In an era of LinkedIn endorsements and like buttons, it’s pretty easy to find yourself building content (or even a whole brand) based around boosting your social statistics. We’d all be lying if we didn’t admit that there’s a bit of joy in hearing the ding dong notification of someone sharing your image or liking your post. We cultivate the best of ourselves to share with the world. We find validation in the number of little hearts each of our heavily filtered Instagram pics receives. There’s a little hope out there for all of us that if our videos are just.crazy.enough. they’ll go viral and we can get our 15 minutes.
I’m not saying any of this is inherently bad. Social media matters - a lot. But there are things you trust to social media and things you don’t. Being popular doesn’t mean you’ll be profitable. So let’s talk about branding. And what it means to build a brand that confidently rises above social stats.
Branding (and business) mistake numero uno in my book is treating your business decisions as if they were contestants in a beauty pageant. Business is not a popularity contest. As a business owner, you’re cheating yourself out of long-term viability by giving up all your branding decisions to the general public. All too often, I see logo variations get posted to Facebook with captions like “hey friends help me decide which logo to pick for my business! vote A or B!!”. This is not what we mean when we say that market research to understand your target demographic is necessary!
Putting major branding decisions about design, naming, strategy, etc. up for a vote does nothing but undermine your ability to confidently run your own business. Do you poll people when you’re at the office supply store? “hey friends I’m really torn between black or blue pens! vote A or B!!” On a much larger scale, do you ask random strangers about paying your bills? “hey friends I can’t pick whether to pay the electric or the internet! vote A or B!!” Do you poll your social network when it comes time to pay your taxes? Your employees? Yourself? Do you ask them what they think when you’re trying to decide whether you can afford to expand or buy a piece of equipment? When you’re dreaming of the next product you’ll add to your line?
Don’t trust people without any skin in the game to make business decisions for you. They have nothing to lose. You do.
What I’m getting at here is that you’re the head honcho because you know what your business needs when it comes to all of those other things. You don’t trust the input of people without skin in the game - without the business acumen to do what you do - to make such decisions for you. So what is it about branding and design that you don’t value enough to do the same? After all, we’ve already talked about how great branding is a better predictor of success than almost anything else.
In business, and as business owners, we’ve got to play the long game. This means taking the things that matter the most to building a profitable business and holding them sacred. And this means not kowtowing to social stats. You’ve got to know why you’re hot and then go forth.
There’s a lot that goes into building the visual components of your brand and they matter just as much as the voice you use to communicate that brand to the world. I didn’t just show up one day and decide that it would be really fun to make super pretty things. I know that my passion lies in helping businesses communicate better with their stakeholders and customers. I love building businesses. And there’s rarely a decision that I make during my day that I feel necessary to post on social media about. And I make a lot of decisions.
The people I conference with on important business decisions (or even branding decisions of our own) are people that have experience and a proven track record to be able to provide such advice. As in, not my friend’s cousin’s first-grade teacher who happens to follow me on Twitter.
So while I will continue to post cute cat videos and airplane wing pics to social and find joy when everyone goes crazy over them, I won’t leave the future of my business to such a fate. When you’re training to play in the big leagues, you don’t bring in your tee ball coach. I’ll take profits over popularity any day of the week.