brand awareness

How do you define branding?

When most humans  think of a brand, they think of a logo, like the Nike Swoosh or the Starbucks mermaid. And that assessment isn’t incorrect, “branding” comes from the practice of burning a mark on to an animal with a branding iron to assign ownership. So to associate the act of branding as logo design is pretty common, but very inaccurate.

One of the best definitions of branding I found is from the book, Lean Branding by Laura Busche

“A brand is the unique story that consumers recall when they think of you. A brand associates your product with your customer’s personal stories, a particular personality, your promise to solve any given problem, and your position relative to your competitors. Your brand is represented by your visual symbols and feeds from multiple conversations where you must participate strategically. “

Passion led us here


A visual symbol is just one of many brand core components, and it is informed by a deep understanding of why you exist.

However, problem. The visual aspect of a brand’s identity in the start-up world more often than not occurs after the creation of a minimal viable product and before any type of long term strategy is entertained. As a result, communication is inconsistent and noisy. All the more reason to entertain brand development well before a launch, during the business development stage. Today thanks in part to technology, and cheaper manufacturing practices  much easier to get a product or service to market, the marketplace is crowded. T. So it isn’t enough to “brand” simply with a visual identity. Branding needs an inside approach that forces an organization to dive deep into the core of their existence.

I recently asked a group of business designers, How do YOU define branding? Their responses were incredibly insightful.

Values

One emphasized that branding isn’t just about visuals. Rather it is more about the associations that are delivered consistently (very important!) to reflect the story that we want to tell. The main associations are values.

I wholeheartedly agree. Values are the driving force behind any business, marketing, or product development strategy. The reason is simple, people want to align themselves with other people that have similar values and beliefs. Transparency isn’t a nice to have, it’s a requirement for business today. Values give you the opportunity to communicate, very clearly, what you care about, and how you’ll hold yourself accountable.

Your brand’s core values should clearly communicate “this is what we are about” while simultaneously hinting at the culture and deeply held beliefs that provide the foundation of an organization.

If you’re having trouble determining your organization's values, think of your current customers and prospects. What do they value? How does that sync up with your own values as an individual? Is there a mismatch? Now would be the time to solidify these characteristics to avoid any inconsistencies in communication later down the road.

Differentiation

Additionally, another designer commented about how branding is the assignment of unique characteristics to a product or service. In return, customers begin to recognize your offerings based on these characteristics. As a result, your product/service has a better chance of standing out in a cluttered market.

The fact is that everywhere you look, there is a brand. Brands are everywhere, and we’ve become highly skilled at tuning out most of the noise.  Noise relates to the brands that are not relevant, or meaningful to us. However, what might not be relevant or meaningful to us, will be so to another people. This is why it is critical that you niche down your focus to a target audience. Every human is a unique snowflake, with different  lifestyles, beliefs and values. If you try to be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to no-one. Focus on serving prospects and customers that fit your brand values (as mentioned about). If you cannot demonstrate a difference between your brand and your competitiveness through a Unique Selling Point (otherwise known as a USP) you’ll be seen as just another commodity.

Emotion

A 3rd designer that I spoke with pointed out that branding is about establishing emotional connections. Yes! The emotional component is so important, yet often the most misunderstood (at least in my experience).

A word of caution, feelings and emotions are often used interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing. In this context, I pulled a good definition.

Essentially emotions are physical and instinctive. They have been programmed into our genes over many, many years of evolution and are hard-wired. While they are complex and involve a variety of physical and cognitive responses (many of which are not well understood), their general purpose is to produce a specific response to a stimulus. For example: You are on your own and on foot in the savanna wilderness, you see a lion, and you instantly get scared. Emotions can be measured objectively by blood flow, brain activity, facial expressions and body stance. Important note: Emotions are carried out by the limbic system, our emotional processing center. This means that they are illogical, irrational, and unreasonable because the limbic system is separate from – sitting literally behind – the neocortex, the part of our brain that deals with conscious thoughts, reasoning and decision making.


When it comes to making a buying decision, humans act on emotion, first. So, as you launch your startups or grow your businesses, how might you incorporate more emotion into your offerings and messaging (via product/service touch-points) to inspire and optimize these connections?

To address your audience at an emotional level is to empathize with your target persona. By creating an Empathy Map, you'll be able to plan for and create content that inspires at every touch point in the buyer's journey.

A brand that can stand out from the noise and seep into the hearts and minds of your ideal customer  is made up of a variety of ingredients that are rooted in a clear foundation. This foundation is constructed of core values, product/service/market differentiation, and emotional elements. By taking the time to work with your team to build this foundation, you will have a head start on developing your brand’s culture, visual identity, story, and marketing strategy.

Kirsten Lindquist Campana design thinking and brand experience design

The miracle of a target persona

"When you market to everyone, you market to no one." This adage also applies to creating and distributing your content online.

