By Bryce Kelly
In an era where an endless number of apps, news stories, social media posts, and products are all competing for attention, it can be difficult to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Developing your brand means deciding how you distinguish yourself to your audience, and it determines how many people will interact with your organization and what the world knows you stand for.
Many YLAI Network members have found creative ways to make their businesses and organizations stand out from the rest and have used their branding to create a strong following. Here are some tips from experts and YLAI Fellowship alumni to learn the secrets to uncovering your brand identity.
1. Define your role
In any given field, there will be a considerable number of competitors looking to do something similar to what you have planned for your business or organization. In order to stand out, you must show that you are doing something no one else is. Entrepreneurship Professor Michael Goldberg has this to say about finding your niche: “Before entrepreneurs should think about expanding, they need to show that they are solving a problem and making a place in the community for their initial customer base.”
Customers and users want to know that they are making the smart choice, so the key is to show them that your organization can do what no one else can do. If you are strategic and authentic with your messaging, you can take on the competition. “Taking on bigger (and better funded) competitors is not easy,” says Professor Goldberg. “That being said, we have seen many examples of large companies that get disrupted by smaller, scrappier startups.”
2. Understand your audience and educate your community
While 2018 YLAI Fellow Janeel Boon spends his time running his business Boon’s Computer Repairs, he is also well-known in his home country of St. Kitts and Nevis as a radio and podcast personality. Why does he spend so much time on the radio when his main business is technology repairs? Simple. It’s all a part of how he defines and markets his brand because he knows his audience well.
He explains: “I started my radio show, IT Talks, when I realized radio was an effective tool for marketing for my computer repair business. Being on an island, if everyone can associate my voice with computer repairs, then that works well for me when they know they need something fixed. Providing five-minute tips and tricks about what to do and not to do with your computer during these sessions allowed me an easy way to start educating my community as well.” Due to Janeel’s strategic marketing by understanding his audience in his community, providing a solution and education, he is the first person that comes to mind for individuals on the island who need computer repairs.
3. Find your passion and show your impact
Many YLAI Network members use their business to make an impact on a cause they are passionate about. For example, 2017 YLAI Fellow Marie Flore Morett uses her baked goods company Délices by Marie Flore Florett to promote women’s empowerment in Haiti. Janese Henderson, also a 2017 Fellow, encourages confidence and mentorship with Jan’s Empowerment Institute in Antigua and Barbuda. Kenishia Mais, a 2018 Fellow, works with her financial coaching organization, ThrivingDollars, to educate young people on budgeting.
Before you expand your audience, your local community will be first to support your organization, so it makes sense to use your organization to support your community. If you can show that what is good for you is also good for your audience members, they are more likely to want to see you grow.
Don’t worry about getting it right on your first try. Think about how many companies have changed missions, logos, color schemes, goals, or even products. That being said, changing too often or too much will confuse your customers. Be open to making changes and adapting to the audience you are looking to capture, but be mindful that having a consistent image is better than constant tweaks and adjustments.
Adriel Luis, a curator at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, told YLAI how creativity means adapting. “Put your ideas into physical or digital form in this experimental step. Create models, such as charts and prototypes that describe how your vision will be brought to life in a way that is shareable with an audience. Once you’ve created your prototype, you can share it with a small community, receiving feedback on your prototype, and then repeat. You should do these steps over and over until you land on a solution about which you are passionate.”
No matter how big or small your organization is, using these strategies can help you define your image to the rest of the world. You can use word of mouth, social media, print media, videoconferencing software as tools to show your audience how you are impacting, educating, and distinguishing yourself in your community. Starting with these first four steps will help you to find and define who you are marketing to, what you are passionate about, and how you want your audience to see you. How will you uncover your brand identity?
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewees and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government.
Este artículo está disponible en español.