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your brand identity is not your logo

Branding

Where your brand is your essence and your logo merely window dressing

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Your brand is not your logo 

Over the years, our branding agency has worked with a number of businesses and we’re always surprised how many people believe that a company’s brand is its logo and color palette. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, your brand is your business’s identity. It’s the personality that your organization puts out to the world and never strays from.

Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room

What is branding?

In short, branding is the way you present your company to the world.

But contrary to popular assumption, it consists of far more than designing a cool logo and picking out the best font for your website. Sure, branding includes those things too, but it goes further than skin-deep.

Branding is your company’s personality, and it consists of everything that affects how others view your company.

This includes, but not limited to:

  • Video content
  • Advertisements
  • Charities you donate to
  • Your ways of working
  • Social media posts
  • Customer service emails
  • Company events

Branding is how you express your company’s character to the public. It should be in line with your company’s culture and value system, and help to establish a lasting relationship with your employees and customer base alike.

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Building brand identity

So now that you know what branding is, how can you make the most of it?

In order to develop a strong brand, you have to get clear on “who” your brand is. That will help you appeal to like-minded customers that share your brand’s style and values.

Our brand marketing consulting firm in Nashville, Take the Stairs, offers the following brand identity workshops as part of our branding services:

  • Uncover your “why”
  • Buyer personas 
  • Value differentiator
  • Market positioning
  • Find your voice (brand archetypes) 

These workshops will help you dive deep into your company’s values so you can be clear on how you want to promote yourself to the world.

Key elements of your brand

Your company’s brand consists of several different brand elements coming together harmoniously. These are the five main elements that you need to articulate through your branding.

If your business is driven by a specific cause or belief, a why statement can help consumers understand why you do what you do and why they should opt in for your services. Branding services expert Simon Sinek once stated, “people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it”. Through this statement, he highlights the reason every business needs a why statement. 

Branding workshop exercises can help you understand how starting with “why” allows your company to create more authentic content and craft more effective advertisements, as well as help you implement strategies that fully incorporate those teachings. 

An effective why statement should state your firm’s primary contributions, then define the impact of those contributions. Ideally, the resulting why statement will be simple, clear, actionable, and expressive. With this statement on hand, your company can better create brand assets that fall in line with your company’s true vision.

How can you sell your products effectively if you don’t know exactly who you are trying to sell them to? 

Many companies cast a broad net to attract any customers they can get, rather than targeting specific audiences with pinpoint precision. Our brand marketing agency in Nashville believes in using specific buyer personas to allow for a more targeted marketing effort.

Buyer personas are detailed descriptions of people who would represent your target customers. They’re not designed to be a specific customer, rather fictional characters that embody the common characteristics of your ideal potential customers. With a thoughtfully crafted set of personas, you’ll be able to more easily attract high-value prospects that appreciate the extra touches your business offers.

You can create buyer personas on your own, or seek professional help. If you’re unsure about the process, consider talking with brand marketing consultants or a brand marketing agency on how to better understand your target audiences. Just beware, not all branding agencies are created equal.

Are you the cheapest of your competitors?

Do you use higher-quality products than your competitors?

When deciding on how to market and advertise your business is best to understand where your business stands in comparison to your top competition. If you advertise your price in your ads before understanding that you are actually the most expensive option in your service area then your ads are likely to fail, for example.

A buyer considers a number of factors when making their decision, but there are 7 decision-making criteria they will always consider (Price, Quality, Speed, Convenience, Specialization, Disruption, Reach). Each is a spectrum, as a customer isn’t always looking for the cheapest or most convenient solution. Sometimes a client is looking for something luxurious or something exclusive. It all depends on your business model. When planning your business operations always consider how you stack up against your competitors.

If your goal is to gain a competitive edge against other companies in your industry, you will need to openly declare what makes your company stand out. 

A value differentiator is any characteristic that sets your firm apart from its competitors. The best value differentiators are completely true and tangible. For example, many companies state that they are, “the best in the business”, but this isn’t objectively true in most cases, so it doesn’t stand as an effective differentiator, instead, it sounds like typical marketing jargon.

