A Simple Framework for Business or Personal Branding
The simple framework I’m about to share with you has been carefully crafted and refined after working on dozens of branding exercises for professionals, entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses, and even multi-billion dollar Fortune 500s.
A common misconception is that you hire an agency, give them thousands of dollars, and they emerge from a black hole months later after working their "magic" with the perfect plan.
But after partnering with several agencies I realized that there is no secret sauce and it needn’t take a disproportionate amount of time, energy, or money to establish a strong brand. You can build a best-in-class brand from scratch, without spending a fortune, if you understand the basics.
I created a self-guided tool specifically for professionals and entrepreneurs who are rich in ideas, inspiration, and enthusiasm, but limited in resources. By being efficient you'll end up with a brand strategy that resonates with your intended audience and distinguishes you from your peers.
The following framework encompasses all the elements you need to create your brand's essence. They will ensure you articulate the essence of your brand clearly, concisely, and consistently.
Moreover, if you are a business, they’ll be instrumental in aligning and focusing your team (and external partners and constituents) around a common vision. There are four parts of the framework: Vision, Value, Voice, Visuals (i.e. "the 4Vs").
It’s important to go through the exercise of articulating the strategic vision for yourself or your company before get into other parts of the branding process. Your vision must inform your entire strategy.
A strong vision communicates why you exist and what you stand for, and how that drives the specific goals you want to achieve in the future.
- Tagline - short but powerful sentence that conveys your brand's essence
- Purpose - why you exist, what you’ll accomplish, and how you’ll achieve it
- Values - the core principles that will guide all of your activities
Your value is what you have to offer that is unique, important, and relevant in the eyes of the consumer. It should specifically address the most pressing consumer needs, problems, or desires and it gets at the heart of why you or your business should be chosen over others.
- USP - your unique selling proposition or differentiated value add
- Positioning - how you stand apart from competitors in your space
- Promise - who you are (and aren't); your role in the consumer’s life
You should be purposeful in your manner of communication by focusing on what you say, how you say it, and the feeling it conveys. It's important to carefully craft a distinct prose that engages, inspires, motivates, influences, and establishes trust.
- Persona - the demographic and psychographic profile of your target Personality - the personification of your brand and relationship with your target audience
- Tone - the words and phrases that make up the style of communication
The visible elements of your brand impart a symbolic meaning that goes beyond what words alone can express. Your visual identity sets the foundation necessary for your brand to be distinguishable, recognizable, and relatable.
- Style - guidelines on the overall aesthetic (look and feel) of the brand
- Identity - the brand's core style elements (fonts, logos, colors, imagery)
- Collateral – the marketing and other material (website, etc.) that your audience interacts with
In addition to the 4Vs framework, there's a very specific process you should walk through in order to ensure you are approaching your brand's development in the most ideal way. There are important questions, inputs, and exercises that increase the likelihood of you establishing a brand that strongly resonates with the intended audience.
- Educate – a set of preparatory steps and questions you should ask before you start your branding work.
- Audit – the research, analyses, and other inputs you should collect to help inform your brand.
- Ideate – brainstorming sessions to generate ideas that will eventually establish the building blocks of your brand.
- Create – the process of developing the 4Vs (as specified above)
- Test – validating and verifying your 4Vs before finalizing them (especially if you are a business).
- Design – once your 4Vs are final then moving on to the design of your visual brand identity.