Many texts on building a brand will start by focusing on creating a logo. That’s not what we’re going to be beginning with however as actually the logo you end up creating will be heavily informed by your mission statement and your values (as well as your industry).
As we’ve touched on briefly already, it is your values and goals that will truly unify all your activities, products and services. These values should be at the core of everything you do as a business because that is what’s going to ensure that you stand out from the crowd and that’s what’s going to create the consistency that your customers and clients can rely on.
Apple’s Values Statement and Why They are Successful
To go back to Apple again (why not, they are fantastic at branding after all), it’s clear from looking at their products that they have some very specific values and goals. They are trying to bring products to market that make technology personal, accessible, fashionable and cool. At the same time, they clearly believe very strongly in making things that are high quality, that work well every time and that feel like they’re made of good materials.
On top of all this, Apple has a track record of inventing the products we ‘didn’t know we needed’. They don’t make a diverse variety of different products but the new products they do introduce often create entirely new product category.
It’s no exaggeration to say that it is this ultimately that has made Apple successful. Because of those values and those goals, every product that Apple has made has created a huge storm and the experience that customers have had with those products has been hugely positive. As a result, the brand has gone from strength to strength and when people see that little white apple logo, they know that it represents all those things: quality, innovation, reliability, fashion and more. Some Apple fans are actually verging on being obsessive in their appreciation of Apple and will actively seek to get as many of their products as possible simply because they feel that they too share these values.
Of course you are not Steve Jobs and your company is not Apple. It’s unlikely you’re going to gain quite the recognition or quite the clout that Apple has. And you probably don’t have the range of products, or the budget of Apple – you’re going to have to set your sights a little lower most likely.
Still though, simply by having a commitment to doing what you do better than anyone else, you can still make a splash and impress everyone you do business with. If you run a website for instance, then focus on making sure that the content you publish is always funny, or always more in-depth and thoroughly researched than the competition. Set yourself apart by delivering something that people can’t get elsewhere.
Likewise, think about your long-term goals. Why did you get into this business in the first place? Which aspects of it make you truly excited? Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
This is where a lot of people might be scratching their heads and thinking ‘I just want to get rich’. That’s a legitimate response but you’re probably going to have to go a little deeper if you really want to resonate with your audience. Why did you get into this business in the first place as opposed to another? What is it that you do well that makes you think that you can stand out from the crowd and succeed?
If you’re still scratching your head and thinking that you chose this business model because it was easier or because it was ‘there’, or that you’re simply going through the motions and not really bringing anything new to the table… then you need to sit down and reassess your whole business model. This is important not only so that you can create a strong brand but also so you can succeed generally. Find that ‘extra something’ you can offer and then come back to this process.
Now you have a good idea of what your goal is and of what sets you apart, you can consider writing down your mission statement in order to formalize that in a bite-sized chunk.
The objective of a mission statement is to answer the simple question: ‘what do you do?’. At the same time though, you should think of this as a promise to your customers/clients and as a way to share your values.
When answering the question ‘what do you do’, remember that the answer is not ‘make hats’. Here the trick is to focus on your ‘value proposition’ which means honing in on what it is that you do to create value. Instead of ‘making hats’ then, your mission statement would be something along the lines of:
‘Keeping heads warm in a stylish manner that builds confidence’
Much more inspiring!
Mission statements are generally very short with the average being somewhere between 20 and 25. The very shortest is probably from TED which is simply: ‘Spreading ideas’.
Some other examples of mission statements include:
Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and social injustice.
Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Microsoft: To help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.
Coca-Cola: To refresh the world, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, to create value and make a difference
Note that your mission statement is not likely to be something that you use outwardly to promote your brand but versions of it will go on your website and may be used to help motivate and inspire your staff. It will certainly help to write something down before moving forward.
Before you go any further, you will also need a name for your company/website. If you already have a name that you’re happy with, then you can skip past this chapter. Otherwise, this can be a stumbling block for many people so it’s worth taking some time to think about.