A better alternative would be, “We guarantee our clients can talk to a live representative within 5 minutes of calling our support line 24/7/365.” If you are in an industry that often fails to offer satisfactory customer service, this differentiator could help you win business. This is so important to your company’s future success that it can often help to get a fresh set of eyes on what makes you special: brand marketing consultants can be worth their weight in gold to help you identify your true value differentiators. There are many branding workshop exercises that can be completed to determine which differentiators are noteworthy in your business.

If you’re a fan of literature, you’ve probably noticed that many stories feature fictional characters that are written using broadly defined paradigms, or archetypes, that help viewers understand the characters’ actions and values. Similar to the archetypes used to define fictional characters, businesses can also adopt archetypes for their brands. By sticking to a specific brand archetype, you can position your business to create far more effective marketing materials and increase revenue in the long term. 

Creating brand materials that perfectly align with your preferred brand archetype can be difficult without specific industry knowledge and understanding. Some online branding workshop exercises may help you get a base level understanding of which brand archetype your company conveys best, but if you’d rather not attempt this on your own, any professional branding agency in Nashville can connect you with brand marketing consultants who can provide all of the branding services you need.

Maintaining consistent branding across all of your company’s communication channels can be difficult without set guidelines for your brand’s marketing. As a solution to this problem, many branding agencies in Nashville provide branding services that are intended to help you create customized style guidelines for your company. 

Style guidelines are multifaceted, and they should provide rules for images, text, and video if applicable. Through them, your employees and any brand marketing consultants you work with should be able to get a baseline understanding of your company’s voice, tone, and preferred messaging. The document can also be used to define editorial standards and rules of engagement between your company and marketing contractors, like Take the Stairs. 

Having a well-made style guide created for your company is a cost-effective decision that will certainly streamline your company’s content creation process. As things move more efficiently, you’ll save more on the related labor while still producing content that aligns with your brand.

If your business is driven by a specific cause or belief, a why statement can help consumers understand why you do what you do and why they should opt in for your services. Branding services expert Simon Sinek once stated, “people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it”. Through this statement, he highlights the reason every business needs a why statement. 

Branding workshop exercises can help you understand how starting with “why” allows your company to create more authentic content and craft more effective advertisements, as well as help you implement strategies that fully incorporate those teachings. 

An effective why statement should state your firm’s primary contributions, then define the impact of those contributions. Ideally, the resulting why statement will be simple, clear, actionable, and expressive. With this statement on hand, your company can better create brand assets that fall in line with your company’s true vision.

How can you sell your products effectively if you don’t know exactly who you are trying to sell them to? 

Many companies cast a broad net to attract any customers they can get, rather than targeting specific audiences with pinpoint precision. Our brand marketing agency in Nashville believes in using specific buyer personas to allow for a more targeted marketing effort.

Buyer personas are detailed descriptions of people who would represent your target customers. They’re not designed to be a specific customer, rather fictional characters that embody the common characteristics of your ideal potential customers. With a thoughtfully crafted set of personas, you’ll be able to more easily attract high-value prospects that appreciate the extra touches your business offers.

You can create buyer personas on your own, or seek professional help. If you’re unsure about the process, consider talking with brand marketing consultants or a brand marketing agency on how to better understand your target audiences. Just beware, not all branding agencies are created equal.

Are you the cheapest of your competitors?

Do you use higher-quality products than your competitors?

When deciding on how to market and advertise your business is best to understand where your business stands in comparison to your top competition. If you advertise your price in your ads before understanding that you are actually the most expensive option in your service area then your ads are likely to fail, for example.

A buyer considers a number of factors when making their decision, but there are 7 decision-making criteria they will always consider (Price, Quality, Speed, Convenience, Specialization, Disruption, Reach). Each is a spectrum, as a customer isn’t always looking for the cheapest or most convenient solution. Sometimes a client is looking for something luxurious or something exclusive. It all depends on your business model. When planning your business operations always consider how you stack up against your competitors.

If your goal is to gain a competitive edge against other companies in your industry, you will need to openly declare what makes your company stand out. 

