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68 Experts Share The Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding


By Kage Spatz and Yitzi Weiner

What comes to mind when you think of Apple? What do you think about when you see a Starbucks logo? Those images are the result of extremely successful branding campaigns by Apple and Starbucks.

What can a startup do to replicate that branding success? We reached out to 68 branding experts, for them to share the top 3 things an entrepreneur needs to know about branding.

Here are their ideas:


Elisabeth Cullivan Thomas, Founder, Launch Product Marketing

My Background In Branding

Elisabeth is a results driven professional with extensive experience in Product Marketing and Product Management. Product and solution positioning, messaging, go to market strategy, thought-leadership activity, customer success initiatives, and global product launch execution augment her extensive portfolio of market leading achievements.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

“Do you have a great product, but no one knows about it? Building a brand identity for your product or service is an essential part of any business plan. An effective and distinct brand strategy will help you build a business identity, leading to increased awareness and competitive differentiation. Three things entrepreneurs should keep in mind regarding brand strategy include:

1. Messaging: Build a plan around designing your brand and include messaging as one of the first deliverables. Well-defined messaging will represent your product or service to your target customer and differentiate you from the competition in a very clear, defensible, and monetarily productive way. Messaging will carry throughout all of your marketing efforts.

2. Focus on your target audience: Identify your ideal target audience in order to focus your efforts on your most likely customer. It’s important that your brand prompts a meaningful connection with your target audience.

3. Be consistent: Use your branding everywhere. It’s very important that your branding efforts carry throughout all of your business efforts, including marketing and sales, in order to deliver a synergistic message. This will ultimately build awareness and develop confidence with your customers.

James Wilkinson, Chief Creative Officer, POP (www.wearepop.com)

My Background In Branding

With nearly 25 years of experience, POP Chief Creative Officer James Wilkinson has a portfolio of international brand communications, digital experience creation and storytelling, having honed his craft working with an array of clients, from European luxury goods to Silicon Valley tech leaders. James, and the teams he has led, developed award-winning work for several notable clients including Intel, Nespresso, Nokia and TAG Heuer.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

What you need to find success as an entrepreneur, and what is needed to develop a respected brand, are not that different: the very motivations that propel a ‘dreamer’ to become a ‘founder’ are much the same as what is needed to build a brand beyond the unknown. Admittedly, both can appear complex to an onlooker, but are they really?

Both the entrepreneur and the world’s most successful brands share unique characteristics that make them stand out, both the entrepreneur and the most creatively innovative brands put their audience at the very heart of all that they do, and both the entrepreneur and the global monster brands are laser-focused on their purpose. Not that different at all.

However, in the pursuit of the ‘differentiated,’ the ‘strategic,’ the ‘perfect,’ and the ‘authentic,’ these similarities can be overlooked. It is easy to lose sight of one’s original entrepreneurial intentions and to forget the foundations of what makes a successful brand (Character, Heart and Purpose). By constantly reminding oneself of what it means to be an entrepreneur, and why you became one in the first place, the brand that best encapsulates this will naturally follow. Whether you’re on an entrepreneurial path, or on the journey of building your brand, keep your eye on the following at all times:

Character — Clearly define who you are by establishing a tone of voice and a point of view that is yours and yours alone. Stand out.

Heart — Be deeply in love with your audience. Single-mindedly develop a relationship, within which you are fully invested. Commit.

Purpose — Consistency is everything. Remain focused on doing a few things and make them best-in-class. Demonstrate restraint, if need be.

Kathleen Kenehan, CEO & founder, Henson Consulting

My Background In Branding

Kathleen Kenehan is the founder and CEO of Henson Consulting, a national public relations agency based in Chicago. Kathleen founded Henson Consulting 17 years ago in her suburban basement and grew it into a powerhouse firm that has represented some of the most recognizable brands both in the city and nationwide including Kraft, ConAgra Foods, Storck Brands, Navy Pier, Mariano’s, Giordano’s, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Pampered Chef, Destination Kohler, and countless others. She lives in the western suburbs (Wheaton) and is the proud mother of five children, ranging in ages 18 to nine years old.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Establish a brand culture you can stand behind. One of the very best pieces of business advice I’ve ever received was from founder and Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Richard Melman. He told me that before I grew my thriving PR business too quickly, I had better identify the values that set me apart from my competitors. Entrepreneurs should ask themselves what they want to be known for — and then hire individuals that share and embrace those same values. You don’t need to find exact “cookie cutter” versions of yourself to have a successful team — but you do need to surround yourself with people that believe in your leadership, your brand vision and corporate value system. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to have a company based on a foundation of kindness. Then I wanted people that were ultra-creative, had “hustle” to get things done, a shared passion for our client work and worked and lived with integrity. Those five values have served my company well growing from just one person to now close to 50 employees.

2. Be consistent in your messaging. Most entrepreneurs don’t have unlimited capital to invest in marketing and branding and they certainly don’t need to if they are smart about how they tell their story and sell their products or services. Any brand appears bigger and more omnipresent if the narrative is consistent and clearly stated across all consumer touchpoints — whether it be advertising, public relations, executive speaking engagements, strategic partnerships and brand promotions to name just a few. In fact, some of the biggest and brands in the world have very simple but clear messaging (think Nike folks!) and that’s what makes them memorable.

3. Be authentic. It doesn’t matter what type of brand you’re launching, whether it’s a new widget or introducing a global firm, it’s important you stay true to who and what you are. Don’t get trapped into being trendy or emulating the hottest fad if it doesn’t align to what your brand values are. I’ve seen clients waste a ridiculous sum of money, staff resources and time on some partnership or licensing deal that takes attention away from what they are actually selling. Most consumers just want to understand why your brand is the best, the most unique or offered at the best value. You don’t need to latch onto something else to sell your story — just be yourself and it will sell itself.

Kaye Putnam, Psychology-Driven Brand Strategist, KayePutnam.com

My Background In Branding

Kaye Putnam is the Psychology-Driven Brand Strategist for entrepreneurs. She has worked with hundreds of clients worldwide to scale their brand’s impact, reach, and income. She’s been featured by Inc, Entrepreneur, and interviewed on numerous podcasts.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Branding is so much more than design.

If you limit your attention to your logo and color palette, you’re ignoring 90% of your potential. Brands need to built from the inside out to cut through the noise of today’s markets. Take time to define your brand’s personality, vision for the future, principles, point of view, and proprietary brand assets to connect with your ideal clients. Science shows us that humans make the bulk of their decisions from an emotional and unconscious level. Develop your brand to attract them on that level.

2. If you want to scale, brand standards are essential.

If all of your best brand ideas are stuck in your brain (or anyone else’s), you’ll stunt your growth. Or worse, you risk getting on a one-way train to burnout-ville. Empower your team by enrolling them in your brand’s larger mission. Set specific standards about how your brand looks, talks, and acts so they they can live your brand out loud without your constant oversight. Maybe someone will invent a cloning or mind reading app in the future, but until they do, don’t make your team guess at how to best communicate your brand.

3. Your brand is your highest leverage point.

If your lead generation and sales efforts are not working like you want, stop searching for the next best shiny marketing tactic. Your brand is the first domino. If you spend time to get it right, everything else works better. Your conversions are higher, you attract more leads, sales conversations are easier, and your team is as excited to contribute to the success of the brand as you are.

Adam Alson, Founder, DoubleDown.Digital

My Background In Branding

Marking its fifth year in business, Adam is the founder of DoubleDown.Digital, a 360- degree digital marketing agency, supporting prominent athletes, entertainers, brands and startups. Over the last 20 years, Alson has worked with an impressive roster of names including Muhammad Ali, Vince Carter, The Jonas Brothers, Brad Pitt, amongst many others. Alson has an extensive background in sports marketing, having worked for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and working on projects for athletes including Tom Brady, Reggie Bush and Mark Teixeira.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Below are are some ways to create and improve your personal brand:

1) Create your own brand: Social media handles have replaced business cards, so your accounts should reflect the personal brand you hope to project to your target audience. Are you artsy? Are you funny? What are you passionate about? Your posts should reflect your personality. Posts can range from being visually stimulating with quality photos or provide value with educational articles on LinkedIn. Also, take short snippets of video. Video is emerging as an extremely popular posting format.

2) The power of engagement: On Twitter and LinkedIn, start by following other social media accounts, including influencers in your areas of interest. Be sure to engage on posts of other accounts with with likes and comments. Ask questions that reflect you are an out-of-the-box thinker who pays attention to what is happening with their accounts. Over time, the social media teams will start to recognize your account. Be mindful to be tactful and not a social stalker. Retweet tweets that are in line with your areas of interest. This may start to establish a relationship with particular twitter accounts. Once you have an established relationship, perhaps you can do a “”Twitter”” takeover for the day, where you are managing someone else’s Twitter account. This will expose you to new followers. It is essential to always think of social media as a two way conversation with your audience.

3) What Interests Your Audience: Think about your audience and what interests them and then provide content they would actually want to see/read. Establish “”four theme buckets”” for posts. If you are a recruiter, your four buckets might be new job posts, articles about employment trends, motivational quotes and interviewing tips.

Alicia Williams, Founder & CEO, Aliste Marketing, Inc.

My Background In Branding

Alicia Williams is the Founder & CEO of Aliste Marketing, Inc. Her impressive personal accomplishments and passion for helping fellow entrepreneurs realize their own dreams has garnered her numerous accolades. These include the 2016 Outstanding Women of Family Business Award Recipient, recognition as one of The Worcester Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty, and the honor of being the Spotlight Entrepreneur for Capital One Spark.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Being an entrepreneur wasn’t something that I went to college for, I didn’t get a BA in entrepreneurship and I sure as hell had no idea the back bone needed to carry an Entrepreneur degree. The thought of doing something every single day that I love is what originally drove me to start getting clients and projects on my own. It wasn’t until I quickly realized that sitting in an office 9–5 would never be a lifestyle I could get used to, that I turned to fun side of being an entrepreneur.

Branding is all about telling a compelling story in everything you do- from the business cards and websites to even your outfit and handshake- it all tells a story. As an entrepreneur it is your job to take your buyers on a journey and experience with the products or services you offer. My best advice summed up into three points:

1) Pay attention to your personal brand: people want to do business with people they like and are similar to them. Focus on your personal social interactions to tell your story and shed light on who you are professionally. In addition, how you dress and present yourself represents your company culture. I once met a gentlemen who was covered in paint and ripped pants- I thought he was a painter- come to find out he was a credit card processing sales person….would you give your card to him?

2) Spend the money on quality pieces: a logo, website and first touch pieces is where you capture and convert your buyers. Invest in a solid designer who understands your story and can be the lead architect on building your brand. This is where your business and story come to life.

3) Listen: gather feedback from others around you, especially your niche target market. What do they feel when they see your business, visit your website, read your content, have a meeting etc. are their feelings in line with what you want your brand to represent?

Being an entrepreneur is not a set it and forget it mentality. We are CONSTANTLY adapting, testing and reinventing our products and services to keep up with the market and provide what consumers want and need.”

Renya Nelson, CEO, Brand Aid

My Background In Branding

2. Renya Nelson is the founder of Brand+Aid, a merchandise agency that focuses on . A former talent liaison and agency professional whose career already spans an impressive repertoire of work with companies like Pepsi, Trident, Levi’s, HBO, Chase, Visa, and many more. Renya started Brand+Aid in LA and combines her passion for fashion-forward trends with intelligent branding that kills with strategic results.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Brands are influencing people on a local and global level every day. In order to build a brand that makes it to the top, you got to remember to…

1. Take your brand seriously. Be consistent with how you present your brand and, most importantly, and make sure you have a brand guide to lead the way.

2. Differentiate from the pack. Don’t strive to be like someone else because consumers can sniff that on you. Truly know who you are and don’t try to be all things to everyone.

3. Have a personality. Be honest. Be Passionate about what you do. Be transparent with customers. Stand behind your product or service and vow not to dilute your core competencies.

Now go forth and build that badass brand.

Bernt Ullmann, CEO / “The Chief Brand Accelerator”, Celebrity Lifestyle Brands

My Background In Branding

Bernt Ullmann is often referred to as “The Man Behind The Brand” has been trusted by top business titans as Daymond John and Tommy Hilfiger. He has contributed to the success of top global lifestyle brands including FUBU International, Phat Fashions, and apparel lines for Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj. Currently, he is the CEO and Co-founder of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands, a brand development company that leverages the social media followings of celebrities and influencers to launch product and apparel brands in the digital marketplace.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

The concept of branding in the entrepreneur ecosystem has, in recent years, become synonymous with logos, websites, and other elements of creative design. The truth is branding has less to do with design and everything to do with strategy. A brand built around a clear and proper strategy can become a vehicle for long-term wealth. Here are three things to know about branding.

1) Every brand has a unique DNA.

Your brand DNA is the core of your business. It is the compass that guides your sales, marketing, and growth strategies. To get clear on your unique brand DNA, you must identify the values that drive your business decisions. Consider your story and the story of your company. Why did you start your business? What problem did you set out to solve for the marketplace? What is your vision and mission? The future growth and success of your business is predicated on your brand DNA.

2) Strong branding accelerates business growth

A key benefit of strong branding is the ability to build brand equity: The intangible asset that gives a brand incremental value in the mind of the consumer. When your brand holds massive value to the consumer, you create predictable revenue streams, increased cash flow through market share, premium pricing, and reduced marketing costs. Additionally, a brand with high equity can be sold or licensed.

3) A brand is an asset for building long-term wealth.

When your business is built on a strong brand that has high brand equity, you create new and greater opportunities for strategic brand expansion. You can leverage brand equity into licensing deals, joint venture, or a lucrative exit. In doing so, you can rapidly expand your business and exponentially increase revenues through new verticals.

Bill Gullan, President, Finch Brands

My Background In Branding

As President of Finch Brands, Bill Gullan is one of the marketplace’s premier brand developers. A world-class speaker, writer and facilitator, Bill’s point of view is highly sought after by clients and in the worlds of media and academia. Across a nearly 20-year career, his work has influenced hundreds of brands — including particularly powerful recent successes for Everlast, Conair, and ThinkGeek.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. The best brands are built from the inside out

Spend time ensuring that team members — especially during a growth phase — understand the company’s passion and purpose. This will connect directly to how they serve clients/customers and how much of themselves they put into their work.

2. Balance reason and emotion — just like people do

Don’t get lost in the specs and features of your product or service. Your customers are people. Even in highly technical B2B environments, winning brands make people feel something. Most brands are based on a simple, emotional idea. Find it.

3. Branding is fundamentally about difference

As a PR friend of ours puts it — ‘different is better than better.’ She means that all the empty superlatives in the world don’t measure up a message that contains an original, meaningful angle. Your distinctiveness may be found in your product, your service, your personality, etc. But it must be found somewhere.

