Despite what many small business owners may think, branding is not your company logo or the color of the uniforms your staff wear.
Your “brand” is more about what you represent. It may be presented and reinforced through your corporate image, advertising and other marketing activities – but ultimately your brand reflects your core values.
And your core values are not something you simply “design and promote”. They are reflected in everything you do – how you act, how your employees are treated, how your employees treat your customers, the things you say and when you say them.
Brands are created through action – not through design. Or better yet, brands are created through consistent action. You have to “walk the talk” – everyday; and so do your staff.
The secret to effective branding therefore is consistency.
Take a look at Virgin. Richard Branson has developed the brand of Virgin so successfully that it no longer needs a product or service. Virgin is all about customer service. It doesn’t matter what they are selling or where they stick their name. If it doesn’t offer a strong positive customer experience, then it is not consistent with the brand – and probably as a result will not succeed. This reputation has been built over many years by consistently sticking to its core values and the key message that it represents – customer service.
The same is true in your personal life. Your “brand” is your reputation. You can’t tell people what they should think of you – your actions do that more clearly than you ever could. Its the consistency of your actions and your behaviour that form people’s long-term opinions of you. They may have an incorrect first impression but these are corrected over time by your continued behaviour.
I really don’t believe that businesses or people in general give enough thought to their core values. They try too hard to define themselves through logos and advertising or “big talk” and material possessions. But all these can do is shape a first impression.
Although these first impressions are powerful, its the lasting impression that your on-going actions shape. And this lasting impression is your brand – your reputation. If you really want to build it, focus your energy on being consistent in every aspect of your business and personal life. Don’t waste your money on a new logo or new personal image until you fully understand what you actually stand for.