How a Mermaid and an Apple Changed the World

 
By Justin Tarin and Josh Tarin, Visionary Playground

After years of listening to amazing podcasts , inspiring talks, reading several insightful articles, and starting a business from the ground up, there's a thing or two we've learned about branding and building a business. If you're reading this, there's a chance you're either starting a business or looking to learn a bit about the weight branding carries on any business. We're here to share our inspired-professional opinion on the topic.

How to Brand My Business

We've broken branding down into 5 steps, our hope is to simplify and consolidate the best ideas, strategies, and practices that we've learned, preached and currently practice. So, how do I brand my business? 

1. Who is your community?

Any successful business has a community. Your community is the core of your business, it’s the people who believe what you believe. These people are your biggest potential customers.

  • HOW DO I DO THIS & HOW HAVE OTHERS SUCCESSFULLY DONE THIS?

You don’t have to create a revolutionary product like the iPhone to build a successful company. Let's look at Starbucks. Coffee wasn’t a new thing at the time, but Howard Schultz believed there was an opportunity in the coffee world, for the Starbucks "community". Your product doesn't need to be revolutionary, but you don’t have to invent your community either. With Starbucks, coffee drinkers already existed, everywhere, but Howard Shultz played a critical role leading them, inspiring them, introducing them to something they didn’t even know they would love. He created a community of people who appreciate a different way of drinking a cup of joe. He created a community that not only changed how we drink coffee, but also how we experience it. 

  • HOW WILL I INSPIRE AND LEAD THESE PEOPLE?

If you're here, chances are you own a business, are starting or currently have a business and you've already tapped into this idea.  Many have said the classic (and most true) phrase "Do What You Love", well we're big believers in this idea. To inspire your community, ask yourself, What do I love? What am I good at? Next, diligently search to find others who also love that thing you're good at, and inspire those people to follow what you are doing. I know it sounds really simple but it truly is that easy - the problem is that many make the idea of finding an audience way too complex. Eliminate the clutter and stay focused on the basic underlying idea. What are you good at? What do you love? Search to find the people who love the same thing... that's your community.

2. What is your brand saying?

  • WHAT IS BRANDING?

A brand is much more than a logo, a color palette, or a typeface. Branding is marketing, it is your social presence, it is your website. Branding is your style, it is your core. It is every decision you make, person you hire, all that you and your company are. Branding is everything the world sees about your company. 

BRANDING IS:

  • Who you are
  • Who your team members are
  • Who your customers are
  • The culture of your company
  • The values your company practices
  • The decisions your company makes
  • And the list goes on and on…

Branding is the story that you tell your audience or community. What story is your company telling? Is it a good one?

Branding 101: How to Brand My Business Effectively

3. Your Identity/Logo

Although one of the most important parts of branding is telling your story, great logo design is critical.

  • VISIONARY PLAYGROUND'S GOLDEN RULE: ONE IDENTITY, THREE DIFFERENT WAYS

Our design strategy and our golden rule when designing is One Identity, Three Different Ways. We always strive to design something that can be used in three different ways — for example, our logo and identity packages deliver the following:

  1. Your Emblem
  2. Your Typeface
  3. Your Emblem with a Typeface

We do this so you can always use one of the three on any application. Let's say your name is "Downtown Skyscraper Apartments", this could look great on a professional letterhead, but will take up a lot of space on the small area of a business card. So in this instance, we would design the business card with an emblem only and the business name is only stated within the additional information on the card. Let's say you own a coffee company, more often, you may apply your emblem logo, much like Stumptown Coffee Roasters, from Portland. Their horseshoe emblem is strong, and it represents the company in areas where the full name "Stumptown Coffee Roasters" is less applicable, such as social media and various places on their website.

  • WE REMOVE LIMITS WITH LOGOS

We remove limits when designing for our clients. There's a common misconception that a logo has to directly correlate with what your business does. We think this is false.

  • A mermaid tells me nothing about coffee, but has everything to do with Starbucks.
  • When you see the silhouette of a fruit, with a bite taken out of it, you think breakthrough level technology.
  • When you see an orange shoe box, you think athletic innovation.

So, although we believe your logo doesn't necessarily have to tell what your business does, it certainly displays the quality of your business, so consistency is key.

You should have brand standards that apply to everything your company does: your social media presence, your website, your logo, your marketing collaterals, your packaging, etc.. Your company must have a level of quality that is practiced, consistently, from top to bottom. We always say, "If you have a restaurant, you wouldn't serve customers bad food, so why would you serve them a bad website, or bad logo, or poor menu design." The biggest companies in the world understand this concept of consistency always, in all ways.

"A recognizable and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets a company owns." (FreshSparks)
  • THE IMPORTANCE OF BRANDING AND RE-BRANDING

To be a successful business, we have to think like a successful business. So, what are successful companies doing? Let’s look at lululemon, a relatively small  company compared to their Fortune 500 competitors, but they are thriving in a market that is mighty. Athletic apparel is not a revolutionary idea, many have come and gone over the years. From giants such as Nike and Under Armour to fading brands soon forgotten, lululemon stands apart and is keeping up with giants.  lululemon is not the first athletic apparel company, or fitness-focused brand, but they found who their community is and understand good branding; and how to position themselves within their community. This was incredibly critical for them to break into an age-old industry.

Re-Branding is sometimes equally as important as branding. Even the Fortune 500 companies see the importance of re-branding, Google, Starbucks, Mastercard, Dominos, Verizon, Microsoft - all have re-branded within the last few years and that’s because they know how important it is to stay relevant in an ever-changing environment. It's crucial to stay relevant because the small businesses are becoming the big businesses. It's important to stay relevant to your ever-changing community, as it grows and evolves. If you work with a great branding firm you will likely have an identity that will last for years, but even with a timeless logo, it must be updated from time to time.

4. Track Goals, not Likes

  • HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT MATTERS?

In social media, don’t associate "Likes" with success. Why? Well, there’s a formula to get likes now-a-days. If we look at those really winning with social media “Likes”, they’re doing and posting things we typically wouldn’t post. Instead, businesses and influencers should care about the quality and impact their making with their business and their service or products. Anyone can get on their phone and within a few minutes, purchase 10,000 likes and followers and spend less than $100 bucks, and bam just like that, we have social media "status." But, remember, Likes don't equal dollars, I repeat, ❤️ ≠ 💰. 

  • DEFINE REAL BRAND GOALS AND KNOW HOW TO GET THERE

Think of your goals and track that.  Millennials can sense authenticity.  We understand and trust and see real products, real people, and real businesses. Those are typically the businesses we love, the communities we join, and the brands we buy into. And this is why big companies sometimes rebrand, because they want that community of authenticity. Find your community and focus on them, focus on telling your story to those that actually want your product or service. If I have 1,000 followers and 70% of them are interested in my company's product, that's 70% of valuable followers. I would rather have 70% value than to have 10,000 purchased followers and 10% of them have interest in my product. ❤️ ≠ 💰. 

5. Effective Tools for Business Owners

We have tried almost every service out there, and we can safely say the following tools are what work best for us. No, we’re not getting paid to mention these companies, but truly believe in what they offer… I guess we’re a part of their ”community”.

  1. TRACK - Hootsuite
  2. BUILD - Squarespace
  3. CONNECT - MailChimp
  4. RELATIONSHIPS - HubSpot
  5. RESOURCES - Google
  6. EDUCATE - Audible
  7. OFFICESPACE - WeWork