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This chapter is from the book

Creating a Marketable Brand

Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be. Your brand is your promise to your customers. Your brand tells them what they can expect from you, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. A marketable brand is a combination of elements that create trust and trigger manageable action. A marketable brand is a springboard that inspires you to jump to the needs of potential buyers and motivates prospects to discover more about how your creativity can serve them. When buyers instill trust, they show their faith by pulling out their checkbooks.

My friend Brian R.G. McKenzie is a marketing professional with a nonprofit organization in Kelowna, British Columbia, who consults on a part-time basis to entrepreneurs of all types. He’s a former agency manager who regularly takes up the call to help startups focus on making marketing problems go away so they can focus on what they do best and deliver their unique value. Brian believes in the marketing value of building trust because it identifies the business transaction with the business owner behind it. “As the ultimate authority on your brand, you get to choose what others think—about you and your brand,” he says. “It’s the essence of who you are and what you offer. It encompasses all of your products and services. It even drives what you talk about during meetings and who you have business lunches with and why.” As you work to develop a brand, never think of it as just a logo; think of it as a full-scale scene that captures the essence of how you fit into your business.

As you’ve already witnessed, I believe entrepreneurs need to seek professional help whenever possible; and building your brand should be added to the docket of things you shouldn’t try to create in a bubble. Regardless of your marketing prowess or design expertise, your brand is an extension of yourself, and the harsh reality is that you’re too close to your business to effectively extrapolate all the ways in which your business can develop or how it would be perceived by potential buyers. Find a trusted advisor or a skilled peer to be your sounding board or to help you hammer out some of the nuances of your brand. Or hire someone you respect to help take you through the steps, either to provide you with expert approval or help fill in the gaps (or hit the reset button).

I’m not a “branding guy,” but I’m exposed to the inner-workings of creative business brands on a regular basis and I can tell you that isolated branding efforts show their true colors more often than not, and sexy-looking graphics have nothing to do with it. Get backup on this one. Trust me.

Speaking of sexy—I mean backup—Luke Taylor is a Branding Specialist in Victoria, British Columbia. He started his sole proprietorship, fiVe, in 2005 (@fivegraphics), and he’s a service provider to a couple of my clients, so I know his work really well. This guy knows logos. His target client is a company that needs to build and design a new “brandmark.” He has adopted this terminology rather than “logo” because it helps his clients understand a logo’s place within the structure of their brand and their business, and he meets their needs in a very specific way. He guides clients through the process of developing a brandmark that, as one of many elements, fits into the brand strategy they’re developing.

A successful brand brings together all the elements that make up a creative endeavor into one cohesive package that clarifies your reason for working and serves as a catalyst for action:

  • Purpose: Who are your customers, what do they like, and why are you serving them?
  • Values: What is most important to you and why does it impact your business?
  • Goals: How will you know if you’re successful, or if your customers are happy?
  • Uniqueness: How do you differ from other providers? Is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) clearly defined? (For more on USPs, see Chapter 2, “Planning for Success.”)
  • Style: What will the words convey? Are you casual, formal, conversational, friendly, urban, or action-oriented?
  • Name: What is your formal commercial name? How do you want the marketplace to identify you?
  • Tagline: Can you communicate your most important benefit in just a few evocative words?
  • Logo: What graphical element can you create that embodies your business offering and attracts eyeballs?
  • Visuals: What images, colors, styles, fonts, treatments, and aesthetics will help you earn your buyers’ trust?

A well-crafted brand doesn’t put your business into the action; you do.

In the everyday world—one filled with decisions, transactions, failures, and successes—a brand is an identity. It’s a business name, a symbol, visual treatments, words that state an offering, and the voice and tone in which they’re delivered. When these things connect with a need or want, the potential buyer initiates contact. As clever as creatives want to be with their branding efforts, the most difficult challenge is simply to stay out of the way of a potential buying decision. As you already know, your USP sets you apart from others. A solid brand removes barriers and creates opportunities that build up your creative legacy while helping buyers focus on what’s most important: your creativity and your ability to make good on your promises.

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