The owners at Harris & Stearns, a Tampa-based wholesale upholstery distributor, initially contacted us to improve their online presence and create an ecommerce site to replace their static, outdated website. As soon as we started working with them, however, it became clear to us that they needed much more than a new website and social media channels. What they needed was a brand.
Back to Branding Basics: Laying the Groundwork for Your Brand
To define and clarify their brand, we worked with the Harris & Stearns team to identify and express their organization’s brand proposition, differentiators, and personality – the three building blocks of a successful brand foundation. We used our findings to create clear messaging to attract a new target audience as well as engage and attract customers in their current markets. By identifying and developing a cohesive verbal and visual brand identity, we effectively positioned them as modern and relevant while maintaining their nearly 90-year history of providing old-fashioned customer service and loyalty.
Build it and They Will Come, Stay, and Bring Others
It’s not uncommon for clients to come to us looking for a website or other marketing materials without a clearly defined brand in place. When the situation reveals itself, as it quickly does during the discovery phase, we’re often required to work backwards to create the brand, so we can produce effective marketing deliverables.
There’s a good reason many companies skip over branding and dive right into marketing and advertising. Branding is tough. It makes your head hurt. Defining your brand is like therapy for your business, compelling you to do some serious soul searching on your company’s behalf. (What is my mission? Who am I? What benefits and value do my products and services provide? How do people feel about me? How do I want them to feel about me?)
With payroll to make and deals to close, most business owners skip over the existentialism and take the path of least resistance, diving right into marketing and advertising without answering those important questions first.
While you can run a business without going through the branding process, you don’t want to pour precious dollars into marketing or advertising before you define your brand. Doing so will almost certainly come back to haunt you – in the form of low ROI.
Without a solid brand foundation in place, developing and implementing an effective marketing strategy is highly unlikely. From our experience working with clients and our own internal rebranding efforts, we’ve learned a thing or two about the importance of starting with a solid foundation. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an established company like Harris & Stearns looking to re-fresh your brand, a lasting brand foundation starts with three essential building blocks.
READ ON TO LEARN HOW YOU CAN DEVELOP THE BIG 3 FOR YOUR BUSINESS
3 Building Blocks for a Lasting Brand Foundation
Regardless of where you begin the process, your brand identity always starts with determining “The Big 3,” which consists of three key building blocks that together form the basis for your brand’s identity, messaging, design, and all the subsequent marketing and advertising efforts that follow.
1. Brand Proposition
Also known as your main value proposition or unique selling proposition (USP), your brand proposition essentially says what you do (the services/products you provide), who you serve, and how what you do benefits your customers (the main way your products/services provide value).
Ask: What does your company do and how do your products or services benefit your customers? What not-so-obvious value are we adding to people’s lives? Take a look at this excerpt from Harris and Stearns’ new About Us page:
Harris & Stearns, Inc. is a wholesale upholstery distributor that has proudly served the interior design, upholstery shop, and workroom trades since 1928. While we’re passionate about staying on top of the latest industry trends, our mission remains the same: provide top quality products and customer service at the best possible price in order to promote innovative craftsmen in their work and art. For nearly 90 years, we’ve strived to be an integral part of an industry that unites comfort, utility, and beauty.
2. Brand Differentiator(s)
This may be the trickiest of the three branding building blocks, as it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to demonstrate how you’re similar to competitors – rather than different. Of course you should study the competition and conduct extensive market research, but use that intel to inform your branding decisions so you can stand out and be noticed by your ideal clients. People buy differences.
Ask: What truly makes us different? The key to this branding building block is to get to the heart of what you do differently, not just what you do well. The answer may not always be obvious when you’re so close to it. Marketing your own business is extremely challenging for that very reason and even industry pros like us struggle when it comes to articulating our awesomeness. Don’t underestimate the power of perspective when it comes to your brand. Try reviewing your client testimonials and looking for themes and patterns – what do people love about your business? Why do they choose you instead of one of your competitors? Their answers will likely lead you to your brand differentiator.
3. Brand Personality
Your brand personality includes the human characteristics of your brand, such as your tone, attitudes, and style. While your brand personality may be one of the more intangible components of your brand, it’s a critical building block that will drive the tone of your messaging and all your marketing content.
Ask: If our company was a person, how would he or she speak, dress, talk, act? What would she say? Is she fun or serious? Rebellious or traditional? Describe your company’s personality like you would that of a person to paint a clear picture. Brand archetypes like the creator, outlaw, and sage are often used to personify brands and help develop brand stories that engage and build relationships with customers. Going through the exercise of articulating your brand personality is critical to creating meaningful messaging that distinguishes your company and drives results.
For help building your brand foundation or to learn more about our creative marketing services, contact us online or call (813) 419-3246 to schedule a consultation.