When choosing a company name you need to make sure that what you come up with is going to be unique and that it’s going to be memorable. At the same time it should also describe something about your business and/or about your goals and your attitude.
It’s also useful – especially if you are creating a blog as your business – to choose a name that is going to be at least somewhat descriptive of what it is you do.
If you think about some of the biggest brands in the world then you might find that this isn’t really the case. ‘Apple’ is hardly the name you would instantly associate with computers, ‘Virgin’ is certainly not a name that says much about what that company does and ‘Nike’ is just a completely random jumble of letters.
In these cases, the company name is more about creating a ‘feel’ that speaks to the attitude of the business. ‘Apple’ suggests different and ‘fresh’. ‘Virgin’ suggests youthful, playful and not afraid to ruffle feathers. ‘Nike’ is strong and simple, just like the logo. Look for words that are evocative and descriptive and make sure you pick something that reflects well on your business.
While you can pick a company name that evokes the kind of attitude you want to be known for, it does often help to choose something descriptive simply because you won’t have the marketing clout of those big companies. If your website is a tool for people to measure their fitness and you call yourself ‘FitnessStatTracker’ then you won’t need to explain what your company is about and it will be easier for people to search for you. Of course you could make this more stylish by shortening it to ‘Fit, Stat, Track’ or ‘FitStatTrack’.
You might also choose to use a description right in your company name: for instance ‘Jumping Jack Apple Juice’ or ‘Futuro Web Design’. This way you still get the abstract appeal of a non-descriptor but you also tell people what your site or business is about.
Another option is to pick one name for your website and another name for your company. That way you might have a website called ‘Getting Rich is Fun’, run by a company called ‘Catfish Content’. This can help you to branch out in future and has a number of advantages but it also comes with some drawbacks. A good example of a company with multiple brands would be Microsoft which is a brand in itself, as is Windows and Xbox. In Microsoft’s case this has been quite useful as the Xbox brand has managed to avoid some of the flack that often gets leveled at Redmond.
There are a few more things to bear in mind for your company name.
One is memorability: how easily will people be able to remember your company name or website? This is particularly true if you want to get direct traffic by people typing your URL into their browser. If your name isn’t memorable, try something else.
At the same time, you should ask yourself how easy it’s going to be to promote that particular company name. These days, if you were to try and market yourself as ‘Virgin’ or ‘Apple’ you would have a heck of a time getting to the top of Google.
Think about it: if you tried to perform SEO (search engine optimization) for a website called ‘Apple’ today without any of the companies clout, you’d have to beat every single diet blog, every single store selling apples and more. This is another good reason why something like ‘Catfish Content’ is smarter than just ‘Catfish’. Good luck becoming the first thing people think of when they hear the word ‘Catfish’.
Of course you also need to make sure there isn’t another company out there trading under the name you’re thinking of.
You may wish to use your own name to trade under – which makes a lot of sense for a personal brand. We’ll look more at the strengths and weaknesses of going this direction later. Bear in mind though that you can still create a personal brand without that having to be the name of your business or website.
Finally, think about your initials. This is important a) to avoid an embarrassing acronym (it’s also worth checking what your name means in other languages!) and b) because letters at the start and end of the alphabet will be easier to find in lists. That latter point shouldn’t be a big determining factor when you choose your name but it is something to keep in mind.
Once you have the name for your website and/or business, the next thing you need to do is to get web hosting and a URL which will give people a way to find you.
This might also influence your decision when picking a name for yourself – as if yourname.com is taken, you might want to try looking elsewhere.
At the same time as getting a domain name, you’ll also want to get yourself a hosting account. Essentially, a hosting account stores your files online while the domain name redirects browsers to them when someone types in that particular address.
You will often be able to choose a domain name when you buy your hosting. While there are plenty of good hosting options out there (feel free to do your research), one of the best by far is BlueHost which has all the features that you could need starting out. Head over to BlueHost.com and search for available domains while picking your company name.