A value differentiator is any characteristic that sets your firm apart from its competitors. The best value differentiators are completely true and tangible. For example, many companies state that they are, “the best in the business”, but this isn’t objectively true in most cases, so it doesn’t stand as an effective differentiator, instead, it sounds like typical marketing jargon.

A better alternative would be, “We guarantee our clients can talk to a live representative within 5 minutes of calling our support line 24/7/365.” If you are in an industry that often fails to offer satisfactory customer service, this differentiator could help you win business. This is so important to your company’s future success that it can often help to get a fresh set of eyes on what makes you special: brand marketing consultants can be worth their weight in gold to help you identify your true value differentiators. There are many branding workshop exercises that can be completed to determine which differentiators are noteworthy in your business.

If you’re a fan of literature, you’ve probably noticed that many stories feature fictional characters that are written using broadly defined paradigms, or archetypes, that help viewers understand the characters’ actions and values. Similar to the archetypes used to define fictional characters, businesses can also adopt archetypes for their brands. By sticking to a specific brand archetype, you can position your business to create far more effective marketing materials and increase revenue in the long term. 

Creating brand materials that perfectly align with your preferred brand archetype can be difficult without specific industry knowledge and understanding. Some online branding workshop exercises may help you get a base level understanding of which brand archetype your company conveys best, but if you’d rather not attempt this on your own, any professional branding agency in Nashville can connect you with brand marketing consultants who can provide all of the branding services you need.

Maintaining consistent branding across all of your company’s communication channels can be difficult without set guidelines for your brand’s marketing. As a solution to this problem, many branding agencies in Nashville provide branding services that are intended to help you create customized style guidelines for your company. 

Style guidelines are multifaceted, and they should provide rules for images, text, and video if applicable. Through them, your employees and any brand marketing consultants you work with should be able to get a baseline understanding of your company’s voice, tone, and preferred messaging. The document can also be used to define editorial standards and rules of engagement between your company and marketing contractors, like Take the Stairs. 

Having a well-made style guide created for your company is a cost-effective decision that will certainly streamline your company’s content creation process. As things move more efficiently, you’ll save more on the related labor while still producing content that aligns with your brand.

Successful branding examples

Talking about the values of strong branding is one thing, but seeing it is another story. Take a look at a few examples of companies with strong branding and how it makes people see them. These companies embody the Simon Sinek quote, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

Chipotle

chipotle logo

Chipotle is an American restaurant chain that has a simple menu of food inspired by Mexican cuisine. Chipotle’s brand is highly recognizable, as people look to this restaurant for fresh meal items that are sourced from ethically-minded suppliers. When people think of Chipotle, they are thinking about “fast, fresh food”. 

The company even doubles down on its goal to promote ethical food production by launching campaigns that encourage a return to sustainable, humane farming practices. For instance, in 2017, the company launched a joint initiative with Compassion in World Farming USA and The Humane Society of the United States with the goal of addressing public concerns about how farm chickens are raised and processed.

Google

google logo

Since its founding in the late nineties, Google has been working tirelessly towards its goal to, “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The company offers a wide range of free products with Google Workspace that increase communication and productivity, from its ubiquitous search engine and email program, to document and spreadsheet tools that revolutionize the way people work and communicate.

Although Google has undergone aesthetic changes in recent years, its commitment to producing revolutionary productivity tools that are accessible for everyone has won the company a loyal following the world over.

Apple

apple logo

When most think of top-of-the-line consumer technology, Apple is one of the first companies to spring to mind.

The company developed one of the first personal computers to appeal to the average consumer and hasn’t looked back since, leading the technological market with game-changing products like the iPhone, the world’s most successful smartphone.

From the start, Apple’s mission has been to make state-of-the-art technology available to the average consumer, and people who are always on the lookout for the next best thing know they can look to Apple to provide it.

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe's logo

Trader Joe’s does an excellent job of appealing to those who long for the good old days of neighborhood grocery stores. Focusing on natural foods and a light-hearted approach to branding, Trader Joe’s provides a welcome change from shopping at your typical supermarket.