Bret Bonnet, Co-Founder/President, Quality Logo Products

My Background In Branding

Bret Bonnet is the Co-Founder and President of Quality Logo Products, a $50M promotional products distributor located in Chicago, IL. Since 2003, Bonnet and Quality Logo Products have offered high-quality imprinted items at amazing prices to help businesses — large and small — expand their brand. Quality Logo Products was recently ranked by Print+Promo Magazine as the 13th largest distributor of promotional products in the US.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

One thing to know about branding is a brand should be personal and emotional so it will connect with your target audience. Your brand is more than a logo or a fancy, high-tech website. It should come from a meaningful background in order to really convey the messages behind what your brand does/produces.

Another thing to know is that your brand should create a lasting impression on your customers. Promotional products are a great way to do this. According to a 2017 PPAI advertising study, 68% of consumers in the past six months skipped online video ads whereas only 20% of consumers discarded a promotional product. The same study showed that 41% of people will keep their promos for 1–5 years! That’s an incredibly long time for your brand to marinate and make a continuous impact on your customers. The study also said 9 in 10 people recall the brand that gave them a promotional product while only 3 in 10 people remember the specific brand of an ad seen on television. 2 in 10 people only recall the specific brand of an online ad. This data shows putting your branded promos into the hands of your customers makes a larger impact than running an ad or other various marketing tactics. If you’ve created a new business or are looking to get more exposure for your brand, promotional products are good tools to utilize.

Once you set core goals and purpose(s) for your brand, don’t be afraid to experiment with different ways to expand your brand based on them. For instance, if you run a veterinarian clinic, your purpose and goals revolve around helping animals stay healthy. You could give your clients the standard promotional pen with your company’s logo on it, but branch out and put your logo on something else relevant. For example, you could give out branded pet food scoops or imprinted pet food can lids. It’s something useful and practical for your clients. They’ll think of you every time they use the products. You could also sponsor an organized 5K walk/run that lets pets participate. Each item relates back to your core purpose and goals as a veterinarian clinic. Once you’ve tried some options, you’ll find what’s best for you and your brand!”

Brian Fanale, CEO, MyLeadSystemPRO

My Background In Branding

Brian Fanale started his career as a full-time entrepreneur back in 2005 and is the CEO of MyLeadSystemPRO, an online marketing education platform and training community teaching entrepreneurs how to turn their passions into profitable online businesses.

Through his proven online framework, Fanale has trained over 100,000+ business owners to acquire more customers & clients, experience radical transformations, and build their dream businesses.

A recognized authority on meditation & mindset, copywriting & sales funnels, and personal branding & online marketing, Fanale has served as a mentor to top entrepreneurs around the world for more than 10 years.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

- Branding Has NOTHING To Do With Your Bank Account.

One of the biggest mistakes that hold aspiring entrepreneurs back is their belief that they need to have made serious money before they Brand themselves or bring a Brand to market. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ironically, this belief will keep most entrepreneurs from ever making real money. Branding is all about VALUE. And you don’t need permission (or a fat bank account) to start serving an audience by creating VALUE-driven content, videos, blog posts, Facebook LIVES, etc. that address a market’s problems, challenges, and pains. If you want to successfully build a Brand, the driving question that keeps you up at night should be “How Can I Add VALUE to my target market?”

- Your New Website Visitor Must Know in 3 Seconds (or less) how THEY can benefit.

From a branding perspective, your website must be centered and focused on how THEY (your potential customer) can benefit from your Brand, your products, and your services. What’s in it for THEM? It has to be crystal clear so that in 3 seconds your new website visitor knows exactly who you are, what you stand for, and most importantly how they can benefit. Far too often entrepreneurs spend their time creating a beautiful looking website and coming up with a catchy tagline that is completely focused on themselves, their products, and their services. And they spend no time focusing on the CUSTOMER’s wants, needs and desires. Newsflash to budding entrepreneurs: It’s NOT about YOU, it’s about THEM.

- Your Brand Must Stand for Something Greater than YOU.

If you strive to create a Brand that really takes off, makes an impact, and goes viral… your Brand STORY must be greater than just YOU. The really great brands out there figure out a way to relate to their customers on a deep, visceral, emotional level that builds a chemical bond. Successful brands inspire and make their tribe feel a part of something. Why would somebody buy from YOU over the next guy or gal? You need to figure this out fast! If you can get your audience to associate the right FEELINGS with your Brand through a story that plays on their heart-strings, price will never be an issue and you will build a cult following of loyal fans that will follow you (and your Brand) to the death.

Brian Lischer, Founder + CEO, Ignyte

My Background In Branding

Brian Lischer, Founder and CEO of Ignyte, is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and brand strategist. He is a leading voice on a range of issues, including the psychology of branding and founded Ignyte, an award-winning branding agency, in 2013. After working for more than a decade in marketing and design, he decided to put his passion for behavioral sciences to work by helping brands discover and express their authenticity. Under Brian’s leadership, Ignyte has grown into a highly sought-after agency that transforms brands around the globe. Brian works closely with the agency’s key accounts to ensure optimal positioning and authentic brand experiences.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Your Logo is Not Your Brand — What is a brand? Not as easy to answer as you’d think, is it? Too many entrepreneurs are under the mistaken impression that their brand is their logo, or vice versa. But I can assure you that your logo is not your brand. Brands aren’t something you can point to, like a logo or a product. Brands live in the mind. Specifically, they live in the minds of customers, employees, investors, the media, and everyone else they come in contact with. Simply put, brands are perceptions. As branding expert Marty Neumeier puts it, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.” Ashley Friedlein, CEO and co-founder of Econsultancy, has a similar take: “Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization.”

2. Branding Has the Power to Shape Reality — Your brand is the way your company is perceived — and perception is a powerful thing. Perception dictates belief and belief drives behavior. How your customer perceives your brand, therefore, determines how he or she will engage with your brand. But the real power of branding hinges on one other fundamental truth about human psychology: Perceptions are malleable. Perceptions are capable of being shaped because we’re all searching for meaning in the chaotic world around us. Good branding creates order out of chaos, effectively shaping customer reality and, in turn, influencing purchasing behavior in extremely valuable ways.

3. Your Brand is Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset — There’s no two ways about it: Your brand is your company’s most valuable asset. Why? Because your brand is how your organization is perceived by the world around it. And, like it or not, in an increasingly media-centric age, perception is reality. Branding enables you to shape customer reality so you can influence the behaviors that impact your bottom line. It stands to reason, then, that rebranding is one of the soundest investments your organization can make — especially if your organization is experiencing rapid growth, waning profits, or is just in the midst of an existential crisis.”

Candice Simons, Owner and President, Brooklyn Outdoor

My Background In Branding

In 2013, at the age of 29, Candice Simons founded Brooklyn Outdoor, the only independent, female-owned outdoor advertising agency in Michigan. At the same time, Candice’s love for the city inspired her to start J’adore Detroit, a lifestyle blog highlighting the best of Detroit culture. Cohesively, Simons has used both companies to create a large presence in Detroit and across the country with satellite offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Embrace what makes you unique.

Stepping outside is what I do best NOW. Being a female in a male-dominated industry, the odds were stacked against me from the beginning. Being a small fish in a sea of giants is no different now, but the way I handle it is completely different. I embrace the “weird” and see the challenges as hurdles that I just need to jump over. At a young age, I learned to embrace my outspoken personality and stand out style. Being unique sets you apart from the status quo and leaves a lasting impression on those that cross your path.

2. Always be on your brand.

The future is work/life blend not work/life balance. Remember, you are your brand. Present yourself as you want your brand to be seen. Attend events you want your brand to be associated with and post tagged pictures to your brand’s social media pages. Living your brand makes work a cohesive part of your life and creates an authentic story.

3. Stay true to your values.

Define your values. Know your values. Always act according to your values. Remaining strong to your moral and ethical boundaries is key to building a foundation for your brand and maintaining a sense of integrity with every decision. Knowing the values of your brand will help you decide what organizations to collaborate with and which opportunities make sense. If something does not align with your values, steer-clear, because it will lead you off-brand.

Carter Reum, Co-author SHORTCUT YOUR STARTUP, co-founder M13

My Background In Branding

Courtney Reum and his brother Carter are former Goldman Sachs investment bankers, entrepreneurs, operators, and investors. Courtney and Carter started their careers working on deals ranging from Under Armour to Vitamin Water and have since left to pursue careers as both Entrepreneurs and new age VCs. After co-founding and eventually successfully selling VEEV Spirits, Courtney and Carter started M13, a 21st century investing platform that seeks to affect outcomes for founders, partners, and investors by institutionalizing the process of scaling consumer-centric brands. Courtney and Carter currently live in Los Angeles, where they run day-to-day operations at M13.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Personal computers in our pockets are creating new behaviors. What we used to call “smartphones” are now portable computers that we carry around with us and touch on average 2,600 times per day. The implications? First, people are more reachable than they have ever been, and they have the ability to make purchases conveniently without entering stores. Second, startups have easier and cheaper access to the mar- ket than ever before. As opposed to the past, when entrepreneurs faced ex- pensive distribution networks, today vendors can easily get their products in front of consumers anywhere, anytime. Any vendor can sell through a platform such as Amazon, taking power away from the giant retailers that used to control the market. This dynamic shift has placed more power in the hands of technology platforms across industries such as gym member- ship (e.g., ClassPass) and ride-sharing services (Uber and Lyft).

2. Brands are speaking less to consumers and more through consumers. Due to increased time spent on mobile platforms and social media, consumers have led the charge on a developing trend: sharing. In the old days, if you tried a product and loved it, you might have recommended it to a few friends; today, if you post it to your Facebook or Instagram, thousands of your friends and followers can see it in seconds. That is also why a product’s ratings on Amazon or a restaurant’s Yelp reviews are so impactful: consumers are making decisions based not only on what their friends post but on aggregated product reviews. Companies know that more than 80 percent of consumers in today’s market trust recommendations from individuals over brands. Consumers are looking more and more to friends and influencers on social media to learn about brands, products, and experiences. In fact, it is projected that in 2017, brands will increase their influencer marketing expenditures by more than 60 percent.

3. Tools are available to market in an increasingly targeted way.

As companies collect massive amounts of data on their consumers, brands are increasingly able to market to very specific groups of people. Platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram provide companies with access to specific types of customers and collect data on those individuals based on their activity. For example, Facebook retargeting allows an advertiser to tar- get people who visited its website with different messages, depending on where they stopped in the buying process. Retargeting tends to have a much higher success rate than advertisements targeting customers for the first time. These tools either didn’t exist in the past or were prohibitively expensive and/or harder to track.

Chad Smith, Managing Director at The Sandbox Agency

My Background In Branding

With nearly two decades of agency experience, Smith has worked with companies across the entire healthcare spectrum, including pharmaceutical and biotech, medical device firms, hospitals, and health networks. He has overseen traditional and digital marketing strategies, brand positioning and creative execution for clients like Kite Pharma. Smith also currently serves as Vice President of Sponsorship for the American Advertising Federation in Kansas City. “

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

A Brand Is More Than A Logo

A brand is both the tangible and intangible representation of your organization’s beliefs, values and attitudes. While a logo is often the most dominant visual representations, it’s just one part of a larger equation that includes standard things like logo, website, letterhead and presentation templates, all the way through culture. Every engagement your customer has is a branded experience. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and think through all the ways they experience your product. This needs to encapsulate everything from the first time they hear about it to the first time they experience it, to the actual transaction experience.

Be Your Brand

Great brands can’t fake it to make it — they resonate an authentic voice of the organization. When establishing your brand, you and your team need to do an internal audit of the types of people, culture and work environments that you believe will make you successful. These are the building blocks of your brand and the elements of the feelings you want your brand to invoke. After understanding who you are, conduct an external audit of the type of customers that you believe are ideal customers for your product or services and determine if the elements of your “brand” are aligned. If not, you need to take a serious look at your organization and make changes to it or to your brand.

Brands Require Constant Feeding and Watering

A brand is not something that you can set and forget — it requires constant attention. The good news is that if your brand is based around your true organizational essence, then “branded” activities, experiences and expressions happen organically. If not, it’s akin to constantly trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans that are a size too small: you will eventually get into them, but it is going to take some effort. In both situations, you need to have somebody who is the owner of the brand. This person needs to be the steward of the tangible and intangible elements that make your brand truly great (which is not always easy.) In our ‘always on’ culture, customers expect to have an amazing experience on their terms and a brand has to be set up to ensure those demands are met. This requires structure and rigor, and ultimately, these activities can make the difference between new customers and a failed organization.

Chris Lane, Global Head of Brand and Digital Marketing, Fiverr

My Background In Branding

Chris leads leading Fiverr’s out-of-home and digital brand presence as well as community engagement through the marketplace, owned and third-party digital channels. He has worked with brands including Adobe, Google and The New York Times on their digital marketing strategies. He joined Fiverr from Method Communications, where he served as a Vice President of Integrated Marketing.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

When you’re running a business, it’s important that your personal brand is polished and professional. As your company becomes more successful, you (along with any co-founders and senior-level execs) will become more aligned with the company. Customers — especially in the B2B space — care about the names and faces behind the companies they support. Therefore, it’s important to put your name (and your face!) in the best light possible.

Here are five ways to help look your best online, whether you’re preparing to raise a round of funding, launch a new product, or amp up your presence on the conference circuit.

1. Create a personal website and invest in quality photography.

There are countless reasons why entrepreneurs need a personal website, but the top one is it lets you control the narrative of your own brand. Personal websites are a great centralized location to share thought-leadership articles, key press clippings, case studies from your business, and information about how and why various stakeholders should get in touch with you. For instance, potential clients will have different needs than conference speaker talent buyers or TV news producers looking for an expert contributor.

Human brains have always been visual in nature, but the amount of time we spend looking at screens has magnified the importance of a polished look. High-quality photographs will help shape your personal brand. They also make you more appealing as a contributor (or subject!) to top websites, because editors know that a high-quality photograph is one of the best ways to get readers to click on a story.

2. Optimize your social profiles.

How strong is your personal statement? Are your LinkedIn, Twitter, and other public-facing social bios aligned with your personal and professional goals? If not, get someone to help you craft social profiles that grab your audience’s attention.

3. Boost your online presence and invest in content marketing.

When someone Googles you, what do they see? Controlling your search results is a huge part of maintaining your online image. There are plenty of agencies and freelancers out there that can help you optimize content you control to rank higher in search results and de-emphasize results you’d rather not have show up on the first page (including other people who share your name).

Content marketing is one of the most important elements of personal and professional reputation building in 2017. Experts can help you define your message, craft expert content for guest blogging (or your own channels), and develop a sharing strategy to help content work even harder for you.

