Have you ever seen yourself (or your business) as a brand?
Well… Maybe your business, but not likely in the way I’m referring to it.
I’m not asking you to compare your artistic or entrepreneurial efforts to Campbells Soup or Coke. Rather, I’m asking you to think long and hard about why you do what you do.
Seriously. Think about it. What happens?
Now look at Coca-Cola. Was the first thing you pictured the color red? Perhaps the snap, fizz, and pouring of a Coke can? Maybe the sweet, effervescent taste? Does it make you think of Santa, Christmas and/or classic Americana? What does Exxon, BP, or Halliburton make you feel?
Don’t see a parallel yet?
Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap, opens his book by establishing several things a brand isn’t. It is not something hatched by people pulling 6-digit incomes in a tower, nor is it a logo or set of graphic standards. Instead, it is the customer’s “gut feeling” about your company. We are not born perceiving certain things about Coca-Cola, Apple, or BMW. Rather, we encounter a consistent message, set of images, associations, behaviors, and feelings. This builds trust in these companies.
In the case of Exxon, a simple miscalculation of an employee tarnished the image of the brand for years. Same with BP (and perhaps the whole of the energy industry). Regardless of political stance, I bet the first thing you think of when you hear that name is not “Innovative” or “Reliable” as their website may suggest, so much as “Oil Spill, Questionable Business Practices, Environmental Damage, etc.”
These are two great examples of how corporate intent does not equal public opinion. It also shows that there are many things outside your control that can change public opinion.
Let’s tie this back to your business.
EVERYTHING, from your style of dress, your promotional materials, your website, product/service offerings (and what you don’t offer), your price points, your social media usage, your frequency of marketing and website updates, etc. all create a perception -which may or may not be the one you want. (read a great guest post about personal branding by Hilary Rushford here)
This perception will either help you or hurt you.
Okay, so this is all good and well for multi-bllion dollar companies, but what’s it mean to the local cafe, electrician, mechanic, or accountant? The idea still applies. Every choice you make effects your audience’s perception of you. Every thing you do. Everything you fail to do.
So what’s the take-away? Go out there and do. Go out there and do it well. Go out there and understand that you’ll always have bumps in the road, but as long as you stay consistent (without compromise), your customers (current and future) will be able to trust you. If your customers think you’re great, you have a great brand!
Go get ‘em, Tiger!