"I don't give a rat's ass about software branding. I can go on Fiverr or Upwork, grab my logo and colors for $300 and build my freaking product."
Sound like you? Maybe. Since there is so much confidence and assurance behind your statement, there is really isn't anything that can be done to convince you otherwise. Branding is just the rat's ass, a lofty term used to charge a lot of money to those who've invested serious blood, sweat, and tears into developing something useful.
True... in some cases.
But the same could be said of your software. I don't give a shit about it. At least not right now. In fact, there are probably a lot of people who don't care about your software.
I know, how dare I? Sorry to burst your bubble, but there are thousands of software products out there, many of whom could compete head on with yours and potentially win. Think about how easy it would be for them to mark their price down one dollar and undercut you or how one new feature could swiftly pull the rug out from under your feet. It happens.. a lot.
The truth is, unless you are emotionally gripping a specific user base, you have nothing. Nothing you can count on for long, anyway. And if you want to grab emotional value, you build a brand.
So, is branding still the rat's ass or is it a something you can leverage to charge a higher price to loyal users?
I normally work from home and, for the most part, it's pretty easy for me to get into a groove. But there are some days, especially during the COVID-19 quarantining, that make it difficult.
Specifically because the elements of my routine are barred. New floors are being installed in my house so there are quite a few construction workers here playing music, hammering in pieces of flooring, and moving around. My desk is in pieces and all of the furniture is scattered. Even the garage where I normally do workouts in the morning is unavailable.
In short, I'm in a massive deviation from my routine and it is taking a toll on my effectiveness. But, there is a silver lining in that it has never been more obvious the kind of routine I need to function at my peak.
What does this have to do with branding? Well, you can understand what you want for your brand by understanding what you don't want. By cross-examining your competitors, other brands, or even something as granular as aesthetic, sometimes the fastest way to understand what you want to become is to discover the opposite.
"Well, I'm my target market, so I should design a brand for myself."
I hear this a lot, especially from startup founders who think they have an amazing product that is going to solve world hunger and end war forever (I'm kidding, but you get the idea). However, despite the product being so amazing, they can't get sales, have a hard time pitching, and are constantly pivoting to the point of exhaustion. What's more, they all have shitty brands.
Why is that? Because going into business to build something for yourself is a surefire way to have an aimless brand, one that you cannot objectively validate. It's doomed from the start. Think about it, if you fully embody the exact persona of someone who could use your product, then they don't need you. They are able to solve this problem themselves. Good luck making them feel something other than contempt for you imposing yourself on their day-to-day.
I get it, you want to enjoy the work you do and have a brand that you can appreciate being a part of. You cannot find that focusing on yourself.
The key is to find overlap, a common thread between what your customers value and what you value. There is a reason they are listed in that order, as you, being an entrepreneur, can build a kickass business and brand whether you feel personally attached to it or not. You'll crush it because solving problems for other people is what you're best at, that is your job.
If you happen to have a passion for the brand and can align with it personally, all the better. But, you have to focus on a customer first or you have no business. Not only in the products you create, but the way you make them feel. That's where the branding magic is born.