One of the first things you need to think about when starting a business is your brand. Sure, you might have a great idea for a blog, vlog, product, or service, but what is your brand personality? What’s your look and feel? Your brand is what will help set you apart from everyone else, inspire trust and loyalty, and keep your customers coming back for more, so you want to make sure you create the strongest one possible.
PicMonkey recently hosted a webinar about how to brand your business with entrepreneur, speaker, and branding expert Cynthia Johnson, author of “Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding.” Read on to get some of Cynthia’s best advice on how to discover, develop, and deploy an optimal brand.
Branding vs. Marketing
People often confuse branding with marketing, which can hamper their ability to create a strong brand. Branding is all about taking a big-picture view of who you are, how you want to present yourself, and what your overall goals are. You’ll have to figure out what your value add is and how you differ from other people who are doing similar things.
Marketing, on the other hand, is when you take that brand out into the world and actually try and sell your product or service. It’s all those tactical actions you take, from advertising to posting on social to public relations. So basically, you’re going to need to build your brand first, and that brand will then inform all of your subsequent marketing efforts.
Cynthia explains the difference between the two like this: “It’s kind of like going on a date. One person gets really dressed up while the other person takes them out and pays. That’s the difference between branding and marketing.” Your brand is the one with the great look that gets all the attention. Your marketing is when you take that brand out on the town, show it off, and pay all the associated costs.
Discovering your brand
While some people immediately know the kind of brand they want to create, others need to explore a bit before they settle on a direction. Cynthia recommends checking out the 12 brand archetypes when trying to come up with your brand personality. These 12 archetypes are typically presented on a wheel and divided into four categories, such as Freedom, Ego, Social, and Order. They include Sage, Hero, Caregiver, Explorer, Outlaw, and Lover, among others. You can also find online quizzes to take that will help you figure out which archetype is the right fit for you.
Cynthia recommends talking to people who know you well when developing your brand. “With branding, you have to be objective about yourself, and that’s hard to do. So getting feedback from other people when you start to create is really helpful.” For example, you might think of yourself as an “Innocent,” but the people in your life might see you as a “Ruler.” Whatever direction you decide to go, it’s good to see how the world currently sees you before you start trying to create a new persona.
According to Cynthia: “There’s who you are, there’s who you think you are, and then there’s who you are on the internet. And they very rarely align unless you put some time and effort into figuring that out.” Basically, a unified persona is what you’re after.
Making brand decisions
“There has to be intent when creating your brand,” says Cynthia. “You have to make decisions. Not making a decision or not having an intent is still a decision. And it’s very obvious to people when you’re doing that.”
Cynthia is a big proponent of taking the time to contemplate every aspect of your brand, from your colors to your fonts to your imagery. For her own brand, she discovered that her archetype was Outlaw. She chose green to use on her website because it represents growth, optimism, and consistency. And her clean, modern sans serif fonts suggest stability and objectivity.
Beyond the look of your brand, you’ll also need to probe what makes you unique, so you can carve out a niche for yourself within your particular market. For example, if you’re a lifestyle blogger, what is it about you that will make people want to follow you and listen to your advice? Cynthia offers the example of a blogger who DOESN’T tell you to get up every morning at 5 o’clock. “I’d say to myself, ‘I wanna hang out with her because I don’t want to get up at 5 o’clock—ever.’ It can be something as small as that, something that highlights what makes you different from the rest.”
Probably the most important brand decision you’ll make is determining your overriding purpose. Why are you embarking on this endeavor? What is your vision and what will your impact be? Are you looking to make change in the world or do you want to better the lives of a few individuals? Cynthia recommends some serious soul searching when it comes to this aspect of brand building. “You need to ask yourself: ‘Does this align with my core values?’ If it doesn’t, then don’t do it.”
Branding with tools
You can hire a branding or design firm to help you create your brand, or you can do it yourself with the help of design tools like PicMonkey. “PicMonkey has some amazing tools to help you,” notes Cynthia. She especially likes how easy it is to try different looks and styles before implementing them on your various channels. “You can easily plug in different elements—like graphics, colors, fonts, headshots—before you apply them to your social media pages. So you can see how they look first and make sure everything is on brand.”
While Cynthia recommends putting a lot of thought into your brand before launching, she also realizes that switching up your brand is par for the course. She cites someone like Martha Stewart, who did a drastic rebranding of herself once she saw that her target audience was changing after her run-in with the law.
“Her old audience maybe thought she was a little bit criminal. But while she definitely lost a big portion of her old fan base, she gained a new fan base,” observes Cynthia. Now Martha Stewart is cultivating a hipper, more authentic persona, one that partners with marijuana companies and pals around with Snoop Dogg.
Cynthia advises that once you decide to change up your brand, don’t make it a slow, gradual shift. “Change all of your platforms at the same time,” she recommends. “It should be a total brand shift, so if someone sees you on Facebook and then they see you on LinkedIn or Instagram, they don’t feel confused or disoriented.”