Today I want to talk to you about brand alignment. Or more specifically: some tell-tale signs that your branding isn’t “quite right”.You see, recently I’ve had several conversations with business owners who don’t feel quite “at home” in their brands. When I’ve described some of the symptoms of an unaligned brand, they’ve responded with “Oh, that is so me! I totally do that!” – so today I thought we’d take a look at some of those symptoms, what they can lead to, and how you can fix them. You’ll not be surprised to hear it’s going to involve… strategy.
A strong brand reflects who you are, helps you stand out and attract your dream clients. When your brand is aligned with who you are, what you do and who you do it for – everything just flows. And that’s what we all want! But what if something just feels… a bit off somehow. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know something’s not right. And it’s frustrating, because when you can’t define what the problem is, it’s hard to fix! Right?
If that’s you: You are not alone!
I see this all the time. With clients and with people in my network. Sometimes I notice it from the content they’re putting out there, and sometimes they outright tell me they feel a little lost and struggle to get their brand feeling “ just right”.
So let’s take a look at some of these symptoms:
You feel a constant urge to tweak and make changes to your visual brand.
We’ve probably all been there at some point (yes, that includes me!) – you see a pretty new font and you decide to give it a go… you’re always tweaking your colour palette a bit, because ooooh, that deep teal that the other brand is using is niiiiice! You get lost in all the pretty (and free!) Canva templates out there and because there are so many you end up using a different one for each social media post… But no matter how many fonts or colours or fancy templates you try… it still doesn’t feel right.
Yeah, just stop. This isn’t doing you any favours. When you constantly change things up, it’s confusing to your audience. And when you confuse… you lose! If you want brand recognition (and trust me, you do!) you need to show up consistently. You want people to instantly recognise your content as coming from you – and that won’t happen unless there’s a consistent look and feel to the stuff you put out there.
The quick and easy fix for this is to just choose a colour palette and 1-2 fonts and stick with them, bish bash bosh, job done. But that only fixes the symptom, not the cause. And chances are you’ll only stick with it for a while before the temptation of all those pretty fonts and colours becomes too strong and you cave; once again jumping on the “all the pretty colours-train” that only takes you back to square one.
You find yourself copying what other brands are doing
After all, it’s working for them so it has to work for you too, right? No. Hell no. This is such a common trap to fall into though. The only thing you’ll achieve by trying to copy someone else’s steps to success is that you’ll get hit by comparisonitis and you’re going to feel like a failure when you don’t achieve the same things they did. A good example of this is the current state of the online business world and all the celebrity entrepreneurs that are constantly pushing their rags to riches stories. “I started off with just $10 to my name and in just one year I created a 7-figure business. If I can do it, so can you! Here’s my recipe for success, now all you have to do is copy it, and you too can have the success of your wildest dreams!” This pisses me off no end, actually. Please don’t fall for that crap. You want to build your brand, not a copy of someone else’s. Why? Because pretending to be someone you’re not is bloody exhausting, and you’ll struggle to keep up the charades after a while. Inevitably, you’ll slip up at some point, and people will see right through it – and how authentic is your brand going to look then? Not very. How likely are people to trust your brand if they discover the brand they had started to like, wasn’t actually what or who it said it was?
Quick-fix: Start showing up as you. Easier said than done, but please stick with me to the end of the episode.
You’re attracting the wrong type of client
If you’re only getting enquiries from people you’re not really keen to work with, or people who ask you to do the kind work you hate – something is definitely off. Again, this is so common! Usually it boils down to being afraid to show up as your authentic self – and it’s closely related to the previous point. Often when we start out in business, we’re eager to please everyone, we’re worried that we’ll scare potential clients (and cash!) away, so we just show up in a way that feels safe and non-controversial. Totally vanilla. We’ve all been there, I know I have! Let me illustrate this with a personal anecdote: When I started my solo business, I came from over a decade of working as a design generalist. I’d do any kind of design work for any kind of client. Sure, it felt safe. But it didn’t feel fulfilling, and I found myself doing soul-sucking work for micro managing clients who only saw me as a commodity. An order taker. Not an expert. When I decided that things had to change, I started to truly find my voice and plucked up the courage to communicate my true values, I defined a niche for myself and decided to position myself as an expert rather than an all-rounder… that is when I started to attract the kind of clients and projects that light me up. And when you get to work with people you’d quite happily hang out with outside of work too, you will do better work. And then those people will recommend you to people in their networks, and chances are they’re also pretty similar in terms of their values and who they’d like to work with… and then the snowball will start to roll. When your brand is aligned, clear and consistent; the right clients will come to you – and the wrong ones will show themselves out the door. And that’s a good thing!
