A brand is not a company and a company is not a brand. Many people like to think of a brand like a relationship. I’ve also heard it described as a perceived expectation. For example, when I go to sit in a BMW car — regardless of the model — I have a certain expectation of perceived quality, luxury, etc. Brands work hard to develop that expectation.

Here are 7 components to building a brand

1) Understand the value you provide.
This sounds obvious but is much harder than you’d think. Boil down what you do and value you provide. But no, REALLY…why should busy people stop what they’re doing and listen to you. Why should people with thousands of choices choose to take hard-earned money out of THEIR pocket and put it in YOURS. No, REALLY? What do you ACTUALLY do that provides unique and sustainable value. Knowing the answer to this is a great start to developing a brand.

2) Brands are about emotion and experiences.

A study showed that you get more brownie points with a customer if you mess up, then recover well–than if you never messed up at all. This isn’t logical: this is emotional. Things like purchase decisions and loyalty are driven by emotion…don’t waste your time thinking otherwise. Build holistic experiences where customers can experience your brand in a new, non-intrusive-but-still-emotional way.

3) What taste do you want to leave in your customers mouths?
Strange phrase, I know. But when a customer had an interaction with your brand, what “vibe” do they get afterwards. Many seek cozy, heart-warming and familial (think Hallmark, Pampers, Bounty) some aim to be silly, quirky, and memorable (Dos Equis, Old Spice, State Farm), still others want you to get a sense of prestige and exclusivity (Mercedes, Johnny Walker, Ralph Lauren).

4) Don’t worry about competitors.
Providing the most value to your current customers will do amazing things for your business and -subsequently- your brand. By worrying about your customers and not your competition, you learn more about Point 1 (Above). Besides, a happy customer who becomes an external evangelist for your brand is more powerful than spending hours analyzing what other people are doing. The one caveat when it comes to brands — be unique enough of a peronsality (See point 6 below) that customers can keep you and your competition apart

5) Brand must be present in an increasing number of places
Conversations are happening in every nook and cranny of the web. Social networks, forums, SMS, native apps, etc. Be a part of as many conversations as possible.

6) Create a personality
Imagine your brand sprouted legs and you met it at a party. What would it be like? What is it’s vernacular, behavior style, and MO. Defining that up front will be surprisingly helpful in building a brand. Where would your brand be seen? Go there.

7) Lose control.
You hope to set up the channel markers, but let customers say what they want. Don’t over moderate or censor– an overly sanitized message means the “marketing people” have had their hands all over it. Don’t be afraid to lose control of your message a bit. At the end of the day, the brand belongs to the customer. Your brand is the relationship THEY have with it.

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