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Forming Your Brand: Tips from Catersource + The Special Event 2023

Brand advice from event pros Alan Berg and Jamie Lee Quickert

It’s easy to confuse branding and marketing, but they’re very different things. Marketing is the act of campaigning to promote a business and its products or services. Branding is the creation of a strong identity so that consumers can recognize a business. 

At this year’s Catersource + The Special Event, held this past March in Orlando, FL, attendees got to collect some tips on best branding practices from Jamie Lee Quickert in her session Fashion & Function: Dressing for Your Brand, Your Budget, & Your Body Type and Alan Berg, CSP in his session Your Brand is More Than Your Logo. Here is some of their best advice to cultivate your brand success. 

What is a brand? 

Quickert notes that there is a difference between reputation and brand; reputation is how people already see you, and your brand is how you want people to see you. The goal is for your reputation to match your brand. Your reputation is determined by others, and it is defined by whether people view you as credible. Your brand, on the other hand, is determined by you alone, intentionally cultivated to determine your visibility. Both your reputation and brand are important. 

Berg breaks down the language even further, differentiating a brand from its branding. Branding is the promotion of a particular product or company through advertising and distinctive design, while a brand is an intangible marketing or business concept that helps people identify a company, product, or individual. Branding is the act of promoting a company; a brand is the curated identity of the company itself. 

Cultivating your image 

Your brand is your signature look. As a representative of your business, your personal brand is distinctly tied to your business’s signature look as well. The key to successful branding is consistency—keeping the same signature look on everything your business touches. Berg says that this should remain the same across business cards, signage, on your vehicles, uniforms, brochures, websites, and advertising, to give a few examples.  

He also says that people often confuse brands with things like logos, slogans, or other recognizable marks, which are marketing tools that help promote goods and services. Your logo itself is not your brand; it is a key tool in promoting your brand. Logos matter, says Berg: “What would your favorite branding look like without them?” So while not the brand itself, a logo is a vehicle for delivering your brand to consumers and giving them a symbol to associate with your brand. 

One way to keep your branding consistent is to create a style guide. This is a precise set of guidelines for what is allowed in font, text, layout, and imagery.  

Your clothing is also a key vehicle in delivering your brand, says Quickert. The way you present yourself, from the colors and patterns to the brands you associate yourself with, all communicate your brand to the world around you. You can wear colors or prints representative of your brand, communicating your business personality. 

Quickert also notes that details matter: are your clothes wrinkled or pressed? Are there rips or tears? Does your outfit align with your vision for the day? Convey who you are? Does your clothing fit right? Every last detail will communicate your professionality and personality, down to even hem lines, pants dragging on the ground, sleeves being the right length, and gaping buttons. A polished look is key to communicating credibility and the type of professional you want to be viewed as. “Remember not to dress how you feel but how you want to feel,” says Quickert. When trying to elevate herself professionally, Quickert says she “had to dress and act like I was the boss” to start feeling like the boss and even showing others that’s who she was. 

Just because you’re polished doesn’t mean there’s no room for self-expression or comfort, however. You can still be comfortable and be yourself when dressing for your brand. “Just because it’s stylish doesn’t mean you have to wear it. Nobody looks cute hobbling around,” jokes Quickert.  

Her ten tips for cultivating your personal brand: 

  • Figure out who you are 
  • Determine what you want to be known for 
  • Define your audience/client 
  • Research your desired industry and follow the experts  
  • Ask for informational interviews and apply for jobs; see what else is in the industry 
  • Prepare your elevator pitch 
  • Embrace networking 
  • Ask for recommendations 
  • Grow your online presence 
  • Remember your personal brand isn’t just online; it’s everywhere you are 

What your brand is saying 

When you create a brand, it’s important to know what it’s telling potential clients about you and your business. “The thing is to understand your voice, understand your brand and what you want it to represent,” says Berg. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What does your brand say to clients?  
  • How does it make customers feel? 
  • Are you getting the right inquiries? 
  • What are you selling? 
  • Where can people find your brand? 

Berg believes that your brand is what everyone says about you after they’ve experienced what you do. Google your company and find the reviews—what do people say about you? Berg says that the responses are your brand, whether you like it or not. 

Take time to ask your clients about their experiences, and get their reviews in writing. You can use this to your advantage by mixing testimonials in with your web content, not at the bottom of the page or even a separate page. Berg says to “pull the gold” out of their huge reviews and publish that gold across your entire site. In this way, you can use your brand voice to talk about the results of choosing you. Your brand should be pulling in leads, and these leads should align with the clientele you want to serve. 

Finally, you and your business will grow and change over time. You can keep rebranding every once in a while to reflect those changes. 

“You can reinvent yourself anytime you want,” Quickert says. 

Berg agrees: “Your brand can be an evolution, not a revolution.” 

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