What is a brand? Many people think that your brand is simply the aesthetic side of your business – meaning the colors and fonts that you use, and your logo if you have one. But a brand is much more than this. It’s the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your clients and customers. It’s how a person feels and what comes to mind when they think of your name. Strong brands elicit strong opinions and emotions from customers. For example, take Apple. When I see the Apple logo I think of many things: elegance, light, cleanliness, usability, and products that are equally smart as they are beautiful. What about Starbucks? Starbucks makes me think of a hot soy latte, sitting on a comfy coach with a friend, jazz records playing on the speakers, and knowing that wherever I am in Manhattan – a Starbucks is not too far away. Your brand is something that to some extent will develop whether you put thought into it or not. But it will invariably be much stronger if you create and develop your brand with real intention. Below are eight ways that you can get started developing a strong personal brand for yourself.
1) High quality photos
True, aesthetics are not everything when it comes to your brand – but most certainly they are an important part of it. I always tell prospective clients: don’t bother spending money on a website if you haven’t invested in good photos. Great photographs make the website every time. They’re at the heart of your brand and worth giving some thought to. Do you want an urban vibe with an edge? Or an outdoorsy carefree feel? Or a speakeasy style reminiscent of the 1920’s? The look and feel of your photographs will dictate the look and feel of your website and promotional materials – all things that contribute to your brand.
2) Strong color palette/Logo
Best chosen after you get your photographs, a strong color palette is equally important and will tie into your whole visual theme. A logo, while not absolutely necessary, can be a real asset in relation to branding as it has a way of tying everything together. I could write an entire blog post just about logos alone (and perhaps someday I will) – but the gist of it is creating a small piece that unites shapes, color and words to capture the essence of what you do. If you have the resources, hiring a professional graphic designer to create a logo for you is well worth the money.
3) Elevator pitch
The phrase “elevator pitch” originally comes from the idea that you should be able to sum up for someone what you do, what you’re about and why you’re worth hiring – all in the short span of an elevator ride. While I’m not really into the whole “shtick” thing as it tends to start sounding scripted and boring rather quickly, I do think it’s beneficial to get clear on what you’re about so that when you’re meeting people and they’re inquiring about you, you’re able to speak surely, confidently and eloquently about what you do. For example, ask me what my business is about and I’ll tell you quite simply: I started Continuum because I wanted to provide for other artists like myself websites that are unique and really capture who they are and what they’re creating – a viable alternative to the template websites that we see so much of these days. And while now Continuum has expanded to serve small business owners and other entrepreneurs as well, the goal remains the same: making sure my clients are fully self-expressed in how they’re represented online, and that they’re able to take full advantage of all the Internet has to offer in expanding their business. So when someone next asks you what your music/art/business is about, what will you say?
4) Bio and promotional pieces
Probably the least fun things to assemble amidst all of this branding material are your bio and other written promotional pieces. But they have to be done, and done well (take a look at my blog post The Perfect Bio if you haven’t already). Hopefully as the other pieces of your brand start to come together, it will become apparent to you what the tone of your written pieces should be. Formal? Casual? Conversational? Outside-the-box? The tone and type of language you use in all of your written pieces will become yet another component of your brand.
5) Consistent URLs
This one is easily accomplished, but often overlooked, so it’s worth mentioning. If your website URL is www.kinginflight.com, the idea and hope is that your facebook fan page URL will be facebook.com/kinginflight and your twitter URL will be twitter.com/kinginflight and… well, you get the idea. Keep your URLs as consistent as you can. This not only makes it easier for people and fans to find you – it also contributes to the strength of your brand.
6) Online presence
This one is referring to two things: the frequency in which you post content online to your various social media platforms, and also the tone in which you do so. The frequency is entirely up to you – I would just say that consistently with frequency is the most important thing here. Posting every day for a week and then disappearing for a month does little to reinforce your brand. But posting consistently twice a week will communicate to people that you’re a constant and have a lasting presence. The tone in which you post is also entirely up to you – again I think the consistency is most important. Are you talking in first person or third person? Are you being one-sided or conversational? These are decisions you’ll need to make, and the right answer is always what feels right to you.
7) Come up with a great tagline
This is probably another topic that warrants an entire blog post of its own, but alas, we have a single paragraph. To the best of my understanding, a tagline is a key phrase that sums up and identifies your business by capturing these three things: your mission, your promise, and your brand. The most common mistake people make with taglines is focusing on what their service or product is when they should be thinking about what it offers. Your tagline communicates what you do, what’s in it for them – and hopefully has a little pizzazz as well. When I was trying to come up with a tagline for my business, I did brainstorming sessions every day for a week, during which I’d write down anything and everything that came to mind, not judging my ideas either way. Eventually at the end of the week, while going through all the bad ideas I’d come up with – I stumbled across a great one.
8) Demonstrate and maintain professionalism
This probably goes without saying, but beyond the photographs and the colors, the logo and the tagline, the bio and the elevator pitch, the Facebook status updates and the tweeted photos – lies what you are doing for others, and your professionalism. These things will always be first and foremost in defining your brand. Maintain quality and professionalism at all times and you will be remembered for it.
Ideally, your brand will be a sum of all the things that make you you. It’s what comes to mind when people think of you and your business – so you want it to be genuine and you want it to come from the heart. The eight methods listed above are all great starting places for developing the bigger picture that will become your brand. Good luck!
PS: As with everything else, if you have the funds, there’s always someone who will gladly help you with all of this, for a price. Google “brand development for artists” if you’re curious…