Chris Smith, Founder, The Campfire Effect

My Background In Branding

Chris Smith is founder of The Campfire Effect and a world-renown storytelling and branding expert. Through his proprietary framework, he helps startups, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes fundamentally rethink their approach to cultivating life-changing stories and then exposing those stories to the world. Chris is a fifth-generation cattle rancher, cowboy, entrepreneur, speaker, husband and (most importantly) dad.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

**First, great brands are about your story, NOT your logo.

It’s not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it that makes your business unique. Anyone in your industry can say they do what you do — but no one else can imitate your “how.” Most brands focus on deliverables: “We sell XYZ.” But what your clients and customers really want to know is, “How can you help me?” Organizations of every size can use the power of story to answer that question.

A great example is Anne Marie skin care. There are thousands of skin care brands, but Anne Marie stands out by sharing their unique difference, their Honest. Wild. Beautiful. process (https://www.annmariegianni.com/our-process/). It’s something no one else can imitate.

**Great brands use the power of story to relate to their audience on a personal level.

Human beings are hardwired for context and connection. If a customer or prospect doesn’t know why you do what you do or how you do it, they don’t know how to relate to you. As part of your brand, create your organization’s purpose through authentic story. This will let you separate yourself from the pack, connect with your target audience as a human beings, and then move them to action — which, in the end, is every company’s goal.

JJ Virgin is a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert and four-time New York Times bestselling author. On her website, she shares her raw, personal story of nearly losing her son to a hit-and-run driver, and how that changed her approach to life and business. This allows people to connect to her on a very real level. (https://jjvirgin.com/about-jj/)

**Great brands use the power of story to put their customers in the spotlight.

Your customers want to feel part of a larger movement, and stories help create that community. Use user-generated content, testimonials, and success stories, to highlight your customers and clients and build connection. Even more, these stories create confidence in your brand’s ability to deliver on your promises and “walk your talk” without you having to say a word.

The best in the world at this, in my opinion, is YETI Coolers. On their website they share their story, of course, but also include profiles of their community members and customers. (https://stories.yeti.com/) The result? They have others telling the YETI story for them.

Danni Lin, Founder and CEO of GREAT WINE, Inc.

My Background In Branding

As the CEO of GREAT WINE, Inc., Danni Lin is responsible for running all facets of the business. She is also responsible for drawing the master plan of the company’s future developments. As an entrepreneur, Lin has promoted the idea of “vinotype” and her wines PERCIPIO in the American and Asian markets with remarkable success.

Lin attended University of Washington, Seattle, where she earned her B.S. in Statistic and Mathematics, and M.S. in Computational Finance and Risk Management. Prior to joining GREAT WINE, Inc., she was a Data Scientist at Microsoft. With strong financial background, analytical expertise, and knowledge of advanced technology, Lin is taking her business to the next level of growth and expansion worldwide through her extensive international experiences and connections.”

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Different groups of audience needs different messages. So, make good use of digital marketing makes personalization easier. GREAT WINE, Inc.creates different key messages for each groups of target audience. For millennial, the company emphasizes on “affordable everyday wine,” with additional classes on “vinotype.” For generation X and Baby Boomer, it highlights the concept of “ vinotype,” wine tasting, and wine lessons. Because messages present a product in such a way as to get the attention of, and be understood by, the specific people or groups they want to reach, the company tailors the message to each audience. Therefore, as a company that value personalization,GREAT WINE, Inc.spotlights the uniqueness of each audience group.

2. Be ready to change for the market. The market will tell you what it needs, and the key to success is to be ready to change your branding message — after all, taste does change over time! For example, when GREAT WINE is founded in 2015 in both the USA and China, it was one of the few companies in the industry that successfully caught the changing tides of the Chinese market. Chinese young professionals now prefer affordable wines with traceable origins, and stop chasing after high price tags. By introducing the possibility of comparing tea flavors of pu-erh and jasmine to wines, GREAT WINE carries the mission of introducing the traditions and innovations behind Californian labels to the global market.

3. Think about event marketing and omni-channel marketing to consolidate your brand message. We invite clients to come to our tasting room for the total experience because this also gives us a chance to talk about the ideas behind our wine labels. We discover that clients introduce business partners to us because they would like to share their enjoyable moments with others. This is why we adopt the omni-channel marketing methods. Customers learn about a product via omni-channel marketing, a multi-path experience that seeks to provide the customer with a convenient and seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar storeas a tool to communicate with customers. This method provides a seamless, consistent, and convenient communicating channel between the company and customers. Omni-channel marketing creates 1:1 experience between the company and customers.Our wine specialists and even our CEO are just few clicks away from clients. As a result, GREAT WINE, Inc. successfully builds brand awareness and connects personally with customers.

Dave Shah, Co-Founder & CEO, Wve Labs

My Background In Branding

Dave Shah is the Co-founder and CEO of Wve Labs and a General Partner at Wve Ventures. In 2015 Dave co-founded and served as the CEO of Crave on Campus, a food delivery service app for college students by college students. The challenges Dave faced in the development of Crave instilled a drive in him to find a solution in the mobile app development sphere — this served as the foundation of Wve Labs and what drives the company’s efficiency, affordability, and quality today.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Branding is Storytelling: From your logo and social media presence to your mission and backstory, every brand begins with a narrative. What story are you trying to tell? The strongest brands have extraordinary roots and identifiable name tags. Highlight the purple cow (http://www.sethgodin.com/purple/) that makes your business or idea remarkable starting with your brand name. Meaningful and unique brand names are as important as they are challenging to choose. Condensing your entire brand story into a few words is crucial seeing as that name presents your brand’s first impression. Once you’ve refined the story behind your brand into the brand name itself, the story will have wings for its initial take off.

Unforgettable Consistency Leads to Recognition: Telling a captivating story is one thing, but telling that same story thousands of times the same way to the point where other people are retelling it because it’s so amazing is another. Consistent storytelling is crucial to your brand solidifying a spot in the ears and minds of those it reaches. Your brand needs to be recognizable (https://www.marshall.usc.edu/news/riding-wve0). It needs to stand out. From the graphics, colors, fonts, and voice you use to visually tell your story, to the thoughts and feelings you inspire through your brand, everything needs to meld together into one image. This image, is your brand. It’s something anyone should be able to identify in 10 seconds. This part of branding can take time, but if you tell your story long enough think Apple or Target.

Brand to Audience Connection is Everything: Once your brand tells a consistent and compelling story, it’s time to investigate your target audience. The best way to do this is to ask yourself the following questions. Who are you telling your story to? How will you best connect to your audience? How can you reach sub groups and markets? Think of your brand as an extension of yourself, in that your brand needs to master the human connection aspect of business communication on its own. It needs to speak to your audience, make them feel seen and heard. The best way to fully understand that audience is to tell your story and tell it in an unforgettable way. After that, the brand to audience connection should follow naturally. If you create a brand backed by an incredible story that your audience can recognize and relate to, they won’t be able to help but listen.

David Lloyd, CEO and Co-Founder, The Intern Group

My Background In Branding

David Lloyd is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Intern Group, an award-winning social enterprise that offers international internship programs. David left a position at Merrill Lynch in London to promote international opportunities for students around the world. David now manages a team work with offices in 12 countries.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. The domino effect. People will be attracted to your services/product if they see that other people who they respect are buying your services/product. For example, If you want to attract a big business to buy your services, the best way to do it is to show other big businesses, preferably competitors of theirs, have bought your services. The first customer in a group is the hardest, but then you can leverage this first customer via their logo, testimonials etc to get the whole group.

2. Credibility. Always think how you can establish credibility with a potential customer. Some things are transferable across industries — people generally tend to trust top media outlets. Make sure you get featured by global media. The typical ‘greyed out’ “as featured in” you see on companies’ websites is there for a reason. It helps build trust if your company has been featured in top press outlets.

3. Build your own brand. One of the best things you can do for your company is have a strong brand. Always be building your personal brand. It will help no end in raising money from investors, hiring the best team possible, retaining the best team possible, getting customers and in any exit you may want to make. Remember, success inspires success.

David Srere, co-CEO & chief strategy officer of Siegel+Gale

My Background In Branding

David B. Srere is co-CEO and chief strategy officer of global brand strategy, design and experience firm, Siegel+Gale. With more than 25 years of experience. Srere is a recognized leader in building corporate branding programs for some of the world’s foremost companies. “

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Brand as a business asset

Never underestimate the value of your brand. Your brand, unlike other assets, has the power to propel your business forward. It goes beyond your name, identity or marketing communications. It should serve as the core operating philosophy for everything that’s said and done in your business. As an entrepreneur, you have the luxury of crafting every aspect of your brand from the ground up. Just like your product, your people and your partnerships — your brand must move the business forward.

2. Brand is not what you say; it’s what you do

The world of branding has evolved from words and pictures to experiences. Starting a new business serves as an opportunity to carefully craft and develop what defines your experience from the outset. You can’t merely broadcast information into the ether. The custodians of your brand — from your marketing team to front-of-line staff must serve as brand ambassadors and deliver it in everything they do each day.

3. Simplicity Pays

The world is cluttered by competitors. To break through the din and differentiate, utilize the power of simplicity and make it central to your customer experience. Develop a brand that is clear, and surprising. Simple experiences will not only resonate with your customers but also drive the bottom line. Our research shows consumers are willing to pay more for products and services they perceive as simple.

Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand, StoryBrand

My Background In Branding

Donald Miller is the CEO of StoryBrand and every year helps more than 3,000 businesses leaders clarify their brand message. Don’s books, including his most recent book Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, have spent more than a year on top of several national best seller lists, including The New York Times.

He’s also the host of the podcast Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller where he interviews the world’s top business thought leaders on marketing and branding.”

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Make it clear how you can solve your customer’s problem.

The only reason anybody is visiting your website or walking into your retail space is because they have a problem. In fact, if you aren’t solving a customer’s problem, you’re not going to be in business long. So, if you want to attract more customers, make it crystal clear what problem you solve. Do you sell the perfect Mother’s Day gift? Then say it. Do you save time for your customer? Do you save them money? Do you help them live longer and healthier lives? Let’s say it clearly so people know why they should buy from us.

2. Show your customers what their lives will look like if they buy from you.

I’ve reviewed thousands of small-business websites and most of them make the mistake of featuring some sort of “branding” image above the fold on their site. They will have a picture of a building or a landscape image full of mountains. I always ask them “Are you selling a mountain?” or “Is your business for sale?” These images are confusing. You only have a few seconds to connect. Instead of random images meant to make us “feel” something, we should use images of happy customers using our products. We must show our customers what their lives will look like if they buy our products. Otherwise, why should they?

3. Make the call to action clear.

Nobody can read our minds. We have to ask for the sale. And we should ask for the sale in the top right corner of our website. Ask for it again as people scroll down the page. We should also say it directly. When we say “buy now” people know what we want them to do. Language like “Get Started” and “Learn More” is too passive. Instead, we should make it clear we’d like to do business, that way people know we believe in our product.

The theme here is that we need to be crystal clear about how we can solve our customers problem and what their lives will look like. If we confuse, we will lose. But clarity will grow your business.

Doron Malka, President/Founder, Ameba Marketing

My Background In Branding

Doron Malka was born and raised in Jerusalem — perhaps the most admired city-brand in the world. Dr. Malka is the founder and president of Ameba Marketing, an award-winning branding and advertising agency in San Diego, California, which has been crafting and managing hundreds of cutting-edge branding, marketing and public relations campaigns for 21 year. Dr. Malka is the author of just-released book BRANDcebo, The Powerful Placebo Effect of Brands; the below recommendations are excerpts from his book.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

There’s nothing traditional about the modern consumer, so why do we insist on traditional methods of marketing? In an era where consumers expect brands to be as relevant to their personal aspirations as they are to their daily functional needs, the old model of branding and communication is ineffective. Instead of the traditional Awareness  Perception  Interest brand building model, I suggest a new model I call BRANDcebo: Priming  Expectation  Desire, ultimately creating a brand placebo effect.

From Awareness to Priming:

Marketplaces today are filled with clutter, simple awareness is no longer sufficient. Instead, marketers must create an inspiring context they’d like their brand associated with. Creating this context is called Priming.

How to create BRANDcebo Priming?

1. Cater to passions, not needs.

2. Capture hearts; the brain will follow.

3. Realize they deserve an expert; be one.

4. First earn their trust, then promise.

5. Be familiar with and connect to their aspirations.

From Perception to Expectation:

Perception is an abstract sentiment. Displaying affinity to a brand is not enough. Marketers must create brand and product performance Expectation that would suggest meeting and exceeding consumers’ personal performance goals.

How to create BRANDcebo Expectations?

1. Create new aspirations in your audience’s mind.

2. Make your brand intangibles tangible. Even if only cognitively tangible.

3. Give them a reason to expect great performance. Use statistics and success stories.

4. Align your brand promise with your audience’s life goals.

5. Create hype, but be truthful. False promises WILL backfire.

From interest to Desire:

Interest reflects the consumer’s intention to purchase the branded product primarily to enjoy its functional/utilitarian promise. This is a short-lived brand strategy that has to be re-ignited with every new product launch. The BRANDcebo model, however, encourages marketers to leverage the brand Priming and brand Expectation to create brand Desire, empowering self-actualization through the brand.

How to create BRANDcebo Desire?

1. Realize everyone wants to be better (know better, feel better,

perform better). Show how your brand could help.

2. Identify your audience’s desired personal and lifestyle

destination. Believe in it.

3. Clearly align your brand with your audience’s desired

destination.

4. Make your brand promises aspirational, desirable,

and tangible.

5. Tightly align your brand values and attributes with the

personal values and beliefs of your audience. You know

you’ve arrived when they can see themselves in your

brand, and express themselves through it.

Dr. Talaya Waller, Personal Branding Consultant, Waller & Company

My Background In Branding

Dr. Talaya Waller is a personal branding expert, award-winning marketing scholar, and international speaker who works with individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations from a variety of industries in the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Waller merges past career experiences in communications, entrepreneurship, and government relations with years of extensive business marketing research to build credible narratives that advance clients’ careers and increase awareness for their brand. She has a social media influence of 34,000+ followers and is seen in publications such as Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider, and Essence.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

The sole purpose of branding is to accomplish a business goal. If your branding efforts don’t help you achieve your goals, then it’s not worth your time, energy, and resources. When an individual shares a brand message, it gets 561% more engagement than the same message when shared by their company’s account on social media. Instead of solely relying on your company’s website and social media accounts to enhance your brand, you as an entrepreneur should be at the forefront pushing that message to your network. Here are the top three things every entrepreneur should know about branding:

People do business with people who they know, like, and trust. When entrepreneurs share their personal story, they can create a relationship with their target audience on an emotional level. Personal branding builds a level of trust, authenticity, and human connection that transcends what a product or service can communicate by itself.

