Your Accidental Brand Identity

David Hamilton Branding

Marketing is Life.

Yeah, I’m a marketing guru so you’d expect me to think it’s pretty important. But marketing isn’t some neat feature that you’ll need some day so your business can “go big.” It’s an overarching storyline that invades every single part of human interactions.

Who did you have a crush on in high school? What did you like about him or her? Was she the quiet artist with an ear for heavy metal? Was he the football player who took care of animals on weekends? Everybody has a brand. In these elemental human interactions, you are sculpting your first real message. There are certain clothes that you wear, clubs that you join, ways that you behave, photos that you are willing to have seen in public. These are the ways that people represent themselves.

How This Relates to Your Business.

Even if you don’t know it, your business has a brand. Maybe it’s “that little sandwich shop that is tucked into a corner, doesn’t try too hard, but has really fresh ingredients.” Maybe it’s “that guy that you can call if your computer breaks down and he’s also really handy with appliances.” On a more worrisome note, maybe it’s a jumbled soup of mixed impressions.

When people talk about what they like or don’t like about your business, they are usually talking about your branding. This coffee shop is “good about custom orders and eco-friendly,” or this theatre has “edgy shows for a college crowd.” Whether or not you recognize it, this is all part of your brand.

How to Take Control of Your Narrative.

Actually you can learn quite a bit from those early high school days. Just like the star pitcher wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of penny loafers, your business needs to establish its identity and stick with it. Know your crowd. If you’re trying to capture tourists with your rustic appeal, spring for quality reclaimed lumber with a weathered exterior. If you want the 21-30 crowd, the charming Roy Rogers figurine on your front counter is probably muddying the water. You don’t have to be two dimensional, but you don’t want the elements of your identity to be fighting against each other.

Craft a Compelling Message:

Want your weekly shows to be seen as a major event? Get a shoot from a quality photographer and post the most exciting shots on social media. Want people to find you charming? Post stories about the owner’s grandparents purchasing this land in the 1930s. If your message is strong enough and compelling enough, YOU can determine the primary dialogue about your business.

Speak With One Voice:

When people ask me about designing for a committee, my most important piece of advice is to make sure there is one person who makes the final decision. Compromise works great in some aspects of business, but taking the middle route will always leave your branding mired in quick sand.

If your haunted house is trying to walk the fine line between appealing to kids and families and appealing to the college crowd your message is going to get lost.

Committees often give designers headaches because they represent multiple different visions of your company’s brand. With our high school example, imagine if our football player, our quiet artist, and the math teacher all got to pick one third of your clothing. Maybe the result would be fine – more likely you’d end up with an ensemble
that none of the three were comfortable with.

Say it Loud and Proud:

Know who you are and who you want to be friends with. Know how you want customers to see you. Keep that message consistent across all elements of your branding. Do all of these things and the customers that you want will start lining up to ask you to dance.