The reality is that your business has a specific type of customer, so it isn't reasonable (or feasible) to try to create content for everyone. A customer, after all, is a person or business that you believe is a good fit for your offering. Through the creation of a target persona (also known as a marketing persona, and a buyer persona), you can identify this proper fit as your ideal customer—the person with the pain points you wish to serve. A target persona will help you to understand your audience as an individual, so you can create content and messaging that makes an immediate connection.

Photo by  Clark Tibbs  on  Unsplash    

Describe (in detail) the number one ideal person that you want to reach with your content/brand story and why. Whom do you want to attract? There are many templates out there that you can “fill in the blanks” to flesh out your target persona. I typically follow a checklist like the one below.

Who do you wish to talk to?

  • Give them a name.

  • Are they male, female, or does it even matter?

  • Are they in a relationship? Do they have family obligations?

  • What is their likely location? (indicating urban/suburban/rural is sufficient)

  • What profession will they likely have? (identify jobs, industries, or position levels)

  • What is their salary range?

  • Where does your target persona typically hang out online?

  • How do they like to spend their free time outside of work?

  • Do they like to read? If so, what?

  • What are their core pain points? What are the exact problems to which they need your assistance in solving?

  • Can you visualize this person? If helpful, find an image that best represents what this person looks like to you. (If searching the web, watch for images that are free to use. And always include a source!)

  • What does your target persona value? Choose 5, in order of importance. (Here’s a handy list of shared values.)

The good news is that your people are out there! But you need to be crystal clear about who they are, and picture them in your mind as you create content for them. Take it one step further and complete an Empathy Map exercise to understand your target persona’s needs and wants. Include quotes and other media types to get even more specific.

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!

Rethinking the testimonial: ask for a success STORY!

Persuasion and influence come more naturally when you can have others vouch for you—the proof is in the social pudding! When we find ourselves in a situation, unsure of how to behave, we look to others to influence our actions. Even if it means going against our own beliefs and values.

Fans at a Depeche Mode concert, Oakland Arena, 10/10/2017

This tendency is known as a conformity bias. I’m sure you’ve experienced this “herd mentality” while you’re shopping around on Amazon’s mobile app late at night. If you're on the fence about a product, where do you look for help? The customer review section!

An image depicting stars from customer reviews.

Reviews work because when it comes to spending our hard-earned money, the opinions of others DO MATTER.

User reviews, case studies, endorsements, and testimonials are incredible ways to increase social proof with your online offerings. And while likes and positive comments do to help, when someone is ready to decide on your brand, a testimonial in the form of a customer story can help balance the scale in your favor. A story adds that emotional element required to resonate with and drive your audience to act.

A testimonial versus a story

For example, which of the following statements feels more impactful to you?

Option A

“I highly recommend Bethany’s coaching services. She is warm and knowledgeable. You would be lucky to have her as your life coach.”

Option B

“When I first contacted Bethany, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I felt frustrated by my lack of clarity, vision, and goals. Despite all her incredible reviews, I felt reluctant to hire Bethany because I didn't understand the coaching process. However, I gave it a go, and as I thought through each of her guiding questions, my mind started to see the patterns and make the connections. Almost overnight, I felt a shift from a fixed to a growth mindset, and I ended the program with a whole new perspective on how to live my life and be happy. Through the tools and methods I acquired by learning alongside Bethany, my confidence is back. I know what I want, and I feel proactive in my quest to make it happen!”

Option B, right? Even if you’re not the target audience, you get a better sense of the transformation experienced by this person through the story versus a review. Perhaps you even feel inspired to take action, “I want Bethany as my life coach!”

Good customer stories need to be:

  • Authentic
  • Clear
  • Emotional

To get started, you could ask your client to follow a proven storytelling structure, such as the Pixar storytelling framework (which inspired Option B, above.) Or, here's a list of guiding questions I constructed that you could ask to help your user hone in on their experience and effectively tell their story.

  • What was the problem you experienced before using our service/product?
  • Why did you hesitate to work with us?
  • Why did you choose to work with us?
  • How did you feel before our work together?
  • How did you feel after our work together?
  • How has our work together changed you for the better?
  • At what point did you think, "aha! I made the right choice!"

Then, using the answers, construct a narrative in a conversational tone— avoid any jargon or business speak. Keep it human.  

(Note: if you do write the story for your client, you must send it over to them for approval And do give them an option to edit as they see fit. Then send over a link to the final product—who doesn’t enjoy seeing their story on the Internet? 😉)

And finally, get visual. We are drawn to faces, especially the eyes. Ask for a photo of them interacting with your product in its typical environment. Or visual evidence of them demonstrating the transformation they experienced after using your service (think before and after picture) to connect a potential client to your brand. But a simple portrait of their smiling face will do because the presence of people will increase a sense of trust.

Your mission

Before you begin, ask yourself, “what does customer success look like to me and how can I better integrate evidence of this within my potential customers' online experience?"

Your customer’s story should outline how your product/service helped them experience a transformation. Humanize their words with a visual of your storyteller.

Can you think of some other ways that you can increase social endorsement throughout your online experience?

Kirsten

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!