Studies show that the average millennial in the United States will have 10–15 different jobs in their lifetime. Career paths are no longer linear like in previous generations and have altered what we consider as the standard professional life cycle. This shift is partially due to the economic recession and also because technology continues to disrupt the way we do business. In order to build a sustainable brand, it is crucial for entrepreneurs and future leaders to identify their unique value added to any position or organization they serve. Next, entrepreneurs should develop a brand strategy that aligns their personal brand with the brand of the organization.

Investors don’t fund great ideas; they invest in great people. All entrepreneurs and executives bring their personal brand to their organization. Thus, strategic, consistent and effective personal brand management is becoming increasingly critical to the success of the leader and the companies that depend on them. Technology has created an environment where CEOs are more visible than ever, making reputation management the number one business threat for executives across the globe. Entrepreneurs who manage their brand can raise more capital, attract the best talent, gain positive media attention, and prevent a crisis for their company.

The future of branding is personal. “

Dr. Ty Belknap, CEO, MyCoach.Life

My Background In Branding

I spent 15 years helping companies design professional branding when I ran a web design and SEO business. Now, being a professional business coach, I have taken branding consulting to a new level. Branding is the backbone of any business, it can make or break you.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Branding is essential to any business. The top three things an entrepreneur should know about branding are:

1. Be consistent. If you have a logo, put it on everything you do. Your logo should be on your web site, your business cards, brochures, and your underwear. If you don’t dream about your logo when you sleep, it’s not on enough stuff.

2. Be consistent. Us the same colors for everything. If your logo is black and red, black and red should be the main colors on your web site, brochure, etc. If that is not the case, start to redesign everything now. As disappointing as that may sound, it will be easier to do it now than later.

3. Be consistent. If you have a professionally designed web site, you should have a professionally designed business card. The look and feel of all your marketing materials must be the same. Your branding won’t work if your web site looks fun and child-like while your business card looks like it’s from a professional, 3-piece suit company.

Start your branding with a professionally designed logo. Make sure the colors and look convey how you want your business to be perceived (fun, professional, casual, child-like, etc.). Once you have the logo down, everything else will be easier.

Durée Mellion Ross, President, Durée & Company

My Background In Branding

Durée & Company President Durée Mellion Ross fell in love with public relations at the age of 19 during a fated college internship. Originally a double major in broadcast journalism and sociology at the University of Miami, she found her place in the world of PR. Now an award-winning PR entrepreneur, Durée leads a talented team of media relations and marketing specialists in South Florida.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

When people think about your brand, positive and valuable characteristics should come to mind. Building a brand requires planning, strategy and execution.

1) Figure out what you want your brand to be known for and set your objectives and strategies respectively. Your business goals must drive your branding goals, and your objectives/strategies have to be results-oriented. People should come to you because they know you will deliver results that are above expectations.

2) Get involved in your community and don’t be shy. Participating in speaking engagements, local events and workshops are great opportunities for you to help others and position you and your brand as a trustworthy source.

3) Understand the value of networking and get your brand in front of others. Always try to make organic connections, because personal recommendations will ensure you are top-of-mind with potential clients and strengthen your brand.

Erich Joachimsthaler, founder and CEO of Vivaldi

My Background In Branding

Erich Joachimsthaler, Ph.D. is a rare combination of consultant, entrepreneur, academic, researcher, author and positive contrarian. He is the Founder and CEO of Vivaldi, which is a 150-person independent strategy, brand, and innovation marketing consulting firm. During the last sixteen years, Erich has led Vivaldi which consults on helping companies to build strong brands, to find innovation and new growth opportunities and realizing them in today’s digital age.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Don’t try to be amazing — try to be amazingly useful. This adage comes from Jay Baer, a strategist who recognizes the real challenge facing brands today. In the past, branding used to be about simply getting attention and shaping perceptions to create an image. Those were the days of creating an emotional stir, or even mere shock. Today, that limited strategy can quickly stray businesses away from their true brand essence. Dove is one brand that’s regrettably suffered from this misdirection, veering off course with questionably racist advertising and in advisably-shaped packaging. Today, what matters much more is what brands are actually solving for in their consumers’ lives. The brand, its promise, and all future expressions should be built around that essential raison d’être. While Amazon has created quite some havoc as it disrupts diverse industries, consumers of all kinds still recognize the brand as ultimately standing for convenience, and every move it makes helps to tell that story.

If it gets action, it will have traction. Today’s consumers are known to be time-starved and over-messaged. Sometimes it seems as though everyone has some form of ADD, especially when it comes to fielding advances from marketers. Traditional advertising just isn’t as effective, and a brand can no longer be built through ads alone. The solution is to get consumers to actually act, as early and often as possible. Think of Google, who immediately offered consumers a free search window to find everything on the internet. For Tesla, every driver becomes part of the brand’s world right away. Each newly-purchased car is instantly connected to Tesla’s network, recording every mile driven to not only improve its Autopilot feature, but to further personalize the entire driving experience. Every little action helps, and the more that active engagement comes from consumers, the more the brand can grow with power.

Have patience — there are no shortcuts. Building a strong brand isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. You have to give the brand-building effort enough time to blossom, and you have to focus on it every day. As an entrepreneur, you have to make it among your own top priorities, not just delegating it to the marketing team or a PR agency. While they can be helpful partners, real brand-building goes far beyond any one campaign effort. Your brand is about what you stand for, what you aspire to create, and why you really matter to your consumers. Bringing that level of passion and excitement to your work on a daily basis will form the solid foundation to grow your brand toward long-lasting success.

Harry Ein, Owner Perfection Promo

My Background In Branding

Perfection Promo is a leader in branded merchandise for large Global brands, Fortune 100 Companies and Professional Sports teams. Our goal is always offer the best possible customer service experience for our customers with extremely competitive pricing on unique branded products for our customers.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Branding doesn’t necessarily mean your logo and what your brochures say about your business look like. I believe your branding can evolve with your company’s identity. I am not too worried about my company logo but more about how our customer service is for our customers. To me offering the best possible experience for our clients is branding. Promote your brand with tangible items that relate to your company. If you sell high end software you dont want to give out cheap pens, magnets or t shirts. Look for products that relate to your business. In my company we work with many large tech companies so try to promote our business with High End clothing, tech items and drinkware for clients and friends. We want to position our business as a leader in quality branded products and not something that is thrown away.

Jacquie Chakirelis

My Background In Branding

Named one of the top 50 Influential Women in Content Marketing, Jacquie Chakirelis is a branding expert, national public speaker and entrepreneur with more than twenty years of experience working in marketing and digital media.

As founder of the Online Platform Institute and host of the weekly podcast Platform FM, Jacquie talks with digital media entrepreneurs about simple but powerful media strategies to grow and monetize an online platform.

Among her proudest achievements is the co-founding of the pioneering nationally-syndicated talk radio program and podcast, Family Matters Radio that was honored by five Society of Professional Journalism awards for shows focused on maternal and infant health issues.”

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Be Present- Don’t let your brand suffer from being the fallen tree in the forest that nobody heard. You must choose a place to be found whether it is a website, blog, podcast or video platform. With 81% of people researching online before they buy, entrepreneurs must establish, enhance and evaluate their online presence as part of their brand identity.

2. Be Real — Every brand should showcase unique values and individual strengths. If it’s not authentic, it’s not effective. Now more than ever, having a position that aligns with the brand, such as Patagonia’s Save Our Public Lands, is crucial to being heard among the chatter.

3. Be Helpful- Who do you serve and how do you serve them? Answering these two questions and then building an online platform to deliver consistent and valuable content that serves your customer is the most effective way to create a brand that gets noticed.

Jake Pacheco, Founder, RedCapp

My Background In Branding

Jake Pacheco is the Founder of RedCapp, a social media content management platform. In the age of social media, Jake has worked to create a platform that helps brands market themselves and brand themselves on social media.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Branding can be a wide ranging topic to discuss, as there are many elements that go into it. But like most things, I think there a few points to keep in mind to help make your branding be the best it can be.

It’s all in the details

Often it’s easy to think of branding as just a logo. But in truth, every area that someone could possibly interact with your business, is a part of your branding. From a business card or website, to your social pages or customer service support emails — everything that your business touches is part of your brand. If you come across a detail that doesn’t reflect who you are as a company, get rid of it or make it right.

Tell a story

You should think of branding as storytelling. This is how you connect with and build a relationship with the consumer, and why the consumer will want to do business with you. Every opportunity you have should be about telling parts of your story like what your business is and why your customer needs you. As well as your expertise, the things you stand for, and what it is you want your customer to know about you. Just like a good book, if your story is good, people will want more.

Branding isn’t everything

While branding is very important for the long-term success of your company, it is not a be-all-end-all. Meaning, even the strongest branding can’t hide a poor product. Take a strong brand like Coca-Cola for example. If coke was a poor product and people didn’t enjoy the taste, then no matter how great their branding, the company would suffer. So while branding is important, it alone won’t guarantee success. It works in tandem with your product or service.

Jasmine Sandler, CEO Agent-cy Online Marketing

My Background In Branding

Jasmine Sandler is a global keynote speaker, trainer, author and consultant in the areas of Social Branding & Social Selling for entrepreneurs and executives. She is the Founder and CEO of Agent-cy Online Marketing, a Manhattan-based Online Branding agency, specializing in SEO since 2006. She has been named (2012–2017) as a Top 40 Global Digital Marketing Strategist in the industry, Top SEO consultant on Twitter and Top 17 Digital Influencers in Content Marketing by Google and LinkedIn.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. You are a brand as an entrepreneur. What that means is that you need to think through what will your personal brand say, do, commit to to your targeted audience?

2. When you commit to your entrepreneurial brand, it means you need to commit to ongoing focused branded content to build influence.

3. Branding yourself online and managing that brand means an investment, not a cost, because it will deliver ROI when done right.

Jeffrey Bumbales, Director of Marketing, Credibly

My Background In Branding

Jeffrey Bumbales is the director of marketing at an established online lender and a freelance digital marketer. Over the years he has helped build and re-imagine brands for SMBs and large, reputable companies (big 3 auto, global consulting firm, fortune 100 tech hardware firm).

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

“Brand” is not aesthetic — it is existence:

Many people confuse branding with style guides and iconography — this is far from the case. Your brand is the aggregate emotional response evoked through all of your engagements and touch points. It’s essentially “what and who you are” as perceived by others.

These others are not just your customers, but also your users, as well as anyone who has had any direct or indirect interaction with your company or its network that has formed a lasting opinion.

Companies don’t make brands — customers and communities do:

Because your brand is intangible, you cannot directly control it. You can however control the interactions that go on to shape your public perception. So, the most surefire way to build a strong brand is to foster a community around your product or service.

A true understanding of your customers and users primes you to connect with the right people on a deeper level. While branding is often boiled down to aesthetics, true closed-loop reporting is a far more effective branding activity.

Every touch point and interaction shapes brand perception:

Each interaction influences how an individual perceives your brand, but your business won’t be involved in each of these encounters. Often times, people interact with your brand indirectly — through review sites, online through third parties, and even by overhearing conversations.

Because every engagement results in some sort of emotional response, the best way to maintain a positive reputation is to focus on making deep connections with the right individuals. The tighter your niche, the more your target audience will have in common. The more they have in common, the deeper you can get (without alienating some audience segment).

If you only seek to find the most relevant customers, and go above and beyond in each interaction, they’ll carry your brand for you.

Jess Brown, Creative Director, Planit

My Background In Branding

Jess Brown oversees a cross-disciplinary team of motion designers, art directors and UI experts at Planit, Baltimore’s top communications, marketing and interactive agency. Brown’s work has been recognized by the Webbys and the National ADDYs, and she has created award-winning experiences for PBS KIDS, Marriott International, Ritz-Carlton, Universal Music Group, McCormick, Mally Beauty and The Kennedy Center, among many others.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Don’t Save Digital For Last — Even in today’s highly connected world, we still see this costly mistake quite often. Regardless of your product or service, there’s a good chance that your audience’s first impression will be online — probably on their phone. Saving digital for the end of the branding process leads to retrofitting and last minute changes that bungle your brand before it’s even up and running. A mobile-friendly website and logo system are only the beginning. Spending the time up front to consider how your brand looks, sounds, and feels in search results, on social media, and even in email communication will create a solid foundation for your digital presence and ensure a cohesive brand experience on and offline.

Have Patience — If you study some of the strongest branding case studies (and I highly recommend that you do — consider that #4 on this list), you’ll notice they are incredibly consistent in the way they deliver their unique voice and express their purpose in everything they produce. When done well, the branding process itself takes time, and the culmination of all those efforts is likely an exciting campaign strategy that will take your brand to market. But then you’re done, right? Nope. This is actually when you’ll really need to dig deep and be patient. Branding consistency takes time, and it takes time across multiple channels, in various campaigns, and at all points in the customer journey. While you can make sure it’s handled with care, you simply cannot rush this process. Coke didn’t own happiness overnight, but over the years they chipped away at that broad-reaching sensation by weaving it into every facet of their branding. Now, it belongs to them and their customers.

Evolution Is Inevitable — Perhaps the greatest argument for making sure your branding stands for more than a logo or an identity package is every brand’s need to — at some point — evolve. Like products or services, your branding should evolve to stay relevant to your audiences and to avoid growing stale. For obvious reasons, entrepreneurs tend to stay particularly close to the brands they build, but I recommend not wasting time fighting the inevitable. Even if being progressive isn’t part of your branding DNA, embrace the opportunity to grow and modify for new customer generations and even new technologies. And, evolving will always be smoother than the total branding revolution often required to shake perceptions that a business is outdated.

Jessica Freeman, Owner and Designer, Jess Creatives

My Background In Branding

Jessica Freeman is an award-winning graphic and web designer, and video consultant, helping service-based entrepreneurs create a brand that shines through every level of their business. Outside of designing, she also loves producing for her YouTube channel. Jess lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband, Aaron.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

The first thing that entrepreneurs need to know about branding is that it’s much more than colors and fonts. But, at the same time, it is important to choose these details carefully — because you shouldn’t just pick your favorite color. There is so much psychology that goes into color choices and how fonts impact your brand’s personality.

Color choices can encourage others to take action — something as simple as changing the color of a button on your sales page can impact the conversion rate. There’s also the font choices that can not only uplevel your design, but tie your brand in together as a cohesive whole.

Next, you need to think about the entire experience of your brand. What is it like to be on the other side of you? What does the tone of your website copy convey to potential customers? When posting images and copy, and creating products, think about your brand as a whole — does every piece fit together?

