Four Steps Toward Building Your Brand


This past Friday, Jonah Holland and I headed to the new Westin Hotel for the monthly Retail Merchants Association gathering. We were going primarily to hear Lisa Moroni-Hall and Cathy Ferris McPherson of Brandevotion speak; I was fortunate to spend a fair amount of time with Lisa and Patrick Ind when they were working on some massive branding a ctivity at Luck Stone.

It was a packed house (and there was a pediatrics party going on right next door; Jonah and I managed to chat it up with my favorite pediatrician – the online and connected Dr. Gayle Smith).

But the bulk of the morning was spent wandering the brand maze with Lisa and Cathy. They kept it simple, but relevant. Your brand should do four things, very well:

  1. Provide a clear definition of who you are.
  2. Ensure that you are well-known for one thing.
  3. Create a signature look.
  4. Leave a personal mark with your clients.

They provided plenty of context in each area, which I capture below.

Who You Are

Beneath the very simple "who you are" notion lies a whole series of important questions – such as, "Why are you in business?" and "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" Perhaps one of the most important questions – "What do you want people to say about you and your business?"

You are branding to be different, to be distinct, Lisa said. Find out what people love about you, and do more of that.

They talked about two examples – one national and one local.

Nike's brand is that they are cool enough and serious enough for competitive atheletes, they told the crowd. And local bistro Can Can has built their brand around "a whirlwind of pleasures and vices."

Be Well-Known

In terms of becoming well-known for one thing, Lisa and Cathy suggested taking a hard look at the messages you are sending – are they clear and comprehensible? Lisa cited Toys "R" Us, which is about kids, kids, kids. "There's no doubt in everything you see from them that it is for kids."

Does the customer care about what you are saying? Are you motivating sales with your communication?

"We work with so many organizations that craft a message and put it out there for six months," Lisa said, "and then they want to change it. People don't know what they stand for."

Signature Look

It's back to consistency again – design with consistency in mind. Think about your logo, your collateral material, the design and layout of your physical space. Does your internal marketing convey a consistent signature look and feel? Test your message by asking strangers to look at your website, or visit your store, and then ask them to describe what they experience or feel as a result.

Consistency, clarity and repetition = Recognition.

Personal Mark

What you leave behind with every interaction should reinforce your brand message, they said. But you should also make sure you validate your customer's expectations and deliver on your brand promise.