The concept of “brand” is tied directly into the principles of content marketing.
When your goal is to establish authority by sharing helpful, relevant information to your target audience, their reception of the content that you share is a reflection of your brand, whatever it may be.
So it’s critical for you as an accountancy firm to give more thought (and time, and effort, and money) into your brand.
As you know, the Profitable Firm is in the midst of a rebrand (read all about it here). This process has been an educational one, and we’re keen to get better at understanding brand so we can help you with yours. So we asked Col Gray from Pixels Ink to run an online training for the whole Profitable Firm team on branding – specifically, the difference between a logo, a brand, and branding.
Your brand is made up of the intangibles, the emotions, how people feel about you
The brand is the sum of everything you are, what you stand for, how you work. How you speak to clients. How you answer the phone. How people feel when they go to your website. The emotions they are experiencing in relation to your firm.
“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon
A great example is Apple. As Col put it in our training, “Apple could put out a real stinker of a product and you’ll still get people queuing up to buy it. That’s because it’s not about the product anymore; it’s about Apple, and people still love Apple.”
Whether you’re one of those people or not, it is undeniable that Apple have built a true brand. So have Xero. So has Coca-Cola. (Remember the incredible furore stirred up when Coke tried to change its recipe with “New Coke” in the 80’s? Disaster. They didn’t change a recipe, they messed with a brand, and the people weren’t having it.)
What you’re doing with a brand is building a loyal following. People who will stay with you as you grow, change, adapt, and respond to their ever-changing needs.
The logo is the visual element of your branding that connects your audience to what you do
First, and most importantly, says Col, “The logo is not for you. It’s for your clients.”
The biggest mistake you can make when reviewing, refreshing, or re-creating your logo is that of only considering what it is that you like.
Of course, you have to like your logo. The last thing you want is a logo that you are not proud to share, even if your designer thinks it’s amazing.
But you may be surprised what you come to love. When we started the brand process with our clients at Maverick Accountants, one of the first things they mentioned was that they didn’t like the colour red. (You may be interested to see their resulting logo here.) Similarly, Col shared with us the story of a client who started out by saying she didn’t like purple, and didn’t like triangles. (Her logo is here). And at The Profitable Firm, the very first logo Col showed me was the one we ultimately chose…but it took me several months to come round to it.
The reason your preconceived thoughts may change is often because you realise, going through the process, what it all means. How the colours say and reflect a certain concept. What the shapes say about your business. The feelings it can stir within the heart of your dream client.
Your clients – the best ones, the type of businesses or people you want to work with – absolutely must love your logo. But (and this is especially true in a rebrand) it will take time for this to happen. Part of your role in marketing is to help them understand what the logo is trying to do. It’s also to use your logo as merely the starting point for everything in marketing.
Many accountants have a misunderstanding of what a logo truly is because you’ve had a bad experience with a graphic designer. You’ve been ripped off. They took no time over it. They created a logo they liked, but neither you nor your clients did. They listened to what you wanted, but didn’t give you the benefit of expert advice that would challenge you on what that is. You got a ‘nice design’ but it doesn’t do anything, make them feel something.
If you’re looking for a logo to get you more business – or if it comes to that, for anything to “get you more business” (social media, email marketing, a new CRM system), your focus is in the wrong place.
We could design the most amazing logo that truly reflects your firm, and your clients could love it. But there’s a lot of work required – by you, your team, and the firm – to promote the brand itself. The logo on its own is not going to make you money – it’s going to be the foundation of how you promote and share your business.
The logo is not the magic bullet. You are the magic bullet.
And when you have the right logo, your confidence will rise in who you are as a firm. You’ll feel more brave about doing marketing that you wouldn’t have considered before – things you wouldn’t have had the strength to do because your platform was a bit weak.
You’ll use that logo to help you build a solid brand identity, one that is strong enough to hold a serious level of marketing.
Branding is the tangible things: the stuff you use to build emotions about your brand
If the brand is the invisible, and the logo is the visual, then branding is what brings all of this together into something people can feel, touch, see, interact with.
Your branding includes:
- Business cards
- Products (keychains, mugs)
- Social media accounts
- ..you get the idea.
This is where everything pulls together. The feelings people have about your brand are integrated into these branding items, and it begins to make decisions about these things so much easier.
Here are some examples of design and branding that reflect a feeling, an approach:
Maverick: Accounting for the bold
Choosing imagery for their website was a matter of reflecting the qualities of the new brand – bold, adventurous, a little wild. This is why most of the images here are outside the office. “We wanted people to come to our website and wonder for a moment if it was an accountancy firm or not,” the directors said.
Spark: Bright colours and geometric lines
When Spark came to us, they already had a new brand and logo (although we got to give a vote on the final logo, which we enjoyed doing!). Their bright colours and geometric lines needed to be reflected everywhere – on the sections of the website, in the icons, on social media.
The question for accountants now is: what do people feel when they interact with your brand? How do you want them to feel? Most importantly, does what your prospects see – your website, signage, technology, language – match what you know your existing clients feel about you?
If not, it may be time to make a change.