It can be a confusing brand experience if your website is very corporate-like and lacks personality, but your Instagram feed is full of bright colors, movie quotes, and humor. The smallest personality details can impact every part of your business, even down to naming your ebooks and blog posts to align with your voice.

Lastly, you want your brand to include you — because that’s what will help your brand stand out from your competitors. Show up to your community with videos or podcasts, so that they get a more personal connection point with you. We don’t want to do business with a faceless brand, we want to work with someone that we know, like, and trust. They can’t know, like, and trust you, if they don’t know you.

Every business should have core values that they stand by, and that help guide their business decisions. These values need to be apparent in everything that you do. If you value fun, that should be shown through the types of brand photos on your website. The personality behind the brand is what brings you to life, and attracts the clients you want to work with day-to-day.

John Pollard, EVP of Registry, Donuts Inc.

My Background In Branding

John Pollard leads Product Management, Sales, Marketing, Communications and Business Development for Donuts’ registry business. He has co-founded two companies — Jott which was acquired by Nuance (early market leader in voice), and Elemental Foundry, which was acquired by Porch.com (home services platform). John holds a B.A. from Kenyon College and an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1). Names matter. A lot. When Larry Ellison started Software Development Labs in 1977, he had no idea that his product name, Oracle, would soon become THE brand identity of the entire company. It took him 5 years to recognize this mistake and rename the company Oracle Corporation — but then again, those were the pre-Internet days. Today, a company doesn’t have 5 years to get it right: it has about 5 minutes. Make sure your name is the right one. Before you launch.

Key considerations about a brand are meaning, what it sounds like, whether it’s trademarkable, memorable, and most simply, whether it’s ownable — can you actually get the name?

2). If you want to be anywhere, you have to be everywhere. That said, with myriad social channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WeChat, Weibo, etc.), and different devices (mobile phones, laptops, smart watches, smart cars, voice devices, etc.), it’s a huge challenge to maintain your brand online. The keys are consistency, simplicity, and ubiquity. On the web, legacy domain spaces such as .COM or .NET are played out, making it difficult to secure something clean, descriptive and memorable. New top-level domains can help people and businesses manage their digital identity more effectively and more uniformly.

Having a new domain such as .SOCIAL, .LIVE, .GROUP, .EXPERT, or .SOLUTIONS helps you bring your brand to life online. Whether it’s for a website or email address, or redirects into social platforms, or for use as a branded link in advertising campaigns, new top-level domain names are empowering people and businesses to present a unique, consistent identity — wherever it appears online.

3. Make Your Brand Relevant and Easy to Comprehend. With the pace of change and tech innovation approaching the speed of sound, it’s easy to get caught up in acronyms and jargon. But having a brand that your audience can relate to, directly and without explanation, is worth its weight in platinum. Especially in an age of voice-activated devices, “real word” names will connect you more rapidly and easily than complex terms. Some of our recent favorites: animations.live and aaa.capital.

Jon Michail, CEO and Founder of Image Group International

My Background In Branding

Jon Michail is the Founder and Group CEO of Image Group International, the Institute for Image Management and IGI Worldwide. Jon’s down-to-earth and real-world approach to business and life in general has helped transform thousands of people in their business, career and personal endeavours.

A past designer with the Christian Dior brand, Jon has pursued further studies in International Business Management and Media Relations. He has extensive experience in corporate communication, marketing, entrepreneurship, sports management and branding. Jon pioneered the concept of holistic image management and is regarded worldwide as the image advisor’s advisor.

The founder of numerous businesses in the last 30 years, Jon has also served as a board member of corporations including Life Education Victoria, Youth in Philanthropy and AFL Coaches Association.

Jon Michail is:

▪ Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM)

▪ Fellow of Leadership Victoria

His recent history includes sitting on numerous boards including:

▪ AFL Coaches Association (AFLCA)

▪ The African Think Tank (not-for-profit)

▪ The Whitelion Leadership Council (not-for-profit)

▪ The Life Education — Chairman’s Circle (not-for-profit)

▪ Ambassador — Asia Literacy (Australian Government not-for-profit initiative)

▪ Mentor — Youth in Philanthropy Program — Melbourne High School & Camberwell Grammar School

(not-for-profit)

Jon is a past winner of the prestigious International Image-Maker of the Year (USA) Award (the only Australian to have won this award to date) and winner of the Hong Kong Bank Business Award for export services, along with many other business and marketing achievements. Jon is also the author of the bestselling book “Life Branding” (Brolga Publishing / Pan MacMillan) which has been at the forefront of personal branding since inception.

Jon and his team coach leaders, managers and their teams to position their personal brand in a manner that builds, enhances and monetises their corporate brand. This unique hybrid approach to coaching supports everyone in the business to be congruent with the corporate brand and also in alignment with their personal values, identity and objectives at the same time.

Jon and his team at Image Group International practise mastery. His “living your best life” mantra combined with his “runs on the board” expertise make an impactful and sustainable difference to peoples’ lives.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Being an Entrepreneur or a Thought Leader requires many of the same personality traits, yet for one to succeed at being both requires a new level of awareness.

Confidence and more than confidence is self-gratitude, compassion, determination, ability, flair, tenacity, and of course an absolutely unswerving dedication to turn an ephemeral vision into a concrete reality (even in the face of the most indomitable naysayers), are all characteristics that can be found in successful Entrepreneurs and Thought Leaders alike.

If you are an Entrepreneur and want to step into the role of Thought Leader, there are a few things you can do to make the transition that much easier.

1. Values Driven — Remember what the goal is: If your number one goal is to attract more clients and generate sales then that’s the KPI. Some people get hung up on the fame, the glory and the attention. Although getting noticed is important the bottom line is to grow your sales and profitability. There are not rights or wrongs. It’s all about your values and your values drive purpose.

2. Be Credible — The world is full of fake news, your authenticity has great value. You’ll be found out soon enough if you don’t have factual evidence and examples to back up your ideas. Your reputation is everything!

3. Be Courageous — You have something to say — so say it. A good starting platform for sharing your opinion is a blog. Create one, write awesome content on it and share the hell out of it with the right niche audience. Yes, don’t bother converting the unconverted, you haven’t the time, energy or resources.

4. Express Yourself — Speak at the right events, conferences and do a ripper TedTalk. At first, whenever and wherever you can to gain experience and confidence. Over time be selective — know your niche audience and grow it. Film it and publish it online. Get out there and make sure your voice is heard. Share the success of your clients and your results. (And remember the value of a pithy one liner!)

5. Right Connections — Make meaningful connections. It’s easier than ever to network with the people who you admire — sometimes all it takes is a friendly ping. Building successful connections is a collaborative two-way street. If you get an opportunity to guest on someone’s blog, make sure you return the favor. Build alliances. Be generous, be abundant — there is nothing worse than scarcity thinking misers.

Jonathan Davila, Vice President, Diamond View

My Background In Branding

Jonathan (Jon) Davila is the Vice President of the largest video production company in Tampa Bay — Diamond View. Jon graduated with Honors from the University of South Florida with a Bachelors of Science. However, Jon’s path to a degree in Medicine changed in 2011 when he partnered with Tim Moore to pursue his business endeavors and help Diamond View grow on a national level. Shortly after joining Diamond View, the company began to grow exponentially. In the first year alone the company hired 9 talented team members and acquired a 2,500 square foot facility which expanded operations. Fast forward to the present, Diamond View now has 21 full time employees, a new 8,500 square foot Headquarter studio in North Tampa and an office space in Miami.

Jon attributes the growth and success of the company to it’s relentless pursuit to create Diamond View’s legacy: to be known as the company that changed the video production industry and laid the foundation that makes Tampa the Capital of Opportunity in the United States.”

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

3 Branding Techniques:

1. Know Your Audience

2. Product Presentation

3. Social Media Influence

From companies the size of your neighborhood hardware store to international chains like Walmart, branding is highly important to keep your business successful and well received by the community. Branding is your companies personality. It is how you interact with your customer’s and how they perceive you as a business. To create your ideal personality, you must know who your audience is. You want your customer base to relate to you, which begins with you relating to them. Target for example has a lot of kids and families in their commercials. That probably wouldn’t work as well in a Harley Davidson commercial. To go with your company’s personality, how you present your product is important. This is important because your presentation reflects your company’s beliefs. Are you shooting promotional 30 second ads, reeling of your companies products and stats? Or are you taking the time to acknowledge your customer’s. Brand storytelling is a great way to connect to your customer’s. Instead of promoting your product directly, take the time to tell a short story, one that reflects your company’s ideals and inspires your customer. When someone is inspired, they take action and tell people about what they heard. Focusing on the features of a product will make a sale but inspiring someone will create a lasting customer. Lastly, in today’s day and age, social media is vital to your brand. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogging are musts to promote your business. You can connect with thousands of people right from your office and it’s free to use. Companies who have active social media accounts and who communicate with their followers are much more favorable in the public’s eye. They’re seen as likable, relatable and understanding. Social media allows you to legitimately become friends with your customer and people go to their friends in the business first. Be a friend to your customer.

Karen Cooper, Brand Director, PicMonkey

My Background In Branding

With masters degree in education, Karen Cooper got her start coordinating scripts at Jim Henson Productions and producing kids and teen programs for NBC, ABC and PBS. She then pioneered new media formats for interactive television, interactive fiction and online learning at Microsoft. As PicMonkey’s Senior Brand Manager, Karen masterfully blends playful and professional to drive the brand voice and spearheads content development and editorial strategy to meet business goals, delight users and keep earning critical acclaim for the company.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Know your secret sauce — Understand exactly what your brand represents and how you want to position yourself against competitors in your industry. Is your company offering a service to an underserved market? Or do you create high-quality bespoke home goods? Once you’ve identified what makes your company unique, you can develop a brand identity that reflects the values of your business.

2. Visual branding is critical — Colors, fonts, and visual style may seem like minor decisions when you’re trying to grow your side hustle into a business, but don’t underestimate the power of visual communications. Everything — from your logo and business cards to website buttons to social media graphics to physical packaging — is an opportunity to build familiarity with your brand and tell a story of who you are and what you value. Consistently portray your personality across all these customer touchpoints and your efforts will pay off.

3. It doesn’t have to be complicated to work — It’s tempting to overdo it with all the marketing and creative tools out there. Going over the top with an expensive website with lots of animations and stickers, complete with a logo with 30 colors might not actually help you stand out from the crowd. Instead, focus on simple, yet effective, with bold but understated design across your marketing materials.”

Karen Moore, founder and CEO of Moore Communications Group

My Background In Branding

Karen B. Moore is an author, consultant, speaker, and founder and CEO of Moore Communications Group (MCG), one of the nation’s largest independently owned integrated communications firms. As an entrepreneur and industry thought leader, she is highly sought after for her integrated communications, branding and crisis communication counsel. Karen has conducted media and advocacy training sessions for Fortune 500 companies, elected officials, and national associations. A distinguished public speaker, she has addressed more than 250 organizations on topics such as advocacy, leadership, entrepreneurship, crisis communications, marketing, and networking.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Personal brand is just as important as organizational brand.

A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization. Think about that for a second: a brand is a gut feeling. A brand is not what you say it is or what your company says it is. A brand is what your target audience says it is, and your personal brand is just as important as your company’s brand.

Your brand is personified through you, so making sure it is aligned with your organizational brand is important because it reflects the culture of your company. While you work on branding your company, be sure not to lose sight of how your company and your personal brand are intertwined. This includes being mindful of all first impressions and your social media presence — including on your personal accounts.

Listen to the marketplace.

A brand isn’t what you think about your brand, it’s what others think about your brand, which means you must be aware of what others are saying about your brand. Knowing what consumers want from your brand is critical to get traction in the marketplace. Based on what you hear, establish strategic and measurable goals, as well as indicators to measure performance of your communications outputs and outcomes. Maybe one of your performance indicators is an increase in positive engagement on social media channels, or an increase branded search traffic to your website. However you measure your performance, make sure the indicators ladder up to your goals. Data — quantitative and qualitative — can help set the course for success — and guide you on next best steps.

Have a marketing plan.

Sometimes, in spite of the best intentions, efforts fail because organizations don’t leverage opportunities to the greatest potential. What’s needed is a plan, a foundation. Implementing a marketing plan gives your organization a game plan and something to go back to, especially as you are elevating and establishing your brand in the marketplace.

Designing a marketing plan begins with the framework. Begin by being very clear about the goals and objectives, the use of tactics, and identifying your advocates. Having guidelines is essential to keeping you on time, budget and helps prioritize resources. Following a plan will help you gauge all your channels and what people are saying about your brand, whether it is on social media, or through third parties.

Kevin V. Huhn, Founder, Be Your Best Today

My Background In Branding

Kevin Huhn is an award-winning business growth strategist, Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer at Be Your Best Today.

As an inspiring, compassionate and engaging speaker, Kevin is dedicated to providing business owners with proven strategies so they can achieve lasting profitability while ethically positioning their company top-of-mind for people to love.

He is a certified coach, experienced broadcaster, columnist and the author of two books: “How to Reinvent Midlife Dreams: The science of attracting passion, purpose and a plan for the rest of your life” and the Hockey Hall of Fame’s acclaimed “Hockey-ology: The ultimate guide to fun and success in minor hockey.””

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

When it comes to branding I share these 3 things…

1) ”When you are branding, you are branding. And when you are not branding, you are still branding.”

That is a Kev-ism that I use in my workshop, training and consulting with business owners. And once they hear it, there is usually a smile or an inquisitive look on their face.

You cannot NOT be branding. Imagine if I was standing in front of you with my arms crossed and no smile on my face. It won’t take long and you will begin to feel something. What if I told you — I was standing there with no thought? It doesn’t matter. Your feeling something. But in my head I was not doing anything.

2) I define branding this way… Branding is a feeling that you stir up in people. So your sole job as a business owner is to determine how you want people to feel when they think about your business.

What does every business have?

If you said, people you are right. And what do we have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? Feelings.

Your job is to determine how you want people to feel. That process is called branding.

3) Identify how people feel today. Determine how you want them to feel in the future. Now you will have a gap. Your job is to close that gap. That is branding.

Think about “”2)”” for a moment. Who are the people in your business? They are in one of the nine groups of people. Those groups are — customers, employees, suppliers, partners, shareholders, community, competitors, media and you.

If you know how each one feels today about your business and how you want each group to feel in the future about your business, you will be able to brand your business accordingly.

That is why I say — When you are branding, you are branding. And when you are not branding, you are still branding.

