Before you can build an exceptionally strong brand, you need to know why you’re in business. Not what you do, but why you do it. Your business’s ‘noble purpose,’ if you will. Articulating that mission is probably one of the most critical—and difficult—challenges in the branding process. And it’s a challenge for companies of any size and stage, not just for startups. In the Project RE:Brand series, we see some established small businesses try to answer this question as part of the rebranding process.
Without a clear articulation of your business mission, branding is just window dressing. If you’re like many business owners, though, you may find it difficult to separate yourself from your company’s brand. When you’ve been the driving force behind the company, it’s hard to take an objective, external view and see your brand, basically, as your customers see you. The following exercises may help you get started.
- Ask yourself, why are you in business? In the RE:Brand series, you can see Artyarns (pictured) wrestle with defining who they are. Once they realize they are in business to “elevate the art of knitting,” the branding exercise becomes much clearer for them.
- Connect with your customers. As I said, there’s nothing like getting an outside point of view—and who better than your customers? Ask them why they choose you over competitors. You might be surprised by what they say. What they see as your differentiator may not be the first thing you think of. This can help you hone that mission.
- Compare yourself against the competition. What do you offer that’s unique? Is it your products? Your customer service? Look for comparisons outside your market, as well. Are there brands that you’d like to emulate?
And don’t be afraid to think more broadly about your business. For example, there are great brands being built on experiences, like Zane’s Cycles. When a customer called from the road with a flat tire, Chris Zane, the owner, had the customer picked up and brought to the store to have the tire replaced. “I’m not in the cycling business,” Chris says. “I’m in the business of the cycling experience.” He wants his customers to love cycling as much as he does. It’s what drives his business.
Once you’re able to articulate the mission like Chris does, you’ll find your branding can become more cohesive, more effective.
So ask yourself, why are you in business?