112: Asking the Wrong Branding Question

Right before a recent seminar, my buddy Andy asked me a question. He thought the answer to it would make a great blog post. I’ll let you decide that, but his question does create a worthwhile discussion.

The two-part question: “If you have an established print design template, how do you incorporate that into your web site? Or should you try to get your print template to match your website?”

In the waning minutes before my presentation, I blurted an impromptu answer.

“Neither. You’re asking the wrong questions.”

I’ve had months now to ponder my answer, and I keep returning to that extemporaneous instinct. As much as I authentically preach templates, especially print templates, those templates can’t be the genesis of a branding strategy. In one of my seminars, I recommend that the first media to create in the branding process is a website; but for most businesses, the brand shouldn’t start with the .com, either.

It’s not even a “chicken or the egg?” enigma, because brochures and websites are both eggs. The chicken is your brand. Every way that your brand is expressed hatches from the hen that gives it her DNA—its appearance, its personality, its intrinsic qualities.

Another way to think of it is as a wheel. Any medium we use for company or auction promotion is just one spoke on the branding wheel. The structure, direction, and shape of the wheel is determined by the hub. The consistency between the spokes on that hub greatly determines how efficiently and smoothly the wheel travels. For the spokes to be the most consistent with each other, they must be formed together. Brand Wheel Spokes While new, small, or growing companies may not have the resources to produce all of their brand’s expressions at once, they can lay the foundation for future expressions from an early stage. The easiest way to codify the underpinnings of future media is to create a brand guide. The brand guide is a reference document that can be emailed to any vendor, subcontractor, or employee to explain how your brand will be expressed. Most major corporations use these, but I’ve seen small businesses put together good guides, too. (One of my clients in 2013 now uses the best one I’ve seen on any level, let alone in the auction industry.)

The two overarching areas your brand guide should include are a personality profile and a style sheet.

The personality profile briefly explains the heart of the organization—how you want the public to understand you, which niches or audiences you want to attract, and how you expect verbal interactions to occur. Even better would be to summarize those three paragraphs or less to three to five words that you want to encapsulate your brand.

The style sheet transcribes your company Pantone numbers & 3M colors, fonts & text styles, design requirements (like margins, spacing, text hierarchy, etc.), logo variations, and more. Some companies that allow their agents or franchisees to coordinate their own media also include samples of specific media templates; some even create various digital templates, formatted by their respective media-creation programs, for vendors to use to build respective media.

The more specific the brand guide, the more consistent a company’s media will be. The more consistent the company’s advertising is, the faster it will build brand recognition and retention—especially if narrowly niched. Recognized brands get more consideration and then more customers and then more evangelists.

If you want to grow your business, focus on the chicken. She’ll take care of the eggs.
[tip]

Religion likes its creeds and catechisms—its traditional branding. The American church likes its What Would Jesus Do bracelets and Not of This World stickers—its cultural branding. Some of these can be constructive for those who adopt them as filters by which to sift their lives. I’ve heard a lot of great examples of personal worldview statements along those lines, and I’ve unsuccessfully tried to adopt some over the years. Sadly, I have a bad memory and a minuscule attention span.

The one measuring tool (or personal brand guide) that has stuck with me since high school, though, is Luke 2:52. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.”

For me to follow Jesus’ example, I must be constantly
(1) learning and evaluating the world around me—growing my ability to discern
(2) exercising and taking care of my bodily shell—growing my physical capabilities
(3) ingratiating myself with people, both those I love and those with whom I rub lives—growing my relational influence
(4) falling more in love with Jesus and his gospel—growing my kingdom impact

Mind, body, heart, soul.

Those four words take turns convicting and congratulating me in my introspective moments.

How ‘bout you? What credo defines your goals and journey?

[footer]Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

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