Kris Bondi, CMO, Neura

My Background In Branding

Neura CMO Kris Bondi is a seasoned marketing professional with more than 20 years international marketing experience. Kris brings her history of creating hockey stick adoption, prominent brand reputation, and substantial mindshare to her role.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Because they don’t have years of negative or dated brand baggage, each entrepreneur has an opportunity to create a strong brand that represents their company in a way that speaks to their most important audiences. Here are three brand truths that every entrepreneur must understand and embrace if they want their startup to eventually be known as a leader in their space:

1) If an entrepreneur wants their company to last long after their tenure, the brand cannot be closely tied to only them. Think of the transition Microsoft was able to make after Bill Gates left his corporate leadership role. Microsoft always had a separate brand from Gates. Particularly in recent years, the brand and the company have thrived. Interestingly, so has Gates in his new role as philanthropist. Now imagine Tesla post-Elon Musk. It’s hard to pitch what the Tesla brand will mean because the brand is so associated with, and sometimes over powered by, Musk. There is an additional benefit to not having the company brand linked only with the CEO, particularly for a young company. When entrepreneurs leverage multiple team members as brand representatives for speaking, writing and attending events, their companies are seen as larger and more successful. The belief that it is more successful fuels in-bound interest that adds to its cachet with customers and investors.

2) It may be hard for some entrepreneurs to believe but a strong brand has an edge over superior technology. Entrepreneurs only need to look at Balanced and Stripe to understand the value of investing in brand. Both founded in the San Francisco in 2010, both created payment systems that allowed websites to accept credit card and other types of payments. The difference is that Stripe invested in its brand as well as its technology. In Spring of 2015, Balanced transferred its customers to Stripe and shutdown. As of 2016, Stripe has been widely reported to be valued at $9 billion. This increased Stripe CEO John Collison’s net worth to $1.1 billion.

3) Finally, brand is more than your logo and the color of your palette. It is who the company is at its core. The corporate brand must be authentic. It can’t be put on like a new outfit. Particularly for a startup company, brand must be an extension of the company culture. When the entire team embraces how the brand is defined, they begin to exude confidence in the company. They become brand representatives, not because they are told to, but because they are excited.

It’s never too early to think about what is important to the company and what best describes it. Beyond products and services, there is an essence of value and personality. This is an important part of brand identity and the great starting place for defining brand.

Kristan J. Wheaton, Professor, Mercyhurst University

My Background In Branding

I run Quickstarter, a free program that links local entrepreneurs with college students to increase the odds of success using crowdfunding. Designated by Kickstarter as an expert organization, we have worked with over 160 entrepreneurs and boast a 93% success rate. While we provide a wide variety of services to our clients, branding is one of the things we are most often asked to do.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Your brand should sit comfortably at the intersection of your vision and customer preferences. Sacrificing the soul of a project on the altar of “”what the customer wants”” makes about as much sense as ignoring the needs and preferences of your potential clients in favor of an arbitrary alternative. The best brands are something you are proud to create and your customers are proud to own. You should spend time and money up front on things like focus groups, surveys and A/B testing as well as a lot of internal reflection on what the product means to you to help you find this sweet spot.

2. Money spent on visuals is never wasted. Humans are visual animals so find a good artist or graphic designer early and stop talking about your brand and start visualizing it. The goal here should be to avoid satisficing — a mental shortcut that is hardwired into each of our brains that encourages us to find the first “”good enough”” answer and then stop looking. You don’t need a million visualizations of your brand but don’t just jump on the first one that catches your eye either.

3. Branding isn’t a thing; it’s a process. Brands evolve over time. This is particularly true early in the life of a brand. Be prepared to learn from branding failures and treat all branding successes as temporary. With this in mind, it is important to establish metrics regarding your brand and to build them into your periodic reviews and team meetings. How often you need to do this and which metrics give you the most insight will vary by product but you need to regularly review your efforts.

Kyshira Moffett, Digital Brand Strategist, The KSM Group (thisishermovement.com)

My Background In Branding

Kyshira S. Moffett, MBA is a digital brand strategist, content creator, award winning entrepreneur, and author. Passionate about brand strategy, entrepreneurship, and beauty, she is living her motto “feel the fear and do it anyway” every single day. In 2013, Kyshira founded The KSM Group, a boutique brand consulting firm which equips entrepreneurial women with digital brand and launch strategies to propel their businesses and blogs to the next level.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Invest in Quality Photography — A photo is worth a thousand words. Whether you’re a service provider or a product based business, photographs speak volumes. Every entrepreneur should have high resolution headshots, product photos and other imagery that you use for marketing (i.e your website). Your website and social media profiles are your company’s salesperson when you’re not around and grainy, poorly lit photos can quickly send a visitor elsewhere. On the contrary, vibrant imagery engages prospective customers and entices them to view more content on your site or profiles.

Content is King, Consistency is Queen — Nearly every industry is oversaturated. Your customers are inundated with ads regularly. How do you stand out? The first step is having valuable, relevant and interesting content. The second step is posting it consistently. Consistent quality content is what will keep you top of mind. Develop content calendars and leverage automation tools to conquer this feat.

Incorporate Video Into Your Brand — Being able to discuss your expertise via video, especially live stream, showcases your knowledge in a different way. Anyone can construct a blog post given enough time, but everyone isn’t good at verbally articulating their insight. With video, you can meet your audience where they are and talk them through your concepts and ideas. You can speak their language and even use slang to get your point across as it humanizes you. Additionally, if you are using live stream, you have the ability to answer your audience’s questions on the spot which further solidifies your spot and provides social proof that you are go to person in your field.

Lexi Montgomery, Founder of The Darling Company/Darling Miami LLC

My Background In Branding

Lexi Montgomery is the founder of Darling Miami LLC (The Darling Company). As a former actress, she learned about how the media seduces & manipulates consumer spending down to the smallest detail in the backgrounds of commercials and tv shows. She used her “insider” knowledge to create a digital agency that specializes in brand seduction marketing, building a fantasy that seduces consumers after business hours & outside normal advertising.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

My dad passed away a week ago and I wrote a viral post on Linked In sharing my thoughts. The post got nearly 3M views, and over 10,000 likes. Our branding & marketing agency (http://darlingwebdesign.com) is under a year old and has been featured in Huffington Post, Bustle, Associated Press, and syndicated in NYT, Washington Times, Miami Herald and more. How have we been able to make such a splash? These are the top three things that every entrepreneur should know about branding:

1) People care about themselves

People are selfish. Never forget that and you’ll have a much easier time attracting clients & keeping them happy. No matter how much money or time you put into YOUR branding, prospects need to feel a sense of “”this effort was done to help me.”” They need to feel a genuine connection and they’ll overlook the subtle manipulation/seduction that comes along with good branding.

2) Humility is the most valuable currency

No matter how much success you have, remain humble in your approach. Don’t take your clients, or features for granted because you are not unique. All markets are saturated and the internet is the wild, wild west. Remember that genuine appreciation will get you referrals, and your brand needs to scream “We’re in this for you, and we want to help you.”

3) Authenticity is the new black

Modern consumers are tired of cheesy, money-hungry advertisements, and living a life of meaningless overconsumption. Authenticity is required to get the approval of the masses these days. They’ll also be more understanding when things go haywire if you’ve been authentic with them from the beginning. Add some humanity to your brand, a face, personal story, and testimonials. Being authentic with consumers is how you build trust.

Maria Botta, Consultant

My Background In Branding

I have a passion for helping companies leverage the convergence of technology, marketing, and commerce to create engaging experiences that connect with their audiences. I value creativity in all its forms, generating innovation, getting things done, traveling the world, learning, making money, good food, and integrity — not necessarily in that order.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1) Don’t Undervalue the importance of Branding internally

Branding is extremely important externally, this is after all what your customers might see first. Branding also has a tremendous value internally, it gives your employees a rallying cry, something to believe in, and in the best case scenario it cements the purpose of your company. When employees understand and believe in your purpose, they will work hard to deliver on the company promise.

2) Make sure your Branding meets your Customer Expectations

Brands more than ever need to ensure that they are meeting customer expectation and engaging consumers at higher levels, and this can be complex now that there are so many more opportunities for touch points.Think about every facet of the customer journey and how your Company delivers on the brand promise. Map it out, look at how your Brand shows up everwhere along the customer journey and how it is delivering along the way, immediately address the places where your company is failing. Caution, unlike the past, your customers will call you out if you don’t deliver, the best thing you can do is acknowledge any problems and remedy them with your clients — never ignore them.

3) You Might Want to Start with — What Your Brand Is Not?

There is a lot of confusion in the business world about what exactly constitutes Branding. Branding is NOT all about BIG data, your mission statement, logo, product or website — we must never forget the human touch points of business — that’s what both B2B and B2C consumers will remember about your brand. Simply put, one of the most important keys to success in branding is if/when your consumer has an emotional connection with your brand If these feelings are positive, this will increase your customer engagement and ultimately sales.

Mary Ellen Dugan, Chief Marketing Officer, WP Engine

My Background In Branding

An accomplished senior marketing executive with 20 years’ of experience in strategic marketing, brand building, business development and advertising, CMO Mary Ellen Dugan leads WP Engine’s global marketing activities including product marketing, partner enablement and demand generation, brand building, advertising and integrated marketing. Mary Ellen has held a number of senior executive roles at multinational companies including Indeed, Dell Technologies, Landor Associates, Daymon and The Brand Union. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and International Business from The Ohio State University and an MBA from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1) Perception is reality and your digital presence is vital — there are no second chances. Your brand is everything and a bad brand will always struggle even if the product is good. Customers, prospects, investors and competitors will judge you, buy from you and invest (or not) in you based on how you appear through your branding. As an entrepreneur, the way in which you appear online is of huge importance. Start-ups often make the mistake of not presenting themselves with confidence. Online, no one knows how big you are. You want to convey that yours is a strong company in which customers can place their confidence and trust. Make sure you have a consistent, relevant and consistently updated digital brand presence.

2) It’s never too early to hire a branding specialist. All start-up companies face a series of challenges and a race against time to establish themselves — 50% of businesses will fail within four years. As you grow your company, you will need to make important hires — you can’t do everything yourself. They key is to hire or contract with people with the right skill set and experience at the time you need them. Your brand is your most important, public facing asset — you need someone with the right experience and, more importantly, someone who understands your business and shares your brand values. This is a key point — one of the first things you must do when starting your company is establish your core values. Everything else, including your brand, should be built upon them.

3) Encourage engagement with your brand. The best brands will build digital experience sites where customers and prospects can come and engage with a brand, irrespective of whether they intend to complete a transaction at that point. Your website, and your brand, can’t just shout about your products/services. It needs to educate, inform and delight. Content is an indispensable tool to engage and ultimately drive leads and conversions. Successful brands are becoming publishers of unique content that is relevant and helpful to their audience, allowing them to differentiate themselves and build better, stronger relationships and loyalty with their customers.

Matthew Stumm, Founder + Creative Director, Stark/Raving Branding + Advertising

My Background In Branding

Matthew Stumm is founder and creative director at Stark/Raving. He spent his early career in creative roles across the tech, finance, education and luxury travel sectors. For the past 13 years, he served as creative director and Chief Creative Officer at a Boston-based life science branding agency where he was named to PharmaVoice 100’s most inspiring people. Matthew sets the vision at Stark/Raving and has used his experience to deliver impactful campaigns for companies including Dell, MAD Magazine, Eli Lilly, Skyjet, and Pfizer.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Performing a critical analysis of your position in the marketplace is an essential first step in developing an effective brand playbook. This includes a deep dive into the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) your company faces. Account for the current state of your brand, but add a layer of aspiration to help push your brand forward. Creating a SWOT matrix will help you identify where your offerings fall short and where you want to be as a company.

A brand is a living breathing entity — one that requires constant nurturing and refinement in order to breakthrough and consistently resonate with your target customers. It reaches well beyond your logo and tagline, and touches every aspect of your organization. Not only is it a critical component of any business plan, it serves as an essential playbook that galvanizes a team, streamlines your company’s message and firmly establishes your marketplace image.

Competitive Landscape

Performing a critical analysis of your position in the marketplace is an essential first step in developing an effective brand. This includes a deep dive into the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) your company faces. Account for the current state of your brand, but add a layer of aspiration to help push your brand forward. Creating a SWOT matrix will help you identify where your offerings fall short and where you want to be as a company.

While you conduct your SWOT analysis, consider your competitors, how they present their offerings, and how they have evolved. Are their offerings comparable? Is there an opportunity to differentiate yours? A critical competitive review can identify weaknesses in their marketing strategy that create opportunities for your products or services.

Messaging Platform

The key to a successful messaging platform is to clearly and accurately represent your company, capabilities and products. Your message can be forward thinking — proactively positioning your brand for near-term growth — but the vision should be attainable. Consider your competition and use this opportunity to differentiate, counter-position your organization and pique consumer interest. Once you have established your core messaging, create slight variations that deliver solutions to your target audience’s needs or pain points. In addition, brainstorm keywords that are relevant to your company. These will come in handy when you begin to explore promotional avenues.

Target Audience Personas

Today’s marketer can choose among a variety of promotional avenues. While many are wide-reaching in scope, the most cost-efficient platforms allow for near-precise targeting. Now more than ever, clearly defined target audience personas are vital for effective audience engagement. In addition to demographics, consider buying behaviors, interests, geography and online habits. Audience personas extend beyond an ideal prospect profile and may include current customers, past customers, your sales pipeline and key industry influencers.

Melanie Spring, Approachable Badass at Branded Confidence

My Background In Branding

Melanie runs Branded Confidence as an international speaker and workshop facilitator — bringing her charisma and confidence to humans worldwide. She’s so dedicated to her purpose that she once drove 7,000 miles in 3 weeks to find out why great brands work. Are you ready to rock your brand?

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1.Be very clear with who you are and what you stand for. Set specific core values early and stick to them. 2. EVERYTHING is branding — from the way you answer your phone and the way your office looks to what you wear and how your website content is written. 3. Be consistent in every aspect of your business. Agreements need to match your emails need to match your conversations need to match your website and on and on. The easiest way to do this? Make sure it all sounds like you.

Michael Smith, Art Director, AWeber

My Background In Branding

Michael Smith is the Art Director at AWeber, where he leads a team of brand designers to create exceptional experiences for hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses around the world. He has given talks and presentations on the topics of branding, design and email to groups big and small, most recently at the Digital Summit in Philadelphia.

When his energy isn’t directed at lead branding, design and email projects, he coaches students through Seth Godin’s altMBA program, blogs about being a dad and designer, has self-published a children’s book, and is in the process of writing more about design.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. A solid brand identity is bigger than just the logo. When it comes to creating a brand, think bigger than just the logo! It’s the way someone feels when they interact with you, your voice and tone in writing and videos. It’s the icons, photography style, colors, font choices, and more. Take the time to articulate all those pieces when starting out. Customers notice.

