In my years of being a marketer and an entrepreneur, I’ve pretty much committed to being a sponge. With an understanding that no two brands or companies walk the exact same path, I knew I needed to brush away all the specifics in their path to success. The benefits of sponge-hood are that you readily soak in as much information as possible. Then when you finally squeeze the sponge, you delineate it down to the gold nuggets that actually matter. I’ve done exactly that on how to build a brand worth following throughout my marketing career.
If you're considering or have taken the leap and started on your entrepreneurial journey, this piece is for you. This exercise works for building your personal brand as well as your company brand.
What is a brand?
When you go look up what the definition of a brand is, it’s all over the place. The first definition on Google is “a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.” If you’re reading this blog, then you probably know a brand is not as simple as a name or a product. If you believe a brand is as simple as a product or a name, then by god DEFINITELY read on.
A brand is a culmination of attributes that causes people to follow us. Sure, your name, logo, design, product, or other features that separate you from your competitors are part of the brand. However, strong brands understand that a brand is more than what you want to portray to the world, but that it’s also a community of people wired together by a common belief system… beliefs create communities. After all, what is brand without the people who follow it?
What’s your creation story?
Most humans are wired to understand and remember stories better than disparate facts. As you’re defining your brand and its belief systems, start with your creation story. What is the unique story behind your business? Why did you start it? When? People connect through stories, so telling a clear creation story is the basis for the connection with your customers and promote your brand image.
A classic example is Apple, two men building computers in their garage. OR Away, two people decided to start an affordable suitcase brand when one had their suitcase break in the airport.
What are your core values?
Remember how belief systems create communities, which is your brand? Well, belief systems begin with core values. Before you start writing down touchy-feely words like “compassion, love, and honesty” ask yourself the following question.
What is important to you and your customers?
Core values need to be measurable and not all about the fluffy, feel-good words. They should guide your actions, and they should be easily understood by your community and employees. This is particularly important as your company grows and you start to have employees. You want to empower your employees to act on your core values without you standing over their shoulders.
What is your mission?
I’m sure you know about mission statements, the ultimate single sentence that dictates your every move. Just kidding… kinda. Your brand’s mission statement is kind of like your brand bible summarized into one sentence. The goal of the mission statement to guide your actions and remind you of the purpose of your brand and company. When in doubt, read the mission statement and act accordingly.
How the hell do you get it all into one sentence? Start by answering your classic “W” questions. Who are you serving? What are you doing? When and where? Your mission statement should be one sentence and simple. In fact, you get mission statement bonus points if your mission statement is so simple you can memorize it.
For more guidance, check this resource out on how to write your mission statement.
What are your brand rituals?
The vitality of a brand or company comes from the number of meaningful interactions between you and your believers (aka your customers). The goal is to create as many positive brand engagements as possible. Customers crave consistency. If they had a great experience one time with you, they’ll likely come back and expect the same. Defining your rituals and making sure to act on them is incredibly important to build loyalty to your customers. Do you always sign off your emails with a positive message? Do you always send your customers a thank you card during the holidays? Is the packaging for your product an experience?
Define your rituals and always do them.
Who is your audience?
Right as you are defining your brand, you should also define your audience. While there are tons of great resources on how to do this, I’ll go over this in simple terms. Create a persona for the people that your product is catered towards. A persona should be as detailed as their gender, age group, interests, income, and how you reach them. You can definitely have more than one persona, but being more targeted in who your product is, in the beginning, is much more important than having a broader audience. It’s much better to have a few people who LOVE your product than a lot of people who just like it.
What’s your brand personality?
Now it’s time to create a persona for your brand. If you are the brand, then the personality is your personality. However, if you personally are not the entire brand, then you must create a brand persona that's relatable to your audience. Write out a list of adjectives that you want your brand to have and then bunch them up into a few categories that they fall under. Select the adjectives that resonate with your audience the most and also best reflect your values…and boom your brand personality. When writing emails, creating your website, and even writing your Instagram captions, make sure your brand personality is represented clearly. By treating the way you communicate with your audience like the way a real human with these traits would interact with them, you’ll ensure your brand personality is consistent and impactful.
Here’s an example. Pretend I’m starting a makeup brand, and through the exercise, my final brand personality adjectives were: sassy, genuine, kind, confident, and choosy. When landing on “sassy” the adjectives that could fall into the “sassy” category are: funny, boss, to the point, humorous, and sassy. But the word “sassy” says all of those adjectives in one, so that’s the word I chose to build a brand personality.
BONUS! You get one more thing!
Below is a template for the brand manifesto. I learned this from a huge agency that we paid tens of thousands of dollars to help us rebrand. Tehehe here it is for free. Plug your mission statement and core values into this, print it off, make it pretty, and put it somewhere where you can see it every single day.
This is your North Star. Your manifesto. A reminder of where you came from, why you’re doing this, and the value you’re creating for your customers, the people in your company, and yourself.
We are [insert company], and we [insert mission statement].
[Company name] started from [insert one sentence about creation story].
We will always uphold the following core values within our company and to our customers: [insert core principles].
We are [insert company], and we [insert mission statement].
I hope you garnered value from reading this, as it has guided me and many others to build a brand worth following. Please leave any comments, questions, or anything else you want in the comments below.
Until next time,
Carrie is a co-founder and the Chief Marketing Officer of Sniffle Health, a mobile telemedicine app. Before embarking on the start-up journey, Carrie earned her academic degree in biochemistry and molecular biology with a pursuit of medicine. She turned down her medical school acceptance and worked in finance for a year before realizing she wanted to an active part in growing a company. She’s since led the marketing for a couple of start-up companies including TUSHY and Chef Shuttle, which exited in an multi-million dollar acquisition. Carrie is a firm believer in self-expression and perpetual progress as differentiated thoughts followed by differentiated actions, drive innovation.
In the wild, you’ll find Carrie grooving at a concert or music festivals, sparking conversations with strangers about spirituality and business ideas, and eating her way through the world (with extra hot sauce).
Connect with me on Instagram: the_cyang