Branding Tips: How I Became a Happydog
So, I promised a blog about things that interest me and my first post is on... branding? What's up with that? Well, let me explain. First, I'm a marketing & PR prof, branding does interest me. Second, and foremost, I just went through the process to create this site, so it seemed an opportune moment to share some insights. Third, branding can be fun (no, really!); let me show you.
I can still hear my dad's voice in my head, "What the hell are you doing?!" While it was a scary question as a young boy with way too much energy (think: pre-ADHD testing), it's a great question to ask yourself for branding. Thanks Dad!
What's the purpose for what you're doing? For me, it wasn't as easy as it would seem. I've been wanting to start a blog and website for quite a while. Part of it was job related; I felt I HAD to in order to remain relevant. Part of it was desire; I did want to, IF it was the right one.
I had to decide. What would the site and blog be about? Who would it be for? What is its purpose? Fortunately, I have many options, but that was also my problem. I could create a professional site on leadership, or the Enneagram, or marketing, or PR, or teaching, or spirituality, or communication theory, or, or, or... so many choices! How to choose? For me, I went back to a question I pose to my students, "What do you love?" From there, I created my purpose: to be a place to share the interests of my heart.
In marketing and PR, a key part of the process in creating a brand is determining who your audience (marketing) or public (PR) is. Who do you want to reach with your product, service or idea?
For me, that was easy. If my purpose is to share the interests of my heart, the audience would be: like-minded people. So, personally, I don't care much about demographics like age, race, income, or even location (technically, that's geographics -- a subset of demographics). Although, there are two demographics that most likely come into play: education and political leanings. That said, the most important characteristics of my intended public are psychographic in nature (values, attitudes, lifestyles, etc.).
So, to describe my intended public I'd say, they are first and foremost: open-minded and willing to accept mystery; that some matters don't have clearcut answers. My audience is also interested in matters of the heart and soul. They are curious and lifelong learners; able to accept truth wherever it may be found. I trust they have a good sense of humor, are fairly well-read, and are not easily offended. A quick note on targeting: it is NOT meant to be "exclusive." It allows you to target your message to the best audience for your product, service, or idea.
So, we've got our purpose and a well-defined target public. Now the fun can really begin! Most people make decisions based on emotions. Yes, we all like to think we're logical, right-brained decision makers, but frankly, that's rarely the case. As my students in consumer behavior just learned, we almost always decide things based on emotions tied to identity and ego needs.
This doesn't have to be "bad news." It does mean, you have to appeal to your audience based on emotions. What do they want? like? value? need? desire? Well, we already identified this through the psychographic analysis in our targeting. In this case, my audience empathizes with genuine, authentic, and often, deeply felt emotions of: love, suffering, joy, doubt, clinging, aversion, and the like. This is good news: it matches my purpose perfectly!
But, how do I communicate those emotions? In three ways: content, voice & visuals.
What is your product, service or idea? For one company it might be workwear. For another it might be yoga. For another it might be auto parts. But take it one step farther, what sets you apart? What differentiates your offering? What makes what you do unique? Unless you're going to try to be another Wal-Mart, your advantage can't be based soley on price -- you have to do something to stand out.
For me, this one's easy: the content consists of my poems, posts, and pros. All of these are completely unique to me. And, because my audience is made up of like-minded people, and my purpose is to share the interests of my heart, it's fun and easy for me.
The voice is the tone and personality of the writing. How do you want your audience to perceive you or your company? What I usually recommend is to think of three adjectives you want a key target member to think of when they think of you (did you catch that?!). Do you want to be professional? fun? precise? cold? warm? friendly? The key is to keep it consistent, which is why it's usually recommended to only have one or two people writing content for a company's website or blog. One of the PR firms in GR uses the phrase, "professional cool" to guide their branding efforts. That's an excellent guide as they create their material.
Again, for me, the "voice" is easy -- my voice is me.
Wow, understatement alert! This is a huge and, hugely important, subject category. It includes everything from your logo, slogans, business cards, letterhead and graphics, to your font typefaces, colors, and layout. If you're not knowledgeable in this area, my best advice is: hire an expert. It will not only save you money; it will help you avoid confusing your public with mixed messages and poor visual representations that affect your reputation and therefore, your bottom line.
Going back to the three adjectives, I knew I wanted to keep my brand warm and fun, but also professional and most importantly, authentic-genuine (yes, I know, that's four or five, depending on how you count it). I have to say, the template I found from Wix has been incredible -- I would highly recommend using Wix (I get no perks for recommending them). The template I selected fit really well with the feel I wanted to create. The template also allowed me to customize many of the intangibles such as color, font, spacing, and layout.
And... How did I become a Happydog?!
Lastly, I wanted a logo. I kept going back to my personal email address of happydog, which I created many years ago while going through a difficult phase in my life. After searching the Internet for graphics, I found an image from Shutterstock for less than $15. I downloaded it, ran it through some graphic filters, added a few other touches, and created the logo as seen in the website header.
I like my lil' happydog and what she stands for -- she's fun, but also loyal, heartfelt, innocent and vulnerable; just exactly what I wanted in my logo. Good girl!