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Brand Identity: The Secrets of Successful 21st Century Brands

As Dylan once wrote, Times Are A Changing… or as I like to look at it, times are evolving.

We might be 12 years into this new century, but people are quite slow on the uptake. Businesses of all kinds are being left behind. They’re clinging to the 20th century like the bad guy in Die Hard clings to the window.

My questions is WHY? Why would you cling to the past when the present is so good?

Why would you not embrace being a modern thinker? Why would you not join in and be a 21st Century Brand?

Maybe you are a 21st Century Brand. Then again, maybe you’re not sure about your brand identity. I guess we will soon find out…

A 21st Century Problem

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but competition is tough. We live in an age of low barriers of entry and ideas a plenty. Not only that, but we have the means to make these dreams reality.

Of course, all generations had this, but it wasn’t available to the masses like it is today.

Writers can publish all by themselves.

Inventors can crowd source their ideas and raise capital.

The once expensive shop can now set up online for around $50.

This is amazing…sort of. It’s great to have choice, but we have too much. You have a huge task on your hand. You not only have to come up with a great idea and make an exceptional product, but you need a Brand Identity that stands out.

Don’t worry, help is at hand. But before that, let’s first look at the differences between the mean old 20th Century and the swanky new 21st.

20th v 21st Thinking

Simply put, the 20th Century provided us with monologues. Marketers of yesteryear spoke at us. They were static, passive, and in your face.

Compare that to the 21st Century, and we have dialogues. We now have brand identities that converse with us. They’re interactive, vibrant, and standing outside of your bubble.

I’m a millennial, and I can assure you, it’s the latter we prefer. We’re a world of searchers. We don’t sit and wait for a product, but head online and search for it.

We find answers to the questions we have.

We set our standards high.

We don’t allow ourselves to be manipulated by every Tom, Dick & Harry.

The Role Of A Brand Identity Story

Would you like to know what I enjoy? I love creating stories. I like to think of myself as a storyteller. Sometimes this is through Fictional writing, but sometimes it’s via Branding.

For me, we live in a world of stories.

This is what a Brand Identity Story is all about. It takes those amazing ideas, elements, and antidotes, and builds something that connects YOU with YOUR audience.

  • It immerses your reader
  • It connects with them on a deep level
  • It adds depth to the relationship

We all have a story to tell. When you began your company you had a dream. When you began this crazy journey you had aspirations.

This is the heart of your story, but it doesn’t stop here. It includes the colours you choose, the font, the design, the voice, the style, and the message you so carefully craft.

All these things are uniquely YOU. If told properly, you can educate, involve, and excite your audience. This is how you stand out from an ever growing crowd!

How To Tell Your Story?

First of all, the story you create is unique to YOU. I will offer my own tips, but make sure you tailor them around YOU. This is how to create a Brand Story that will change the world.

Before I do that however, let me first tell you what a Brand Story IS NOT:

  • A Business Plan
  • A Marketing Strategy
  • A Communication Plan
  • A stack of paper to keep your door open in summer

A Brand Identity Story is built around YOU. As such, it can be used every day.

It helps your employees understand your vision. It helps your audience understand what you do. It helps YOU stay focussed as time takes you by the scruff of the neck.

Know Your Vision

I believe any good business needs a solid set of Foundations. The heart and soul of your Foundations – and therefore Business – is your Vision, Mission & Core Values.

Your Vision is the What you plan to do and Why you want to do it

Your Mission is the How you will do this

You Core Values are Who you are.

If you can truly understand these aspects of your Brand, you can build a story that matters. This isn’t rocket science. It involves looking deep within and understanding what you’re doing.

Humanise Your Brand Identity

People buy from people. Even B2B companies are in the consumer game. After all, the person on the other end of the phone is human, right?

As such, Brands need to be human. We want to deal with Brands that have human traits. We desire affection, understanding, and conversation.

We don’t want to be sold to. We want to engage with. Make your Brand Story as human as possible. Consider your favourite novel…the lead character felt real, right? You could practically see them, smell them, and connect with them

Your Brand Story should achieve this, too.

Make The Message Count

Your message is important. As a reader of this Blog, I’m sure you’re well versed in marketing. Therefore you know the importance of perception. A solid message can make people see you in a manner you want to be seen in.

