What Does your Brand Mean?

brand have meaningsA Brand is about meaning.

For an entrepreneur or small business owner, the most important part of your brand is you. Your brand shines when it is aligned with what you want to give and what you want to be known for – and what that is resonates with people and makes them hungry for what you have.

People don’t buy products they buy meanings. Your brand has to have meaning in your public’s mind.

It is this meaning that acts like a magnet to attract your clients or customers. What your brand means to them is what makes them pick you from all the other options they have!

The art of “Positioning” is managing what is in peoples’ minds when they think of your brand. My experience in monitoring thousands of brands over 30 years is that perspective is reality!

What people think, whether or not it is true, determines their behavior – whether they buy from you. Their perception is your reality.

What does your brand mean to people?  

What do they say about it?

Small business owners often don’t take the time to find out whether what they think their brand promises or stands for does, in fact, line up with what people think.

They are more attuned to thinking about what they do – their products, their processes, their production, their service – rather than what people see and think about them.

Everyday demands push other priorities to the front, so business owners end up too busy to do the research on their market and their audience. At the same time, the increasingly competitive, constantly evolving marketplace has enormous potential to influence people’s perceptions and understanding of their brand.

So many business owners end up having to wing it, and never really get to know the perception people have of their brand. As a result, when it comes to articulating exactly what their brand means to the people they are trying to serve, most small business owners can’t do it reliably.

What’s the trick to making a brand meaningful? Focus on outcomes, not outputs.” ~Morgan Clendaniel

At the beginning of each year business owners work on their strategic plans, business plans, budgets, marketing plans – but few bother to work out their brand plan for the year. They do themselves a disservice.

Marketing, however well planned, without a brand plan is like shooting in the dark. They may get many people to hear or see them, but have no control over the impression and perceptions people walk away with. How then can the business owner predict or control the business they will be able to do?

Brands are like people. They have personalities and character and they change over time. Strong brands do, at least. They adapt in response to the market and to social and technological trends, and they reflect the shifting issues and concerns of their customers.

It’s never too late to work on your brand plan, which should start with a good positioning statement.

A brand positioning statement is the result of deep and meaningful thought about what you want to be known for. It is a succinct declaration of what you want in the minds of your prospects when they hear your brand name.

Grab your notebook, notepad or even a napkin and write down your positioning statement:

  • Your brand name, the category, business or industry you are in
  • Who your target customer is
  • What needs they have now
  • What outcome only your brand offers – the unique and compelling point of difference your brand has over competitors
  • What this means for them
  • What your “proof of promise” is – why your target should believe you can deliver the benefits

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Two important steps left:

  1. Check in with yourself and make sure your answers are aligned with what you want to give and what you want to be known for. Does your brand positioning reveal what you stand for?
  2. Check all your marketing and sales materials, social media, and advertising to ensure they reflect this positioning statement.

Are you proud of what your brand means?

Does it reflect you, your Genie, what you are proud of?


Author: Sue Hines

  1. maxwell iveymaxwell ivey07-31-2014

    hi sue; you are right most of us don’t spend enough time planning our brand strategy. for me the idea of being called mr. midway came from forum members discussing a roller coaster. and my new site being the blind blogger came from the fact that several of my friends on blogging groups refer to me that way. some friends have said that maybe i shouldn’t have picks a url that emphasizes me being blind. not sure but its stuck and its getting good traffic. just don’t know if the name will lead to getting coaching or public speaking work. thanks, max

    • Sue HinesSue Hines08-01-2014

      Max, you raise an interesting point – naming is an important aspect of branding – but it is by no means the most vital. It all depends on what you do with the brand and how you develop its character. Consistency and credibility are crucial in developing the brand – more important than the name even. I would think that whether theblindblogger name will get you coaching or public speaking work depends on how you aim the arrow and how you follow through. Best of luck, Max.

  2. Laurie S HurleyLaurie S Hurley07-31-2014

    I am proud of my brand, because my brand is definitely me! I am always tweaking it and have stepped into a more powerful role of late in my own business. Many shifts happening, but the focus will always be on how I represent myself, thus my services. Good insights, as always!

    • Sue HinesSue Hines07-31-2014

      A brand is a living thing. there is always something happening that means we need to actively manage it. Best of luck with this new phase, Laurie.

  3. It’s often the case that there is a disconnect between a company’s brand — what it wishes to be known for — and its positioning — what its stakeholders actually believe about the company. Small businesses can’t usually afford formal research. But they can certainly ask their clients — why did you hire us, what did we offer that you felt you couldn’t get elsewhere, and, most important, how could we do better? Where did your perceptions of us clash with the reality.

    Business owners are afraid to do this — but clients actually enjoy being part of the process. If you’re afraid to ask, then something is wrong in the relationship.

    • Sue HinesSue Hines07-30-2014

      You got it, Jeanette. Just take the time to ask – and to listen, very carefully! 🙂

  4. William ButlerWilliam Butler07-30-2014

    Hi Sue,
    Very well stated… their perception is your reality. Reactions do alter outcomes,
    This post is very sage advice, especially for those who need to drill down and gain clarity. I’ll be sharing this.

    Kind Regards,

    • Sue HinesSue Hines07-30-2014

      Bill, love the image of “drilling down to gain clarity.” It brings in the determined action of the process it takes to get really clear and reminds me of the quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes something along the lines of: “I am sorry this letter is so long. It would have been shorter if I had had more time.”

      • William ButlerWilliam Butler08-01-2014

        Hi Sue,
        Thanks for that line by Mark Twain. It reminds us to state succinctly what we communicate.

  5. Lisa VoncinoLisa Voncino07-29-2014

    Great topic, Sue. I think that as a solo entrepreneur, branding has alot to do with your persona. In larger companies, the brand is separate in many ways from the individuals working for the company.

    • Sue HinesSue Hines07-30-2014

      So right, Lisa, but that highlights precisely where larger companies tend to lose brand power – when they forget that every person IS the brand. When a powerful brand message is thoroughly “encultrated” through the business so everyone truly feels” the brand, real magic happens. Think back over Avis’ “we try harder” phase and FedEx’s “overnight”. In both cases, the employees were fully empowered to own the brand.

  6. Susan CooperSusan Cooper07-29-2014

    That is true…people don’t buy products they buy meanings. We’ll gravitate towards Nordstrom because in everybody’s mind it is engrained that Nordstrom = Best in class customer service or towards Southwest Airlines because we immediately equate them with being the low cost airline. So as small businesses it is important that we too look at how the public perceives us based on our brand.

    • Sue HinesSue Hines07-30-2014

      Nice examples, Susan. The intersection between “my intent” and “How they see me” is the brand’s point-of-power. If you don’t know where that point of power is, it is hard to leverage.

  7. jacquiegumjacquiegum07-29-2014

    Too often people don’t know the difference between outcomes and output! At least that has been my experience. So I was grateful to see that defined in your bullet points. On the mark…great advice.

    • Sue HinesSue Hines07-30-2014

      Thanks Jacquie. Your brand aims its dart at “own your stuff!” – an outcome we all strive for.

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