Branding is a hot topic in marketing these days, but it’s defined in different ways and looked at from different angles. There are many components that make up a brand, and we call each component a Brand Layer.
Here are our definitions of some of the most important Brand Layers:
The base from which all brand elements will be created and measured against for accuracy. This layer consists of the following elements:
- Brand Vision is your company’s plan for itself—how your company wants to appear to the world, and how your company wants to grow and change in coming years.
- Brand Mission is what your company wants to create in the world, through its products or services.
- Brand Values are those ideas that your company brand stands for and that you believe in—and also what you don’t want to and won’t do. These values help your potential clients to decide whether you can help them, and they also help you decide who you will help and what you can’t offer or deliver. Brand Values are largely an internal measure against which you can process incoming jobs, but they will also be communicated through all of your marketing materials.
These components of your brand form your business’s “face” to the public. Brand Basics shape and direct your customers’ views of your business. Telling your customers how you want to be perceived is an essential piece of a Brand Strategy for any small business, and the easiest way for you to do this as a small business owner is through your:
- Brand Identity, the suite of visual elements that are used consistently in your marketing, including:
- Brand Names of your company and product or service lines
- Visual Vocabulary
- Collateral system/stationery set (business card, letterhead, envelope, and so on)
- Marketing materials (brochure, postcard, flyer, and so on)
- Brand Content, the way you write and talk about your brand, including your:
- Marketing Copy
- 30-second Pitch or Elevator Speech
- Brand Marketing that integrates both visuals and text about your brand, and that gets your message out to your audience. This is made up of your:
- Trade shows
- Public Relations
- All other outreach/marketing programs
- Brand Offerings, the products or services that you present, along with the quality, warranties, and value that you include with your products and services.
- Brand Experience, the process of working with you as seen from the clients’ perspective. But in order to create a positive experience, you have to have a strong foundation of systems, procedures, and processes built in to your business—this is a basic level of professionalism that’s expected of every business. Things that factor in here include:
- Returning calls
- Turnaround time
- Professional interaction and communication
These Brand Basics can also help to shape your Brand Personality, which is the persona that your business projects to the world. This is defined through the way that your brand expresses itself—the characteristics that give your business a life of its own, outside of your own personality.
These components of your brand speak about your business’s relation to the competition:
- Brand Positioning is basically how your brand compares with that of the competition. There are probably many businesses that provide the services or products that you provide: Brand Positioning determines where your business falls in the continuum of businesses in your field.
- Brand Differentiation is another, more specific piece of your Brand Positioning. Your Differentiators are those things that make your business stand out from your competition—the things that you do or offer that are unlike anything your competition offers.
You can control these Competitor Comparison factors through careful market research, market monitoring, and your definition of both your Brand Positioning and Brand Differentiation.
These components of your brand are defined largely through your business’s actions:
- Brand Environment is the atmosphere at and within your company.
- Brand Promise is the underlying guarantee or benefits that you offer as part of all of your services. These promises can be of quality, service, greatness, affordability, or speed of delivery; regardless, every business presents a Brand Promise to the public, promising what the experience of doing business with them will be like or what benefits the consumer/client will get from doing business with that company. While your Brand Promise is often initially shaped by promises made in your external communications, it must be fully realized through the internal execution of your services.
These components of your brand are defined by the public’s perception:
- Brand Awareness is the level of public awareness of your brand—who knows who you are and what you do. This is influenced by the strength and effective distribution of your Brand Basics, as well as by word-of-mouth.
- Brand Gap is the difference between your Brand Positioning and Differentiation and how your consumers and clients actually view these things.
So, what is a Brand?
Your brand is really the combination of all of the above Brand Layers. A brand is both your presentation and public’s perception of your business. It’s the way that people think about your business, and it is shaped through all of the layers described above.
Once you’ve established your brand and started putting your Brand Basics before the public eye, there are some other branding issues you should consider:
- Brand Alignment is the biggest challenge in building a brand comes from creating alignment across all of the Brand Layers described above, and in creating that same alignment between your audience and your message: making sure that the message that you’re presenting is the same message that your customers and contacts are walking away with.
- Brand Management is the process of managing all of the Brand Layers and achieving or maintaining Brand Alignment. It is a constant process; you should check up on your Brand Layers and Brand Alignment from time to time.
When all of your Brand Layers are working together, you’ll have a strong Brand that will help your business to grow and prosper.