7 MIN READ
According to Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It’s your reputation. It’s the way people feel when they think about your service or product. And your brand is a tool. You communicate your values and ideas to the world through your brand to find the people your message resonates with—your niche.
There are two key parts of a brand: the strategy and the identity. Your strategy and identity interact to create a robust brand.
Think of an iceberg. The portion we see—the ice above the water—represents the identity of your brand: your logo, your colors, fonts, and other visual elements.
The majority of the iceberg—the 90% that is underwater and goes unseen—is your brand strategy. This consists of your brand’s mission, core values, value proposition, and your audience profile.
Without these strategy elements, your brand has no foundation. It is just a lone chunk of surface ice floating aimlessly in the ocean.
On the other hand, if you have a solid brand strategy but have yet to create the visual elements, or worse, your visual elements don’t speak properly to what you are trying to convey, your brand will fail to be seen by your ideal audience.
You must consider both the visual identity as well as your strategy when creating your brand.
A brand book keeps these elements congruent. A brand book also ensures consistency if you outsource design or marketing tasks.
Your brand book doesn’t need to be an incredibly detailed account of every visual element you use, but it should the following key elements: your brand mission, value proposition, company core values, vision statement, audience profile, logo, color scheme, and typography or fonts.
Optional elements may include a few visual inspiration images to illustrate the mood you are trying to convey and a brand bio to give your brand even more depth and personality.
Your business's mission is a single sentence (ideally) statement describing what you want to be doing in the present and for whom. It should be clear, concise, and useful.
Here’s a simple formula to write your mission:
Mission statement = What you do + Who/what you do this for
Your mission statement is not the place to be aspirational. You should be able to deliver your mission statement from day one.
Your Value Proposition
Your value proposition, often abbreviated as value prop and sometimes referred to as your unique selling point, is the single concept you are known for. Your value prop sets you apart from your competition. It is usually a few sentences and it can include a few different factors of your service. Each statement should be something that your competition can’t or won’t claim.
Need some help? Think about these questions:
- What makes you different?
- What are you offering that nobody else is right now?
Seth Godin stated, “Everyone is not your customer.” Remember to keep this statement tailored to what it is that makes your service unique. Good branding is as much about repelling the wrong clients or customers as it is about attracting them.
Your Core Values
To find your core values consider these prompts:
- What do you believe in?
- What does your company stand for?
- What are the defining characteristics of your brand that will not change even if the service or product does?
These can be single word beliefs or short statements. Your core values are not just an important part of your brand when speaking to your ideal audience, but also for rallying your employees or future partners around what your company stands for. While these aren’t always obviously labeled, you can often find a company’s core values listed in the context of “We believe in…”
Remember when I told you not to be aspirational with your mission statement? Well big dreamers rejoice! Now is your chance to describe your desired end state, destination, or the aspirational long-term change you want to achieve from your business’s work.
Your vision can be difficult to write, but keep in mind this has nothing to do with your success. Don’t just think about where your company will be in the coming years, or the money you will make. Think about how your service could change your niche, your industry, or even the world.
Take LinkedIn as an example. Their vision is “To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” Clearly this won’t be achieved in one lifetime, but the vision is big and clear and becomes a driving force in every business decision they make.
If you are struggling to think big, start with what service you provide and keep asking yourself “why?” until you reach a dream you would love your business achieve.
By honing in on your niche, you can start to apply a brand strategy for your voice, look, and feel. The audience section of your brand book will look similar to the personas you build for your marketing strategy, with the key difference being these are a little less specific with regards to demographics.
Think about answering these questions:
- Who are you going to help?
- What do they love?
- What is important to them?
- How do they talk?
- Where do they hang out?
Once you define these characteristics, it helps to put together a profile of who your audience is. Then start finding people who look like your audience online. What other brands (outside of your industry) do they follow/like? Are they a part of any Facebook groups? Do they frequent any blogs?
You can use these insights to gain a better understanding of how to appeal to your audience and tap into an existing market.
Additional questions to think about are:
- What frustrates them and how can you help?
- What problems can you solve for them?
- How much are they willing to spend to fix the problems?
(These questions can also be really helpful when determining your value proposition!)
Now that you have solidified your foundation, it’s time to work on the top of the iceberg. You can find some helpful resources for building out your logo, color scheme, and fonts in my previous blog, 15 Free Branding Resources for Financial Advisors.
The Finished Product
Bringing all of these elements together into a comprehensive brand book gives you a tool to communicate your vision to stakeholders, investors, employees, partnerships, and so on and so forth. You can check out an example of a very simple brand book I created here for a fictional service-based company called Sagefire that provides nature-focused wellness strategies to individuals living in sprawling urban areas.
You can create your brand book in a simple PDF format, Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation. You can even put it online with sites like Readymag, which allows for easy access for anyone with the link.
The world of branding is vast and at times overwhelming. This is especially true when you know what you want to achieve and who you want to serve but you can’t quite seem to reach the right people.
By thinking through these elements and creating a well-balanced iceberg, you move one step closer to having a consistent visual identity that works in tandem with your marketing strategy, and you can be confident your message is reaching the right audience and bringing in quality prospects.
About the Author
As XYPN's Design Specialist (aka "Arts & Crafts Ninja"), Ivy infuses creativity and consistency into the XYPN brand. She has a hand in—and an eye on—all of XYPN's visual content, from website to swag. Her graphic and web design skills help bring XYPN's brand to life.