Source: A company’s brand is more than just a logo or graphic; it is the internal and external message that a business represents to its employees, investors, clients, and to the surrounding community, one which best describes what that business does, why it exists, as well as what the business and its’ leadership believes in. What does your brand say about your company? What should be considered when branding your business? Samuel K. Burlum reports...

So you just founded your venture. It could be a local, small, family owned Main Street business or a large endeavor with hopes to expand globally, creating a far reaching effect. Regardless of the size of your business, the message you choose to send to the street is paramount in explaining what type of business you have, the purpose your business serves, the product or service it offers, as well as the demographic populace and geographic locale in which you offer your value creation.

The next step most folks do, is to set out getting a logo or graphic created so they have an image to place on their business card. Then, when they pitch their business, there is a visual reminder for others about their company. Initially, this can be a costly mistake for many business owners. As we continue on in the article, it is further explained how understanding the entire meaning behind “branding” a company – including the completion of a branding exercise, is crucial for that company’s foundational success. This is because as a business out grows their initial logo or changes its product/service offering mix, the logo becomes obsolete.

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Branding is more than just a logo or a font. It is the representation of all the internal and external factors about the company, translated into a set of graphics and text that tell the “elevator pitch” about the company; reminding people about all the dimensions of that business. Branding exercises and creation by a full-service marketing and advertising firm can cost thousands of dollars, but the investment in the long run will save tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in having to re-brand a business owner’s company later and/or lost business due to the wrong message sent about the company to potential customers.

There are many factors that should be taken into consideration when learning how to properly brand one’s company. As founders of a business or an entrepreneurial enterprise, sometimes personal preferences get in the way of selecting company logo or graphic color schemes. Instead, it should be the story that tells the “why” behind the business that should be the deciding factor of the imagery and content selected for sharing a company’s message with the public. Just because the entrepreneur thinks it’s a cool look, does not mean that the general public will understand the logo or even be able to identify with its significance. That is why much thought, attention, and detail must be taken when deciding the final translation of a company brand.

The message you send to potential audiences about your company needs to be with a definite purpose in mind. It should summarize in brief the products and services being provided, and why the products and services should be deemed noteworthy by potential customers. Behind every business is a leader, or a group of leaders that are the drivers of that business, and the “why” they embrace, should be reflected throughout the context of the brand. Your brand should also have consistency throughout the entire purpose, or scope, of the company. Nothing is more confusing to a potential customer than picking some logo or tag saying that fails to reflect all of the company’s products/services.

It is important to understand that an external message is more than just a sales pitch. The most valuable brands in the world don’t sell products, but the brand itself, for it has been said, “People don’t by products, they buy brands.” That means that a company’s brand must contain more information than just the products and/or services being sold. Within the external brand, its’ symbolism (which is the logo, color scheme, and anything visual) as well as the content (tag lines, by-lines, copy in ads, and anything auditory) should say what the business believes in, stands for, product/service offered, and the audience it serves; without saying it. That may sound confusing, but this is the most complicated consideration when choosing all the moving parts in successfully branding a business to the public.

Most marketing and advertising firms will usually begin the branding journey with a series of discovery sessions, in order to gain a better understanding of who the founders/leadership of the business are.  Part of the exercise is finding out the “why” behind the decision to go into business in the first place, or what the purpose is that has driven someone to take their invention or creation to the next level. Personality and core values are taken in consideration when trying to include a story being portrayed to the public. This is part of the “why” the potential customer should purchase a company’s product or service. Next, the branding expert will want information regarding all of the moving parts of an owner’s business. This will include a company’s current status, as well as what the company is expected to look like in five, ten, and even twenty-five years from now. The bigger picture is reflected as part of the brand.

Branding experts add value to a company because their train of thought is objective and concise. They examine a business, its’ products and services, as well as the owner’s positioning without judgement or bias. Branding experts are not working on behalf of any client nor are they working on the owner’s behalf (as in the founder, whom usually has an emotional tie to their value creation and company). These experts take a pragmatic approach to review all aspects of a business, utilizing part logic, part statistics and research, and part understanding on how the company’s potential audience should respond to the brand that ultimately translates the business’s message. They do this in a systematic series of questions and exercises. The more detail and time that is spent on the initial branding exercises, the more precise the branding expert will be in coining the logo, tag line, and content about the business.

A branding expert should be a company’s marketing department’s best friend, one that remains available throughout all of the phases of a company’s growth. Having the ability to work with one branding expert will assist you in the expediency to re-brand your company, for the initial branding expert already knows your back story and has monitored your growth. A changing message, product/service line expansion or the retelling of a story are all taken into consideration. The expert can eventually envision the business’s journey much the same as the company’s leadership, which will allow for consistent brand continuity throughout the entire company’s life cycle.

It would be foolish to think that small local businesses only need is a logo. Investing in appropriately telling the company’s story to the public will have a direct result on whether or not the public will have reason to develop a belief as to why they should patron from a particular business. Today, it is critical that small local businesses invest into proper branding just as much as a major corporation if it is to outlast the competition, as well as remain intriguing enough to the average consumer considering to give your business a try. A company’s brand should be strong enough that it reflects all of its’ internal and external messages while providing a need to be part of the cult following the brand a company represents.

A brand should carry a sense of value and integrity. Consumers don’t trust products or sales people; they trust brands – brands that follow through on their word even when everything is not perfect. The most profitable of companies in the world understand that their brand is more than a brand; it’s a culture and practice that consumers have come to trust in; making good on its promises even when it made a mistake. This takes patience, for great brands are built over time. Branding is an investment in one’s self, their company, their value creation, their value proposition, and the statement desired to make in the marketplace. The right brand will last a life time, while others will fade away. So brand wisely.