7 ways to use your brand to accelerate your business – part 1

When I’m out and about speaking and running workshops on marketing I’m often faced with puzzled looks when I start talking about branding – but your brand – when well considered – can become one of your strongest marketing assets.
It isn’t an easy area though: It isn’t an art and it isn’t a science – it is an intangible and complex mix of both. Get it right and you will have loyal customers who come back again and again; get it wrong and customer will be speaking out against you, or worse, totally nonchalant towards you. So how can you build a brand that means something and has the power to drive your ambitious business? It’s a big question – even for an article in two parts – but I do hope that here I can get you started on the right track. Here’s part 1.
1.   Know your stuff – this is so much more than a logo
People become overly obsessed with the logo of a brand, mistakenly believing that this IS the brand. But think about some of the most powerful brands and they mean something to people. This meaning leads to customers repeatedly buying that brand, even when it might be more rational to choose a cheaper option. Creating this meaning is down to so much more than the logo.
The first step is to accept that a brand is not in your control. It is an impression that exists in your customers mind made up from how you look, what you say, what you stand for and how they are treated by your staff. You cannot control this, you can only influence it by defining what you want to mean and then making this run through your entire business so that your customer has a complete end-to-end experience lives up to your aspirations.
2.   There’s not all that much in a name
This is a contentious statement – especially for someone who’s working in branding and marketing for rather a long time. But the answer really is ‘not a lot actually’ at least not until you create that all important meaning.
If you don’t believe me – think about all the made up words that are brand names – Google, Hibu, Spotify, Moo (an innovative printing company, not a dairy). They all have very strong brand impressions in the mind of their customers, but before they defined what they wanted to stand for, those words meant nothing. So pick a name that you like, and you can buy a domain-name for, and then work on creating something that customers identify with rather than agonising over the actual word.
3.   Spend the most time on defining your brand building blocks
To create effective brands, the real work starts long before the creative people are let loose with their colouring pencils; you need to define what you want to mean first.
Start by deciding what makes you ‘only’? This is about identifying what makes your brand different within the market, and defining clearly what you deliver to your consumers. Next up, define your values and ethics – this is about defining what you believe in, what would will always do, and what you never do. Then finally think about the personality of your brand. The easiest way to do this is to imagine them as one person and describe them.
The challenge with building a brand is that defining ‘meaning’ is intangible, but breaking it down into these constituent parts enables us to identify what you want to mean, and then you can work on the words, behaviours and images to portray this to your customers.
4.   Really bring it to life
Once you’ve defined what you want to mean, it is possible to develop the visual part of branding, which includes the logo, the colours you use, the fonts you use, even the tone of voice you use to bring your personality to life. This is the artistic bit – and much less about science – so it can be quite subjective. But write a good brief for a designer that outlines what you want to mean, and to whom, and they will bringing it to life in words and images.
Create strong enough visual codes and your customers will know it is you even when you play with your codes – like Google does with their daily doodles, Coke does with their cans, and its the reason you know the brand in a TV advert even before they expose the logo or product.
Check out part two.
Written by Christina, a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network: The on-demand marketing department for ambitious start-ups, and entrepreneurial SMEs  – bringing great marketing people into your team just when you need them. 
More about Christina:
Christina is a marketing specialist, business strategist, as well as an all round make-stuff-happen type.  She spent much of her career managing and growing FMCG brands worth in excess of £100 million, and then founded The Nurture Network, the UK’s on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs; and co-founded the Brand Gathering community to help young businesses achieve more by working together. 
Christina’s extensive experience working with entrepreneurs and dynamic businesses mean she is a much in demand thought-leader; she is a business mentor at University College London, a Titan for School for Start-ups and a regular speaker at industry events including those at The British Library and Google Campus. She writes regularly for the likes of Marketing Donut and GrowthAccelerator as well as the business publications of HSBC, BT and Vodaphone. Her mission is to revolutionise marketing for ambitious start-up brands.