Why Branding should always come before Marketing
As a business owner, new or established, you know you need to market yourself to others; make yourself visible and known to your audience, with the clear aim of turning them into customers. Not always so obvious is the pre requisite for a clear brand to support and direct your marketing.
You can shout your message far and wide, but if you are unconfident, inconsistent in your look, your language, or your style, or you don't know what you want to shout about, then you are wasting important marketing time, energy and, bottom line, money.
Branding should come first; logically & economically
What do we mean when we talk about your brand?
branding is about reflecting and representing yourself; more about being than doing
it stays true to you: it may change, but only as you evolve
it will inherently be part of all your teams communications and it lies quietly behind your decisions; whether they be related to HR, marketing, or business development
it nurtures connections and relationships
it includes your brand strategy (big picture plan), brand identity (words and pictures that represent your brand), brand guidelines (reminders / rules) and roll out (implementing the reminders on rules and staying on track with your plan and identity).
Your brand is the foundation on which to build your marketing strategy.
What do we mean when we talk about marketing?
marketing is the action of promoting yourself
it is how you attract attention - more about doing than being
it creates opportunities for connections and relationships (the channel for your branding to work it's magic)
it is affected more by external influences, than internal (responds to industry & cultural trends)
it includes marketing strategy (built around your brand), marketing budget (time & money), content creation, Social Media, Advertising & PR
it can be outsourced to others - as long as they understand your brand
I have an idea... so do I have a brand to talk about?
The welcome news is that with your business concept or growth plan, comes some key aspects of your brand, including a sense of who you are, who your customers are (or who you want your customers to be!), and why you are doing what you do.
This is the stage at which you can do a lot for yourself to grow your brand and your idea.
Have a think about your 'brand personality' - if your business was a person, what would their character be like? What would they like / dislike?
What are your business ethics and rules of business - what feels acceptable or unacceptable to you in your industry?
What makes your business or growth idea unique (your Unique Selling Point / USP).
What is your story; what led you to this moment, this time, this place and this business idea/ development plan.
What is your business goal, your mission? Have a think about how you will measure whether you have reached your goal.
Define what you feel comfortable doing, and where you need a helping hand so you spend your resources most efficiently.
New companies: you may have a name or may not - if it is the latter, don't worry, it can come later, and often a stronger name emerges after doing some work on your brand, rather than the other way round.
Get support to unlock the energy and potential inherent in your new or developing business.
The stronger your foundations, the more you can do independently at a later stage; this is not the area to skimp your resources (time, effort or money). Enlisting the support of a experienced agency to help you work through the tangle of ideas, to tease out the core messages, and define the very essence of your brand personality will pay dividends further down the line.
How do I get support with branding?
You wouldn't just trust anyone to design and build you a house, so don't just trust anyone to design and build your brand.
With your knowledge and feel for your brand you will have already taken the first steps but now you need to get some time and value efficient, expert-led support; to move things forwards and build on your progress.
Brand is not just about slick design (though obviously that is great too); it is about how your story is translated and represented. Experience matters - and makes a huge difference to your end product.
Approachability and personal connection
Look for agencies that you can talk to about your needs before committing to a plan. At Sparkloop, at the start of any project we run our tailored Spark Sessions in person or virtually, based around the needs of each client. These free consultations give you an idea of what you will get from us as an agency, and whether there is more you can do for yourself before you get support. They also allow you to check the personal connection; you need an agency that you can feel comfortable with, and you feel understands you and your idea and vision.
Look for companies registered with the Design Business Association (DBA), a Trade Association for the Design Industry and an indication that the agency will be in touch with Industry best practice standards, news and trends.
Don't forget that having a set of brand guidelines (logos, typography, messaging etc) to use for internal and external marketing, is not the end point of your branding journey. How and who implements those guidelines is often the most important part of the journey; Look for an agency that considers and can support you as required, with brand roll out.
When can I start marketing?
Marketing a new or developing business is extremely exciting! If you are not feeling the love, you are likely either feeling overwhelmed or are lacking some brand clarity, so revisit the previous step and review your branding and support.
The more you understand your brand, the easier it is to communicate about it (marketing).
'Casual' marketing starts whenever you say anything about your business to anyone and can't (and shouldn't) be put on hold as it is a fantastic and memorable stage of your business development and can help you understand and develop your brand.
It is tempting to start 'official' marketing as soon as you have an idea of your brand identity (name, colours and logo perhaps) which is totally understandable. However, we wouldn't recommend putting significant resources into it without a brand strategy as you will be spending money and time delivering a message that is less honed and impactful than if you wait till your brand has stability and clarity. Every marketing message you 'send' says something about you to your audience, potentially affecting your reputation.
If you build strong brand foundations, you can be 100% more confident about what your marketing message should be.
Your branding journey is never over (though you will be relieved to hear that you don't need agency support for all of it!). You need to review and re-design your brand as you grow and evolve as a business. Historically a brand review (with potential refresh/re-brand) would be carried out every few years. Now, we recommend a far more continuous process of review (which is much more cost effective) with frequent minor tweaks to ensure your brand truly represents your business and offers you a competitive edge in your industry.
Tweak your Brand, review your marketing strategy
Your marketing needs to change with your branding - so the two run side by side. Suffice to say that your marketing strategy should be tweaked every time you evolve your branding strategy.
Cathy Thompson, Operations Lead: Connect
Need help to design or build your brand so you can market yourself effectively?
Request a Spark-up Session or get in touch to see how we can help.