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 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?
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?
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?
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?
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