We all know that branding is something we have to do for our business, but what does that entail?
Graphic representations like the logo, website, etc. are the external value of your branding. This is important because is what people might see first. But the external is just one part of a larger equation.
Branding also has substantial internal value. Sadly, this is a very much overlooked or underestimated benefit of branding.
When we talk about the internal branding, we refer to your values, beliefs, attitudes, and the reason why your business exists. A good branding exercise cements the purpose of your company.
As my friend and Big Brand System founder, Pamela Wilson says: “The process of branding obligates you to define how you want to show up in the world. It requires that you identify what’s most important to you and your business. It helps to clarify your business values and set the tone for how your business grows.”
In other words: branding is central to everything we do.
But how does branding help your business day-in, day-out?
Branding as a filter
The thoughtful decisions you make during the branding process can serve as your guiding light in your business well into the future. For example, becoming very clear about who you want to work with — and who you don’t want to work with — will help you to embrace specific projects and know immediately when others aren’t a good fit for your values, says Pamela.
Every business should have core values that they stand by, and that guide their business decisions. These values need to be apparent in everything that you do, which means you need to have them present as well. If you value fun, that should be shown through the types of brand photos on your website, also through informal language. If you value integrity and transparency, these should be cornerstones when considering joint-ventures or associations.
Strong values and clarity of purpose are what help companies navigate the waters of uncertainty and decide how to change. The folks at Rolex are clear that they are more than a watch company; they sell prestige with every watch. Hence you will never see the company selling cheap watches. Every new idea at Rolex will need to increase, or solidify prestige.
Same applies to Apple. Apple isn’t a tech company, but rather it’s a design company betting that consumers want something more than just technology in their lives. So every business decision they make will be bounced against these values.
The values of your business are the mental tumbler that any new idea or project must go through before you say “Yes, that’s a fit for us!”
The role of values for small business owners
Branding allows you to be clear about your organisation’s strategy and stay focused.
As a small business owner we tend to jump for shiny objects, and being aware of your internal branding helps to sort out these problems.
Let’s take a client of mine who is a chef. She offers cooking courses, catering services and team building exercises around making delicious food. At some point in her business, she wrote a cooking book with family recipes from her birthplace. Along came somebody with the idea of promoting the book and create shows around it etc. My client got swept by the concept of increasing name recognition through the book sales. But since it had no connection to the other activities she offered, and neither to her mission, the whole experience ended up in a great sense of loss and tiredness.
Would she have reflected on her internal branding she would not have lost sight of how her company and her brand are intertwined and approached this opportunity in a way that was more aligned with her values and purpose.
Stay true to your values
Values are an essential element of your small business branding. Always act according to your values. Remaining strong to your moral and ethical boundaries is key to building a foundation for your brand and maintaining a sense of integrity with every decision. If something does not align with your values, steer clear, because it will lead you off-brand.