The company also boasts an excellent work environment, including excellent benefits, generous wages, and a flexible PTO policy. Naturally, this leads to content staff who are happy to go the extra mile to help customers – adding to the “friendly neighborhood grocer” vibe.

Diehard TJs fans wouldn’t dream of shopping anywhere else.

Jeep

jeep logo

Those among us who love nothing more than exploring rugged terrain know the sense of community that comes along with owning a Jeep. The company appeals to adventurous souls who pride themselves on being tough and unconventional.

Jeep backs up the idea that its vehicles can handle anything with off-roading features like a short wheelbase, solid axles, and generous ground clearance.

Even Jeep owners who have no intention of taking their vehicle off-road love knowing that they could if they wanted to. Jeep-lovers are not only brand loyal – they want everyone to know it.

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Unsuccessful branding examples

Pepsi

Pepsi logoThe global soft drink company used imagery from Black Lives Matter protests to create a cinematic scene that includes protestors smiling and laughing as model Kendall Jenner hands a Pepsi to a police officer. People were incredibly offended by this advertisement, as it was completely out of left field for the company, and an obvious attempt to capitalize on racial tensions.

By moving away from its traditionally playful and fun voice and tone, Pepsi missed the mark and suffered a huge marketing fail. Rather than receiving the campaign as a positive attempt to lessen racial tension in the country, the public saw it as an opportunistic move intended to capitalize on the frustration of its audience. The outcome of this mistake was wildly negative, as after the ad was released, surveys taken at the time found that millennials were 11% less likely to purchase a Pepsi compared to the prior year’s results. Although Pepsi did eventually recover from this controversy, this example should show you just how important brand alignment can be.

Dove

Dove LogoSince Dove’s Real Beauty advertising campaign launched in 2004, the brand has been the soap for promoting body positivity. Dove’s image of acceptance and inclusivity is a spot-on reflection of the views of most modern consumers, winning the company fierce brand loyalty.

Unfortunately, a 2017 advert promoted the antithesis of the brand’s purported values. It featured a black woman in a dark shirt turning into a white woman in a light shirt, evoking historic soap ads that positioned a cleaning product as being so strong that it can turn a person of color white.

Consumers were quick to call out the ad for its racist message, which led to Dove removing the ad and apologizing.

North Face

The North Face logoNorth Face is known for promoting a sense of adventure, and doing so responsibly. In fact, two of the company’s internal guiding principles are community and integrity, so consumers trust it to act in the best interest of the common good.

That’s why consumers were outraged at a 2019 video in which the brand bragged about “hacking” Wikipedia for a free boost in search engine rankings. North Face did this by replacing photos of travel destinations with photos of its products.

The unethical campaign caused consumers to lose trust in the brand for taking advantage of the free community-sourced encyclopedia to save on marketing costs.

AT&T

AT&T logoAT&T caused an uproar in 2013 when a tweet reading “never forget” showed a smartphone depicting the Twin Towers Tribute in Light memorial on its screen. The Twitter audience quickly labeled the tweet tasteless and offensive, causing AT&T to take it down within an hour.

The company was quick to apologize, stating that the tweet was meant to pay respect to those affected by 9/11, but the damage was already done. People turned on the brand, accusing AT&T of trying to capitalize on the national tragedy. Many vowed never to do business with the company again, showing how much of an impact one tweet can have.

airbnb

Airbnb-logoairbnb fosters a sense of togetherness and values individuals over corporations. Part of its mission is to treat hosts and guests “like members of a community, not commodities.”

However, airbnb’s 2015 San Francisco ad campaign was decidedly off-brand, lashing out at the city for requiring the company to pay back taxes.

A series of billboard and bus stop ads passive-aggressively suggested ways that San Francisco might spend the tax money the company paid. The ads were largely considered insensitive to the city’s rising housing shortage, (caused in part by short-term rental companies like airbnb) as well as making the company seem petty for being upset about having to pay local taxes in the community.

Branding services

Does your organization have a brand or just a logo? If you do have a brand, does it convey what your business stands for? Don’t panic if not – the purpose and drive of your company does exist, it can just take time and a well-crafted process to figure it out.

