I am embarrassed to admit when I started to become aware of what was meant by "branding". Of course I had heard the term before. . but lawyers don't learn business in law school, nor did we have a need for branding back in the day.
I also didn't learn about it when I started the bakery. Oh we spent time on logo creation, picking out fonts and a color palette. We also created our story and the feel of our business. But "branding" wasn't in my wheelhouse, until one day when I was at an event---an evening event with mood lighting and poor signage. A man came up to me and asked me if I was from The Sugar Path and I said yes and he responded, "I could tell it was The Sugar Path from across the room without seeing the sign!! Great branding!"
That is when I became aware of what it truly was and how we had accomplished branding ourselves without even trying. From that point on I used that term "branding" approximately 527 times a week. I literally became obsessed with it. My sister (my business partner) would ask my advice about something and I would respond with "well, that's not how we want to brand ourselves". . .
When I went through B-School we had a whole section on branding---not just how to pick out your colors and logo, but how to find and connect with your customers---developing your key messages, creating your Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA) and more. Let me tell you, the people in my class took that section to heart and went all out on creating those ICA's following a model set forth by Anthropologie. Anthropologie created its ICA by giving her a name, a career, an age---everything about her personally and emotionally. The philosophy is to be able to find your true customers and speak directly to them. Typically consumers buy with their emotions and with what resonates with them. In order to make a sale you need to speak directly to the people who would be interested in buying from you.
I believe it is very important to create your ICA and your key messages when you have a business. However, it is just as important to create "your story". Your story is part of your branding---it's who you are and why you do what you do. For instance, for many years at the bakery we used a brown Kraft box and those boxes were a part of how we "branded" our look. But what was the look? The "look" came from our story. Our why. My sister and I grew up in a small town with a very tight knit, extended family and our grandparents were at the heart of our life. In our big Italian family we lived the meaning of "food is love" and we had a passion for farmer's markets. The Sugar Path started at a farmer's market and central to our philosophy was a lot of repurposing and recycling, including the brown Kraft boxes with a vintage farm feel. We weaved our story right into the look and feel of our business. EVERY single one of our customers knew our story. They loved us because of our story. It's why they call us "the sisters" and feel so close to us.
Your story is such an important part of your business branding. It can help create the look and feel of your business, define your why and help you find your ideal customers. Do your branding correctly and it will speak right to your customers.
Don't pass on creating your story and weaving it into all of your details. If you need help, just sign up for a branding workshop with me so we can work on yours together.