Take a look at the picture on the left. Can you guess what’s in the box? Any idea? Are there any clues?
You might guess it contains cereal, milk, soup or something else you pour out of a box. But if you think about it, that’s only because we have been conditioned to expect such things in a box shaped like this. This box could just as easily contain marbles or nails or cotton balls or potatoes or pencils or live fish bait—or almost anything that can fit inside.
The truth is we don’t know what’s in the box. We might guess and make assumptions based upon our past experience, but we don’t know anything about what’s inside. And even if we were told it contained cereal for example, what KIND of cereal is it? Is it organic porridge oats or choco-sugary-kiddie-pops containing artificial colouring and preservatives? There’s a world of difference in the detail.
So then, the big question is:
Would you BUY this box as it is if you saw it sitting on a shelf in a store?
My guess is you wouldn’t.
Living in a Branded Universe
This example shows the importance of branding. In our modern consumer culture, just about everything is ‘branded’. Our brains are filled with brands. We are so deeply immersed in the world of brands that most of us are unaware of our unconscious and conditioned responses to them.
In the past when everyone knew their neighbourhood merchants and service providers, people were their brand. Their reputation of integrity, honesty, skill and craftsmanship told others all they needed to know in order to make an informed decision about them. It was easy to know ‘what was in the box’.
But as our world became a global marketplace (and eventually a global e-marketplace), we needed other ways to express our brand to people who didn’t know us. Today, branding is a complex art that communicates an unspoken message about a company. It conjures mental associations, creates expectations and can even reflect a value system. Think of branding as the DNA code of your business. Just as DNA defines whether you have blue or brown eyes, are short or tall, and everything else about your genetic inheritance, good branding is the code that defines and underpins all the vital characteristics of your company.
Common Misconceptions about Branding
In spite of the importance of branding, many independent business owners either fail to give adequate attention to their branding or get it all wrong, especially when they’re starting out. This is typically due to three major misconceptions many new business owners have about branding:
MYTH 1: Branding is only for big businesses.
WRONG! Lack of clear branding can negatively impact any business, no matter how small. Without cohesive and expressive branding, no one will know ‘what’s inside the box’ when they look at your business.
As a marketing consultant, one of the first things I do with clients is work with them to create, define or refine their brand. Without absolute clarity of brand, there’s no point whatsoever in plunging ahead to create a marketing campaign, as there’s less than a one-in-a-million chance of getting it ‘right’.
MYTH 2: Branding mainly has to do with colours, logos and other design.
WRONG! Colours and logos are not the branding; they are the RESULT of great branding. Remember, branding is the ‘DNA’ of your company: it is the code that defines the values, the promise, the mission, the ‘feel’, the attitude and desires of your company. Your design should reflect what is ‘inside the box’—or rather, inside the heart and soul—of your company. If you haven’t defined this clearly and tangibly for yourself, you are unlikely to be able to communicate it to your potential clients and customers.
For example, with my author clients, their ‘brand’ includes the title, sub-title and over-arching message of their book, its congruence with the author and the profile of their reading audience. ONLY after these things have been clearly defined can you start talking about a book cover and website.
MYTH 3: A good designer will come up with my company’s branding for me.
WRONG! Branding is not your designer’s responsibility; it’s yours. Even the best designer will be a waste of money if they don’t understand your brand intimately. And if you haven’t defined your brand BEFORE you approach a designer, you won’t be able to communicate it clearly to them. Without clarity of brand, any concepts they propose for you are almost 100% guaranteed to be completely off the mark.
This happened to me many years ago when I was a new business owner. I was just starting out and wanted a website for my life coaching company. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted or how to communicate it. I paid thousands of pounds and the designer came back with logos and colours that looked more like an insurance company than a coaching practice. After months of haggling back and forth, I actually ended up designing the site myself (and I’m not a graphic designer) and getting rid of it altogether a year later. I’ve seen the same thing happen with clients who had appallingly bad book covers designed by generic subsidiary press companies.
These days, I use a designer with whom I’ve developed a rapport. I bring her clear concepts and well-defined ideas about the feel and impact I’m seeking. Because I’ve done the ‘homework’ for my branding in advance, we are able to co-create book covers, logos and other branding materials with ease and expedience.
The Truth about Branding
The folks at Entrepreneur.com say that ‘brand’:
- Is your promise to your customer
- Tells customers what they can expect from your products and services
- Differentiates your offering from that of your competitors
- Is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be
I think many business owners tend to focus on points 2 and 3, and give less attention to points 1 and 4. Your enterprise ‘promise’ to your customers is the core of your branding—your business DNA. And unless your branding is derived from ‘who you are’ there is a lack of congruence between your business and yourself (see earlier article The Dharma of Business for more on this idea).
What this tells us is that effective branding can ONLY emerge when we bring the first of the 7 Graces into play: the Grace of Connection. Honest, authentic and ethical branding can only emerge when there is congruence and deep Connection between:
- Our audience
- Our business
- Our marketing communications
Self, Audience, Business and Marketing are four of the 7 Key Relationships in my book The 7 Graces of Marketing (the other 3 being our relationships with ‘Source’ ‘Others’ and ‘Money’). While all of the 7 Key Relationships come into play in shaping our business, these four are particularly influential in our branding. For our branding to be ‘grace-full’, there must be Connection and congruence within and between ourselves, our audience, our businesses and our marketing at an emotional, cultural, ideological AND physical/behavioural level.
In the next four articles, we’ll explore each of these four Key Relationships in turn, and look at ways to cultivate the Grace of Connection within our brands, so they not only represent our products and services, but express our values, our promise, our purpose and our essence.
I hope you’ll subscribe to this blog so you can receive these upcoming articles and other articles about ethical business and marketing from the 7 Graces community.
AND, as always, I welcome your comments, questions and feedback below.
NEW 7 GRACES BRANDING PACKAGE
If you want to create, define OR refine your own branding—with a 7 Graces focus—drop me a line via the contact form on this site, and request a free 30 minute consultation. I’ve just created a rich, new 4-session 7 Graces Branding Package, where we co-create a detailed brand profile using all 7 of the Key Relationships: Self, Source, Others, Your Business, Your Audience, Money and Marketing. You can also choose an optional ‘bolt on’ where you can work with one of my most highly recommended designers who will create your logo, web banner and other branding design. Just drop me a line at http://the7gracesofmarketing.com/contact.
28th May 2013
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The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
Brit Writers Awards Finalist
eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)