As a brand marketing consulting firm, we run a number of workshops to help clients understand:

  1. Why they got into their business in the first place
  2. The unique perspective it provides to a given market

By honestly assessing your goals and vision for a business, you’ll be able to understand your company’s true purpose and start to ascertain its brand identity. This is an organic process that should be constantly evaluated and refined. This does not mean you have to throw away your past work. It’s about consistently building off your current purpose as you continue to learn about the needs of your clients in a given economy, and how you are uniquely positioned to help.

Take the Stairs Why Statement

Our team of brand marketers is ready to guide you through our Uncover Your Why brand identity workshop, where we uncover your business’ authentic purpose. Through a series of exercises, you will be able to uncover themes that made you understand why you started your business in the first place.

A buyer persona is a segment of the customer base that works really well for your business. We often ask, “What does your ideal customer look like?”

There are many characteristics that can define a quality prospect to your business. This doesn’t mean you won’t accept business from people outside of your personas, but it does mean that you can choose to target your advertising dollars to people who are more likely to buy.

In this workshop, we create work with you to understand the key pieces of information that your segment for each persona.

When the workshop is complete, our branding agency will provide a Persona Profiler for each buyer persona we completed in the workshop. See the Clint the Courageous example below:

clint the courageous customer buyer persona example

There are seven key buying decision criteria that almost every purchaser considers when making a buying decision between multiple vendors:

  • Price
  • Quality
  • Speed
  • Convenience
  • Specialization
  • Disruption
  • Reach

In this workshop, you will evaluate each spectrum and uncover where you stand against your competition. This will help you better understand what areas you stand out in and where you don’t. Here’s an example of how Take the Stairs competes on price against its top competitors:

Take the Stairs market positioning on price

 

One of the hardest questions for businesses to answer is,

“Why should I hire you over your competitors?”

This needs to be one of your easiest questions to answer.

Our brand marketing consultants walk you through a number of exercises to uncover and create value differentiators authentic to your brand that you can use to uniquely position your business. It’s important that whatever is created as your differentiators are tangible.

After this exercise, you will leave with truly unique selling propositions to entice new business in all forms of communication.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” It’s no different in marketing.

You should focus on a number of variables to best communicate your message to your different audiences. The best way to find your voice is by uncovering the brand archetypes that best align with your brand.

There are truly only 12 brand archetypes that your company can use to communicate your business.

Through this exercise, you will find what % your business is of each archetype. We then outline your tone of voice and some of the top messages you will use to communicate what’s special about your audience.

Style guidelines are the overall rules and standards on how your design assets should be displayed on any source of media (commercials, social media, radio, website, etc.). They include information on your logo design and visuals, typography, straplines and tone of voice, and color palettes: everything that impacts how your brand is used in any given situation.

Take the Stairs brand typography

Share your style guidelines with your partners and vendors to ensure consistency: if you never want your brand on a pink background, make it clear in your guidelines from the outset. Brand consistency in your assets shows your new and existing customers a level of professionalism and attitude toward doing things in the right way.

Take the Stairs Color Palette

It has traditionally been important that your style guidelines relate to your brand identity, particularly where colors are involved. Historically, if you had a royal or luxury brand, purples would have been more likely to be used. Rebel or outsider brands might choose darker colors and anything that wanted to indicate freshness, like detergent brands, usually went with white or green palettes. As our world turns ever more digital, such traditions are less observed but logo color choice is still an important step in your company’s branding process.

Two different brands selling the same products

Let’s look at a couple of examples that everyone will be familiar with:

  • IKEA
  • Restoration Hardware (RH)

Both brands sell home decor but with completely different missions: and these missions are authentic to their brands.

IKEA is a Sweden-based company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen goods and home accessories. It has 433 stores in 52 countries and posted $45.4 billion dollars of revenue in 2019. IKEA’s success is largely credited to its very recognizable mission and brand strategy: to provide low-cost, sustainable home decor products in a wide range of modern designs that everyone can enjoy.

IKEA square logo

IKEA solidified its mission by creating large stores capable of holding a large number of styles and assembly-based products that keep costs low and therefore make the products more available to more people.They also continue to grow the number of sustainable and recycled products as part of the wide array of product SKUs.

