Whether you've put great effort into it or none at all, I can promise you this: You do have a brand. The question is, do you have control of it?
This is something too many small companies forget: Your brand is your business's identity, no matter how intentional or unintentional it may be. Even if you completely ignore it, you can't not have an identity. Your customers and potential customers are forming impressions of you – both consciously and unconsciously.
So, if your logo is old, dated or poorly conceived … If your marketing materials are confusing or difficult to read … If your storefront needs painting … This tells your audience something about your business. Your job is to make sure the impression being made is clear, authentic and inviting.
Businesses that are afraid to invest in branding tend to naively believe that the inherent value of their offering or product should be enough – that it will speak for itself. But if people aren't enticed at first blush, they'll never find out what your offering is. Don't make them have to stop and think about whether they want to find out about you. Be welcoming!
How do we know it's working?
First of all, if anyone tries to sell you on the idea that they can measure the ROI on brand development in real dollars, run away very fast. They either don't know what they're doing or they're lying. Sorry, folks, but the elusiveness of being able to quantify a brand's worth in hard cash is one of those things that must be accepted as a given. It's like making friends at a party. You can't analyze or prove exactly why you click with someone. Was it the clothes? A good mood? Great background music? Was your moon in Aquarius? We can tell when circumstances line up well, but we can't always tell why, and in a lot of cases trying to pick it apart ends up killing the vibe altogether.
On one hand, marketing programs – methods by which you get your message out – can often be measured and calculated with actual math. That's because there is a specific action or set of actions being taken during a limited timeframe, and tracking systems can be put into place to help analyze outcomes with a degree of precision. If done well, you can draw a fairly straight line between marketing dollars spent and resulting revenue.
On the other hand, with branding, you have to sort of feel your way. It is truly an art, where marketing can be more of a science.
You know it's working by the way people react, which can take a long time to process and can only be authentically observed after brand development is complete and launched. There are no perfect tests to be done in advance. In this sense, every branding choice – including doing nothing – is a risk. Fortunately, there are some pretty good ways to help ensure good outcomes.
Professional brand developers and designers are like good doctors or piano teachers. They are experienced specialists who are hired primarily based on reputation and referrals. We don't ask for documented patient stats from ever doctor we see, and piano teachers don't distribute graphs representing the rates by which their students go on to attend conservatories. We intuit the value of these types of professionals based on their ability to communicate, their proven experience, and what we hear about them from others.
Rest assured, putting your faith in the hands of professional branding experts does not mean you are giving up the reigns. It simply gives you the best possible guidance, with greater assurance that your business will be viewed and received the way you want it to be. With the right team, your newer, better brand will evolve from the unique knowledge you bring to the process, as expertly styled by the experience, perspectives and talents of your branding contractor.
Start Now. And Don't Rush It.
If you know you're in need of new branding, delaying the process won't gain you anything. Even if your budget isn't settled yet, it's never too early to start with a consultation. You may wish to meet with a number of experts to compare chemistry. Once you've identified the brand development team you want to work with, they can help you strategize all aspects of the project, including costs, processes and all interim deadlines from conception through rollout. The security and value you'll gain by taking these steps will be well worth it.
On the other hand, if procrastination is not an issue – if you're in an all-fire hurry to get branding done – take a step back. Many have fallen into the pitfall of rushing to get "something up there". It'll be temporary, they say. We'll refine it later, they say.
You know what else they say? We should've done it right the first time, because now that the half-baked logo is all over the place, it's going to cost more to change it than it would have cost to spend the time and money upfront. Take your time and do it right. You only get to make a first impression once.
To circle back, remember these things:
- Take control of your brand, or it will take on a life of its own.
- The ROI of solid branding is always there, even when it's hard to quantify.
- Trust the experts.
- Get started now.
Thanks for reading!