Chances are that when someone mentions Airbnb you don’t imagine a futuristic hotel in the clouds.

Instead you think about how personalised and easy it is to book funky, cool and affordable accommodation anywhere in the world.

The reason for this is branding: Airbnb has done a great job of defining its brand. This makes it instantly recognisable, encourages identification with its values and makes its proposition simple to understand. And, because it already feels like an old friend, new customers enter the sales funnel ready to convert, rather than in need of long nurturing and convincing.

Great brands make you feel at home… as if you have arrived at a place you’d feel comfortable living. And that’s precisely Airbnb’s point.

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Why branding matters

Brands like Airbnb do more than attract and convert new customers easily, though. They also foster the essential customer loyalty that all businesses crave.

This loyalty is why Apple phones command such a high price point and many would never consider an alternative. It’s also why people are either Coke or Pepsi drinkers, but never both.

What is a brand?

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There are no words here but most of us will recognise the Twitter icon.

We’ll also probably associate it with an instant way to stay connected to everything that interests us in the world right now.

Yet, a common misconception about branding is that it is all about the logo design itself. But, that’s not even half the story.

A logo or a visual identity is a way to trigger brand associations quickly, but they are not the brand.

The brand is developed through the way a company markets itself, who it targets, what it says and, crucially, what others say and feel about it. And herein lies the other common misconception about brands.

A brand is not something you can force onto people.

It is also not something you wholly own: only the cattle ranching business can burn a brand onto a property to claim it. For the rest of us brands are not so compliant.

Here’s what the Design Council says:

“A brand is a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation.”
The brand itself is how you are seen: it is not how you want to be seen. As such, branding is more like trying to shape a piece of clay on a potter’s wheel, with a crowd of onlookers constantly applying their own pressure to your creation.

Crafting a brand is a shared endeavour: customers, competitors, employees and anyone who interacts with your business has a role in shaping your brand. But, never forget that you are the one at the potter’s wheel.

How can you best develop your brand, build trust and grow your business?

It has been said that “branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

So, let’s make sure you are aware of this and shaping the conversation.

Some smart marketing professional created a model called the “Brand Identity Prism.”

This identified six aspects of brand identity:

  • Physique
  • Personality
  • Culture
  • Relationship
  • Reflection
  • Self-image

This is what it looks like, but we’re going to break it down nice and easy so you can quickly grasp what it means for you.

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  • Physique – The recognisable, physical aspect of your brand

This includes the logo, colour scheme, packaging and the design of your website.

The Real Thing

For Coca Cola this is the shape of its flagship bottle, the cursive font and its logo.

  • Personality – Your brand’s character

This is how you communicate with the outside world, such as your writing style, tone of voice and colour scheme.

The Real Thing

Coca-Cola’s personality is happy, playful and all about sharing good times.

  • Culture – Your value system

These are the fundamental principles upon which you base your brand’s behaviour.

The Real Thing

Coca-Cola’s culture is based on socialising and sharing.

  • Relationship – Your brand’s relationship to its customers

For instance, are you in a peer, mentor, mother-child or teacher-pupil relationship with your audience?

The Real Thing

Coca-Cola symbolises an equal and friendly relationship amongst peers.

  • Reflection – Your idealised customer or stereotypical buyer

Many companies develop multiple buyer personas for different services or products. These represent their idealised buyers that they want to address.

The Real Thing

For Coca-Cola one of these may be a teenager who values fun with friends through sports.

  • Self image – Your customers’ ideal image of themselves

Imagine a mirror that your target persona holds up to themselves. This doesn’t necessarily reflect what they are but what they want to be. You can draw on this self-image to direct your aspirational brand messages.

The Real Thing

A Coca-Cola drinker may see themselves as exciting, adventurous and always at the centre of the action. Now that you have all the pieces of the brand puzzle it’s time to start to fit them together.

Putting your branding into practice

This is all about defining where you are, where you want to be and then developing your brand to achieve this.

Remember that your brand is not just about your logo but about how you communicate. This is why it can be useful to work with an agency that understands your business, its goals and all its design and marketing needs.

Needless to say, we are always happy to help if you need a hand!

To communicate your brand you must be crystal clear about your vision, goals, the market needs you serve, your personality and your value propositions (or USPs). Once you have these use defined you must use them to ensure that every piece of marketing you create, or communication you send, helps to bolster this brand impression.

If you are not shaping the clay firmly it will surely fall off the wheel.

Think of your brand as a gift

Defining your brand identity is much like wrapping up a very special gift you have for someone equally special.

You want to make sure it is appropriate for your recipient and that they will be pleased with the gift and smitten with how it is presented. You want the recipient to understand that the gift has been selected especially for them. And you want the gift to create a lasting bond of respect and trust.

That’s what great brands do to their customers.

Give us a call if you want to chat about developing a brand that works on every level. It’s an investment that will pay you back for many years.

Get in touch!