Three Things to Consider Before You Brand

Your business’s brand is important — it sets you apart from competitors, promotes recognition and represents what you commit to deliver. Ultimately, your brand is how customers perceive you, which can make or break your business. A good brand doesn’t just fall out of the sky; it’s the result of strategic thinking and a well-designed plan. Consider these three things before branding (or rebranding) to ensure that you are conveying the right message:

1. Your Purpose

Simon Sinek said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” With that in mind, one of the first things that you should determine is the purpose of your brand. Why are you starting a business in the first place? What problem is your brand solving? What need is it fulfilling? How is it changing the world for the better? Why does it exist?

Failure to properly define your brand purpose could very well result in a brand identity crisis. Take J.C. Penney for example: The former clothing retail giant has been indecisive about whether it identifies as “a discounting mid-tier retailer or a quality brand establishment.” In other words, J.C. Penney can’t decide what problem in the market it’s attempting to solve, and the lack of a clear brand purpose has both confused customers and hurt sales, which was detrimental to the brand as a whole.

However, if you can nail down the “why” of your brand right off the bat, you’ll be setting yourself up for success by forming a solid foundation upon which to build the other aspects of your brand, including your target audience, your brand voice and your competition. Additionally, having a clear, concise purpose behind your brand will allow you to form deeper emotional connections with customers, employees and stakeholders, which in turn drives business.

2. Your Personality

If your brand were a person, what would she be like? What characteristics would she possess? How would you want others to perceive her? Once you can answer these questions, you are well on your way to defining the personality of your brand, which helps to shape the way people think and feel about your products or services.

Brand personality is an influential factor because it has the ability elicit an emotional response from individuals, which may then motivate them to purchase. Interestingly, consumers are more likely to buy a brand if its personality is similar to their own. It’s crucial to your success that you do your research and accurately define your brand personality so that it resonates with individuals within your target market. Consider filling out a brand statement template like this one to help you specify your brand personality in clear, concrete terms.

3. Your Promise

The hope of every brand is to be associated with a certain positive expectation and then deliver on it. However, it’s difficult to meet an expectation if you’re not exactly sure what that expectation is. That’s why it’s important to define your brand promise, which is the value or experience that your customers can expect to receive every single time they interact with your company, and then ensure that all of your employees understand what it is and why it matters.

Because brands cannot (and should not) promise everything to everyone, focus on what you have the ability to provide and commit to consistently delivering on that in each customer experience. In so doing, you’ll strengthen your brand value in the minds of your employees and customers, which will benefit your business. Don’t forget to listen to customer feedback and use it to determine how well you’re delivering on your brand promise and where you can improve.

Take a moment to think of your favorite brands; it’s very likely that you’d be able to list the purpose, personality and promise of these brands with ease, which indicates effective branding. For example, consider the wildly successful TOMS Shoes. Founder Blake Mycoskie started TOMS after visiting Argentina and noticing how many children there did not have shoes. As a result, TOMS was built with the purpose to help others, which is reflected in the brand’s hip, charitable, sincere personality and its promise to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. People get behind TOMS because they support its purpose, identify with its personality and believe in its promise.

If you want to create a strong brand, take some time to determine its purpose, personality and promise before diving deeper into the branding process. Not only will you set the stage for the rest of your branding strategy, it will also allow you to form a deeper connection with customers and put your brand on the path to success.

 

Originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Written by Jeff Grover