In the past century, brands were largely defined by their trademarks: their logos, mascots and color schemes. The market was consumed by huge, monolithic companies whose logos were synonymous with their products.
Over the past few decades, brands have begun to get a voice. Companies have started focusing on the brand instead of just the trademark, which meant more time and effort could be put into messaging, content and imagary.
Now, we’re in an age where everything your company does is considered its brand: Brand is community, real-time engagement, content, story, charity, inspiration and so much more. Founders, employees, pets, offices — everything can and will be considered “your brand” by your audience.
So it makes sense to put some effort into it, right? A lot of business owners believe that the “culture” side of branding will take care of itself as long as you hire the right people and rent the right office space. But this is not necessarily the case: A good, holistic brand takes work and commitment from your entire team. The only place to start, then, is to get everyone on the same page on how you want your company to be perceived.
Here are a few fun, engaging and insightful exercises you and your team can do today to help define your brand. Don’t be shy — let your creative juices flow!
1. ‘This, Not That’
You might already have an idea of what you want your business to be, which is great! For this exercise, we’re going to take that a step further: Instead of just making a list of words that you want to define your company, make a list of word pairs to help define what your company isn’t.
For example, you might want to be fun, but not childish. You could be smart but not complicated, simple but not boring, or transparent but not chatty. Once you make your list, make sure to get it in the hands of your team — especially those in charge of your content and messaging. The more your voice is dictated by these decisions, the more clear and cohesive your brand will be.
2. The Personality Challenge
This is my personal favorite, as it allows your team to get a little abstract and creative. Think of your company, and then try to make it into a person. Think of as many traits as possible — male or female? Tech-focused or artistic? What celebrity would play it in a movie?
Once you have a little profile going, start to think about your company’s relationship with your consumer. Are you a friend, partner, advisor or something else entirely? Think of State Farm’s famous slogan, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Your brand is more than just a supplier of a product or service: You’re a special and important part of your consumer’s life, so make sure you’re defining that and creating content to support it.
3. What’s Your Story?
Lastly, take some time to define your story. Consumers are more apt to connect with a brand with an engaging story, not just a good product. Break it down to all of the traditional components of storytelling: the main character, villain, desire and conflict.
The answers to these questions might not be what you’d expect. Is your villain your competition, the problem your company is trying to solve, or something more abstract? For a gym, the villain might be laziness, and your company is trying to overcome the conflict of lacking motivation by bringing your main character, the gym member, to their desire — a more exciting workout!
Whether you run through these exercises with your team or come up with a few of your own, put some time aside on your busy schedule as a business owner to really think about and define your brand. Once this information is shared with the rest of your team, you’ll start seeing a more cohesive, engaging brand story take hold in no time.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.