A modern business trend is on the rise – binge branding.
What do you mean by binge branding, Andrea? I’m so glad you asked. I have been a brand strategist and designer for almost two decades and I believe the core function of a visual designer is to solve specific problems. Design can solve critical business problems, but to solve visual design problems, you must have a brand strategy in place – a bigger vision or goal.
What is the true role of design and communication?
I believe that design (also called communication) is the practice of planning, interpreting and projecting ideas and experiences. The design process can help a business owner tell the stories they desire to share with the world through words, visuals and combined experiences. People are usually are aware that intentional branding and design practices help them tell better stories.
The process of design should focus on the experience first, and the visual solution might be the solution to help people connect and interpret your story.
There are always opportunities to improve and it makes it easier to recognize them when you track your baseline where you are now and where you plan to go. The process of design should focus first on the experience, and the visual solution might be the solution to help people connect and interpret your story.
Design without a business brand strategy will leave you feeling sick.
Here is where the binge branding begins. You may have created a business and then you think, but then what? Then your mind says, “I need to get out there and find clients and customers.” You would be right, but there is more. Playing around with graphic design and created a few visual elements was so much fun and felt like play and freedom.
I agree and completely understand that feeling of creative freedom. Right brain activity is fun, and we gravitate toward fun and creative because it opens a world of childlike play to us. But it also connects us to our business. Perhaps you have moved on to creating your website, and then you set up a few social accounts.
After all of that, there still seems to be something missing, and you know it deep down inside.
What is the common thread in all of those pieces?
The missing piece is that brand building is about creating an experience – it’s a journey. What does that mean really? What I mean simply is that each process leads to the next and the next and so on. Your efforts MUST take customers on a voyage.
Your first problem to solve is helping other people emotionally or curiously connect with your stories and experiences. There has to be a connection before they can listen to what you have to say or offer. When you have their attention, then a different journey begins.
Study how visitors and clients are experiencing your brand.
Ask questions and stay curious and in conversations. Their answers will leave clues. Then you can follow those clues to find and discover areas to improve. Looking at your business from inside the problem — that is where your focus on “branding” (action verb) will become a valuable asset. You are the guide. Be the guide.
Where can you improve your business brand experience?
When I was a new business owner, I struggled to work with clients who didn’t have enough business experience to support their big dream during the start-up phase of their business. It wasn’t good enough for me to create a visual identity for a company because that somewhat felt like a lie.
In those days the build it and they will come mindset was huge. People believed that message. It’s kind of like the saying, “jump and the net will appear.” Sometimes yes but sometimes the net is nowhere to be found when you hit the ground. I didn’t like that advertising agencies were selling that mindset because people really believed that if they built a visual identity and sent it out into the world the net would appear. They thought brand strategy and design alone would resolve all business problems and this is simply not true.
The net appears with brand implementation support.
Let me dive deeper into what I mean by support. How do you use the brand assets to their fullest? How do you implement them and integrate them into a strategy to support your marketing efforts? My point is nuanced and key. Your business brand can look “visually” brilliant and beautiful all day long, but if there are zero profits, you do not have a business. The role and function of “pretty” and “cool” should tie into your vision, mission, and message. I advocate for branding that is both appealing to the audience you choose to serve and profitable. This is why ugly visuals work to a point.
I want to help your brand thrive.
I don’t enjoy seeing other people fail when a net or viable solution doesn’t magically appear. So I began to build my marketing chops by digging into solving additional business problems and helping others see the connection between brand building efforts tied to their marketing and business development efforts. I continued to help dreamers and side-hustlers working to escape the corporate grind make it through the early start-up phase by helping them understand and solve more problems.
When should you care about branding?
There is a conversation which sometimes looks like a debate going on in forums and facebook groups. You know, like Mac vs. PC? The debate is around whether or not design and branding are the necessary components in a new business? The question isn’t whether or not that branding is necessary for the business period but rather when should business care about branding. My answer, you should always care.
There are valid points that people like to argue about or “discuss.” One argument is that a business owner or entrepreneur must reach a certain financial stage of business or financial stability before pursuing such vanity business solutions. Let me reign this back in and make my point again. GASP!
You can be successful with an ugly brand.
You can create an income without a website. You can sell your service or thing with a logo or business card. You can be delivering value and what your customer wants. The point of brand building activity is about improving customer awareness, experience, and satisfaction. If you focus on the experience and also learn the power of constraints, you will start to enjoy “brand building.” You can profit from a brand that tells your brand truth.
Brands can be visually unappealing to one and good enough to another. Humans are different, and we are drawn to different things. I often wonder if this is why the process and practice of visual design get’s a bad rap in business branding. Because when your focus is on the “design” element only and not the experience, there are challenges. It’s a slight shift but an important one.
The focus of design is to deliver an intended client experience.
Have you spent months developing things like the website or debating the quality of a logo design? If this describes you, there is likely a deeper problem, and it’s not an outward image or brand problem; it’s within you or your team. It’s your definition of what brand practices are and the synchronicity of branding, design, and marketing.
The ability to make decisions and define your focus can be a result of a lack of confidence in your ability to make quality decisions. Confidence is usually in the mix and the disbelief that you can achieve the desired thing, result or goal you have set.
Do you have confidence in your brand?
My business performance mentor, Todd Herman, talks about this concept quite a bit. He challenges himself to the task of helping entrepreneurs get and stay out on the “field of play” and play a winning game. If you are stuck in “brand building” and “website building mode” you might lack confidence and direction. Chances are you might just be using that lack against yourself, and it shows up as procrastination. I encourage you not to get stuck sitting on the bench while watching others play the game. Branding can be enjoyable and not mysterious.
What to do after your binge?
- Make your decisions based on your standards, values, and vision.
- Gather your brand essential toolkit (hint this becomes a system).
- Take inventory and gather existing brand assets into a list.
- Remind yourself that branding (action verb) is a process.
- Remind yourself to enjoy the journey and iteration process as you gain clarity.
- Define the customer journey. Yes, write out the path you want them to take.
- Inventory the missing pieces the gaps in the experience.
- Forgive yourself for your mistakes and move forward.
- Work your way toward more profitable activities and strategy.
- Don’t keep binge branding as an excuse!
- Set your criteria for what you define as good enough at this moment in time.
- This becomes the standard that your team and vendors will follow.
Brand consultants help you get there faster.
Revisit your visual brand elements, the processes they are connected to. Once you have a bit of wisdom under your belt and additional clarity around your business goals, you will start to see the benefits and results of developing your profitable brand. It’s okay! Brand building is an iterative process, and when you can settle into this the process will become, dare I say it fun and enjoyable.