Is Your Brand Helping or Hurting Your Business?

How to determine whether your brand is helping or hurting your business

Want to create a powerful, impactful, world-changing business?

It starts by having a strong brand.

There are few companies that have achieved breakthrough success without laying a strong brand foundation first. Think Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Warby Parker, Toms and so on.

So, why does branding matter?

It provides verbal and visual cues that represent who you are and communicates what you believe. Essentially, your brand encapsulates your company’s identity in a succinct way.

When you have a strong brand, it can help you connect you with your target audience and rally your team and customers. Plus, it can be a powerful launching pad for your company’s marketing efforts.

Essentially, a compelling brand helps you tell your story better.

On the flip side of the coin, weak brands can breed credibility and trust issues that your audience can sniff from a mile away. After all, no one wants to do business with a brand that’s perceived as boring, generic, complicated, unprofessional or cheap.

Ultimately, a weak brand can hinder the growth and success of your business.

Plus, if your brand is not unique and memorable, be prepared to spend more time and money overcoming the hurdles a weak brand creates.

Strong Brands Versus Weak Brands

So, how do you know where you fall?
Here’s a quick comparison between strong and weak brands.

Signs You May Have a Weak Brand

  • You have trouble connecting with your target audience.
  • You brand regularly gets confused with other companies.
  • You’re attracting the wrong kinds of customers.
  • Your brand doesn’t match your vision, culture or strategy.
  • Customers can’t easily explain what you do.
  • Customers aren’t loyal or referring others to your business.
  • You’re struggling to drive leads or sales.
  • There are many iterations of your brand image being used.
  • Your brand image isn’t being used con
  • You lack a consistent brand image across your company.

Signs of a Strong Brand

  • You have strong brand awareness with your target audience.
  • Your brand is distinctive, unique and memorable.
  • People know exactly what you do, who you serve and what you believe.
  • You’re attracting just the right customers.
  • Your brand accurately reflects your culture and vision.
  • Your customers aren’t just loyal, they are raving fans.
  • Your employees are your biggest advocates.
  • People are excited to be affiliated with your organization.
  • You have a consistent brand image.

Certainly, this isn’t a comprehensive list, but this can give you a quick gut check for where your brand might fall.

If you were nodding along to the signs of a weak brand, let’s take a look at what you can do to fix it. (Hint: It doesn’t start by changing your logo.)

A Logo is Not Your Brand

Before we go any further, I must reiterate something important – your brand is not your logo. If you noticed something about the lists above, they hardly mention your logo.

Although a logo is part of the overall brand, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The logo just happens to be the part of branding that you can actually see. But branding, when done well, goes much deeper than the visual representation of a company.

In fact, your brand is the DNA of your business. It is unique to you and evidence of it should be found throughout your entire organization – not just your logo. That means everything from the product or service itself to the packaging, customer service and marketing should reflect the unique characteristics of your specific brand.

Creating a Culture-Driven Brand

We believe the best organizations take this concept one step further by creating a culture-driven brand. Essentially, culture branding aligns the “Core Why” of your business with your customer’s “Core Need.”

A culture-driven brand is the combination of two powerful concepts — company culture and brand identity.

Culture is your brand’s personality. It’s how you live out your vision (or Core Why), values and beliefs internally within the organization. The environment you create and the team you build are all components of your company’s culture.

Branding is how you communicate your culture to the world. It’s the external part of your brand that people see. Your branding serves as a powerful symbol for how your Core Why meets the Core Need of your audience. This includes your key messages and visual identity.

Culture Branding it helps organizations create a breakthrough brand because it aligns your team behind a powerful vision and connects that to the needs of your audience. That’s why truly great organizations are culture-driven brands.

Take IKEA, for example. They are fueled by their vision “to create a better everyday life for the many people.” That’s their Core Why. They deliver on that vision by creating functional, well-designed furniture that’s affordable for the masses.

IKEA’s customers want to make their home a more stylish and comfortable place. That’s their customer’s Core Need. And IKEA helps them do that.

Everything IKEA does makes it easy and affordable to improve the homes and lives of as many people as possible. When you look at IKEA’s messaging, branding and marketing, it all aligns behind this concept.

See how that works?

Start with Your Company Culture

So, how do you get started with this?
As I mentioned above, don’t start with your logo. Instead, take a look at your culture.

And that begins with developing your Core Why that meets the Core Need of your audience.

If you don’t have a strong Core Why in place, make this a priority. Answering these questions will help.

As you can see in the graphic above, everything you do ladders up from that compelling Core Why
– your core values, environment and team all flow out of a powerful, shared vision.

Build Your Branding

Developing a strong culture isn’t a one-time thing. But once you have created a vision for where you want to go, you can begin to build external branding to support that.

It starts with what you say about your brand – your key messaging. Key messaging is important because it gives your organization a shared vocabulary for talking about what you do. And, it ensures your team always conveys the most important components about your brand. You’ll know you’ve done your job when your customers start using your key messages too.

The reason many organizations struggle with brand awareness is because their messaging isn’t compelling or consistent. You need both if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Only once you have developed your brand’s key messages, can you establish the visual identity for your brand. This is your company’s logo, which is the visual representation of your brand.

Building a Culture Brand Takes Time

Remember what it means to be a strong brand? Culture branding will take you there.

Yes, this approach takes more time than slapping together a logo. And, it might seem incredibly daunting. But, this building a culture-driven brand will pay off in the long run. Culture branding is the road less traveled. That’s why few brands truly achieve breakthrough success.

But, we believe it’s possible. And that you can do it.

And if you feel stuck or overwhelmed?

We can help. Contact us here to start the conversation about building your culture brand.

Originally published on March 27, 2017. Updated on October 24, 2023.

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Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

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