(Or using The Identitype System to Build Your Business Brand)
Authentic branding shouldn’t feel like a burden— it should be freeing, like you’re finally allowed to work from a place of passion again. If you don’t have a brand yet, then you’re in the right place. If your brand is broken,you’re also in the right place. You can fix it by aligning your personal brand and your business brand.
Crafting an authentic business brand is a bit more methodical than determining your personal brand.
Why? Because your personal brand is all about distilling you and determining how you will present yourself to the world.
While your business brand is all about authentically creating meaning in your ideal customers’ lives.
And meaning should be the focus of the message and presentation of your work. In other words, why you mean what you mean,… and who you mean it to.
The Business Brand Progression
I want you to imagine for a moment that you are on a grueling hike to a spectacular destination. Maybe you’ve seen pictures, or heard tales from others who have made the climb.
The point is, you know this journey is worth it.
As you hike, imagine that there are multiple milestones to track your progress. Like a scenic overlook where you take a breather and feel proud of your progress. With each passing milestone, you make a mini-goal to get to the next one. Your end goal is the final destination, and mini-goals keep you motivated.
You can probably see where I’m taking this.
The evolution of your business brand will not happen all at once. Whether your business brand is at the first stage or the fifth, each milestone builds another part of the brand.
Building your brand means growing from being a commodity in the market to a movement. It means moving from a generic value proposition to a priceless value for a tribe of passionate, loyal customers.
Why work so hard to make this happen? Because the trajectory of a generic product is a death spiral of price wars. It becomes about who can sell it the cheapest. Products that are part of a brand movement can name their own value.
And… you can grow your brand into a movement by expanding on two levels: meaning and reach.
Stage 1: Products and Services
Your tribe finds initial meaning when they see how your product functions in their lives. And initially, the reach consists of original insiders (the inside circle of peers, employees and early adopters). So in the beginning, the focus is on what tangible products or services you want to offer to the world.Whatever your business offers to the world must be functional in some way.
Think about Starbucks. Their coffee is functional. Coffee provides the “basic human (food) need” of caffeine. Starbucks represents so much more than that, of course, but they had to start somewhere. They started with coffee.
So where will you start? Functionality + Need + Original Insiders
Every brand should consider functionality, because every brand should offer a product or service that meets a specific need
And this is where everyone typically makes their biggest mistake. They stop.
Starbucks didn’t stop. While their food is part of their offer, it is not the whole experience. And the experience is the brand. They promoted a nurturing atmosphere that celebrates innovation, from the drinks themselves to an open collaborative workspace for people.
Now they can get $8 for a cup of coffee. That’s not inflation. That’s branding.
(…Oh, and right now the most expensive Starbucks drink has been recorded at $148.91)
Stage 2: The Brand Position.
In the second stage of your business brand journey, you move beyond generic. You start to consider your position and messages.
What’s the overall benefit you are offering to the world? How can you make your customers’ lives better? How are you communicating this to your market? How can you meet a need and foster continuing relationships?
Here meaning and reach expand to another level. Meaning begins to penetrate into the what’s-in-it-for-me (WIIFM) mind of the consumer and those benefits begin to expand into a larger tribe of consumers.
So much of this has to do with how authentically and how often you speak directly to your followers.
At this stage, you want to show and tell your customers that you can be a continuing part of their lives. What do they gain from following your brand’s story?
So again: What problem do you solve? What joy can they gain by engaging with your brand? And, of course… how do you intend to tell them?
Stage 3: Work Culture.
The next milestone is where you embrace what some call “corporate culture.” At this point in your growth, the brands meaning and reach have to undergo a new level of adoption.
Here, it’s not just about the customers anymore.
It’s about the alignment of original insiders, new employees and even vendors. They become your inner circle. Now’s the point where people involved in your brand from the inside adopt the purpose and mission as their own.
When the attitude and culture of your brand is strong, those working for the brand will start to believe in it like it’s their very own product or service. It will drive their internal experience.
