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What Actually Is Branding? Two Experts Tell All

Branding seems to be something that many photographers obsess over. But what is branding exactly? And how important is it? Is it your website and logo? Or is there more to it?

Today on the blog I’m thrilled to be interviewing a to branding experts – one is a branding designer and the other is a brand strategist, to get their different views on branding.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels

What does the term “branding” mean to you?

Asia: Your brand is essentially your reputation. It’s how your audience perceives you and your business. It’s how your clients feel about you. It’s the impression people get from your presence and the space you take up in their mind. Your branding is everything you put out into the world to help shape that reputation!

And a critical thing I want to mention here is that branding isn’t a devious process meant to manipulate. It’s not about controlling an image; it’s about actually doing business with integrity so you become known for the thing you want to be known for. A strong brand is genuine, not a curated performance. Effective branding is honest, not propaganda.

At the end of the day, your brand is whatever your audience says it is. And that might make you feel like you’re at the whims of fate, but that’s where brand strategy comes into play!

Sally: What people say, feel & think about your product, service or company. Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. It tells a story about you, your product/service and company.

Why is branding important?

Sally: A brand is not just a logo or slogan. Branding is about feelings, not facts. It’s built on trust. And buying decisions are built on that trust. Good branding sets yourself apart from your competition and sparks a connection with your audience. Personality is key to standing out!

Apple is a great example of why branding is so important. Apple fans will admit that an Andriod phone has a better-quality camera or runs quicker, but they’ll keep using/buying their Apple phone. Why? Because of the brand. Apple products have a sleek look and have been associated with innovation since the brands inception. This makes it a “must have” item.

Asia: Okay, this is a loaded question to ask a brand strategist – how much time do we have?! There are 8 main reasons why I believe building a strong brand is important: it makes your business more recognizable, efficient, marketable, effective, flexible, impactful, and fun.

But here’s the most crucial reason: as an entrepreneur, you have a listening audience, intrigued followers, loyal subscribers, and a public platform – and therefore you have power. Your brand is your key to unlocking that power and your guideline to ensure you use your power responsibly.

What is the most important part of a brand?

Sally: Everything! You want all your audience touch points to have a consistent look & feel, that’s how we trust/value a brand.

Asia: This might be a little surprising, but the most important part of your brand is actually your big idea. In brand strategy, I call this your brand philosophy – the core belief, position, argument, or principle upon which your entire brand is derived. Without a strong brand philosophy, it’s impossible to build a strong brand.

How do you know if your brand resonates with your target market?

Asia: This is a great question because while our brands are built by us, they’re built for our ideal clients. So the clearest sign that your brand is resonating is if the majority of your customers are ideal clients who come to you for help with the exact problem you solve.

Another sign to look out for is whether you’re building a community around your ideas. Do people in your circle actively engage with your content, emotionally and financially support your business, connect with you on a personal level, share your posts, and refer you to their friends? Those are all indicators that you’re building a brand that goes beyond just what you sell!

Sally: You’ll be receiving lots of enquiries/work from your ideal clients which shows you are being authentic and true to your values.

How do you know if you need a rebrand?

Sally: If you don’t look at your brand and think “hell yes” it’s time to switch it up! I want you to have a brand that you’ll want to shout about from the roof tops.

Asia: A lot of entrepreneurs quickly become serial rebranders because it’s easy to be swayed by pretty trends and fresh ideas – but getting a new color palette and logo isn’t a rebrand. A new website isn’t a rebrand. Sometimes a business name change isn’t even a rebrand!

99% of the time, a rebrand isn’t necessary. A rebrand only happens when your core values, brand philosophy, or target audience has drastically changed. So instead of feeling like you need to start from scratch anytime something feels a little off in your business, I encourage you to reconnect with your vision and dig your heels into what you’ve already built instead.

What are the biggest branding mistakes you see people making?

Asia: There are a lot of misconceptions about branding, and honestly I blame the branding industry – it teaches us to apply stiff, contrived, corporate branding rules to our small businesses, which ends up being detrimental because we completely lose our individuality (AKA: our magic) in the process.

That being said, the biggest mistake I see business owners make is assuming their brand is simply an aesthetic and therefore an entity that’s separate from themselves. Viewing branding in this way is sure to stifle your creativity and originality.

So instead of building your brand on your visuals or your occupation or your services, I want to empower you to start with your big, daring ideas. Your values. Your personality. The needs and desires of your ideal clients. That’s the best way to build a brand that’s both genuine and unique!

Sally: Not being clear from the start about who their target audience is, what their values are, and what their story is. These have to be done before you even start the design process.

How do you know if you need a brand designer or a brand strategist?

Sally: If you’re not attracting your ideal client or getting sales in then it’s time to call in the specialists. It could just be something very simple that needs tweaking or a completely new brand.

