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AMA – Branding

This episode is about the significance of brand identity in building businesses, and the creativity, design, money and intention that goes into creating a successful brand.

What is a brand? What is branding? [00:00:49]

It’s how people perceive you. 

It’s what people think about and what they feel when they see your brand on their shoes, on their laptops, on their keyboards. Think of a brand like Nike; why do people wear Nike? Why do people wear those shoes? It’s because of the brand: it’s a Nike, you have those Nike Air Jordans.

Why do people buy from a certain restaurant? Why would you buy from McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Burger King? I mean, they all do the exact same thing. Some people are much more loyal to one particular brand because of the image. Maybe they had a good experience as a family.

What is branding now? Branding is a visual identity. The visual representation of the brand that could make up multiple different elements.

It’s the colors, the color palettes. It could be the marketing, the logos, the buyer, part of the buyer personas, the typefaces, the font, even the brand voice. Who is the voice of the brand? What does it sound like? If you go for a Coca-Cola versus a Pepsi – this has been a debate over decades.

Now, you know, Coke is better than Pepsi, Pepsi is better than Coke. If you know those soft drinks there’s always been that kind of dilemma: who is better? They both taste the same. They both look the same. So which brand do you go with? There are very loyal Pepsi followers and they don’t like Coca-Cola, they’re very loyal.

There are Coca-Cola followers who don’t like Pepsi followers. 

So what is it about those brands? The brand Coke features colors of red, gray and white. And then with some polar bears in the background. That’s been a big thing for their fans. And then there’s also Pepsi, which is the cool brand, you know, and we’ve seen this as well.

The products are identical and it’s just basically how they use their brand. Not just the image, but the branding in commercials, with athletes, with other people, with influencers, and that affects their brand.

It’s the way that you see their visual identity communicated across different sectors, different industries and in different ways to move people to take action.

 

Why is branding important for small businesses? [03:32]

A lot of people confuse what branding is with getting a logo or getting a website design. Oftentimes we’ve got local business owners who come to us saying, ‘Hey, I wanna build a website.’

We say, ‘Great, what’s the brand?’ They’re often confused. They don’t know the difference between a brand, a website design, and maybe a logo – three different things, three different buckets. So branding is important because it elevates your image. It’s what you want people to think about and how they’re going to perceive you.

Not just a website. You can get a website designer, but they’re going to ask you, ‘I can build a website for you and the design, with the colors. But what is your brand?’

Let’s take for example, if you’re going to be selling shoes or paintings online. You go to someone saying, ‘Hey, I wanna sell paintings.’

They can hook you up with a general template for your website and you can look like everyone else without a brand. But it’ll be black, and I mean, it doesn’t matter what kind of colors, you mash ’em together. You can probably sell anything on Shopify or other websites, but the branding is going to be missing.

No one’s going to know you and remember you and come back to you. You’ll just be like everyone else. 

So the branding here is really important for small businesses, because it’s how people perceive you and know who you are. It’s the difference between McDonald’s and Burger King. Coca-Cola and Pepsi. 

So branding really enables really clear, consistent communication for how your business speaks to people. And by creating a message or a picture, an image, a logo, where people can recognize your chiropractic local business, or your orthodontics practice. Or you run renovation,like a construction business.

You want people to recognize your business when they go to your website, or go to your front door, or see your logo somewhere. Or if they’re sponsoring a business, they want to know who they are. You’re not just a name of a website – you’re a brand. It’s an image. It’s a way to communicate your message consistently so that people know exactly who you are.

So when you go to MK Way, you know who you’re going to be dealing with. You know this is the team I want to work with. So that’s why branding is super important. Especially as you’re building your e-commerce store, your local business, or you’re selling a service.

You want people to remember you by knowing what kind of brand you are, and you know what? You might be the brand. You might be the person, and if you can communicate that in a clear visual way, you’re going to be able to grow your business and expand it.

 

Does it take long to build a brand? [06:29] 

It could take a very long time to build a brand depending on how big it is or how many stakeholders are involved.

If you’re a local business owner – let’s say you are starting up a physiotherapy business. And you are a physiotherapist working for ten years, and now you’re ready to start running your business. You’re ready to buy some real estate space and you want to bring your own customers in.

So how long would it take you to build a brand? And you’re not just looking to build a logo. You’re looking to build a visual identity. When people visit your brick and mortar location, they want to recognize you in the decals on the windows, the signage on the front door, the website, the business cards, the colors, the palette, everything.

So there is an enormous amount of creative attention required to build a brand. And it starts with creating a brand brief, about your beliefs, about your products and services. A mood board of how you want people to feel when they visit your store or your website or your brand, when they see you out in public, as a sponsor. Or if they’re doing business with you online, how do you want people to feel?

You can build brands using crowdsourcing tools in a matter of weeks, or in most cases, you’re looking at a two to three month timeline for a small brand. Or six plus months for very large, big brand projects, because there’s an enormous amount of creativity that goes into creating a brand.

