Did you drop work in the middle due to family committments and find yourself too afraid to go back now because the industry has moved on? Or did you never get to pursue the career you wanted to in the first place because it was deemed inappropriate for you? Or did you never have the chance to work in the first place?
It’s a hard place to be in, but you are not condemned to a life of wanting but not having. In this day and age, the culture of entrepreneurship is booming and the Internet is your best friend and multi-talented teacher. If you have a business idea, don’t be afraid to pursue it for lack of experience.
A secret about start-ups that I’m starting to catch on to is that everyone is clueless about something or the other integral to their business. But they put their game face on. Extensive research, a willingness to learn and critical thinking in your toolkit will help you be successful. It’s interesting; since start-ups are perennially short on resources, they find jugaad (innovative solutions) for everything. I’ve grown up in the lap of marketing and entrepreneurship but that experience didn’t take me too far as a makeshift brand consultant at one of my places of work. With no professional on the job, estabilishing a brand identity unexpectedly crossed paths with my assigned project, and now one can’t go on without the other.
So as the to-be-established brand and I begin our journeys of faking-it-till-we-make-it, here is the creme de la creme (fancy malai) of brand-building siphoned off the Internet that could be useful to you.
According to John Williams, “your brand is your promise to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and differentiates your offering from your competitors’.”
Think of a brand like a person.How do you know more about a person? How do people express themselves? What forms their unique personalities? Try answering these questions in your head first.
- Core beliefs
- Core values and guiding principles that lead them in all their endeavours
- Reasons for existing, motivation and purposes in life that motivate them to get up and do things every day
- A distinctive voice and manner of talking
- A distinctive appearance
- A distinctive manner of interacting with other people
- A distinctive living space and working space: people put up pictures, posters, choose furnitures etc — everything reflects their tastes and preferences.
- The people they associate with — people like to hang out with people who have similar values as them.
All these choices that define a person also define a brand. Thinking of a brand as a person makes it much easier to remain consistent and cover your bases while you create and execute your brand strategy.
So what elements do brands have?
Core beliefs, which they never compromise on.
- Core values and guiding principles that lead them in all their endeavours. It is important for these values and principles to be honest so that they are implemented, otherwise customers will never connect with the brand.
- Reason for existing: a mission statement
For starters, these three elements – beliefs, values and mission statement – form the most important part of crafting your brand. They are the heart and soul of your entire brand strategy and all other elements – from design to content to various subtleties such as the voice of your content – depend on this foundation.
Identifying these elements is a complex, difficult and time-consuming process, but at the end of the day, it is very rewarding, so take your time with it. It is also essential for a successful business. The best companies today have these foundations firmly in place because everything distinctive about them stems from here. So let’s get started on identifying:
What drives your business?
- Mission statement: The mission statement basically defines a purpose for existing. It will inform every other aspect of your brand building.
Ask yourself: What is the need you are trying to fulfil?
This just needs to be a 1-2 line response, but give it thought. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious, and definitely think long term.
Everything from your logo to your tagline should be derived from or influenced by your mission statement to be authentic and effective. One of my favourite companies in this regard is Philips. Its mission is simple: “Improving people’s lives through meaningful innovation,” and its taglines work beautifully to nail this mission (“Sense and Simplicity”, “Innovation and You”)
Notice how the taglines manipulate the keywords of the mission statement to be crisp, clear and memorable. The thoughtful structures of the taglines themselves exude what they claim – sense and simplicity.
For more inspiration, you can see what makes the bigwigs tick here: 51 Mission Statement Examples from The World’s Best Companies.
- Beliefs:By now you know why your company exists. But you are answering a need in the market. There must be some reason that you think this need is important, relevant and needs to be addressed in the way that you are addressing it.
For instance, Reboot, a coaching and mentoring career community of women, helps women with confidence building and branding. More specifically, it targets women who left work and now want to go back. The importance of the initiative as well as the manner in which it addresses its purpose (ie. providing mentoring, coaching and jobs, specifically to returning women) stems from its core belief of the importance of women empowerment. Similarly, your own beliefs influence your brand. These are what you need to identify.
You know what you want to do. Now it’s time to answer the question: why do you want to do what you want to do, the way you want to do it? What are the things that you (and by extension, your brand) believe in that make its approach unique?
- Core Values and Guiding Principles:
You know the “what”, and you know the “why” of the things you want to do through your brand. Now it’s time to establish the “how”. The “how” is not the strategies you use or the work you do. Rather, it is an expression of your core values and guiding principles. These are values that influence your company’s behaviour in all fields – service, products, quality, hiring, communication, etc – its entire functioning, on a daily basis irrespective of cultural and temporal change.The most important factor in identifying your core values is to have Be true to yourself. Don’t just put fancy words that you think sound nice; if you don’t follow through on the values you project, your customers will see right through you. Do not promise what you cannot and will not deliver because you don’t mean it. Honesty creates trust. People become loyal to brands when they trust them, are comfortable with them, and identify with their brand identity – specifically their values.
There are some guidelines that may be useful to articulate an effective set of core values:
- Narrow it down to not more than four or five core values.
- Core values are about two paragraphs:
- The first is about what you stand for.
- The second is how you want to make a fair profit. People are not bothered by people making money.. People understand that we operate a business. If you are a for-profit business, then you want to make a fair profit. You want to make sure that the products you sell are high-quality, desirable And you want to set standards for how your business is run.
Remember, consistency is key. Without it, nothing works. Think about it. What kinds of people are you most trusting of and comfortable around? Who comes across as sincere? People who seem constant in their personalities or those who seem different everywhere? Build a stable personality for your brand.
As overwhelming as this seems, it’s ultimately about building relationships with people. All the usual factors of human interaction are in play here. And you’ve been there done that all your life! You’re out to make friends, but before you do that, you must define who “you” are. And in a nutshell, that’s what the core of branding is about: finding your company’s “I”.
Good luck! Your initiative will pay off. And congratulations on your courage.
By Sanya Sharma
Sanya is a second-year undergraduate student at Ashoka University uncertainly exploring the inseparable realms of history, politics and literature. As someone with an insatiable curiosity who is always at a crossroads, she loves the interdisciplinary in every field of life and so she indulges creating various forms of art. She writes to make sense of the world.
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