You're invisible without branding
“Branding is just so expensive.” “Would it even make a difference?” “What do you mean I don’t have branding? I have a logo!”
Everyone loves a good ice-breaker game—said in the most sarcastic tone I can possibly muster through text. The question invariably asked is, “If you could have any superpower what would it be?” As a natural introvert, I always thought being invisible would be an incredible superpower. I could go to Starbucks and not have to engage in awkward small talk about how I am indeed wearing my shirt inside out? Absolutely count me in. I would LOVE the ability to be invisible.
Be careful what you wish for.
Being invisible sounds like a superpower until you start doing your thing and want people to know about it—like running a business or starting a photography Facebook page. Suddenly you find out you’ve obtained invisibility as a superpower! Unfortunately, invisibility is more of a curse than a power.
You want people to care. You want people to read your blog. You want people to see your photography. You want people to come to your event. But no one knows you exist.
The Event Planner
Let’s say you’re planning a youth event in a few weeks. You’ve met with your leadership team. You’ve planned down to the last detail who will bring the food, who will bring the games, who’s bringing the drinks, and most importantly who’s going to make the sweet tea. You start telling people in your church about the event. You start telling people about your event when you're eating lunch. You’re absolutely pumped. So pumped that you’ve been telling countless people every day for the last two weeks about your upcoming event. You’re so sure of a record turnout that you call your team again and tell them to bring double of everything that you originally agreed on. (See where this is going yet?)
Two weeks pass by and you show up for your event. You’re prepared for hundreds of people to come have fun with your youth group. There’s enough sweet tea and pizza to fuel a rowdy group of teenagers for hours on end. You burst through the doors to greet everyone and to your surprise, you’re greeted by four smiling faces and a room full of a whole lot of empty.
The Aspiring Photographer
Let’s say you’ve just started a business. You’re an aspiring photographer who truly has the eye for taking a good photo. Not only can you take a good photo but you have a knack for capturing genuine, emotive moments that make wonderful memories. You’re good and you know it. After months of taking pictures of your brother, your sister, and your neighbor’s dog you feel ready to start booking clients. Since the senior portrait season is quickly approaching you start hanging out at local cafes where high school seniors like to go. You tell them about your photography and let them know you’ll be taking pictures for senior portraits. You’ve told so many people about your photography that you start clearing your schedule for the next several months. After all, if you’re going to be taking pictures every weekend for real clients you won’t have time for anything else! (See where this is going yet?)
Two weeks pass by and the hundreds of bookings you were expecting somehow turned out to total 3 bookings, and that’s only because your mom asked three of your cousins if they’d let you take their pictures. You’re devastated. What happened?
Most anyone who has started doing their thing has a similar story. You have quality work and quality experiences to offer the world but no one seems to be paying attention. There is no question that social media helps creatives in this sense. Social media makes getting your message out to lots of people really simple. But even with the tools available to us through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat we still experience the disconnect of our message not sticking.
You can have a good message. You can have a good product, You can host a good event. But if your message isn’t sticky no one is going to remember it.
“The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell explores this idea of the ‘stickiness” of your message. The idea of stickiness is answering the question, “Will people remember this tomorrow?” “Will they remember this next week?” “Will they remember me or my message a month from now?”
Without branding your message will have an incredibly difficult time sticking.
Branding is more than just a pretty logo. Branding is the entire essence of your message. What you have to offer, wrapped up in a consistently identifiable system. Branding is the handle that people will grab onto your message with. Without that handle they can get excited about your thing, but won't be able to hold onto it.
When you tell your friends about your photography business they’ll get excited. But will they remember that excitement a month from now when they go to book their photographer? You can tell people about your event that’s coming up in two weeks and they may get excited. But will they remember that YOU are having an event later that night when the day finally comes? The same mistake happened in both of the stories above. People were excited but had no way to hold onto, to process, or to store that excitement. They had no handle to grab your message with. The message didn’t stick.
Branding gives your audience easily recognizable touchpoints to quickly recall your message and your mission.
How could these two stories have ended differently? When the photographer (Lets call hey Kay) told local seniors about her offer she could have given them a business card with her name written in her favorite color—dark purple. The bottom of the card shows links to her website (memoriesbykay.com) and social media profiles. The senior then follows the photographer on Instagram. Every day Kay posts a new picture with a caption that reads, “A memory by Kay.” Two months pass by and the senior suddenly remembers she needs to schedule a photographer. Who comes to mind? Almost instantly, as if Kay was standing in front of her, she sees “memories by kay” written in dark purple and she feels that original excitement. Kay’s message stuck. Kay just booked a client.
Branding is so much more than just a logo. Yes, you need to have a logo. No questions there. But your branding includes everything that represents who you are and what your mission is. A good branding system evokes your message and your identity every time someone experiences even a piece of it. The colors you choose, the fonts you implement, the icons, the phrases, the logo, the mood. All these things work together to give your message form and a recognizable identity.