2. You get what you pay for, so pay to stand out. If you aren’t able to make the identity pieces yourself, then pay a freelance designer or agency to do it for you. If you choose to use a cheap marketplace or skimp on this piece, you can be sure to find yourself blending in with the noise. It’ll be worth your investment because great branding will set the tone with your customers on what kind of business you are.

3. Your social presence is important, but don’t neglect email. The Zuck has struck again trying to improve Facebook, but that means that businesses will continue to see their exposure drop. Email newsletters and communication continue to be a place where you own the conversation and can get results. It’s also the perfect place to reinforce your brand position and voice with your customers. Get them on your list and you have a much more engaged individual.

Michela DellaMonica, Publicity Manager, Smith Publicity

My Background In Branding

Michela DellaMonica has been in the public relations field for over 8 years implementing strategic plans for clients in the industries of book publishing, music, entertainment and food. Her experience in building brands and artist profiles include Grammy award winning band Train, reggae star Shaggy, pop-punk princes All Time Low, book publishers and authors such as HarperCollins / Thomas Nelson, Lis Wiehl, Jeff Goins, Denise Hunter, Brandon Mull and others. She’s helped build events from the ground up such as the Rachael Ray Feedback Party in Austin, TX, Scion Music Conference, Scion Rock Fest and the monthly Scion Open Mic performance series in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1) Successful branding isn’t just reactive, it’s proactive. The best branding strategies don’t just work with the public perception of a company, service or idea that already exists — it shapes this perception and defines the image. This means having a specific, actionable brand strategy in place months before launch if at all possible.

2) If it’s too late for that, and you haven’t thought about branding until your public perception is already formed, there’s still hope. You need to think about the best qualities about your brand that are already out there in the public perception and how you can maximize those in marketing initiatives.

3) Branding needs to be someone’s responsibility, it cannot all be decided by committee or contributions from different team members here and there. Even if it truly is a team effort, there needs to be someone designated as a branding lead to whom time sensitive tasks can be delegated. This is the person who is on call if the worst happens and a negative message gets out there about your brand.

Michelle Stansbury, CEO, Little Penguin PR

My Background In Branding

Michelle Stansbury is the founder and CEO of Little Penguin PR, a strategic public relations company based in San Diego, CA. Michelle’s mission is to take the same resources that Fortune 500 companies use to build long-term brand value and reach their target audience through PR and provide them to small and mid-sized businesses to help them succeed. She has been honored as one of San Diego’s 2017 Business Women of the Year.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. The most important thing for an entrepreneur to know about branding is that you ARE the brand. Your vision and passion is fueling the company you are starting, so your company brand will usually be defined by your own personal brand. If you are creative and eclectic, your brand will likely be as well. If you are buttoned-up and detail-oriented, expect that your brand will be the same.

2. Monitor Your Reputation. Keep your eye on several online forums for testimonials and reviews. Set up Google Alerts for both your name and company, watch your Yelp or Angie’s List page, and monitor social media by searching for associated #hashtags. If someone has had a poor experience, make it up to them! And if someone is actively sharing a great experience they’ve had, encourage them to continue to advocate for you. Many happy customers will quickly become brand ambassadors if you share your appreciation for their review or referral.

3. Don’t just think about what you offer professionally, but what makes you unique. Is your brand hip and casual? Traditional and trustworthy? Your branding is going to affect every element of your marketing strategy from your website to your wardrobe. Make it count by thoroughly thinking about how you want to be positioned in the marketplace. And most importantly, make sure your brand is authentic. Don’t feign an image that does not come naturally. You cannot be all things to all people, so pick your niche and position yourself accordingly.

Mona Amodeo, Ph.D., Founder & President of idgroup

My Background In Branding

Mona Amodeo holds a Ph.D. in Organization Development and Change and is recognized as an expert in the areas of brand identity, organization development and change, community engagement and sustainable business. Her mission is to elevate brands that make the world a better place through a collaborative, strengths-based stakeholder engagement process she developed. Her new book, Beyond Sizzle: The Next Evolution of Branding, comes out summer 2018.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Next generation leaders require next generation thinking. Gone are the days of running a business on empty promises to satisfy shareholder demands. Today, customers and employees are looking for fulfilment in the brands they choose to endorse, buy from, or work with. Ultimately, control of a brand has shifted away from shareholders, towards stakeholders: all the groups of people with a vested interest in the success of the brand, including customers. This shift in business necessitates that brands — and by extension the entrepreneurs who run them — be purpose-driven and intentional in delivering on their brand’s promise every single day.

Where the term branding was once relegated to page four of a marketing strategy document, it is now quickly becoming the primary focus of all corporate strategies, communications and marketing. Branding is no longer an option, but a necessity. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs struggle with how to successfully choreograph the branding process to impact their brand’s biggest asset in today’s conscious economy: it’s reputation.

Below are three lessons entrepreneurs should know about branding’s role in building successful, impactful businesses.

Don’t just create alignment, build a tribe.

Branding is not about a name or a logo, it’s about defining your brand’s social contract with society and creating alignments that resonate with stakeholders. Aligning your brand’s core purpose with employees will boost engagement, productivity and customer service excellence. Aligning customers’ expectations with matching experiences will bolster brand loyalty. In the end, strong alignments across all levels creates brand-loyal tribes who care about your organization, and what it does, because what it does matters.

The best answers aren’t always behind the biggest desks.

People defend that which they help create. While a leader’s role is to shape the moral compass of their organization, engaging the diverse perspectives of a brand’s stakeholder group has the power to produce visionary strategic directions that are authentic, meaningful and true, and thus, positions organizations as brands that matter to customers, employees and the world. The result is a framework for all branding efforts that defines how brands tell and live their stories authentically to the marketplace.

Celebrate your strengths

Leaders who embrace positive psychology within their organizations thrive. Instead of focusing on what “we’re not doing right,” focus on things that “we do great.” This shift from problem-solving (deficit thinking) to opportunity-mining (appreciative thinking) has the power to open doors, minds and unlock potential and possibility.

Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager, Maple Holistics

My Background In Branding

I am a Digital Marketing Manager and a freelance Marketing Analyst. I specialize in SEO and outreach, as well as contemporary Marketing campaigns. I’m proud to have helped a number of startup companies -

like Maple Holistics — establish their branding. mapleholistics.com.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

#1 — Establish an identity and stick to it. All too often, startup companies feature an excellent product but a sloppy, inconsistent message. Early on in the development process of any company, an identity and a message need to be established which helps to cultivate the tone that the product or service should be delivering. Unfortunately, some companies get the message right but different departments — Marketing and Development, for example — are not in the same page as far as delivering that message. Everyone needs to be on the same page in order for a branding effort to ‘stick.’ #2 — Be unique. It’s important to learn from successful branding campaigns and efforts, but if someone has already been successful doing something a certain way, don’t copy them! Determine the underlying factor that made their campaign successful in the first place — whether it be humor, shock value or heart — and apply that underlying factor to your brand. Learn from others, don’t copy others. #3 — Interact with your audience. One of the most important factors in establishing a trustworthy and like-able brand is in making sure it feels organic, caring and attentive. Social media channels and all avenues of response need to be manned on a daily basis so that customers get real time responses, feedback and help. This will help to ensure that your brand message rings true and, just as importantly, sticks.

Nathan Lustig, Managing Partner, Magma Partners

My Background In Branding

Nathan Lustig is the Managing Partner of Magma Partners, an early stage seed fund with offices in Los Angeles and Santiago, Chile. Nathan write on the international business climate of Latin America at http://www.nathanlustig.com/ and interviews prominent founders and entrepreneurs on his podcast, Crossing Borders.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Your brand is extremely important. It’s what people remember, and it’s the first thing that people encounter when they’re finding your product or service.

If you’re not first you’re last — Ricky Bobby wasn’t 100% right, but he was close. In most markets that touch the internet, which is most of them these days, the biggest brand in a category is at least an order of magnitude larger than the second. Build your brand around a category where you can be #1, not another follower in a larger category. It’s much harder to get people to switch from a known commodity to a new product in the same category, rather than opening up a new category.

Support your first followers by highlighting them. Derek Sivers argues that your first few followers are just as important as the leaders of a movement. Dale Carnegie said, “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Companies can build strong brands by combining these principals by highlighting their first followers by name and making them feel part of the brand.

Brands, like reputations, take years to build and seconds to destroy. Make sure you and your entire team understand that building a brand is a long-term investment that can be ruined by a misstep. Train your team on your mission and company values so that your company culture and brand shines through.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls

My Background In Branding

Paige started global marketing firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA 16 years ago and her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. She is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes and she sits on several boards.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

I started my marketing career at Procter & Gamble in 1990 followed by stints working for the 1996 Olympic Games and becoming Asst. Chief Marketing Officer at Coca-Cola so I have worked with several world-class brands. Today I run a global branding and marketing firm that I created from scratch. A brand is a promise in the hearts and minds of their customers of a consistent experience with the product or service. Here are a few tips from my experience on how to build a strong brand:

Be original. What makes you unique or special?

Be creative. How do you want people to think & feel after interacting with you vs. your competition?

Be honest. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you become the trusted advocate and go-to source.

Be relevant. Brands aren’t created in a vacuum.

Be consistent. Develop a cohesive message, and live it every day.

Be passionate. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting.

Everything communicates, not just your company name, brochure or logo but your business cards, stationery, e-mail signature, invoices, how you present yourself, how quickly you respond to messages, everything. It is a deliberate and holistic process. Names contribute to your brand and in our case I think it has been a major plus. Maven is Yiddish for expert and a Mogul is someone of rank, power or distinction in a specified area. I like the alliteration and I think it sets us apart from other firms. It shows a little personality & attitude and implies we do not take ourselves too seriously. Would you rather hire “”Strategic Marketing Solutions”” or Mavens & Moguls? We are the “”not your father’s Oldsmobile”” of marketing firms. If nothing else our name is a great conversations starter and getting into a conversation is all it takes to open a door.

Patricia Fall, Principal, Fall Media Group

My Background In Branding

For the past 20 years, Patricia Fall has worked in every area of branding and marketing including advertising, design and public relations. Her company, Fall Media Group, focuses on propelling clients to the next level by ensuring that the perception of who they are, what they do, and what they stand for, is effectively aligned with their image and branding.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

SELL YOURSELF AS THE EXPERT

A strong brand tells customers what you stand for and why they should connect with you or your product. What value do you bring to the table? Find your niche, establish your audience, and show off your depth of expertise by writing an article, blog, social media post that drives that message.

BE EVERYWHERE… BUT NOT ALL THE TIME

Frequency and repetition are paramount to developing a successful brand, but too much can alienate your audience. Promote your brand on a consistent basis, but no more than once a day and no less than once a week. Consumers are inundated, so keep it short and simple, and ensure that the messaging and graphics you implement are dynamic and relevant.

IF YOU’VE HIT A PLATEAU, REINVENT YOURSELF

Much of your brand is driven by perception. Consumers are forgiving and thankfully, forgetful. If you’ve hit a wall and you or your product’s appeal has become stale, reinvent it. Simple changes can alter perceptions in an instant.

Renée A. Walker, CEO, RAW BRANDED LLC

My Background In Branding

Renée A. Walker, M.S. is the founder of RAW BRANDED LLC, a marketing and communications company that aims to help creative people and small businesses with a passion and purpose to make their mark through authentic brand building. She has more than 16 years experience in the field of education, which includes communications leadership in a top K-12 private school as well as public and private universities. You can follow Renée @reneewalkerraw.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

“Whether you are watching the tube, listening to the radio, or surfing the web, you’d be hard-pressed not to have heard the word, “”brand.”” With the rise of our celebrity/reality TV/look-at-me culture comes the need for individuals as well as businesses to stand out from the crowd. That’s because each person is a brand, whether this is consciously enacted or not. This notion is particularly important for entrepreneurs who need to juggle being both a personal brand and a business. For today’s entrepreneurs, there are three things that they need to know about branding — authenticity, storytelling, and consistency.

All entrepreneurs need to showcase what they actually bring to the table. We’re not talking about a gimmick or nonsensical jargon. This goes beyond having a competitive factor or personality. Since entrepreneurs are also brands, it’s even more important that they literally “keep it real.” When entrepreneurs authentically convey their values, beliefs, and goals, this truly attracts and resonates with their prospective clients and consumers. Approximately 65% of people that feel an emotional connection to a brand, say it’s because “they care about people like me,” according to a study by Customer Thermometer. There is a level of trust that is established through authentic communications and branding.

Once you authentically define your brand, the world is almost your oyster … almost. Entrepreneurs also need to tell the story behind their brands. As business owners, they are the representatives of their products and services. As a result, it is important for entrepreneurs to forge a connection with the public by being relatable. They should openly share why they found their business as well as any struggles they’ve overcome as ways to humanize their brand … authentically.

Although it is essential that entrepreneurs are authentic and use stories to build a relationship with their audience, this effort won’t be successful if it isn’t done consistently. Entrepreneurs who maintain brand consistency do themselves justice by maintaining the public’s expectations of themselves and their overall brand experience. Hence, you avoid pulling a fast one on your audience and having to do damage control!” https://youtu.be/dLkvTcNb_bU

Rob Wilson, Financial Advisor

My Background In Branding

Rob Wilson is a financial advisor and media personality with a practice helping pro athletes , entertainers and young executives create, grow and protect their wealth.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. It’s not about you. When you’re and entrepreneur and you start branding yourself, the very first thing that you have to realize is it’s not about you. For the most part, no one really cares about “”you.”” What they do care about is whether you have something that can help them. As such, your branding has to be 100% focused on communicating how you will make your customer’s life better.

2. Someone is always watching. Most people think that their “”branding”” ends with their Instagram posts, Tweet or YouTube video. Sure, those things help you brand yourself, but it doesn’t stop there. Whether or not you show up on time for meetings, how you talk to and treat other people, and whether you do quality work are all integral parts of your brand.

You can attempt to curate very best image of yourself, your product and/or service that is humanly possible, but if it’s not backed up by quality and integrity, the time and effort that you put into your branding will have been wasted.

3. Consistency is key. Most successful people will tell you that it takes 10 years (or more) to become an overnight success. The most successful and enduring brands are not the ones that had 1 wildly successful product. They’re the brands that show up day after day, month after month, and year after year with a product or service that people know they can trust and count on.

If you truly want to build a great brand, and therefore a great business, don’t focus on going viral, focus on being consistent.