They won’t simply work with you for the profit— they will be on a mission too!
This goes back to how authenticity can help a brand thrive. When you believe in what you offer to the world, you will inspire the people around you.
Open the business mission and vision so that the inner circle takes ownership of your cause. Show them that we have a purpose— not only you. Can you align your inner circle’s purposes with the purpose and vision of the brand itself?
Stage 4: Brand Culture
At this point, you will see a shift.
As the vision becomes reality, the meaning solidifies internally and externally. It’s carried forward by those around you who are just as intent on the destination as you are. This results in your brands ability to reach new markets.
Here’s the beautiful truth: Strong brand cultures are heard without needing to shout. Strong brands have followers who want to do more than buy from the company— they want to follow it.
Think of Apple. Think of Disney. Think of that little bakery in your hometown that everyone raves about, that has a line out the door on Saturday mornings. Remember that your brand doesn’t have to be a multimillion dollar, international company to have a culture. You can still have a strong culture in your own community.
The point of having this strong culture is that it is magnetic. People are drawn to it. Those within the culture are also eager to recruit others into the tribe because they are so excited by being a part of the culture themselves!
In a strong brand culture, someone is always saying, “Hey, come see what we’re doing! This is something amazing, and I want you to feel it too. Get in the boat. Join us. You’re invited to be a part of the dream.”
See how this can spread like wildfire? This is where fans develop. This is where you have already accomplished deep meaning, and you’re ready to expand your reach.
Stage 5: The Movement
Otherwise known as the summit. Let me tell you what happens when we get to the fifth level: your brand becomes a cause all on its own.
When you get to a “movement” stage, both you and your market care for one another. You experience situations where, even if for only a brief shining moment, your market feels a unified “presence.” Finally, they are not alone. Finally, you are not alone. You have all achieved something greater than yourselves.
The fifth stage is like falling in love.
You must consider the pros and cons of spending your life with that special someone. And in the end, it’s about how he or she makes you feel. It’s about feeling safe and warm and understood.
Why is this sort of “touchy-feely” relationship an ideal business construction?… Because it’s so powerful!
When you have aligned empathy with your market, customers will begin to take ownership of their experience with your brand. They would miss your brand like a long-lost friend if it ever disappeared. They want your brand to do well. They become brand evangelists.
A bit of advice: One of the most successful paths to the summit is forged by using your empathy. From the start, approach your target market as the human beings they are, with a true desire to meet their needs. Help people understand your core values and the vision of your business (look to the quadrant question on the business wheel for guidance).
Show others that they are welcome to join hands in the vision themselves. Let them see that your business is built on “we,” not “I.” When you weave a connection between the visions of your personal brand, your business brand, and your target tribe, magic happens.
There you have it: the map to the summit. Use your business wheel as a compass, your personal brand as a guiding light, and enjoy the journey.
The Journey of Successful Business Brands
Products and Services → Brand Message → Work Culture → Brand Culture → Movement
Can you locate your own business brand along the progression?
Perhaps you are already in stage 2 or 3, but you realize that you have failed to integrate empathy into your overall business plan. Don’t worry. It’s okay to go back and write a new draft, and weave that into the foundation you’ve already built. It’s never too late to build an authentic business brand. Any failures or missteps along the way are learning experiences.
Bringing it all together…
When you can carry your customers from a WIIFM attitude to a place of intrinsic joy and love for your brand, you will know that you have not only crafted a brand that’s authentic to you— you have fostered a movement that is authentic to others too.
If you use your Identitype business wheel to direct your path, so that you reach each milestone while staying true to your values and vision, you will attract others into your brand experience.
Keep in mind that you are striving to inject personal meaning into each and every experience with your customers. Authentic human connections cannot be substituted with cheap marketing schemes. Inviting others to journey with you requires vulnerability, which is refreshingly authentic.
This guide will be key inspiration and instruction for you as you set off to build a business and to cultivate a movement.