The most successful companies have a solid brand. Apple, Nike, Google, Twitter, etc. We are able to identify these companies just by glancing at their logos, even without any other identifiers. They enter into our brains, into our subconscious, our lives.
Seeing their logo emblazoned on their products convinces us to buy that product. Seeing the logo for their phone app encourages us to spend time with the service they offer.
We as consumers willingly give them our money and/or time. We consume whatever it is they are selling.
But, how can a logo have such power over our purchasing decisions, in terms of both money and time?
The answer lies in the fact that they are more than just their logos; more than the marketing campaign and the advertisements. It is because they have a solid brand.
So, what is a brand and how do you create your own?
Can you apply the same techniques as those who have already found success?
Does their success come from the brand, or is it the other way around?
The first answer is a little philosophical and has two parts. If you are trying to figure out what your brand is, you should look inward first, and then outward.
What is your mission? What are your values?
Your voice, or your brand, should align with your company’s message. The more those two things are in alignment, the happier you will be with the work you do. If you are just getting your company started, whether as a freelancer or as a startup in Silicon Valley, in order to establish your brand, you need to first answer a few questions about yourself:
Who are you?
What are you good at?
What do you like to do in your free time?
What do you believe?
What kind of people do you hang out with?
If you could make a living doing whatever you wanted, what would it be?
Are the answers to any of these questions stopping you from doing that thing?
Next, you need to look to everyone else.
Who is your audience?
Find where those people are, whether on social media, in real life, or a combination of the two (which keeps things more interesting!).
Do these people have the same needs as you?
What are the needs of those people?
What are their pain points?
Is there something that exists on the market already that is not identifying and resolving that pain point?
Those people should be a reflection of your brand.
The two main questions we want to answer with all this exploration are:
- What are you making?
- Who is it for?
And answering these questions will lead you to an important point: Identifying your purpose, which is one component of your brand.
The process of answering these questions about yourself and your potential audience will likely require a certain amount of trial and error. You may need to move back and forth between answering questions about yourself and others as you develop your brand.
Successful Brands and Emotional Connection
Your audience desires an emotional connection more than anything.
In his book, This is Marketing, Seth Godin talks about how people don’t want the drill bit you’re selling. They want the emotional satisfaction it will bring them. The drill bit will allow them to make a hole in the wall that they can put a nail in. They can put a shelf on that nail and put things on that shelf, which will declutter their living space and allow them to feel accomplished for having done the work themselves, or earn them praise from their spouse.
All of this adds up to a satisfied customer who feels good, which is what they are buying in the first place.
Apple recognizes this. People buy an iPhone because it’s an iPhone, not because of the technology within it. Apple makes high-end products for those who are attracted to minimalism. They also appeal to the emotions of their customers and encourage them to “Think Different”. People don’t buy Apple for the tech behind it. They buy something because it is an Apple product.
This is how Apple is able to charge so much for their products, even though their products themselves are more or less the same as other tech companies.
Some brands make story the central part of everything they do. Disney, for instance, creates stories and experiences built around families. Their investment in stories, in particular, is one of the keys to their lasting success all these decades.
Will Burns at Forbes wrote an article on the subject, in which he writes “…where most brands start with a physical product and then build a story around it in the form of ‘content marketing’, companies like Disney do exactly the opposite. They create a brand story – a movie – and then build products around that story.”
Stories help connect us to ourselves and to each other. Disney recognizes this by creating their stories first, as opposed to most other companies, who create the product first, then the story–through content marketing. After Disney creates the story, they create products and experiences around those stories.
In a similar fashion, Nike appeals to emotions through the use of story, as well. Nike makes high quality products targeted toward athletic individuals. Their logo uses sharp, dramatic angles to emphasize the spirit of competition and the importance of exercise. Another interesting thing they use in their branding is the classic archetype of the hero and the villain. In this case, you, the consumer, play both roles. The hero is your athletic spirit, the villain your laziness.
Google makes searching on the web easy and reliable; using the popular search engine opens you up to a wealth of information.
The iconic blue, red, yellow and green colors that make up its simple logo are nothing innovative, yet it is one of the most iconic brands in the world.
Google got really good at one thing: searching on the web. From there, they were able to branch out into other things.
Your Brand is Your Voice
Building a brand for your company helps you identify your company, as well as your audience. It helps your potential audience to recognize you and what you’re about, and is a manifestation of the symbiotic relationship between creator and consumer.
But, building a brand is not a trivial task. As more niche markets emerge, the need to innovate and let your creativity shine grows more paramount. Having a unique voice helps you to better identify your audience, who are themselves unique, and are a reflection of your brand. By examining these established brands, we can be inspired to come up with ways of finding our unique voice.
Your brand is the voice of your company.
Therefore, your brand is your voice.