Much of human understanding has changed over time. Cocaine, for example, was once viewed as a health product. However, not everything changes. There are some fundamentals in branding that will always be true. Whether you're looking at your personal brand or something for your business, there are a number of fundamental rules you must know and follow.
1. It's Better to Offer a Few Great Products Than a Lot of Mediocre Ones
If you offer too much to someone, they'll get confused. That doesn't mean they're dumb - it just means they have more on their mind than just you. Offer them ten different things and unless it's medicine or something of equal importance, they'll probably go somewhere else. It also weakens your brand as a whole.
This applies whether you're building your personal brand or one for your company. For example, having more than one blog, no matter how appropriate, can dilute your brand and dissuade people from following you.
2. Reviews Will Serve as Your Brand Ambassadors
Interpersonal skills are important, but are nowhere near as important as having good ratings and reviews around the Internet. Reviews have always been important, but since the rise of the Internet they've become even more relevant. The average customer will look up how your products or work is rated before even considering your services. Many of them will trust it as much as they would a friend's recommendation.
Have a call to action placed wherever you can to leave a review on Yelp or wherever is appropriate for your business. At the end of your site's pages or on receipts is a good start.
3. Focus on What It Brings, Not What It Is
Customers are inherently focused on what something can do for them. The mistake many brand agencies and marketers make is thinking that telling customers about the product will tell them what it can do for them. They're two different things - the former talks about you, while the other talks about how it can make the user's life better. Don't tell them that your teeth whitening formula has thousands of hours of research behind it. Show them how wonderful their life will be once they get rid of all those pesky stains.
4. Get the Right Name
The most successful brands are the ones that have become synonymous with their offering. YouTube is synonymous with online videos, as Colgate is synonymous with toothpaste in many countries. It's not just their success either - the right name matters. There's a reason Google, for example, became synonymous with search engines. Many would say that it's because it makes for a good verb ("Googling").
Take the time to consider how people many use your brand's name and what variants can come up before choosing one. Unlike your logo or your company colors, you can't adjust the name of your brand easily later on.
5. Expansion Should Be Heralded by a New Brand
Creating new offerings is by no means a mistake, especially if you do it properly. The only time problems can come up is if you end up branching too far from your main product. If you're selling food, offering detergent may not exactly jive with your current market and can dilute brand recognition.
If you want to expand, it's probably time for another brand. That's why many large companies actually control multiple brands - when it was time for them to expand their offerings, they created new brands to cover those new items.
Remember that it will always come down to how your brand is perceived. It doesn't matter what you're selling, to an extent. It doesn't matter what you want it to stand for if the public doesn't see it the same way. While initial success isn't limited by your brand, it will certainly limit your long term growth. If you're in it for the long haul, make a strong brand.