with this. :)

  5. As Craig said, this is a great resource for newbies, getting them to focus and be mentally set.

    Even so, it’s important we all walk through these steps regularly to keep sight of who we are and what we’re doing as businesses.

    Great post my friend !

    • Jamie Lee

      Thanks, Jon.
      I agree that it’s important both for new branding and also to “reality check” established branding. Even the best intentioned branding can veer off track once in a while – it’s always good to take a closer look once in a while.

      Thanks for coming by and for the share. Have a great weekend, my friend!

      :)

  6. Hey Jamie,

    I don’t do business, at least not now, but I do plan to do it later. And I am already at my first step – starting with a blog. My plan is to make some money out of blogging and reinvest into some other business.

    Anyways, my blog is my brand now (and I do plan to expand that brand into other industries). The primary purpose/philosophy is to redefine products, to make it more useful, better efficiency and more eco-friendly.

    As far as personality goes, I try to make my blog unique by integrating my own life experiences and stories into blogging.

    Anyways, thank you for sharing all this information, Jamie!

    It will be useful to me in the future,

    Jeevan

    • Jamie Lee

      So glad you found this post helpful, Jeevan.
      Good luck with your new ventures.
      If you find you have any specific questions about branding or marketing, drop me a line and maybe I can answer in a blog post!
      :)

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