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Brands > Products Part II [A Checklist for Identifying the Difference]

In last week’s article, Brands>Products Part I, we highlighted the various reasons for why a brand’s foundation —who you are and what you’re here for—needs to be built out and fully thought through.  

Building a brand the right way carves your path to becoming a successful thought leader, and while there is no perfect way to build a brand, this article can provide a list of the fundamentals you should be considering.

Build a Consistent Visual Brand Identity + typography sets [Client A & B]:

Now that you have your audience personas and the core brand foundation mapped out, it’s time to align the brand message with its “face.”

As a thought leader, understanding how to visually appeal to your audience and build a creative identity that is consistent across all assets (website, graphics, ads, decks, and more) is essential for creating a cohesive, recognizable brand.

Once you decide on the personas to whom you want to speak, it’s time to choose a clear, consistent visual identity that can be used across your website and social media. With that in mind, the colors and typography you pick matter more than you might think. Most brands just strap new colors on decks at the beginning, and after two to three years, their marketing infrastructure is a mess and it takes months to realign and coordinate everything. Don’t make the same mistake. 


If you’re curious about building great graphics, you’ll find a more in-depth article here.

Develop Content Themes, Post Topics, & Distribution Channels [Client A & B & C]:

Once you have taken the time to understand your brand message and articulate it to others, it becomes much easier to build content themes and post topics that will appeal to your audience.

After going through the brand foundation work and aligning on the audience, you can then determine which types of content and tone of voice will reflect and convey the ultimate purpose: Brand Value/Identity. This clear purpose can translate into a few key themes around “x,” and hundreds of post topics that can be continuously built upon to add value. 

The content can then be effectively distributed through LinkedIn, Instagram, email newsletter, podcast, and other channels. Through these, you can own your audience and build a platform around the people who will be interested in and passionate about his message.

When starting out, a brand must be extremely value-driven. Think about “giving it all away.” That’s what you have to do to demonstrate your value and cultivate a network of people who understand your worth and will want to buy from you when the time comres. 

Crafting Your Story for a Larger Audience [Client A & B]

How can we marry your story with the value you can offer to create brand credibility?

When you have done the hard work of building the foundation of your brand, defining your message, and giving thought to other areas of scale, it’s important to have a keynote speech in your back pocket. The secret to drafting an effective one is taking the content from your book—or your life—and creating a speech that is 90% repeatable and 10% adaptable to the audience at hand. Once you develop a successful message and put it out to the world, knowing how to talk about it in a way that makes sense to and moves others (and that you can get paid to deliver) is incredibly important. 

We helped two clients secure and draft TEDx Talks using this method, one being David Schnurman, who wrote The Fast Forward Mindset. He shared insights from his TEDx Talk with a group of students in the spring of 2019 in an incredible fashion.

Build Your Tribe—Intentionally: [Client A & B & C]:

Remember, you can’t have a community without content. At the beginning stages, until your brand is very well known and distributed for you by the masses (think Simon Sinek and Brené Brown’s material), you have to go out and find your audience and give them pathways to get to know you through the content you’re creating. 

To facilitate that process, you could: 

  • Create a list of 100 people to have on your podcast 
  • Find thousands of people on LinkedIn who may be interested in your work based on their titles and industries
  • Reach out to other industry experts and ask to be featured on their blogs, podcasts, and in their newsletters to get your name in front of different audiences 

Again, the goal here is to offer value first and foremost. If you always lead with how people can buy from you, that short-term push will never win when it comes to the long game. 

For more insight on building community effectively, check out these two articles I wrote:

Mobilizing a Community Around a Shared Vision

Tactical Steps for Building an Online Business Community

Creating a Brand-Focused (NOT Product-Focused) Website: [Client A & B & C]:

I see a lot of people make the same mistake: they build a website around their product or their book. The problem with this is that as their product evolves or becomes irrelevant (and they replace it with something new), they don’t have a brand (or leg) to stand on. Just think about the pandemic and all the businesses that have been wiped out because they didn’t have the brand infrastructure in place to adapt to the market’s new conditions. Instead, all their resources were tied to a specific product line and when it no longer met customer needs, they were out of luck.

Meanwhile, smart brands build multiple products over time, alongside a website that represents an overarching message. 

At BW Missions, we have architected our brand by pathfinding our value (thank you Rich Keller), picking a target audience out of the gate, and designing a visual and web identity for it, complete with proper messaging. For example, the hero image on our website homepage shares our brand promise of helping people find belonging. The design is brand- and people-focused, showcasing who we are rather than what we sell. That way, we can adapt our product line as our brand evolves. 

PR Opportunities [Client A & B & C]:

Now that you have crafted your message, architecture, identity, and more to share content and build an audience, it’s time to start thinking about outlets with overlapping messages or targeted audiences who can have you on their show or feature you.

If you’re interested in a deeper dive on PR, read what Leah Walsh, our head of Marketing and PR, recently wrote.  

You’ve Built Your Brand Infrastructure, Now What? Think About Your Products

If you want to think about building your brand into a full-on business that fully supports you and even a team, you must develop products that speak to your brand message. 

That may take the form of: 

  1. A book to sell
  2. A course people can buy
  3. A speech you can give
  4. A coaching and consulting survey
  5. A investment vehicle tied to your message (for example, Nir Eyal has invested in habit-forming products that make society a better place since writing Hooked)

Want to learn more about launching a product? Check out this article

Value First, Product Second.

Building a brand is a lot like developing as a person: when you know who you are and what you care about, navigating life is that much more meaningful and enjoyable. When value leads the way, you find where you belong in the world, build relationships with the right people, and develop products that last and leave an impact. And if you need help, we’re here. 

For Thought Leaders
Leah Walsh

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