Yeah, they’re invincible, and she’s just in the background.
And she says,
“I wish that I could be like the cool kids,
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.
I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids.
—Cool Kids by Echosmith
If you’ve listened to a pop radio station in the last year you’ve heard Cool Kids by Echosmith. The simple and repetitive lyrics express the familiar teenage feelings of not fitting in to the cool crowd.
It’s also illustrative of dynamics in the marketing world. The marketing cool kids are doing something right, and thousands of marketers are wandering around the internet trying to nail down what it is.
Brand identity. It’s how who you are affects how you do what you do. Got it?
There’s a reason that all things dealing with building a brand identity are buzzing these days. Successful branding has long made the difference in gaining the competitive edge or transitioning into a mega-successful business. But with the accessibility of social media and online marketing, developing your brand identity is even more crucial than before.
Half the businesses out there are building and defining their brand and the other half treat branding as something not relevant for them, which is kind of an ostrich head-in-the-sand thing to do. But we can hardly blame them. Many of these head-burying businesses are small teams of people, none of whom specialize in brand identity. While branding is something that many business owners do partly, they usually need assistance taking their vision to the next level.
Technology has changed our approach to brand identity development, because advertising is as available for the small budget as it is for a big one. Social media alone has elevated brand-to-consumer engagement to a completely accessible level for well, everyone. Even if a person never gets on Twitter, if they watch a national news show like Good Morning America or The Today Show, they will still hear the hot Twitter topics of the day.
Brand Identity: Where to Start
We can all heed some advice from branding expert, Stanley Hainsworth. He renovated the brand identities for Nike, Lego, and Starbucks, to name-drop a few. For strengthening brand identity, he basically advises to stop, drop, and re-examine everything.
People who aren’t very experienced with branding, or are new at it, sometimes feel that they can get away with something being off-brand. But I think that genuinely good branding involves an examination of every single way the brand, the product, and the experience is viewed. Everything that you do, everything you release, everything you say — everything is the cumulative expression of your brand. –Stanley Hainsworth
We see this a lot. Half-way doing social media for business; half-way branding efforts. It’s usually either a time issue–small business owners or a small staff trying to do it all–or people lack the know-how, like Hainsworth says. Either way, the result is inconsistency in brand identity, which proves confusing, at best, to consumers.
How Do You Do?
If you have a business plan, then you should know the answer to these basic questions. What does your brand stand for? What lines will it never cross? Why is it here? What core values are at the heart center of your brand? These answers need to be clear, and moreover, the business owner must be committed to them.
Now, dig deeper.
Here’s a question: How well do you know your own brand? What does it look like and sound like? What kind of music does it listen to and what are it’s favorite Pinterest boards? Where did it come from? Take time to answer these questions. Take some time and get to know your brand.
Honing your brand identity is like sculpting–you chisel details out of the generic block of marble and watch the figure emerge. What expression is on the face? What one word describes it? What is it and what is it not?
Your roots grow your authenticity. Answering these questions might seem silly to a business owner, but here is where you provide guidance for the intangibles of your business. And the intangibles will build up your brand identity in the minds of consumers.
Brand Identity: Conceptualize
One thing to look for when you are establishing your brand identity is concept. Whether you are hiring a team to design your visuals and/or website, or doing it yourself, make sure you find someone who can conceptualize your brand. Don’t settle for a logo when you can have a brand.
Brand Identity: Walk it Out
While this isn’t the focus of this post and we hope it goes without saying, whatever you determine as your brand identity, it needs to be consistent with the experience consumers have through your business. The success of a brand identity is dependent on consistency. See that your business’s everyday actions are consistent with your values, and be authentic in all things.
Brand Identity: Market Research (Listen)
Social media allots us glimpses of what our consumers think of us, and it is one place to gather some good old-fashioned market research.
It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is. -Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap
No matter what brand identity we want to impose on the world, a brand identity lies also in the hands of the consumer. Stay in touch with them. Listen when they speak and read what they post on social media. If they comment, respond. If they complain, make it right. If they like and share, appreciate that effort.
Be like the marketing cool kids–emulate their methodology, be inspired by their authenticity, but the real point of developing a strong brand identity isn’t to fit in, it is to stand out.