You find it hard to be consistent in your messaging and tone of voice
If you say one thing on Instagram, another on your website, and yet another thing in person, how will people know what is the real you? If you sound like a young hipster in one social media post, and an OAP in the next, how will your audience recognise you? Branding is all about building trust with your audience and potential clients, and just as with the visual side of your brand – your verbal brand has to be consistent for that to happen.
Solution: You need to define your brand story and core message. Then find your brand’s tone of voice, which is closely tied in with your brand personality, and stick with it. Having these things in place will make content creation for your brand a lot easier too!
OK, so those are some tell-tale signs of a brand that’s not quite aligned. But I’m guessing you want to know how to actually fix it? Enter: brand strategy!
Like I said: it all comes down to your brand’s foundations. The very core of your brand. It’s so important to get clear on what you want in your business before you start building your brand, because when this isn’t in place… that’s when you’ll start to experience the symptoms that we’ve just been through.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. When I work with clients, I always use my Brand it! Framework to help them discover and unlock the inner core of their brand. And this is what you can do too! Here are some steps to help you define and discover your brand’s values and unique personality:
First you want to define your inner core. This step is all about you, and it’s where you’ll dig deep to really define your why, who you are and where you want to go. So you’ll want to take a look at your vision and mission; the vision being your why – your big dream, and the mission being how you plan to achieve that dream. Some people find it helpful to create a vision board at this stage, to visualise everything and make it more tangible. Get clear on your goals for your business.
The next step is to find and explore your playground. Playground sounds a bit more exciting than “external factors”, right? But anyways, you want to look at things like who your ideal clients are, map out your competition and find your sweet spot in that mix. What is going to set you apart? Defining your dream client and really getting under their skin will help you communicate more effectively.
The third step is one of my favourites: this is where you start to inject some personality into your brand! Our ultimate goal is to create a brand personality that your dream clients resonate with, one that stands out for all the right reasons – and then sticks in their minds. Your brand personality and brand values will act as guidelines for how your brand will behave – and you want to keep the previous two steps in mind as you work on this, as all of the steps are interlinked. Take a moment to think about the values you want your brand to stand for, and what personality traits you want to be associated with. What feeling do you want people to have when they interact with your brand?
Next, it’s time to start shaping that brand story and getting clear on your messaging and tone of voice. Make sure to keep your brand personality and dream client in mind – you want your message to resonate with your audience and communicate your brand personality. If your brand was a person, how would they speak? Would they be down to earth and chatty or more conservative and business-like? If you’re a vibrant and easy-going brand who caters for a young and trendy audience, but then you address them like you were an ultra conservative politician talking to an audience of OAPs – they’re just gonna go all ”OK, boomer” on you. A communication style that feels like you, and that your audience is attracted to, is key.
Phew, are you still with me?
The fifth, and last, step of my Brand it! framework is all about translating that underlying strategy into a visual brand identity. Yep, only after working through all of those intangible parts of a brand do we actually start to look at the sexy stuff, like colours, fonts and logos. Once you’ve got those key strategic elements sorted, you’ll start to notice that staying consistent becomes easier. You now have something concrete to come back to; you can pick brand colours and fonts that communicate the brand personality that you’ve defined. Hopefully that should take away the itch to try every new and fancy font out there. And as a result, your brand will become more recognisable to people. You know what your values are, and who your dream client is, so it becomes easier to communicate a clear and consistent message to the right people – and you’ll find that it becomes easier to show up as you, rather than being tempted into pretending you’re someone else.
It’s a good idea to jot things down and keep a record of them as you work on your brand’s foundations. That way you can come back and reference it later, and you’ll always have a reminder of who you are as a brand. One thing you can do is stick a sheet of paper on your wall and write it out: My brand personality is such and such. My values are… xyz. My ideal client is this person. My tone of voice is… you get my drift!
Hopefully this has given you some tips on how to create an aligned and consistent brand. If you’re ready to really start to go a little deeper into the world of brand strategy, I can highly recommend my Brand it! strategy workbook. As one client said:
“This book is deceptively deep. You make it look simple and elegant, but the stuff you ask makes me really think carefully. And the fact that you could have made this 50+ pages and didn’t… For that alone, I am mega deeply grateful.”
Now that is a testimonial that warms my heart, because I believe brand strategy should be easy and fun! My workbook is the perfect way to dip your toes into the world of brand strategy. It’s a fillable PDF that you can keep coming back to as a reference or to tweak things as you move forward with your brand – see what works and what doesn’t, iterate, improve, make it yours! It’s a €47 investment and you can grab it at www.petchy.co/workbook 😉
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