Sarah Davis Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Fashionphile

My Background In Branding

While in law school, I started selling used clothing and accessories on eBay. I learned quickly that luxury handbags are loved by most women, keep their value better than anything else and are super easy/ safe to ship. Fast forward to last year: we sold over $62 million in used luxury handbags and accessories.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Developing your brand is one of the most important aspects of starting a company. Knowing who you are as a brand is setting up a guidepost that will make many business decisions easy for you. It also make things clear to your customer. Good branding tells your customer know who you are as a business: your look, your personality, your products or services and what they can expect from you. There are three important steps to creating a brand that people will become loyal to. First, know who you are. And you can’t figure out who you are as a business if you don’t know who your customers are. Who is buying what you sell and why? What is unique about that person? Why would they come to you over other alternatives? When you know who you are, then you know your voice and personality. That voice should be the one that your customer feels when they see a social media post, or a brochure, or even the sign on the front of your store or website. Your voice will inform your colors, and your fonts and the images that you use to repent your brand. Second, know who you are not. You can’t be all things to all people. Look at every layout, display, facebook post or logo and ask yourself, “is this (fill in the blank name of your brand)? If it doesn’t speak your voice, don’t use it. Even if it looks amazing! Even if it’s compelling! Even if it would potentially work to sell the thing you are selling. Make it yours, and then use it. Finally, remember that your brand is what you are hoping customers feel an attachment to. Your brand is what you want people to develop a loyalty for. Your brand is not your product. And your brand is not your service. Your brand is bigger than what you do or sell. It is who you are as a company. A well developed brand is one that will not only draw in new customers, and attract new employees but will keep those that you already have. They will become loyal, enthusiastic ambassadors of your brand, without even being asked.

Sarah Sherwood, publicist, communications

My Background In Branding

Along with a successful tenure at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, Edelman Worldwide and Ruder Finn, Sarah Sherwood has been promoting organizations in the well-being, science, and medical industries, and working with top scientists and innovators for over twenty years. Her success and creativity in the field has won the confidence of colleagues in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Most people believe that a brand comes from a grand marketing effort. This is no longer true. A brand is made up of a marketplace response. It comes from your customers. They decide.

How they decide has changed. It’s not like it was in the 1990’s when I started in communications. How does the public now decide if you are a good brand — and what do you need to do to get there? Here are the top three things you need to do as an entrepreneur:

1. Make sure your product or service is so good that you receive dozens of great on line reviews. Begin by asking the questions a publicist would ask you: Step into the real lives of your customers — how does your product or service fit in to their lives and make it work better? How can they tell the world — because on line reviews are very important in 2018. How you can drive reviews? Make it easy for your fans to review you.

2. Make sure you demonstrate your quality or why your customer needs you. Are your case studies easy to find on line? Do you offer free samples? Free consultations? Are people talking about you? What are they saying and how would this feedback be helpful in your communications?

3. Be interesting. Do you have a space in the marketplace? It doesn’t matter how big that space is — you just need to have a clear presence. Today we are asking “”are you disruptive?”” Are you strategically disruptive, in a good way? Are you meeting the needs of your customers in a big way? Then you’ve got a brand, baby.”

Sarah Zurell, Executive Vice President & Chief Brand Officer, Pavemint

My Background In Branding

She started her career as the Brand Manager for Pacific World Cosmetics’ Sensationail PWC and Fingrs & Fuse digital campaigns, where she coordinated over 30K pieces of cross-branded social content, managed organic outreach resulting in over 80M impressions, and helped PWC to shift their entire strategy to highly targeted and cost-effective digital. Following this, she worked as the Head of Content for Google Ventures’ “Strut,” working directly with the CTO to categorize 7K brands and help transform 45% of downloads into daily users (compared to the industry average of 14%). Sarah then moved into the world of tech, becoming the Chief Brand Officer and Executive Vice President of Pavemint, an environmentally conscious web and mobile marketplace that is helping to change the way people park.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1. Ask yourself what your Brand Values are. Without brand values, it is impossible to form a compelling brand. Knowing your brand values will inform and drive every area of branding, from the look to actions you take. For example, with Pavemint, we exist to lower the environmental impact of parking by supporting smarter cities, and connecting people looking for parking with people who have parking to share. Knowing this tells me that my colors should speak to the environment, and my logo should include something that is eye catching and also supports the brand values. Knowing that we also work with cities informs me that we should also lean on the conservative side of messaging and imagery.

2. Be consistent. Great branding is not just pretty logos and colors, it’s also always using the same tagline and language to explain your company or product. Deciding what words you use is an important way to build brand recognition. All images, messaging, voice, and actions should always reflect the same thing tol prevent brand confusion.

3. Be bold and be true to your goals. Your brand is the one thing that will set you apart from the competition. Building trust in your brand will keep your users coming back instead of choosing the competition over you. Making bold marketing, development, or design choices can often make or break you. So be bold, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to fail. Branding is all about instinct and giving people what they want, even when they don’t know they want it. Making bold decisions while remaining true to yourself will allow you to to shine.

Shannon Pratuch, Founder, Scene Marketing Group

My Background In Branding

Shannon Pratuch is the Founder & Owner of Scene Marketing Group. With over 16 years of marketing and public relations experience, Shannon excels at project management, marketing, and public relations. Shannon has won multiple awards for her work and also speak on many topics including small business, social media, and digital marketing.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Your brand needs a guide. Granted, I’ve worked with businesses who have been successfully operating for ten years or more without a brand guide. But I’ll tell you one thing: a clearly outlined brand guide is pure magic and transforms every business when I implement one. Consistency in your brand online and offline is vital and should be a crucial focus in marketing for 2018. There are many great examples of brand guides online, but the basics include your vision, mission, purpose, and promise statements, voice, and personality. Identify your color palette, fonts, logo, and illustration & photography to create consistency across all of your marketing platforms.

Your brand needs a cohesive aesthetic. Bootstrapping your branding is totally doable as long as you have a comprehensive brand guide in place. Use programs like Canva, Adobe Creative Cloud, Fiverr, and 99 Designs to fill in the artwork gaps inexpensively. Even the use of photo editing apps and inexpensive stock photography sites have made the world of brand marketing accessible to most everyone. There is simply no excuse for a sloppy brand aesthetic.

Your brand needs a strategy. Assumptions are a threat to you realizing your business goals. One of my favorite tools as a brand strategist is a project charter. Take a look online, and you’ll likely find a template or two to emulate. Every brand campaign must outline the project objectives, budget, resources, milestones, roles & responsibilities, and success measurements. Finally, as you start work every new marketing project, begin with the foundation of your brand guide and approved artwork to ensure consistency in branding.

Shawna Davis,Agency Owner & Executive Creative Director, All Boats Rise

My Background In Branding

Shawna is a former agency owner and branding expert. Her most notable projects include the Lucky Brand Jeans redesign, influential branding and advertising for the Nissan LEAF and rebranding Nissan Global. As a serial entrepreneur, her focus on branding, idea generation, content development, media, strategy, and innovation has led her to multiple awards and industry firsts.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Branding isn’t in the details. It is the details.

Branding is every touchpoint that a consumer has. It doesn’t end at the brilliant ad campaign. It’s everything from the logo and brand style that sets the tone, to the brand values that you imbue and showcase for the world to see. It’s your website and Instagram feed. It’s the customer service rep on the other end of the phone. Branding is all about details. As such, it should be planned so that all pieces and parts are considered and paid attention to. Branding should not be an afterthought once the product or service is finished, it should be a part of the product or service itself.

Talk to the heart, then the head.

Every entrepreneur believes that their product or service is one of a kind. A snowflake. It’s typically built on features and benefits that differentiate it from the competition. But today’s consumer doesn’t care about these minor feats and increasingly are making buying decisions driven by feelings, rather than logic. The one-two punch here is to give them an emotional hook, answer the “why” behind using your brand instead of just giving them the “what””, then support that with rational points that convince the head.

Find your North Star.

What keeps a brand going is finding the true soul of the company, the value system, the True North for any and all decision making. Decide what you stand for, and then stand for it all the time. Create redundancy and repeat yourself constantly. When everyone inside and out knows what the company stands for, they will project that on the brand and continue to expect more of the same.

Stan Massey, Chief Branding Officer and Partner, RP Marketing

My Background In Branding

For more than 35 years, Stan has been involved in creating, evolving and overhauling brands across the nation. He was on the team that evolved the Owens Corning brand, and has created campaigns to support other national brands including McDonald’s and NAPA Auto Parts. Stan also has been deeply involved in rebranding or renovating brands in the ever-changing healthcare field.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

When establishing your brand, especially if it’s a new brand,

1) Keep it Reality-Based

Would we all like to be the next Apple? Sure, who wouldn’t want that kind of brand recognition and customer loyalty. While it’s good to consider your aspirational goals, the key to good branding is to be true to who you are as a company and what you stand for. More importantly, communicate your brand in terms that are truly meaningful to your audience. What about your brand is important to them? Aligning the strengths of your brand to the benefits it has for its users makes for reality-based credibility and loyalty.

2) Keep it Simple

Communicate your brand in the simplest terms possible; leave the corporate jargon for the boardrooms. If your customers can’t understand what your brand is about, they’re not going to be interested in what you’re selling. Mercedes-Benz is a perfect example of this with their positioning of “The best or nothing.” Short, sweet and to the point. The customer knows exactly what Mercedes-Benz is as a brand and what they stand for with just four words.

3) Keep it Consistent … and Repeat it Often

A good rule of thumb is that a person needs to see an ad at least seven times before they’ll remember it. If you’re constantly changing your branding, your customers will have whiplash trying to decide who you are and what your company stands for. Develop strong brand standards and stick to them, every time. But consistency and repetition don’t have to mean boring. GEICO is a great example of a company that can have several different and creative campaigns going at one time, but they all drive home the same message: “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance.” “

Stephanie David, CEO and Founder, POPNOD

My Background In Branding

Stephanie David is the CEO and founder of POPNOD, a global marketing and branding studio that champions women-led businesses. Stephanie leads teams in the U.S. and Australia to help brands attract customers and build loyal fans in a way that has measurable impact across multiple platforms. Stephanie was selected by Business News Daily as one of “10 Female Entrepreneurs Who Inspired Us in 2013”​ and has been featured on Inc., ABC News, Good Morning America, Entrepreneur, BBC, Washingtonian Magazine, and by Forbes contributor Devin Thorpe.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

Having the right customers who are willing to listen to you, perhaps buy from you, and (OMG) talk about you, is the holy grail of branding. It sounds difficult, but here are three simple questions that I ask other entrepreneurs who are trying to grow their businesses:

1. What is your personal story?

Your personal story may sound irrelevant for your business, but it is what makes you memorable, and provides the foundation for your brand. Think Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or any other successful business leader. You’ll probably remember their story more than how their business was started. It provides depth and purpose to your business besides just making money. What sounds better: “I grew up not having much, overcame challenges to become successful, and now I want to help kids stay out of trouble” or “No need to hear my story, but my business wants you as a customer because we need to make money”?

2. Who will want to hear your story?

Identifying your audience is not only critical for your brand, but also for your product or service. While you might have heard the term “product-market fit”, it really means: who will shell out money to buy your product or service? Customers want products or services crafted perfectly for them. While making a product or service that is perfect for everyone is not possible, it is key to make that audience whom the product IS perfect for feel special.

3. How does your audience want to hear your story?

With the multitude of communications channels out there, both online and offline, I often hear “Should I be on Facebook? What about Snapchat? What about LinkedIn?” Well, I always go back to question #2. Depending on your audience and where they are, that’s the channel you want to use. If you can’t figure it out, it’s likely that your audience isn’t defined enough. It’s ok to pick a small niche and grow from there. It’s not ok to market to everyone and hope something will stick.

Just remember, branding isn’t a goal, it’s the journey. You’ll be constantly refining your story, your audience, and your channels. That’s the only way to grow.”

Ted Persson, Design/UX/Brand Partner, EQT Ventures

My Background In Branding

Ted Persson is EQT Ventures’ Operating Partner and expert of product design, user experience and branding. During his 21 year career, Ted has been a co-founder of a handful of startups, as well as some of Europe’s most awarded digital marketing and branding agencies, where he worked with some of the world’s leading brands and startups to develop their products and grow their business.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

When it comes to branding, entrepreneurs should always keep in mind that stories beat facts. We’re storytelling animals and we try and fit whatever data and experiences we have into a narrative. So, while builders, engineers and designers usually think from a functional perspective when creating a product or service, the marketing needs to move away from the features — the what — and into the why. You have to connect with people on an emotional level.

The word branding originates from branding cattle and being able to differentiate your animals from everyone else’s, so how are you going to make your company or product stand out?

Acting differently is important — consider what’s going to be distinct, funny, quirky and easily recognizable. It can be tempting for entrepreneurs to be drawn into the same box or category that everyone else is in so you feel like you belong rather than being a disruptive outsider.

Finally, look into cognitive biases. Many of them are like small storytelling hacks you can use to strengthen the leverage of your story even further.

Thom Long, Owner/Creative Director, IdeaCo.

My Background In Branding

Thom has close to twenty years experience as an inter-disciplinary creative. He is the founder and Creative Director of IdeaCo., a boutique branding and ideation studio. He has led multiple design teams in NY and Boston, featuring clients such as Elizabeth Arden, Gucci, Related Properties, Starwood Hotels, Marriott, Sofitel, Iron Chef Jose Garces, Berkshire Brewing Co. and Loews Hotels. Thom is also an associate professor of Architecture + Design at Hampshire College.

Top 3 Things an Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Branding

1) As an entrepreneur, it’s natural to see your brand as an extension of yourself at first, but you have to ask yourself if that’s sustainable in the long term, and if it is — do you even want it? Are you all in forever, or do you want to exit eventually? What happens if for some unfortunate reason, you’re removed from your post at the helm or god forbid, die? Does the brand live on, or does it tank because you’re no longer associated with it? Look at the empires of Paula Deen or Harvey Weinstein. Conversely, look at Apple and Ford. Craft a brand that suits your future vision and goals.

2) A brand is a living thing, a system of interconnected parts that grows and evolves, and need to be assessed from time to time. Don’t take it personally when it comes time to re-evaluate it. Never let it get so precious that you’re not open to change or moving it forward. Times change, people change, consumer preferences change. Why should your brand stay the same? If you’re willing to entertain new operations processes, new manufacturing techniques, or creating new customer experiences, you should also be willing to do the same for your brand.

3) I really admire entrepreneurs because they have to believe in the unique, life-affirming qualities of their product or services no matter how many similar products or services are in the market already. They have a really deep well of faith that people care about what they’re doing. Most consumers don’t care. They shop on price, on trend, for social affirmation, or because they like the packaging. Your brand should communicate to a consumer everything they need to see or know as simply as possible. Don’t make them work too hard, too long for it. You’re assuming they care about it like you care about it, and I can guarantee you they don’t. Make the payoff quick and clear. Preferably without a ton of copy.”