Get this wrong and things become rather hard further down the line.

Your message should align with your Vision, Mission & Core Values. It should also align with your style and everything else you create. If you don’t hit your message out of the park, your Brand Story will only achieve so much.

Include Your Audience

If you’re in the lucky position of already having an audience, involve them in your Brand Story.

Ask their advice

Ask them to contribute

Ask them to be part of the entire process

We only have to look as far as Danny. The Naked Marketing Book is crowd funded. He shares excerpts with us, asks our opinions, and makes us feel part of the process.

Can you utilise Kickstarter or a Facebook Group or a specially created forum?

Get Outside Help

The final tip is to get outside help. This doesn’t mean a consultant, company or coach, but someone close to you like a fellow entrepreneur, business owner, or friend.

Ask them what they think of your company. What comes to mind when they see your logo, hear your jingle, or come across your Brand in passing. Is there any brand association at play? Don’t forget about brand consistency: does it align with what you intend? Is it the story you wish to tell?

A Brand Story will not bring overnight success. What it will do is bring clarity. It will make your Brand more human, engage your customers, and showcase your passion to employees, customers, and anyone else who comes across you.

20th Century Brands are clinging onto dear life. They keep pushing messages at us and expecting us to react the same as we did in 80’s. Try as hard as you like old school gurus, but the world is evolving.

Will you be part of it?

Some Examples

Before I leave you to create your own Brand Identity Story, I would like to share some I love. I’m sure you will be aware of some, but others maybe new.

Will these stories be right for you? No…you’re unique and have your own story to tell.

But you can take inspiration. You can embrace the world we live in and let go of the edge.

Now, over to you. Do you have any favorite brand identity stories that might be inspiring to the rest of us? Care to share?

About Matthew Turner

Matthew Turner (aka Turndog Millionaire) is a Strategic Marketer & author of both fiction & non-fiction. He helps innovative entrepreneurs create brand stories built for the 21st century.

25 comments

  1. P.S. Turndog Millionare,
    I so wanted to tweet this post, facebook it, and anything else I could do to get it out there. I am not finding the means to do that and maybe I am missing it. If it is here, show me the way because this post should be seen.

  2. Hi Turndog Millionare! (Matthew)
    An excellent post that I have been looking to read for quite some time. No matter what business or niche you might be in, it is all about the brand. Some businesses use their own name as their brand, if it fits, like anthonymorrison.com. It fits. Everyone who is looking for his mentorship and guidance would be searching his name. However, other businesses do not fit that model. If I used my name for my business site, it would not tell you one thing about what my site offers. It is a case of what fits the scenario, not what you are trying to hide. If you have an about us page, that is where you find out about the people/company behind the site. You can go to my site, (a perfect example of this) and understand why I would like to be able to use my brand, not my name. Kudos to you for writing this post 🙂

    1. Thanks for the kind words, and agreed. Sometimes your name is fine, other times not 🙂

      As for your question below, there is a Twitter/Facebook tab on the left side of the page. It floats along your screen. Do you see this?

      Matthew

  3. GOOD POST> I would add FINANCING or CREDIT to the list.

    This is the one thing that gives these successful brands the biggest advantage over eveyone else. Just think how well your message would get across with Coca-Cola’s budget?

    1. It is true, money does play a massive role. The more you have the better your opportunities are.

      However, money only does so much. I believe the mindset is more important. You need the right outlook, the inovation, the creativity…without this money does very little.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jacko

  4. Great article Matthew. It astounds me how many business are “clinging” on to the 20th century! I loved your article but I would offer one modification:
    Your Vision is the What you plan to do and HOW you want to do it,
    Your Mission is WHY your business exists,
    You Core Values are Who you are.
    WHY you exist should be something un-changing and ever-reaching. It is the center of your business universe for you and your customers. Regardless of What you do today, What you do tomorrow, or How you do it – your WHY governs it all.

