When I ask small business owners, foundation CEOs and non-profit directors about their branding, they’ll typically answer, “Of course we have branding! See my logo? Here’s my letterhead, too.”
And my answer is, “Honey, that’s not a brand. That’s a logo and a letterhead. Those are just small pieces of your brand.”
A brand, well-carried-out, consists of the complete human experience from the time someone first learns about your business until after they have either bought and used your product or experienced your service.
A poorly executed overall experience is also a brand, it’s just working directly against you.
Disney is an excellent example of a well-executed brand — when you think of Disney you know exactly who their target market is, what their products look like next to other brands on a shelf, what kind of content you’re going to get, and if you experience a problem you know you’re going to be able to get help. If you’re at a Disney park and your child gets lost, they’re going to help you. All these aspects are part of their brand.
A well-executed brand also brings consistency between who you claim to be and what your customer actually experiences. Again, using Disney as an example, they’ve built an over-arching story, they’ve articulated their values of multi-sensory family-friendly entertainment, and woven it deeply into the human experience that is connected with their identity.
Small business owners find the greatest success when they think of their company as needing that kind of rootedness in their brand — where every experience, every interaction, every encounter between a representative or employee with a client, or a potential client, or a friend of a client — is presenting the same face.
Every angle of the brand must be telling the same story about the business’s product or service. Well-thought-out multi-sensory experiences are an excellent way to achieve this.
One place that does this very well is an amazing local restaurant here in my hometown of Tampa, called the Oxford Exchange. Every single aspect of your sensory experience from the moment you walk in the door and notice the elegant but whimsical curios, to the black and white tile floor, to the darkly paneled bookshop, to the London leather decor, to the gleaming white atrium, to the locally sourced organic menu, is crafted to the finest detail. At the end of your meal your check is not delivered on a little black tray – it’s slipped into an antique book!
When small business owners market themselves, they often fall into the trap of telling instead of showing the story. They spout facts and data, they say things like: “We’ve won awards!” “We’re the best! Why? Because we say we are. Because this other person says we are.” But that doesn’t express an engaging story. And today’s consumers are all about the story.
Small businesses that escape this trap and launch into the land of creating story-driven brand experiences often end up crushing the competition as a direct result.