A brand is not a logo and a pretty website. Those are the identity creations of a branding process, which has been carefully crafted and created over time. Brands are not flashes in the pan. Think of any brand you admire and you will notice that they withstand adverse situations, overcome challenges and always seem to be current and relevant. You probably have a soft spot or an emotional connection to your favorite brands! My colleague, Anna Wildermuth, and myself presented on this subject at an AICI Conference, and a topic I wanted to share with you.
In the case of image consultants, we are often the Steward of the Brand and the identity, as well as the leader of our company. Personal branding is the ability to organize and project yourself as “ME Inc”. Nevertheless, a personal brand must follow the same process as a corporate brand. Never a commodity, or a service lacking in clarity or credibility, your personal brand must be the driving force of a company brand built to last. As image consultants, we need to keep reinventing ourselves as we evolve, upgrade our credibility, educate our target market and present a powerful, crystal clear message distinct from that, which is offered by our competitors.
What does it take to create a sustainable brand that stands out from the crowd? You may already have a lovely website and graphically pleasing logo to launch your business. However, until you have done some groundwork and worked in the business for a few years, it’s not likely you will have established the depth and strength of platform for a sustainable brand. Be patient and keep pushing forward.
Here are some steps to take you through the process.
- When you have reached a point in your business career that you can safely determine your reliable target markets and your best products and services you can get to the next step in branding.
- You will need to determine your mission, values and vision.
- Answer the question: “Why are you different?” Don’t guess! Rely on client surveys, interviews and written testimonials to give you this information.
- Following this process, create a specialty, a process, product or service that you offer and one that you are positive nobody else can touch. In other words, your secret silver bullet.
- What is the emotional attachment people have to you and this product or service? Why was it or why are you indispensable?
- Useful at this stage is a systematic process to clearly define, clarify and consistently communicate your brand message based on the meaningful, relevant difference you make for your clients.
- NOW and only at this point are you ready to recreate yourself, develop a new website and totally upgrade or reinvent your brand identity.
- The rules of brand identity: Be distinctive and different from your competitors. Be legible and bold. Connect graphically with your mission, values and vision.
It will be well worth the effort and the time!
Lynne Marks and Anna Wildermuth
First published in the Association of Image Consultants Magazine, Global Connections