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Rains: Your Brand Identity

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One of the things I’ve been revisiting in my coaching business is the concept of brand identity. After creating a brand identity for 12 years from scratch I decided to join a franchise, CARSTAR. While there were many gains in joining a national network, the hardest thing for me by far was giving up the brand identity that I had cultivated for so long. In part, this is because our brand is a direct reflection of a founder's identity—their vision, their values, their culture. In a way, giving up that brand identity felt like giving up a little piece of myself since brands and founders are so closely related. 

What goes into a brand identity? Tim Urmston, founder of SEEK Company, has been a great teacher for me on branding. He says there are four main elements that we want to pay attention to as we build out our brand: 

  1. Brand promise
  2. Points of differentiation
  3. Our value proposition
  4. Archetypes

Let’s start with the brand promise. The brand promise is essentially what you are prepared to guarantee. A lifetime guarantee on our workmanship used to be a differentiator. That is no longer true. Thankfully for the consumer that is expected as a starting point. What unique guarantee are you ready to stand behind? Maybe it’s a promise that you will always work in the vehicle owner’s best interest even when the insurance company might ask you to cut corners. Maybe it’s the promise that we only use OE parts. Maybe it’s a promise of speed. For a while, we experimented with a guarantee on self-pays that if we didn’t get the vehicle done in a specified time period we paid for the rental. That’s much harder nowadays with all the supply issues. But what promise are you willing to make and keep for your customers? What price are you willing to pay if that promise is not kept? Promises made and kept are powerful things. 

Next are points of differentiation. A lot of shops are in a race to the bottom because they no longer can conceive of what makes them special or unique. They are just trying to keep up with their competitors. Looking back I now realize that I was constantly comparing myself to my bigger competitors and trying to imitate them or keep up with them. Now I see that being small, local and family-owned was a real point of differentiation. Once I realized this I started playing up our uniqueness. Our tagline for a while was, “We’re big enough to compete but small enough to care.” In effect, we were saying, “We’re big enough to compete with our big box competitors yet small enough to care for our customers like family and as members of the community.” 

That brings us to our value proposition: “We’re going to ____.” This sounds very much like the brand promise and should certainly tie to it. However, this is more focused on what value the customer will get by working with you vs. one of your competitors. “We’re going to only use OE parts so that you can rest assured your car was returned to its original integrity.” “We’re going to call you twice a week with updates so that you’re not left wondering if we’re making progress on your vehicle.” It’s the “so that'' portion that is the value add for the customer. It’s being specific about how they, the customer, will benefit.   

Lastly, we need to touch briefly on archetypes. If you want to dig deeper here you can look up the Pierson Model. Essentially, all brands have an archetype whether they know it or not. Budweiser’s archetype is “royalty.” They are the “King of Beers” and even their funny commercials will often have a royal theme with a king, queen and a castle at the forefront. Even their use of Clydesdales reinforces this as Clydesdales are the largest and most regal of horses. Another example, Jeep. Jeep’s archetype is “the explorer.” Before we joined CARSTAR our archetype was “the caregiver.” Our logo was a large wing as if to say we’re covering you with care. This fit us well at the time since I had a background in ministry and pastoral care and my sister left a career in nursing to join the family business. I encourage you to think through which archetype fits you—there are many—and then to be overt in using that archetype in all your branding and marketing efforts. 

By thinking through each of these four areas of your brand identity you will start to grasp who you are as an organization. Once you understand your identity that determines how you position yourself in this very competitive market. Ultimately your brand touches on your vision, values, marketing and even culture. It’s a very foundational piece that done right will inform a lot of decisions later. 

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