Why do you buy the products you have, or use the services you use? You may not realize it, but their branding — and the associations it creates in your head and heart — play a huge part in the choices you make. You may think you’re making rational purchasing decisions but in reality, your emotions are more than just extras in the process.
If you’ve read our previous blog post on branding you’ll know how the concept of brands developed over many years and what role branding plays in marketing now. You’ll also know that your brand is more than just your logo and brand colors; it also needs to reflect your deeper values as a business — and display a personality that customers and clients can connect with emotionally.
Put like that, creating a brand for your business (especially if you’re a very small, or solo, enterprise) can feel overwhelming. But never fear! We’ve simplified the process for you so you can get on with creating the perfect brand to support your marketing message.
Step 1: Brainstorm Your Business Purpose
Just like training your dog to perform a new complex task, you can’t just jump in and start putting stuff together. You’ll end up with a hodgepodge of ideas with no framework or guiding principles. And branding is all about principles — namely, your company’s core values.
So, start by establishing why you created your business (beyond paying the bills!).
- What’s your company’s purpose?
- What’s your company’s mission/goal?
- How are you different from your competitors?
- Research your competition so you have a clear idea of who they are (or how portray themselves) so you can make clear comparisons to draw on:
- What do you offer that they don’t? Or vice versa.
- How does your delivery or attitude differ from them?
- What makes you unique?
Ultimately, your brand should be about which crowd you fit into, and how you stand out from the crowd.
Once you’ve brainstormed your company’s purpose, create a Mission Statement. A mission statement will help you stay on target by defining your company’s goals. You can find out more about mission statements in this post from Hubspot.
Step 2: Look Inside to Your Core Values
An effective brand attracts the sort of clients that mesh well with your beliefs (and repels those who don’t). To do this, you need to know what your core values are. This can be a difficult task! Making implicit beliefs to the explicit takes thought and some digging.
To get you started, here are some values that are often common to dog trainers:
- Kindness towards others
- Service to others
Sometimes it can help to ask yourself “how would I behave if…?” and fill in the blank with an ethical dilemma. Another approach is to think in terms of opposites e.g., warmth vs competence. Will you put your client’s feelings before doing a good job? Or tell them hard truths if that’s needed?
Delve deeper than just “honesty” and “reliability.” (All businesses should be those!) Do you have any non-negotiable personal values that you want your business to reflect? If values such as inclusivity are close to your heart you may want to make sure they are clear in your branding — both to attract clients who also resonate with those, and to repel those who don’t.
Once you have a clear list of the core values you want your business to adhere to, check out these blog posts from betterup.com and Hotjar.com to find out more about how core values apply in business.
Step 3: Create the Image You Want to Portray
What do you want to convey with your visual branding? Do you want your business to appear fun-loving? Serious? Or something else? This will probably depend to some extent on the type of problems you most often find yourself solving. If your business focus is puppy training then a fun-loving image will be appropriate. Specialize in aggression cases? Then “fun-loving” might not work so well.
A good way to consider how you want your brand to look is by checking out a range of logos and picking ones that appeal to you — or that really don’t! What do you like? What do you dislike? What makes them convey a message, or not? Are they bland? Striking? Complicated? It’s worth spending some time doing this even if you already have a logo you love. By examining different branding images, you can work out how they make you feel what they do and then apply those concepts to your own branding. Here’s a Pinterest board to get you inspired.
Step 4: Define Your Business’s Personality
Now you know what your core values are and, to some extent, how you’d like your company branding to look. Next you need to define your business’s personality. This can be a complicated and challenging task, so we’ll explore it in greater depth in a future post.
For now, think of your business personality as the human characteristics your business embodies: the way it expresses the values you brainstormed earlier. If you’re a small enterprise it probably makes sense to consider your own personality — how do you relate to people in work situations? Are you naturally quirky or serious? Warm and outgoing or more reserved?
There are no right or wrong answers in this but if you are the “face” of your business it’ll be easier to be consistent and authentic in your messaging and branding if your business personality and own personality overlap.
Your business’s personality is the vital connection between your audience and your business. It’s the thing that your clients will remember and form emotional associations with. And as a dog trainer, you know all about the importance of emotional associations!
Do’s and Don’ts of Branding
- Keep it simple. Stick to your messaging and hold your target audience front and center in your mind. You can’t please all the people all the time, so don’t try to! Remember that branding is supposed to repel some people; namely those who would be a poor fit for who you are and what you do.
- Be consistent and use a style guide. Everything you do should be geared towards creating the same emotional experience for your clients. That means using the same style/voice and messaging across all your platforms and communications. Creating a style guide is time well spent to ensure you stay “on brand.” This is doubly important if you have people working for you, creating social media content, dealing with your marketing or working with clients. Find out more about Style Guides here.
- Have an “on brand” voice for dealing with difficult clients, complaints, mistakes, or objections. Why is this important? Because you want to adhere to your business core values no matter what happens. It’s much easier to keep your cool when things go wrong if you have preplanned verbiage and policies to use.
- Give your audience mixed messages. Consistency in everything you do is absolutely key for branding success.
- Copy from your competitors. Remember the original function of branding? A unique mark to distinguish goods and products from other similar items. A brand can only do that if it’s yours and only yours. There’s nothing wrong in examining what others are doing; what works and what doesn’t. But be sure to put your own twist on any ideas you use as inspiration.
Want some ideas of how all this applies to dog trainers? Here are some companies in the industry with strong brands:
Next time, we’ll explore how to bring your brand to life by adding personality; giving your business a human dimension your clients can really connect with…
Want help with your branding? Contact us for custom marketing consulting.