How to make your brand stand out (and make people actually care about it)

You know what just breaks my little heart? 

Smart organizations that are truly making a difference in the world-- but that just can’t seem to get anyone to care.

And 9 times out of 10? Their brand is to blame.

Just to be clear, when I say “brand,” I’m not talking about your logo. Your brand isn't just your visual identity. It's the heart and soul of your organization-- the story it tells, the feelings it evokes, the perception people have about it. 

Now, if you’re thinking: “We don't have (or need) a brand,” listen up: if you have a business, you have a brand-- whether you’ve purposely created it or not. And if you haven’t purposely created it? Chances are, it’s not doing a very good job of standing out. So here's how to fix that.

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1. Know your target audience

Yep, I'm talking about your target audience again. Here's why.

You know the old adage, “When you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.” Well, the same is true in branding. When you try to appeal to the masses, you end up being neutral.




And an ignorable brand is not a successful brand.  

Because the fact is: if you don’t know who you’re talking to, you won’t know how to talk to them. And if you don’t know how to talk to them, they won’t care what you have to say.

The words you use, the benefits you highlight, the whole ethos of your brand will either attract or repel people. If you don’t know who exactly you’re trying to attract, you won’t know how to attract them-- which means you risk repelling them.

Which, needless to say, isn’t great for your organization.

So how do you do it?

You get specific about who, exactly, you're talking to.

Take me as an example. My target clients are executives and communications directors of purpose-driven organizations that are solving the challenges of the future. Think: tech, health, education, environment, etc. My ideal hiring manager is smart, creative, passionate and optimistic, but doesn’t take things too seriously.

If I want to attract these kinds of clients, my brand should reflect my ideal client’s values. The way I write, the language I use, even my brand’s visual identity, should all appeal to this specific person.

That’s not to say that you should explicitly say who you’re trying to attract in your copy, but the way you position your organization should have your ideal audience feeling like you’re talking directly to them-- and no one else.

2. Create a strong (and authentic) brand voice

Boring communications means ignorable communications, and if your communications are ignorable, you might as well not be communicating at all.

Which is why you need a strong, clear brand voice.

Now, there’s some confusion about brand voice. Most people would say that your brand voice is “the way your business talks.” But that only tells half the story.

Your brand voice isn’t just what you say, it’s your brand’s personality. It’s not just the words your brand uses, it’s what your brand believes in. What it likes, and doesn’t like. It’s your brand’s values, its philosophy.

And to have a successful brand, you need a strong brand voice that appeals to your ideal audience.

Two words of warning though:

“Appealing to your ideal audience” does not mean “being something you’re not.” If you're an old-school, buttoned-up corporation, having quirky, tongue-in-cheek web copy will just come off as contrived (and, quite honestly, confuse the hell out of your equally buttoned-up customers.)

Another thing to note: a “strong” brand voice is one that's clear and distinct, not necessarily one that's outgoing or powerful. If your brand’s personality is caring and understated, your brand voice should reflect that. Being unapologetic about what your brand stands for doesn’t have to mean being loud and overpowering-- you can be strong while still being soft.  

Basically, when it comes to brand voice, just make sure you’re keepin’ it real. Communicating in an inauthentic way is not only exhausting for you, but it’s also obvious to your audience. If you know who your ideal audience is-- and know what your brand is and what it stands for-- your voice will come naturally.

3. Practice unwavering consistency

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see weak brands making: they are all over the place.

Their vision is one thing, but their offerings are something else entirely. Their web copy is bubbling with personality, but their Facebook page posts are comatose. Their logo screams INNOVATIVE!, but their graphics are corporate stock photos of men in pleated pants (yep, totally judging that look.)

It seems superficial, but here's the truth:

Inconsistent branding makes your organization look unprofessional.

The brands that stand out are the ones that are instantly recognizable across platforms. Their visual identity, voice, content topics, and social media accounts are all aligned. Their brand is evident in everything they do-- from their blog, to their homepage, to their Instagram account, to their contact form. Their messaging is focused, with one core idea that drives all of their content.

So how do you get there?

Start with your positioning: who you are, what you do, who you do it for and what they get from it. Those four points are the foundation for everything else. Without them, your brand has no hope of being consistent.

Next, do a mini-self audit across all of your organization's communications by asking these questions:
Is it clear who we're for?
Is it clear what problem we solve?
Is it clear how we solve it?
Is it clear who we are and what we stand for?

The goal here is that anyone landing on your homepage or profiles should know within about 10 seconds whether or not your organization is for them: whether you can give them what they're looking for, whether they like your organization's “personality,” whether they agree with your philosophy. If you’ve worked through the steps above, your ideal audience will stick around-- and your less-than-ideal audience will go somewhere else.

4. Be unapologetic about your philosophy

“Wait!” you say. “I don’t want people to go somewhere else! I need all the audience I can get!"

I know it’s scary-- but it’s also necessary.

Remember, your brand is your organization’s personality. And let’s face it, certain personalities attract certain kinds of people-- and repel others. Your brand should act as a magnet and a filter: attracting the kinds of people you want associated with your organization, and only those types of people.

And the most effective way to do that is with your brand philosophy.

Successful brands are unapologetic about who they are and what they stand for. That’s why they stand out: they make a statement that can’t be ignored. Some people love that statement, others hate it, but no one is indifferent to it.

Your brand philosophy-- what your organization believes in-- is that statement. Your philosophy should make it clear why you do what you do, and, more importantly, why your ideal audience should care.

Because that's how your organization becomes successful: you don’t just build a list of clients or donors, you build fans who see themselves in your brand. You build a tribe of people who believe in your vision. 

That’s why an unapologetic brand philosophy is so important: it makes your ideal audience look at your organization and say, “Me too.”

So stop worrying about repelling people and start focusing on the kinds of people you actually want to engage with as an organization. 

Because when you attract your ideal audience, you attract the kinds of people who share your vision.

And when you manage to pull enough of those people together?

You make can make that vision a reality. 

[Need some help creating a brand that makes people care? Let's chat! Contact me to set up a free consultation.]