6 essentials to nailing your brand foundations


Written by

Martin Sully

white text on a blue background, reading episode 001

We are talking all about brand foundations. I want to start by giving you a quick rundown of what branding is to me. And some of it's misconceptions. 

What is branding?

Branding has always been a collection of small parts that steer consumer's views. 

  • It's how people perceive your business and your reputation that you're growing.
  • It's what your customers, team and followers think about you. 
  • It's a mix of all the interactions they have with you.
  • It's a bit like the gut feeling you get when thinking about a brand, service, or product. 
  • It's that collective feeling that you have about a business. 

That's what branding is to me. It's using visual design to amplify your brands foundations. 

What are branding misconceptions?

  1. Your brand isn't just your logo. It's absolutely everything. And my favourite examples of this are how staff reply to email and phone calls. It's your verbal and written responses. It's the soaps you use in bathrooms, if you use an economical choice, or you go for a luxurious option. Customers will pick this up and make their own judgments on your decisions. All those things you never even thought about have an impact and must be carefully thought about. 

    I say to all my new clients and old clients, just question everything. One of the most important things I try to instil in my clients is to think about things carefully before committing. Don't just dive in straight away. 
  2. Branding is not just how it looks. 
  3. Branding is also not the same as advertising or marketing. 
  4. Branding is not just for big companies. Little companies with modest budgets can do amazing things that you would never have had been able to 20 or 30 years ago. You used to have to spend millions and billions of dollars. But with the internet, websites and social media combo, reaching your audience is much easier. Tools like Canva, love it or hate it, have given people the opportunity to regularly create content – as opposed to having to rely on a designer to create content. Before social media, the need for photography, videos and graphic design work was smaller. Brands put far more emphasis on long-lasting products, catalogues, brochures etc., which would do their work for them through the whole year. Now they're having to weekly generate new content. 
  5. Branding will not affect your sales. If you nail your branding, you can triple/quadruple your sales. There's even reports of people increasing it by 6,000%! I recently heard someone applied a story to an inanimate object and sold it. They had given a horses head a backstory. Possibly based on a craze 10-15 years ago where people were dressing up in wild masks. Something to do with this song... 

Social media went wild for it. But, when you apply a story, you can start embedding feelings and giving objects personalities. So, by giving it a story, they affected the sales. They sold an identical mask and didn't give it a story. It sold for a tiny amount. But the one they applied the story to, sales crept up to 6,000%. Branding gave it that huge growth, which is pretty amazing. 

How to build strong brand foundations

Brand Audits

Before you switch off, the first task you need to do is audit your brand. I know that sounds terribly boring. 

But to keep it interesting, see it as more of a bloopers reel. I've had a few good ones in the past myself. 

Back in 2015, I designed a flyer with the word 'public' on it. Unfortunately, there were 20,000 copies printed with the 'L' missing. Just let that sink in. There were 20,000 printed

It's not all about what's gone wrong. It's also what you're doing, right. If you've been in business for one year, two years, 10 years, there's gonna be things that you're doing so right. 

Analysing your current brand is super important. I like to look at what feelings you're communicating and how well you do it. 

Along with the internal branding (how your staff understand and develop the brand) and external branding – that's all the logos, fonts, colours, imagery and how they are all connected and used to grow the business.

Your Why

Next, we need to determine your why or, more importantly, how you can find it. It's not a trick question. It shouldn't make you squirmy like a worm. Your why must be there to balance out and reframe the bad experiences. You need the bad experiences to balance the good ones and learn from them. 

And yes, building a brand does take time. To master a new skill. It's said to take 10,000 hours, and there will be a bunch of imposter syndrome, frustration and other things that pop up. But when you have a clear why, the negative experiences can turn positive. 

Lets look at our why: create world-changing brands and educate and inspire businesses to build a stronger, more collaborative world. 

We can see that to make a positive change in the world and help people, there will be hurdles to climb, but long term, we are travelling towards that goal. And it's that journey that is the driving force of your brand. It's what gets you out of bed to start your work. Hopefully, you can break that giant goal down into lots of little accomplishable tasks so that it doesn't feel like "I'm just never going to get this done". It's gonna happen. You are going to make it happen. 

Your Unique Selling Propositions (USP)

We all need to take a little look at our USPs. It's what makes us unique. And why is this important? 

Before diving into a marketing plan, making a new website, or generating new content, you need to understand your brands DNA and the psychology of your audiences needs. If you can finish this phrase "We specialise in..." in a single sentence, you're well on your way to cracking your USP. Which will help you clear up your own misconceptions. 

Connect with customers and solve their problems

Your job is to work out how to solve customers' problems and talk to them in a way that engages them. Your customers are humans, so you need a humanised brand voice and personality. Think about their feelings, quirks, needs and wants. You must get into their brains and suck out as much useful information as possible. The brand voice should embody their language. 

But before humanising it, you need to know the customer and their problems. Then you can dive deeper into their psychological needs. Are current world events affecting how they're feeling? These will have a massive impact on whether they actually want to buy. Either way, understanding your audience is the absolute key. 

I was in our masterclass yesterday, where the person leading it said, "I bet you've got 30 tabs open on your browser right now? Close them all down." Everyone had more than 30 open. I probably had 80 open. These little observations make people feel heard and seen, which is vital for connecting people to your brand. 

Setting Brand Goals

I like setting 1 to 3 targets each year that I can actually hit. I put dates on them because it keeps you accountable. Big tasks can then be reverse-engineered and broken into bite-sized chunks that I can actually do. It makes it a lot less scary when you decide to launch a podcast.

When setting goals – you need to ask yourself – what do I want to be known for? What reputation do you want to have? What branding assets do we want in place? What tone of voice are we striving for? What would fulfilling our vision feel like? What do we want competitors to say about us? What do you want to create? What do you need to do to make your mark, and what would make you more magnetic?

Search your feelings, young Skywalker

Oops slipped into the 1980s with that one. Finally, there's one exercise that really helps blow brands up. Focusing on a mix of the audience, what they need, the brands DNA and the brand voice. So it's kind of sucking everything in together.It doesn't matter how far into business you are. There's a good chance you've not thought about using emotions to sell your services/products – it's the first exercise I do with clients. They nearly always say, "huh, I've never thought about it like that". It gets you really thinking about your brand. 

Humans are compelled by emotions, which is why connecting emotions to your brand is a no-brainer. It'll help you stand out and show authenticity. Take a recent client of mine; they are a psychologist who is training clinicians in their methods. And, being a psychologist they are working with emotions daily. 

So it is important to work emotions into their brand. It's driven by words like access, clarity, community confidence, inspiration, security, safety, support and understanding. Then they narrow it down into three. They're going with 'community' because they're using their business to talk to new clinicians and facilitators and train them in how they treat patients. They're building a community around them. They are looking to instil 'confidence' in people and confidence in patients. They want to make sure people feel 'supported'.

They'll use those emotions to make notable shifts in their brand. Altering the brands direction, speaking to and exciting customers, making sales easier and reinvigorating their brand visuals. All from doing this one exercise. It's crazy just how much can be changed from one thing. 

I want to help brands find those little nuggets and make customers dribble with excitement.

Hopefully, by explaining just how much one person got from it. You'll be able to see how you can quickly apply it to your own brand.

Go get your copy of the feels finder download. 

Dig deeper into your brand foundations, young padawan, and you will understand how to communicate naturally and authentically with your audience.

Need support? Book a Discovery Call.

Not sure where you want to go? We can chat through your brand, personal goals and work out an action plan.

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