    1. Interesting thoughts, Steve

      I feel it’s because Why is unchanging that it’s part of the Vision. For me, your vision should remain constant, whereas your missions may differ over time (slightly)

      As I say though, it’s an interesting outlook. Thanks for the thoughts 🙂

      Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  5. Great post, Matt! I learned a lot of new things and you reminded me a lot of other things to do to. Your tip on ‘humanizing your brand’ is a great one that I think companies don’t do enough with. Like you said, “After all, the person on the other end of the phone is human, right?” Seeming anonymous to your customers gives off a ‘sketchy’ vibe that should really be avoided at all costs. Let your customers get to know you and they’ll be more wiling to choose you over your competition.

    Thanks for the great tips!

  6. I don’t think “centuries” have a damned thing to do with anyone’s “today” thinking–20th vs 21st = bullshit/no-meaning/no-relevance/not ‘with it’. Thinking, ‘mores’, values, interests, what works, what doesn’t work, what’s real, what’s not really relevant , what I, we, each and every one of us really need (and aspire to) SUCCESS as defined by each and every one of us individually. And while ‘success’ may be and probably is significantly influenced by the ‘age/century’ in which we live, that in turn, is influenced and pretty much controlled by the overall cultural values of the (any given) time. Obviously, anyone can verify this by a study of history.

  7. Good morning, Matt.
    Oh, if only I could get some of the businesses in my area to read this post. They’re not even stuck in the 20th century – I’m having difficulty persuading them to come out of the 18th century!

    Would you believe in this day and age I still come across the ‘We rely on passing trade for our business, so the internet wouldn’t work for us’ mentality every day – several times a day/
    Biting back the bitchiness, I blunder forth with – ‘Oh, so you wouldn’t prefer them to come in and take a look round in the off chance they might buy?’ or maybe ‘ But don’t you think there might be more people passing if you put yourself out there in the world for all to see, hear, know and like?’ (that’s usually my starting point in the day – I deteriorate with exasperation over the first few hours!).

    But I should add, mine is the fervour of a new convert. Until the beginning of this year I barely knew how to switch on a computer, let alone use it to market my business. And it’s thanks to the likes of you and Danny that I am beginning to get the hang of curbing my criticism of others and promoting a better brand!

    Kind regards,
    L

    1. Hey Linda, I feel the frustration

      It’s tough, but there are people out there who embrace this modern world we live in. We just have to find them 🙂 (easy, right?)

      And you are the perfect example. You didn’t embrace but now you do. I’m not sure, but I bet you feel good for it, right?

      Matthew

      1. Unbelievably so, sir!

        So much so that I’ve kicked off a new business specifically hand-holding other small businesses through the process of finding their voice and establishing their presence in the web world. Still early days, but I get a good feeling that this will eventually start to heave a few of our local dinosaurs into ‘the new age’….. 20 years behind everyone else, but we all have to start somewhere!

        Kind regards,
        L

    2. Haha I know exactly what you mean Linda. Not so long ago I sold websites to small businesses door to door. Lots of them said “we don’t want a website as we are too busy as it is without more customers”. Of course the logical reply (which I hadn’t thought of yet) is “So raise your prices to become less busy and still get a website to replace those customers – end result = same work with more profit”.

      But of course most small businesses are fully entrenched in the mindset you and Matthew are talking about.

  8. Brilliant post, Matthew. It really captures the essence of shift in thinking going on right now. Will be emailing this to some colleagues and bookmarking to read again soon. Thank you…

  9. Matt — I’m loving it man.

    It’s leading edge, it breaks down and articulates what many people have felt and known intuitively.

    The world’s evolving. Old ways no longer suit, yes they got us very far, but a new light needs to be shone.

    Most of the brand ideas you’ve suggested here feel like they’re in my blood — stuff I do naturally, and I may not have had the time/place/opportunity/stability to fully implement them all, but rest assured…

    Ryze is on the rise 😉

    Thanks for this man, I really, really enjoyed the read.

    1. Loving the enthusiasm, Jason 🙂

      It sounds like you are 21st, and this is very good indeed.

      Glad you liked the read and I hope you can take something from it. Sounds like you are already on the right track, though

      Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

      1. Thanks Matt, I do feel on the right track, so thanks for the affirm —

        I didn’t mean to imply I didn’t get anything out of it though. It’s a fantastic reminder for anyone – no matter where they’re at, I’d say 😉

        Thanks again – I’ll tweet it again so more ppl read this stuff.

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