You’re asking a creative, or a designer to take a look at all the values and all the principles and everything that you want to represent, taking these core beliefs and principles and the perceptions of how you want people to see you, and then communicating that in a visual.

This is done by using colors, by using abstract objects, by using mood boards, by using archetypes about who you represent, who you really are, and who your business is going to be for the people. So this is where there’s a lot of substance involved in creating this. 

And you’ll notice that when you do start designing or building a brand, it’s more, it’s an evergreen process. It’s a process that’ll take you much longer because you need to really get involved in the designs and in particular, how you want the brand to be perceived. So if you’re working with someone who’s really good, they can create it in a week or a month.

If you have a much larger business or you’re thinking about expanding or maybe growing franchises over the next ten years, well then that takes a bit of unpacking. So you want to take into account the products, the services, whatever you’re providing, and then create different archetypes for the mission, the impact, the values that you have as a company, and how that is to be communicated. Because then you can take this brand kit and design a website with it, design business cards, design lanyards for your next conference – to design pretty much anything.

 

Can I develop a brand with a small budget? [10:30] 

The answer is: yeah, of course you can. There’s a lot of ways you can do it. There are various crowdsourcing websites out there that you can use.

If you’re on a micro budget, you can go to crowdsourcing websites. You go to 99 Designs or you just Google crowdsource designs and you’ll find various other websites up there where you have designers.

You can go to these websites and pick apart what you want your design to look like and your logo, and they’ll design it for you. But is it a full brand? No, you’re going to be missing various elements of it.

So can you develop a brand with a small budget? Yes, you will be missing parts of it. The communication parts of it. What I’d recommend is you start with a small budget and approach a brand designer. Someone who can communicate the archetypes, the mood boards, the branding, the messaging, the style, the communication, so that when you create your social media profiles, you’re using the colors, you’re using the images, you’re using a way to bring people in.

And so whether people visit you on. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Snapchat, your website, your business card. They see a lanyard. They see decals on the window of the front of your store. They see decals on your trucks, they have that branding, and it all starts with a digital footprint.

Once you have the digital package, then you can do anything with that. You can send it over to a print shop and they’ll print it out for you. You can just start with a visual identity kit and that’s all you need.

Let’s say, $5,000 would be considered a small budget on just starting a visual identity. 

And if you have more money, let’s say you have a hundred thousand dollars or $200,000, you can build a much larger brand depending on the footprint you want to leave. And the difference between a $5,000 small budget and a $250,000 budget is the type of brand you want to communicate to the world. The type of competitive analysis that has to be done, the creative direction that will be needed, the kinds of elements that we’re going to bring, the kinds of communication kits that will need to be designed, the packaging. If you’re using various products, if you have a number of different products. All this kind of exploratory work takes a lot of time to unfold, and for a brand designer to come up with it, you really need to invest in that.

So if you’re going to start with a small budget, focus on building a visual identity kit. First focus on specific design needs for your website, a logo; start with the basic stuff, and that will take you through your small budget. And then later on, as you unfold, you have a brand standards kit, something you can use to then grow other parts of the brand.

This might be like advertising. Your initial brand that you had built with a small budget could be then used for advertising and promotional paid advertising videos, even internal employee stuff. So employee handbooks, things like that, it all starts with that visual identity kit.

 

How do I create a brand? [14:30] 

Generally, there are probably four key elements to building a brand: identity, a logo, color palette type bases and brand voice. Now each of these elements could and should be carefully matched to give the branding a bit more of a cohesive edge, but there’s this big misconception that a logo is the brand identity, which is not so in reality. It’s only a little part of it. 

The way you need to create a brand is you need to unpack what you want the business to represent, or what you want to represent. If you are the brand, if you are the person and you’re selling coaching services, how do you create a brand? So you need to think of how you can either take your name and develop it into a word mark, or into a logo, or into a color palette – actually all those things.

And you know, your brand right now might be just a brand voice. You might be a really great public speaker. Someone who is out there coaching other people, providing great information, a lot of value online. When you start creating a brand, we’ve got to go and take a look at all the principles, all the values, everything that you embody, all the things that you’ve learned and everything your brand represents, the things that you talk about.

And then you need to unpack what the brand is all about. What are you selling? What are you doing? What are you providing? What is your social impact? What do you want to do? How do you want to affect people? So when people find you, what do you want to imprint on them?

What should people feel? And it’s more than just a logo and a business card and a design and a website, or some stationary and product packaging. If someone opens up your product for the first time and they bought it from your e-commerce store, what do you want them to feel? Is it beautiful packaging, with an array of colors, or is it just a standard cardboard box? Amazon does that. They have a lot of great gray packaging and they have their special tape, but you know, inside that box, you may open it up and it might be a laptop.

And if you look at that laptop from that major brand, if you look at Apple products, for instance, they do an amazing job of their product packaging. I mean, most people even like to keep the packaging because it’s so beautiful. They don’t want to throw it out. So that is part of the brand. So how do you create a brand? It’s those four key elements.

Building a brand identity, a logo, color type bases and brand voice. So focus on those four things to create the visual identity and to create the brand.

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