Lend Us An Ear


Branding. Relationship Status: It's Complicated

by Chrissy VanScoten

Let's do a little roleplaying for a second, okay? Say you're a butcher and you've just opened up your own shop. One day, you walk outside with a small wrapped package and offer it to a woman on the street. "This is the best cut of filet mignon that I've ever seen," you tell her. "I'd like you to have it."

Now, if this woman is anything like me, she started backing away from you the moment she realized you were planning on addressing her with more than just eye contact. If you're lucky, she'll politely say, "no, thank you," before promptly high-tailing it to the opposite side of the street. If you're not so lucky, you may be returning to your shop more tender than that filet you're offering.

But what if we go back a step? Let's say you see a close friend outside your shop and run out to offer her the steak. Her eyes light up, she graciously accepts your gift, and heads home with her mouth watering a bit at the thought of her newly acquired dinner.

It makes sense right? Obviously, anyone you've built a relationship with is going to know that you're a legitimate butcher and not a crazy person. They're not going to shy away from your products and will know the quality you provide, leading them to trust your word for the quality of this piece as well.

So, why do we suddenly become well-intentioned-but-seemingly-crazy butchers when it comes to branding? Erm, okay, perhaps I've taken the metaphor a little too far, but here's the point: branding is 100% about relationship building. But where do we go wrong? Let me break it down for you:

The Problems

First, so many people confuse the difference between branding and marketing. So here's the short version:

  • Branding is who you are and how you portray that personality to the world; it's basically a non-aggressive way of saying, "this is me, take me or leave me."
  • Marketing, on the other hand, is a conversation that leads to a call to action; it's basically asking someone if they want to swipe right and then buy you dinner.

Second, we tend to think of branding in terms of "it's all about me." To a degree, yes, we did literally just define branding as your personality; but let's be real for a second, your customers don't care about you; they care about themselves. So when you define your personality, it has to be done in such a way that it becomes all about them instead. Think about the commercials you see on TV; those brands aren't telling you how amazing they are, they're telling you what an incredible time you will have when you use their product. We have to shift our focus.

Third, we start marketing before fully developing our brand. We get so caught up in our need to bring in new customers for our survival, we neglect building a solid brand for them to interact with. Now we're engaging customers with an experience that isn't what we want for them; they'll either leave dissatisfied or with the wrong impression of who you are. If they come back and get a different experience of your brand, they may no longer trust the integrity of your company. Worse, if they had a poor first experience, not only will they stop doing business with you, they may also share those negative comments with others.

So how do we build a cohesive brand to avoid these problems?

The Process

Goals. Well before you ever interact with another person, you need to know where you're headed as a company. Do you have a mission and vision statement? Write them out! These are crucial for streamlining every future decision you'll make for your company.

Details. After you know where you're headed, you can develop the general feel of your brand. What will your name and logo represent? What font and colors will personify you company? Every little detail will come together to symbolize who you are to your future customers.

Reputation. This is where that relationship building comes into play. Your website design, your social media engagement, your email and in-person interactions, all create an expectation of what a potential customer will experience when they work with your company. This is where your customer learns if you are punctual and easygoing, or rude and negligent.

Three Keys to Reputation:

  1. Be intentional. Until your character becomes well-known and can speak for itself, you have to be extremely mindful about your interactions. If anything is misinterpreted, your customers won't know that it's not what you meant unless you explain otherwise, and they may not know if they can trust your explanation as sincere or a C-Y-A stunt.
  2. Be authentic. The most engaging people are the ones who are real. Give your customers some behind-the-scenes action of what makes you tick: at the office and at home (if you're comfortable with that.) Show your flaws and learn from your mistakes out in the open. Nothing is more inviting than a business that is relatable and can say, "me too."
  3. Be patient. This is going to take time. Ya know, building Rome and all that... But seriously, don't get discouraged when it takes a while to see some positive feedback on your development. The strongest foundations require longer investments; you're just adding security to your business by building it up the right way.

If you were starting your brand now, would you do anything differently? What do you think the main components of a good brand should be? Do you disagree with any of our points? Let us know in the comments! We'd love to chat about it.