A common misconception is that a company’s brand is its logo and look and feel – its colours, font, letterhead, business cards etc. We often hear graphic designers and other creative marketers talking about having rebranded a company; what they are actually referring to is the company’s visual identity (branding). This visual identity represents the brand, but is itself not the brand. A firm’s brand is its culture, reputation, values, attributes – the feeling you get when you’re dealing with it. A strong analogy is that the brand is the firm’s personality, while the branding (logo, look and feel etc) is its face and body.
For example, the heart of Walt Disney’s brand is ‘Family Magic’. It’s a fun, exciting brand, an escape, and all of Walt Disney’s movies, products, values and attributes are carefully constructed to reinforce that brand.
Another strong brand is Harley Davidson. Harley Davidson motorcycles represent a highly social, rebellious lifestyle. Riders who subscribe to the Harley Davidson brand display their association through their shared branding – their clothing, and often a Harley Davidson tattoo.
A firm’s brand reputation can make or break it. When it comes to medium-sized and small professional services firms, the owner, often without even realising it, creates the brand and brand reputation. Their own personal brand forms the foundations of the business brand.
Your brand is one of your most valuable intellectual assets. It is your reputation and personality, created through your competence, business practices, ethics, values and attributes. When developing your brand, consider your key brand drivers – your strongest and most differentiating attributes and values.
Your brand attributes are the tangible components of your brand, while your brand values reflect the emotional, ethical and philosophical aspects. Words to describe attributes include: family law, personal connection, trust, expertise and premium service. Words to describe values include: client first, make it happen, welcoming, accessible and non-intimidating.
There are some values that are fundamental to the success of all firms, such as honesty, ethics and politeness. These are simply expected by clients, and as such are neither strong nor differentiating.
It is important to remember that the behaviours, attitudes, knowledge and interactions of everyone in the firm reflect the brand. For this reason, once you have defined your attributes and values, ensure everyone in the firm stands by them. In other words, they must live the brand.
Your brand tells people, by way of your actions and behaviours, who and what you are. Once you have articulated your brand, it informs all of your marketing initiatives, including your visual identity.
Brand marketing promotes your brand to potential clients; it does not generally focus on immediate client acquisition. While a strong brand is critical to all businesses, and every firm needs to articulate and live its brand, it is usually only the larger firms that have the financial resources to develop brand specific advertising. Rather, the brand informs all advertising and communications campaigns.