What is "Branding" and How Do I Start Branding a Business?


In today's VIDEO blog post - I'm tackling one of the most foundational questions I get from small business owners - what is "branding" exactly - and how do you get started with it?

Click below to watch this year's first episode of "Skip to Action TV" or read on below for the written version.

What does branding actually mean? 

Branding. This is like the biggest jargon word. I've almost stopped using it completely because often the people I work with don't know what a brand is. It's kind of this weird word that shows up in LinkedIn and marketing articles, that we don't really fully understand as business owners that maybe aren't creative or in a creative industry. That being said, the way to think about a brand is maybe another phrase, "look and feel.”  

How does your business look and how does it feel to other people? To me, that a brand is not just the visual things you are putting out in the world, it's how things sound, how things feel from an emotional perspective. So what are you putting out in those assets? How do you professionally present your business to others? 

The forms that branding takes are things like your logo, or your website, or your business cards. These things are your professional toolkit, your professional creative assets that tell your story to other people. So you can put that in a fun term if you want but that's basically what we're talking about when we're talking about branding. I don't even particularly like to use that word because I think it takes you to a place that feels inauthentic, that doesn’t feel true to who you are in your story. It's about putting some shellac on it or a discount or making you sound like somebody you're not and that's not the way Greatest Story defines branding. 

The way Greatest Story defines branding is as words and graphics, is as professional tools and assets to tell your story well to prospective clients and customers and collaborators and anyone that encounters your business.

Where do you start branding a business? 

You know that it's important that you present yourself well to others, right? So, Annie, what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to get a website up? Should I create a logo? Should I hire somebody to do that? Should I write copy? Where is the right place to start? And I have a bit of a different opinion on this than maybe most articles you might see, or little listacles like ’10 ways to brand yourself.’

The way that I see this is really about starting with you. And maybe it sounds obvious. This is where I start with every single one of my clients is we start with the story and it's not just the story of the business, it's who you are and what your vision is for it. And the way that we do that, is we have a brand story questionnaire. We have a written interview that you fill out. You have several days to do it. And it has questions that you might expect, that might make your eyes glaze over - like where do I see my business in 5 years? What does my financial model look like? Stuff like that. But it's also things anyone can answer. 

Tell me your favorite story of working in your business or doing this on the side. What client really moves you or customer or product are you most passionate about? It's getting out of your own head.  And that is the place that you have to start with branding, because you have to get to the heart of what it is you're trying to do. It doesn't have to be fully formed, but what are trying to do? What strengths are you playing to in doing that? And what is the basic story so far?

Because believe it or not, you can have a successful business from the get-go without any of the things I described earlier: without a logo, without copy, without a business card, without a website. And all the things in between. Without Facebook, oh my gosh, no Facebook, no Twitter. 

Because if I meet you in an elevator and I see you wearing a beautiful bracelet and say, "Where did you get that?" 

“Oh I made it.”

“Well that's fantastic. What do you do?” 

“I sell custom jewelry. I'm really passionate about that."

“Oh, great, can I get information from you?” 

“Yeah, you can.”

That's how a business can be born. And that's why it doesn't have to be fancy. You don't have to be creative. It's really about fundamentally understanding what you are offering to people and why you love what you do. And that's going to be infectious and attract everybody else and to my mind everything else comes after that, comes from that and after that. So, good luck, work on focusing on your story, and remember whatever you call it putting yourself out there, putting your best foot forward, that's the name of the game. 


Further reading about branding basics: