A personal or business brand isn’t just a clever business name or stunning logo; it’s every element of your visual branding, marketing content and how you engage with your customers or clients at each point of contact – the whole package!
And, guess what? Even if you haven’t consciously set out to design your brand, you already have one. Chances are, it might not be as effective as it could be though.
Pause, and ask yourself these questions before reading further:
- What is your current brand or ‘personality’?
- Have you thought consciously about developing your brand, or has it sort of evolved accidentally?
- Is it consistent and recognisable?
- Are you attracting the right audience?
Now that you have a clear idea of what your current ‘brand’ is, or isn’t, let’s dig a little deeper.
What exactly is a ‘brand’?
Simply, a brand is an ‘identity’, defined by businessdictionary.com as a “Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.”
A good brand is instantly recognisable, has a clearly defined product offering and is, above all else, consistent. So, where do you start if you want to create a strong brand that attracts your target customer or audience? One of the best ways is to look at successful brands in your niche, and learn from them.
Below, I look at the key ingredients for building a successful brand as demonstrated by Who Gives a Crap, who have managed to make the sale of environmentally friendly toilet paper (with a social conscience) into a unique, engaging and successful brand.
From the time they first launched their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, Who Gives a Crap have had a clearly defined, engaging and well-targeted brand that just keeps on delivering! Before you keep reading, watch this video to see some of their clever branding in action…
So, what can we learn from the masterful branding of Who Gives a Crap?
Firstly, before you even start thinking about designing your brand and story, you must define your product and target customer.
Define your Product
If you are a service-based business, this step is just as important as for those running a product-based business. You need to spend time defining exactly what it is you do, what you sell and, most importantly, what makes your product or service unique compared to others in the marketplace. If you don’t have a well-defined product offering, potential customers will have no idea what you do, or sell!
Who Gives a Crap sell recycled toilet paper, and they’re not the only company who does so. The brand was launched on the back of a successful crowdfunding campaign in July 2012 after the three co-founders, Danny, Simon and Jehan, learnt that “2.3 billion people across the world don’t have access to a toilet… which means that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation.” The company sells 100% recycled toilet paper (via a mail subscription service) and donates 50% of their profits to “help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.”
One important thing to note here is that Who Gives a Crap has other products lines, but toilet paper is their main product and marketing ‘hero’. Also, the fact that they are both socially and environmentally conscious is unique, and forms a very important part of their ‘brand story’ (more about that later).
When you think about your own business, what do you want customers to remember when they think of your brand? What is the main thing you do, or sell? If you have a range of products, what is your ‘hero’ product? Or, what is it that you do best?
Define your Customer
You could say that everyone is a potential customer when you’re selling toilet paper and I’ve heard many small business owners say a similar thing about their product or service. But designing a brand that appeals to ‘all’ is virtually impossible. Some small business owners get stumped at this point, and if that’s you, the first thing to ask yourself is who is most likely to buy your product? Often, it is a customer of similar profile to the business owner themselves, because many enterprises are born out of a passion or inspiration very close to the heart of the founder. So, there’s your starting point!
In the case of Who Gives a Crap, their visual branding and content is clearly targeted at 25-40 year-old professionals and/or parents with a social and environmental conscience. Yes, any brand will pick up customers outside their target demographic, but you should always have an idea of the age range, gender/s, interests and vocations of your ‘ideal’ customer when designing and marketing your brand. If you’re a visual thinker, it can help to create a character with all the attributes of your target customer, and even give them a name!
Once you have defined your customer, the real fun can begin…
As the name suggests, visual branding consists of your logo, font/s, colour/s and how those elements are applied across your brand, from business cards, website design and social media content, to email signatures, stationery, packaging, and more.
Who Gives a Crap execute their visual branding with absolute precision. From online content, to the cardboard box that the product arrives in, a consistent brand image is present at every single interaction with their customer (or potential customer).
When you set out to create your logo, and choose your colours and fonts, a professional designer can be invaluable. The more information you can give them about your product and customer, the better the result is likely to be. If you’re not in a position to sub-contract a designer right now, a cheaper alternative is to crowd-source design services, using a platform such as DesignCrowd, or 99Designs. I won’t delve into detailed design tips here, but there’s more to come on this topic soon. For now, if you’re interested in doing your own research on visual branding, you could start with the 99Designs blog on Visual Identity.
Developing your Brand’s Personality through Engaging Content
Many business publications would call this section ‘marketing strategy’, or something similar, but I wanted to draw particular attention to the ‘tone’ of your written content, because it’s absolutely crucial to developing a ‘personality’ for your brand.
Customers who feel they know a brand are much more likely to develop a trusting (and loyal) relationship with it.
Who Gives a Crap offers a perfect example of using an informal, friendly and engaging tone with a strong dose of humour in all of their written content. You can see it on their website, product packaging and shipping boxes! Not only is the content light-hearted, clever and funny, it delivers the right key messages to their customers time and again. This creates loyal customers who are so happy they recommend Who Gives a Crap to their friends and family too! No-brainer, right? Well, almost. The truth is that most small businesses try to create engaging content, and many achieve this to some degree, but the greatest challenge is being able to engage your customer consistently. That is, through a consistent tone, consistent messaging and consistent placement.
If writing isn’t your strong point, a freelance writing professional with business experience can craft a solid communications strategy (and content) for you. If your budget doesn’t allow for that right now, immerse yourself in reading the content of brands you admire, and practice your own writing. Then, ask for feedback from trusted friends or family (who will be honest with you), and keep working at it.
When you start to develop a tone for your brand, focus more on writing as if you were having a friendly conversation with your customers in-person, rather than trying to impress them with your technical knowledge or extensive vocabulary. In most cases, writing in an overly formal or academic tone when you’re trying to market your business will serve to drive potential customers away, or at the very least, bore them to tears!
Your brand’s story should start with your passion; whatever it was that inspired you to start a business in the first place. What was the gap in the market, or opportunity, that you saw? What makes you unique? Starting with a clearly identified need for your product or service offering will be key to the success of your marketing strategy, and your business. We’ve seen Facebook and Instagram follow Snapchat’s lead by highlighting their story features in recent times, because this is what users are craving from brands. Essentially, your brand’s story is everything that goes into running your business, both front-of-house, and behind-the-scenes. The more you can invite your potential (or existing) customers into a space where you share your process, from ideas-generation through to design, production and distribution, the more likely they are to trust you. Consumers are becoming more savvy and take online research seriously, often demanding this sort of intimate detail before making a buying decision.
Once you have defined your target market, and developed your story, creating a mission statement or tagline to clearly communicate your key offering should be easy. If not easy, it should at least narrow your options. The challenge in developing your tagline will be to keep it both descriptive, and concise. You will need to prioritise which information is most important to include here. Shopify has a Free Slogan Maker that might not give you the perfect tagline, but it could kick-start your brainstorming process!
I couldn’t resist giving this word a paragraph of its own, because it is just so important. Creating a cohesive, consistent and engaging brand ensures that customers will recall your key product offerings when they come to make buying decisions. Even more importantly, a memorable brand lends itself to word-of-mouth recommendations from existing customers, which is one of the most powerful forms of marketing there is.
Wait, that was too many words! What should I do again??
In a nutshell…
The complete story and website of Who Gives A Crap
There are some fantastic tips for developing your brand’s story at HubSpot.