Here’s a little secret: Building better brands isn’t that hard. But neither is getting healthy, or improving your personal appearance. What’s actually hard is the time and effort and the initial willingness to get started. It’s also difficult for companies of all sizes—but especially small ones—to understand what things should be focused on first.
Here’s my advice: Consider these 8 simple ways your company, startup, or small business can begin to build a better brand today.
1 - Identify your brand personality
Everyone has a personality, and so do startups and brands. Is your startup personality more laid-back and friendly, or more corporate and professional? is it more cutting edge or established? Fun or serious? Identifying a personality is one of the key ways to gain insight into how others perceive you, how to make better communication decisions. This isn’t easy, however, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Some real-time and exploration should be put into this.
How to do this: Launch a brand personality exploration project with a team of people who understand personality psychology.
2 - Be authentic
Being authentic as a startup company means being honest about things like the true nature of your brand personality. Who you are, how others see you, and how you desperately want to be seen by your audience can be different things at times—leading your startup down a dangerous path of inauthenticity. Only authentic companies have the ability to become great ones, and simply learning to embrace authenticity in small ways can lead to the building of a better brand.
How to do this: Ensure your brand platform and brand voice is clearly defined.
3 - Think about your company culture.
Just starting to think about company culture will lead to small insights and awareness that can help you build a better brand. A lot of big companies feel they are too burdened down with day to day organizational issues to put any real thought or attention into something as seemingly insignificant as company culture. But company culture is a lot like brand personality—it's forming and defining itself whether you participate in it or not. That culture will either strengthen your brand or weaken it. And once it's formed it's difficult to change. Simply taking the time to acknowledge this, will eventually initiate actions that can help to unveil your greatness.
How to do this: Consider launching a company culture audit and developing initiatives specifically around shaping company culture.
4 - Be willing to make some changes
I wanted to title this one as "reinvent yourself" but felt it was a little too drastic. You don't need to reinvent your company in order to build a better brand, but you do need to be willing to make changes. For example, when I did my own personality exploration, I realized that although I'm more fun and friendly—as opposed to serious and corporate—I'm also more upscale than "accessible to all." In order to communicate this, I needed to make some changes in the way people perceived me. So I updated my wardrobe. As a company, you might need to update your own digital wardrobe or the way you communicate with employees and customers. Being willing to make those kinds of changes is what will strengthen your brand presentation.
How to do this: To become better at changing, just start looking for ways to change.
5 - Be patient
It's difficult to see the value in patients when the business world seems to move faster and faster and the pressures to perform become greater and greater. But no great company became that way overnight, and many more mistakes and blunders have been made by moving too quickly than by taking the time to do things right—with consciences and integrity. Patience can mean taking the necessary time to slow down, take a step back, and reassess what you've been doing all these years. Patience can also mean making changes and then giving those changes the time they need to actually impact your brand. Think of it the same way you think about your health, or getting in shape. It’s unrealistic to think going to the gym a few times, or even a dozen times will radically impact your physical physic. You need patience and persistence to see big results. Most small brands give up before they see their efforts pay-off.
How to do this: Think about things differently. Think about the time it takes to build a house, a healthy diet, a relationship, and start applying this thinking to branding.
6 - Take accountability
Taking accountability is about being honest about those things you aren't actually great at. Not every company can be great at innovation, and not every company needs to be. Some companies have great products with crummy names that don’t support their brand. Being able to say "we did this wrong" or "you know, this isn't that great and everyone actually knows it" is one of the most powerful ways any company can begin to authentically build a better brand.
How to do this: Consider doing a total brand audit. Re-assess the work that’s been done and how it was done, and if it’s actually the right way forward from today.
7 - Ask others to ask others what they think of you
Yes, that's correct. If you want to build a much better brand, then you need to know what others think of the things you've been doing. I know if I ask my friends what they think of me, they are likely to say many kind things—because they are my friends and they love me. Internally survey employees and you're likely to get a lot of lip service from people who want to keep their jobs and make their boss happy. Companies get better feedback when they use outside people to do the asking because it creates a greater sense of comfort and helps eliminate the fear of being reprimanded for any less-than-glorious feedback.
How to do this: Find someone from OUTSIDE your company to help you do brand perception evaluation and analysis.
8 - Believe in the power of belief
If you don't believe you can eventually do something, then you'll never even try. And if you don't try, then you'll never do anything. I could never do handstands until I started to believe that it was possible. That possibility led to trying, and the trying to doing. Companies that want to build better brands simply need to start with a belief that it can actually be done. And it can be done. You just need the right people helping you.
Building a better brand is totally possible. And you and your startup or company can do it. You just need the right people helping you. By building awareness and taking action—like reading this article—you are already putting into motion and effort to that will build brand momentum and strength your brand over time.