Asia: If you want to build your strongest possible brand, you’ll need both. I will say it’s really difficult to have a strong visual brand design without first having a strong brand strategy (which is why the best brand designers always start with strategy!). As fun as it is to play around with color palettes, it’s necessary to do the messy work of figuring out your emotional brand first. And only when you’re ultra clear on the core components of your brand strategy (your philosophy, purpose, mission, message, values, story, personality, voice, transformation, value proposition, and ideal client) should you move to the visual stage.

What should businesses prioritise – a visual brand identity (such as their logo, colorscheme, typefaces) or their brand voice?

Sally: Brand voice – as this comes before you start the design process. What do you want people to say about your brand when you’re not in the room? People don’t buy goods & services, they buy your story.

Asia: My answer above applies here – since brand voice is part of a brand strategy, technically that should come first. But the best place to start is with your brand philosophy!

Photo by OVAN via Pexels

Can business owners do their own branding? And even if they can, do you recommend it?

Sally: I wouldn’t recommend it. Canva, for example…you can create a logo in seconds from 1000’s of templates. But none of those templates are specific to your brand, your values or your story. It’s all very generic and your branding will feel very generic & forgettable as it will look like every other logo made on Canva. I think Canva is good for quickly producing presentations, leaflets etc but you must have your brand in place first, which can then be visually applied to presentation templates etc

Asia: This is probably a better question for a designer, but I will say I’m a big proponent of starting where you are and doing what you can. So as long as you can produce a design you feel confident with, go for it! However, there’s a lot of psychology behind design so working with a talented designer is definitely recommended when you’re in a financial position to make the investment.

What are the benefits of working with a professional on your branding?

Asia: Branding is simple but it isn’t easy, so there’s a huge benefit to having an expert guide you through a proven process. There’s also a lot to be said for getting an outside perspective – sometimes we can’t see our most powerful ideas because we’re too close to them. Having someone in your corner who’s skilled at finding common threads amongst your discombobulated thoughts can save you a ton of time (and money) in the long run.

Sally: You’ll gain a fresh perspective on your business. As a business owner you’re going to have a particular vision for your business. But what you see may be far different from what your audience sees or needs to. A professional brand designer/strategist has a wealth of experience which will be priceless. You’ll have a comprehensive brand strategy (not just a pretty logo!) which boosts brand credibility & authority. The stronger your brand is, the more positivity you’ll attract. You can transform your company from an unknown name to a household name with the proper branding. And with the help of professional branding services, you won’t have to do it alone.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels

Explain how you work with clients on their branding?

Asia: As a brand strategist, what I really do is help my clients find, articulate, and leverage their big idea. Then we work together to develop a custom brand strategy that empowers them to capitalize on what makes them unique, easily sell to their target audience, and use their business as a tool to impact the world!

Sally: With guidance from me, I get my clients to create a brief and mood board. The reason I get my clients to do these is that 100% comes from you…all the information you send is accurate to your project and your mind, mouth and heart. Then we’ll talk everything through on a call together.

Once I have all the information I need, I can create your brand strategy and then start working on the creative process. I’ll use word mapping and this process produces a picture and gets my mind thinking about creative possibilities rather than obvious design solutions, like a design for a coffee shop having the logo as a coffee bean.

Meet The Branding Experts

Asia Dore

Asia Dore is a brand strategist for ambitious entrepreneurs who want to bridge the gap between their big vision and their small business. She’s currently on a mission to transform the way small business owners think about branding – and you’re cordially invited to the revolution!

If you have a vision for your business but feel overwhelmed by how you’re supposed to bring all of your scattered thoughts together in a cohesive, strategic way – that’s a good sign it’s time to develop your brand strategy. I’d love to invite you to a free brand audit so you can get a new perspective on how your brand is perceived and my recommendation on how to double down on what makes you unique!

Website: https://asiadore.com
Instagram: @asia.dore
Pinterest: @asiadorebrand
Free brand audit: https://asiadore.com/brand-audit

Sally James

I’m Sally, owner & creative mind behind Sally James Design House.
I create bespoke, cost-effective, brand-driven design for fearless businesses & entrepreneurs who want to shine!
With over 25 years industry experience, I’m a multidisciplinary designer, out-of-box thinker, tea aficionado and known for my minimalist colourful graphic style.

I spent 10 years in London at various agencies (ending up at Ogilvy), working on mega-brands, including Nestle, Harrods, Astra Zeneca, Ericsson, before landing a job as In-House Designer at the BBC. Whilst at the BBC I had the pleasure of working on some of their premier brands…Blue Planet, Doctor Who, Top Gear, Who Do You Think You Are, to name a few! A corporate restructure gave me the opportunity to become my own boss; I packed my bags for the South Coast and haven’t looked back since!

I know how to develop a brand that connects to your audience and grows your business. And after doing that for many years for big brands, I now use the same strategies for smaller business and entrepreneurs who want to shine. For people just like you.

Website: https://www.sallyjamesdesignhouse.co.uk
Instagram: @sallyjames_bebold
Offer: I’m offering a 15% discount on all my branding collections for Adventure Wedding Academy members. You must get your deposit paid and your project booked in by the end June 2022

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