Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked a lot about the visual components of branding. I’ve written a post on what a cohesive brand identity is and why you need it as well as one listing out the 8 essential visual elements every brand needs. But behind all of that lies the intangible components of a brand that defines its purpose, personality, and vision. So while the tangible attributes of a brand might be its logo, color palette, or website, the intangible attributes are things like its value, story, and image. And while these may not seem like things that are easy to control, you really shouldn’t forget about them.

Intangible Branding Done Right

One great example of a business that has it’s intangible branding down is Starbucks. When you think of Starbucks, you don’t think of their logo. Instead, you think of the smell of coffee that hits you the second you walk in the door. The soft music that’s playing in the background. The environment that invites you to sit for a while and get s**t done or just catch up with friends. They’ve reinforced this image not just with the way their stores are set up, but with their messaging and visual branding as well. In doing so, they’ve created a strong following of loyal customers and something to remember their brand by. Starbucks cup on wood By defining the intangible aspects of your brand, you’ll increase brand recognition and loyalty. And that’s definitely a good thing.
When considering your brand intangibles, here are six things you don’t want to forget:

1. Brand Values

Your brand values are the core beliefs of your brand. They’re things that you believe so strongly in you run your business around them. And when a customer holds these same values, they are far more likely to buy from you.
“Core values are what you absolutely stand for when it comes to the brand: it’s the non-negotiable beliefs that the brand just cannot live without and that the target audience will share.”  (Source: Forbes)
Let’s look at the Starbucks example one more time. One of their brand values is creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome. They use this value as a base around which to run their business, and, as a result, they have a pretty loyal following. Having strong brand values shapes the way your brand is both run and perceived, and adds a serious sense of authenticity. When thinking about your brand values, think about what you’re passionate about and go from there. This is a really fantastic article about defining your brand values that I’ve found to be extremely helpful.

2. An Ideal Customer

Even though it would be great to be able to attract anyone and everyone to buy from your new business, that’s not really possible. And when you try to appeal to everyone, all you really end up doing is appealing to no one. Instead, you want to focus in on a specific group of people or type of person who will really identify with your brand. This is where an ideal customer comes in. Your brand’s ideal customer is an imaginary person who completely embodies everything that the person who would become your most loyal fan does. They believe in the same things your brand does. They see the value in your product or service because it will make their life better in a concrete way. Having an ideal customer not only allows you to really focus in and target your marketing efforts effectively but enables you to effectively communicate to the people you really want to be working with. When it comes to creating an ideal customer profile, the more specific you get, the better. Nail down the basics such as age, gender, and income, but then get creative. What are their hobbies? What sort of music do they listen to? Are they a dog or a cat person? What are their hopes and dreams for the future? The more you know about this theoretical ideal customer, the better you will be able to serve them.

3. Personality

Your brand’s personality is a set of human characteristics attributed to your brand name. Take Dove, for example. Their brand personality is one which is soft, feminine, and promotes self-acceptance and confidence in your own skin. This brand personality has infused itself into everything that Dove does and means that millions of women trust in Dove and its products.
Having a strong brand personality directly creates an emotional association to your brand in customers’ minds and lays the groundwork for some serious brand loyalty. When creating your brand personality, think about your ideal customer. What is their personality? What personalities are they drawn towards? What is their best friend probably like? Your brand should embody these characteristics.

4. Experience

Brand experience is how a customer feels and is treated when they encounter your brand. It’s extremely important that brand experience matches up to the expectations created by your branding beforehand. If it doesn’t, a customer is likely to come away disappointed and tell their friends about it. Which in turn takes a serious hit on the way your brand is perceived. So, for example, if you brand yourself as a luxury wedding dress boutique, the experience a bride has when she comes to your store should be luxurious. There should be comfortable couches for her entourage, a personal helper, champagne… all the finishing touches. If a bride goes in expecting luxury and she gets sub-par service, that definitely won’t reflect well on your business. You need to be intentional when it comes to creating a brand experience–you can’t just assume that it will happen the way you want it to. Make sure to have an outline of how every customer should be treated when they walk into your store or reach out to you online. Focus on quality experience and you’ll develop meaningful relationships with customers that keeps them coming back for more.

5. Brand Image

People don’t just buy a product. They buy the image that that product provokes. Brand experience really gives rise to brand image as brand image is ‘an impression or an imprint of the brand developed over a period of time in the consumer’s mindset.’. It’s the image that comes to mind when someone thinks about your brand and the feelings it evokes and is formed based on interactions and experiences with a brand that a customer has. Brand image is important because it influences not just past customers but potential future ones as well. If a past customer has a bad image of your brand, they likely won’t purchase from you again. Not only that, but they will likely pass that bad image on to others who in turn won’t buy your product or service. If you have a good brand image, though, you’ll not only have customers coming back time and time again, but you’ll have new ones coming in who love your brand image and purchase from you because of it.

6. Brand Story

Your brand’s story is where all of the intangible parts of a brand come together: your values, personality, history… the whole shebang. It’s not just the story of how you came to be, but where you’re going and how you’re going to help your customers live their best lives. The Story of Telling says this about your brand story:
Creating a brand story is not simply about standing out and getting noticed. It’s about building something that people care about and want to buy into. It’s about framing your scarcity and dictating your value. It’s about thinking beyond the utility and functionality of products and services and striving for the creation of loyalty and meaningful bonds with your customers.
Hands typeing on a typewriter on a white wood desk with a coffee cup next to it. Your brand story should focus not just on your history, but on your future. Talking about your brand’s goals and future gives a strong sense of purpose beyond the product or service offered. It also really helps to highlight how your brand will have an effect on your customers–how it will make their lives better, how it will help them achieve their goals, etc. Having a strong brand story helps to create a clear content roadmap for your business, conveys its purpose, activates emotions, and creates brand loyalty. It’s also a seriously effective tool in differentiating your business from others in the market. If you already have the previous five brand intangibles in place, then coming up with your brand story will be a no-brainer.
So there you have it: six intangible parts of branding that you definitely don’t want to forget about. From defining your brand values to writing your brand’s story, putting these brand intangibles into place will make your business that much more recognizable. Do you have these brand intangibles in place? If not, do you think they would be useful for you? Still feeling lost about branding your business? Download your FREE branding checklist today and you’ll be on your way to a better brand in no time!

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Behind every great brand lies a few important intangible brand components. These include: brand values, an ideal customer, personality, experience, image, and story. This article breaks each of them down and explains how to achieve these important branding intangibles.

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