What does a successful brand look like?

The answers to this question are as varied as the number of brands in the world—and the people evaluating them. Your definition will be different from mine, which is different from someone else's. Evaluating whether or not your brand communicates effectively will depend on your specific business goals and your audience.

If the definition of success is so subjective, though, how can we ever apply one? As Stephen Covey says, "Begin with the end in mind."

The definition of success for your brand is entirely up to you." So let's go to the place your brand was designed to help you get to: your business destination. (And while you're at it, check out a wonderful Marie Forleo video about this very topic.)

Your brand is a means to reach your ultimate business goals. That means building your brand is all about knowing your destination. It's as much about who you want to become as who you currently are.

When you commit to a particular business message, you are committing to so much more than a website or set of business cards. You are committing to a particular kind of work that leads to a particular kind of impact . . . not just now but in the future. Maybe even mostly in the future.

Branding is both informational and aspirational. That's why building yours can feel so scary.

Your brand will impact how people perceive you, who wants to work with you, and what kind of business you're building. It will send a message about the journey you're traveling and where you want to be. So it's imperative that you be clear with yourself about your own future dreams as you're crafting the core elements. It's also imperative to recognize your own fear and mental blocks that may be keeping you from committing to a particular brand direction.

Even then, it's easy to get sidetracked from our own definition of success. I started my business for very specific reasons and build my brand around them. And yet, in the day-to-day busy-ness (that's what the word means after all, right?) I so easily lose sight of that purpose. Or maybe I just don't like to think about it because I'm still not always sure how to get there.

It's on those days, the unsure days, that I need my brand more than ever. Those are the days I'm thankful I took the time to sort out my dreams, my vision and my value and declare them before I decided on my homepage copy or my color scheme.

Because my brand is anchored in the future I'm working toward, it helps me stay on track. Yours can, too. Specifically in these three ways:

1) Successful brands hold out a vision.

Clients know what they think they need but not always what will really make them happy or solve their business problems. Your brand is a way for you to hold out that higher vision of where their lives and their business can lead. Your message is your chance to plant an idea, raise a question, challenge an assumption. Sure, your customers may be coming to you for one thing. But what if they find out they really need something else entirely? Hold out that "other thing" for them as well as for yourself. Inspire their imagination.

[Tweet "Does your brand dream big—not just for your clients but for you, too?"]

2) Successful brands make a promise.

Dreams are wonderful and fun. Promises get a bit more serious. There's action involved, as well as cause-and-effect. This is where rubber begins to meet the road for you and your clients. What can you promise them as a result of working with you or taking your approach to action? What are you promising yourself about the kind of work you'll do or the sort of effect you want to have in their lives? Your tagline, your message, your personality, even your colors: all of it imparts a sense of faith in what will be as a result of this interaction.

[Tweet "Does your brand promise something real--not just for your clients, but for you, too?"]

3) Successful brands make a commitment.

At first glance, this might sound similar to making a promise. But a commitment is more about narrowing your direction and focus, less about the intended outcome. Once you have determined what success means for you personally, you can determine what it means for your brand, and then ultimately what kinds of activities you will engage in to achieve that result. Once you've narrowed down your actions, and communicated them in your brand message, you've made a commitment to a particular business focus. It might seem restricting a the outset, but ultimately it liberates you to be your best!

[Tweet "Does your brand narrow its parameters enough to really deliver deep impact?"]

All of this may sound more like general business coaching concepts than brand identity ideas. But your brand—and how you develop it—will have a great effect on the direction of your business. And not just because your clients see it. It will affect you, too. Psychologically.

Every time I'm on my own website or my blog, or working on my own newsletter, or shooting my own video, I am reminded of the promises I am making to myself and my clients about the future I am creating. I'm reminded of why I started this work in the first place and am motivated to recommit myself to whatever it takes to succeed ... by the definition I set up.

Which brings us back to notions of success. What makes a truly successful brand? Ultimately, you decide. Knowing where you want to end up is half the battle. Communicating that vision and acting on it make up the rest.

And the best part of all this? You can always change direction. As you learn and grow and shift over time, so can your brand.

Perhaps you are faced with fleshing out your brand from scratch. Perhaps you've had one brand perception for years and now want to shift to a different angle. Either way, I'd love to work with you to uncover the brand dream, promise and commitment only you can share with the world. And with yourself.

Until next time, speak freely.

What does "success" mean to you? What would a more successful brand look like for you? Comment below.

Ready to expand your brand and your audience by crafting a more powerful message? Schedule your FREE 1:1 consultation here.

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