The difficulty of getting the rug out of the way and discovering the real purpose of the companies we advise always comes to mind at every project start. At every opportunity, the challenge gets even more incredible, the bar goes up, expectations increase, and this shiver is what moves us forward.

Many companies, however, do not have the resources to have a complete branding project developed by a competent consultancy. Many other companies are still not at the right time to have this work developed. This does not mean that branding is not crucial to their survival in the market.

Here, we find a paradox: Companies need it and it is fundamental vs. companies cannot pay or are not at the right time to do so.

Think of a scene: You go to a restaurant for dinner alone. You are lactose intolerant. Of the 20 dishes available on the menu, 10 of them have cheese and 10 do not. Of the 10 you can eat, 8 are meat dishes and 2 are fish dishes. You’ve already had meat for lunch and fish might be a great option for a lighter evening meal.

With two filters on what not to do, you’ve narrowed down 90% of the possibilities and limited your universe to 10%. I have no doubt that the chance of having a peaceful night has increased exponentially by simply knowing what to avoid.

In branding, it works that way, too.

More important than knowing who we are, knowing who we are not is a matter of survival. And the good news is that this is relatively simpler. As in the restaurant example, it would probably be much more complex to choose what you are or want to be, but it was much simpler to choose a path looking at who you are not or don’t want to be.

I don’t know if I’m friendly or creative, but I’m definitely not rebellious. I can be organized, friendly, and disciplined, but I’m not communicative. These brand characteristics, often translated and personified through archetypes, help us to have at least one direction in our communication, in the tone of voice of our brand, in choosing which events to participate in, which influencers to relate to, and which causes to defend. And, above all, which ones not to defend.

In order to identify these points that may seem nebulous at a first glance, choose simple tasks to help you.

1. Benchmark
With focused research, find 10 companies that are a reference in your segment. Divide them into two lists: The ones I like vs. the ones I do not like. Take the ones you didn’t like and take a proper look at them: Is it the tone of voice or the visuals? Was it the promise behind it that hasn’t matched your beliefs?

2. Find your brand’s internal peace
Yes, just like therapy. Having a bigger purpose is wonderful, but the pursuit of it will bring you insights that you never thought of at a first glance. This pursuit includes having a trained eye on what pops out on a daily basis as opportunities that fit the company’s culture and make sense to evolve as a deliverable.

3. Listen to your team
Companies are made by people. Not technology or products, but people. The combination of your talented crew tells a lot about you, your aspirations, and your main qualities. As the company’s CEO is responsible for keeping the culture strong and relevant, it’s also part of the job to listen and understand the unsaid messages.

4. Your customers
If you don’t know exactly who you are, people you provide services or sell products to know what their impressions of you are. Customer’s perception very often highlights some point we have never thought about before if we haven’t asked them. As some of the most important things in life, a good conversation and carefully listening are valuable.

5. Trust your gut feeling
You somehow already know most of the things you want to become. It might take a while to clarify some things or to adjust the pieces harmoniously together, but emotion is crucial to feel represented on a brand. We all connect with each other based on emotions. Branding is made of emotions and trusting yourself will make you exhale confidence and passion, persuading people to come on the journey with you.

Don’t overthink what would cause failure because you don’t have enough budget for a branding project. You have almost all you need to start and then, with your first sales, your incomes growing, and your financial health in order, it’s time to hire a good branding consultancy to help you see a bit further and verbalize all of your best qualities.

Cover image source: cottonbro