How to master your branding

September 22, 2022

Branding

As Switchback turns nine years old we’re reflecting on the branding work we’ve done over the past eight years and while How to Master your Branding is a presentation we give a couple times a year we thought it was worth sharing in an article too. 

19 years ago when I graduated from ACAD (now called Alberta University of the Arts) , what I loved about graphic design, visual communications were the rules and constraints surrounding each project. I found that my superpower was connecting the dots between product and people’s stories and turning it into a relatable visual story that appealed to other like minds. After my husband, Trevor, and I were newly married – we had this crazy idea – we knew we wanted to work together on the idea that selling and storytelling are one in the same. As we biked up switchbacks on a favourite mountain, out of breath, Trevor suggested that those switchbacks were the perfect metaphor for what businesses go through when building their business, back and forth, slow and steady growth – thus Switchback Creative was born. 

I tell you all of this because creating a community requires you knowing your story, telling a great story and watching for the stories others tell. Let’s jump into how you can master your branding. 

First thing to know about branding and you need to know too is that it’s way more than just your logo. This is how we define branding: Branding is all about making people FEEL something. It’s what people say about you when you aren’t in the room. Create story based branding that speaks to the HEART. 

Marketing on the other hand is the combination of everything you do to make people DO something. It speaks to the mind, getting people to act. Branding needs to speak to an emotional connection and what problem you solve. 

Think of your favourite brands, brands like Converse vs. Toms shoes, Toyota vs. Audi, Tim Hortons vs. a local french pastry cafe.  Why do you love them? What would you do to go out of your way to experience that brand? How can you be like that?

The stories you are thinking about associated with those brands are because they stand for something that matters to you. They make you feel something – they speak to your emotions and identity in some way.

Why does all of this that matter for your business? Branding matters because it’s what people feel and say about you. It’s your reputation, your customer connection. You need to craft the message, create an experience so you stay in their mind.

High level a few things to work on in developing your brand are as follows: 

Develop your Unique Selling Proposition 

What’s the intersection of WHAT YOU DO WELL, WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN, + WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS NEED from you. Why is your product uniquely valuable to your customers? What are your biggest strengths? Compare your most unique aspects against your audience’s needs. Weave it throughout your client experience. How can you reinforce the idea to customers over and over again?

Craft your Mantra for Internal Inspiration

A Mantra is short, 3 words and elicits inspiration for what gets you and your team up in the morning. Why are you doing this, what makes it worth all the blood sweat and tears. Love the idea of a mantra as it evokes power and emotion, gets you up in the morning. Think about this example and how much more direction it provides than the company’s tagline does for customers. 

Starbucks Coffee – A tagline of theirs might be: Connect over Coffee. It makes sense and is self explanatory. Their mantra might be: Rewarding everyday moments. This explains more what the role of the team is everyday. To create these moments for customers. 

Know who your Company is for

This seems obvious but if you don’t know who’s problems you are solving and who you are focusing on it’s hard to know what direction to move in. Seth Godin talks about knowing that your company is for people who believe (fill in the blank), who you are focusing on and what your promise to them is. 

If you do the work to craft those ideas your brand will start to come to life more and more. 

The visual side of your brand involves the look and feel of everything you create and share. Your logo needs to be consistent, memorable and versatile. Work with professionals who understand your vision and can bring it to life. You need to have an extensive brand guidelines document that shows all the pieces that make up your brand: colours, fonts, photos, graphics, patterns, logo variations, social media templates, brochure templates, key images and personality. On the written side, you need to have a brand playbook that speaks to your tone, language, audience, editorial style, key messages and brand story. 

Now that you have talked the talk make sure you can walk the walk too. You need to prove it. People won’t believe anything about your brand if you don’t prove what you say you stand for. Create solid repeatable processes or actions to prove what you say about your brand is true.

Bottom line is that branding matters: a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it is what consumers tell each other it is.

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