Restoration Hardware (RH), which is known for its sophisticated, classy buying experience and high-quality home decor, with long-lasting value both in product longevity and design. Their stores are not just for buying home decor products, they aim to provide you with the experience of luxury.

Restoration Hardware Square logo

Restoration Hardware has redesigned its stores to include a full bar, offering customers the chance to enjoy a glass of wine while browsing floors of beautifully presented rooms that help you imagine each set like it’s your own home. This very deliberate staging reflects the kind of buying experience that appeals to customers who want luxury, classic design, and an individuality that you won’t find in IKEA.

Both brands have made very conscious choices when it comes to products and the retail environment. Because IKEA maintains its personality and mission, its customer base, success, and profits continue to grow. If IKEA suddenly came out with a line of luxury, highly-priced items, customers would be confused by the lack of alignment with the brand’s mission. The chances are that the line would fail as this kind of high-end purchase is not what customers come to IKEA to buy.

The bottom line is that your business must be authentic to your purpose and goals, whether it’s providing low-cost solutions or a top-of-the-line experience.

Branding FAQs

Marketing is effectively any actions you take to connect with your customers and get them interested in trying out your products or services. Branding, on the other hand, is any actions that you take that drive consumers to talk about your company or its products. Both areas of your business operations require a specialized strategy, and ideally, you would seek guidance from a brand marketing consultant to help you craft each plan. By acquiring the branding services of a branding agency in Nashville, you can discover what makes your firm’s brand unique and, using those findings, develop more potent marketing strategies.

Branding is important because your company’s brand is what consumers will interact with before they purchase any of your products. By solidifying your brand and developing a distinct identity for your company, you ensure that your potential customers will immediately understand what your company does and why you do it. If you have more questions about the importance of branding you can contact Take the Stairs, a branding agency in Nashville.

Too many companies, brand guidelines are equivalent to style guidelines, but at Take the Stairs, this is not the case. Our brand marketing consultants create customized brand guidelines that are far more detailed than your typical set of style guidelines: they will dictate your company’s standard branding directives, ensuring that all of your preferred branding elements are properly incorporated into the firm’s marketing materials. Reference the key elements of branding section of this page to understand the elements our branding agency includes 

Style guidelines are detailed instructions that can be used to determine how your company’s marketing materials should be created. They include rules for style, tone, and messaging, as well as any exceptions to these rules that may exist. If your company frequently publishes content, the style guideline should also dictate a preferred style manual. If you need style guidelines written, consider reaching out to a branding agency in Nashville. Many of them offer branding services that will help you get started with the process.

Brand archetypes are used to make a company more recognizable through consistent use of the same voice, tone, and messaging in their marketing efforts. Your brand archetype is the personality of your brand, through it, you can make a statement about what your company stands for and how it hopes to be seen. Conforming to a specific brand archetype can be a crucial step towards positioning your company effectively in the marketplace, so investing in this area of your business can be rewarding. To develop your understanding of brand archetypes and their value, we suggest you complete some of the branding workshop exercises offered by many brand marketing consultants. 

When all of the different elements of your brand come together, the sum result is your brand’s identity. Through your brand’s identity, your prospective customers should be able to see what your company represents and understand what to expect from it. A well-defined brand identity can attract customers and keep them interested, so if you don’t understand your brand identity yet, it might be time to complete a branding identity workshop or invest in some professional assistance from a brand marketing agency in Nashville.

Learn how to get started with our branding agency

Do you see your company as more than just a logo? Do you have a brand that is authentic and means something to your customers? Do you see brand marketing strategy as part of your path to success?

If so, call us at Take the Stairs to learn how to get started. We’ll set a discovery meeting to hear your story and where you want your brand and company to go. We’ll develop a proposal on how we can help you that includes ideas for ICPs, value differentiators, and messaging: it’s up to you whether you ask us to implement it all for you or choose to do it on your own.

Either way is fine. It’s always been our mission to take the “con” out of consulting; we are here to help businesses of all types reach their goals.

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