How to Create an Authentic Brand

As a marketer passionate about brand identity and marketing strategy, I love talking and writing about a subject that makes me extremely excited: how to create an authentic brand.

When working with small to mid sizes businesses, I am highly focused on what makes a brand unique and in conversations you’ll often find me asking a slew of questions focused on uncovering more than the basic who, what, where, when, how and why. All of my questions are aimed at discovering the authentic voice and identity that makes up a business.

The wonderful thing is, this exercise can easily be completed by the business itself, which is exactly what my talk, and this blog post, was and is about. The basics in creating an authentic brand? Establishing (or refining) your authentic voice, mastering the art of the gut check and creating a brand strategy.

ESTABLISH YOUR VOICE

The process of defining your brand should begin with a brainstorming session. These work best in spaces and people that promote creative thought. For me, that’s alone in a coffee shop. For you, that may be in front of a white board with a team of your most creative colleagues. Start by coming up with words associated with your brand. What makes it what it is? Why is it different? No ideas are bad because as you work you will naturally refine your voice, crossing off words and terms that aren’t specific enough. Consider your final list your Adjectives Associated With Your Brand, an integral part of your Brand Identity.

MASTER THE ART OF THE GUT CHECK

As you work through the process of establishing your voice it’s likely you’ll have moments of anxiety, nerves or joy. Listen. Anxiety is always a sign that you’re on the right track because it’s your body telling you to pay attention. Is the anxiety because the list you came up with makes you nervous because you start to ask questions like, what if people don’t like this? Or is the anxiety arising because the words you’ve brainstormed don’t feel like you? Be specific and listen to your gut reaction: the first anxiety means you’re on to something.

Whenever we get really specific about our brand we naturally begin turning people away. Your company likely cannot be B2B and B2C for small, mid and large size companies. In turning people away you automatically become more appealing to your audience: your customers want you to be focused on their problems. By listening to our gut we can get very specific about who we are, what we do and who we want to work with, meaning we are well on our way to executing our Brand Strategy.

CREATE A BRAND STRATEGY

Good news! Defining your voice is the first step in your Brand Identity. To flesh it out for your Brand Strategy it’s simply a matter of defining the Who, What, Where, When, How and Whys of your brand. Why do you provide value? To whom? What do they receive in return? Why are you different from your competitors? Get specific as you develop the essentials in your Brand Identity: Mission, Vision, One-Sentence Description, One-Paragraph Description and Adjectives Associated With Your Brand.

When you’re ready to develop your Brand Strategy, make sure to evaluate everything: blogging, website design, social media, email marketing, public relations, advertising and events. The likelihood is you won’t be able to invest deeply in every portion of marketing—even large businesses no longer have big budgets and big teams. As you consider each opportunity that you will implement, remember your gut check. Does blogging make you feel stressed out and nervous because you hate writing? It may not be a great investment for you to execute.

The other thing you want to consider is the value in each marketing opportunity. Will investing in that opportunity create new business? If blogging will create new business but it makes you stressed, it’s a natural fit to assign to someone else on your team or to an agency or contractor.

Once you’ve established the value and execution of each portion of marketing, make sure you check your budget and ensure that it aligns with the value of the opportunity. If blogging will only deliver one lead a year and is going to cost $500/month, does it make sense to invest in?

The last, and now simple, step is to use your Brand Identity, Brand Strategy and Budget to develop a Marketing Calendar, assigning campaigns and events to each month. This will be a straightforward process now that you know the essentials of your brand. Even better, it will make executing your marketing strategy seamless.