At the heart of any successful brand is a great branding strategy, something not many new entrepreneurs are educated in. Since most advice you find online is related to improving your brand or staying consistent in your marketing efforts, it’s hard to find more information about brand building.
Building a brand from the ground up is difficult, more so for someone without the requisite professional skills. Eventually, you will have to bring in an experienced professional (whether as an outsourced service-provider/agency or an in-house creative director). However, when it comes to building your brand’s core features and qualities, you can handle it with a little investment in time and research, and a comprehensive understanding of what makes your brand tick.
6 Brand Building Tips
Below are six of the most important considerations to make in the process of building your brand:
Identifying a target market
The first step is to think about who your target demographic(s) is (are). For instance, you wouldn’t market children’s books the same way as science fiction novels. Similarly, the imagery and messaging used from the beginning should be ideal for the target demographic you are after.
One mistake entrepreneurs make is trying to target as wide an audience as they can, but this is a mistake and a waste of valuable time and resources. Casting a wider net means your message is less targeted and hence less relevant. So you may not catch as many fish as you would by going into a specific group and delivering targeted messages.
Instead, begin by focusing on one or two target audiences, expanding slowly as you build your credibility with the initial audience. Critically analyze your audience to understand who they are, what they need, what they want, what they like and how they should be addressed among other characteristics.
Study your competition
Next, you want to study your competitors with more established brands. There’s a lot you can learn about marketing and branding within your niche by studying established brands in the niche. Research what their colors, logos and other brand identifiers look like and their significance. Find out how they differ from others in the niche, how they speak to your target audience and any other qualities that improve their efficacy.
You’re not doing this so that you can copy their strategies onto your own board. Rather, you want to understand the reasons behind their branding decisions, and use these motivations to create your own unique brand that does the same.
Find out your uniqueness
Knowing your competitors and how they do their thing, decide the aspects that will make your brand stand out from the others. This could come from your business plan, for instance, offering products and lower prices than the competition. Whatever it is, ensure your brand building efforts emphasize that. Find ways to make your brand stand out from the pack.
For instance, are they more conservative, more traditional and older? Is there a newer better way to offer your shared target audience better value? Go for a cutting-edge and sleek strategy that will stand out. If the other brands seem pretentious and elitist, build a brand that appeals to everybody by being down-to-earth.
Think of the brand as another person
Once you have the information and started with the preliminary brainstorming, you can speed up the process by attempting to define the brand as a ‘person’ instead of just a written voice or logo. If your business was a human being, what kind of person would they be? Young or old? Male or female? What would they wear? How might they speak?
If he/she was a stranger and they approached you, would you be happy to see it and want to get to know it? What are its hobbies? You may never need to answer any of these questions to customers, but having responses for them will give you a better idea of what you want your brand to become.
Apply brand personality in different areas
Next, think about how you might translate these personality qualities into practical and tangible digital marketing strategies. For instance, what would your brand colors be? What would you like your logo to look like? How will you bring out your brand voice through media, content and other promotional material?
Try to think of your ‘brand personality’ as an entity that will engage with individuals within your target demographic. How would they approach a member of your demographic? How will they communicate? How would they win their loyalty and trust? There are no easy answers to these questions, but having answers is critical if you’re going to build the right foundation to base your brand core upon.
Look for help
Finally, having developed the core idea on which your brand will be built, you’re ready to look for external help in adding flesh around your brand building framework. Unless you have expertise or experience in creative marketing and/or graphic design, it is best to enlist the experience of a professional. You can also hire an in-house branding expert (most often a creative director) or outsource branding to an agency.
Outsourcing doesn’t mean you have handed over the reins to the experts; you are still instrumental in keeping your team informed about the new brand and its direction. The professional will simply help you hone the quality of your ideas according to what is demanded by the market.
Make Your Brand Magnetic
Years ago, the sales pioneer E. St. Elmo Lewis came up with this magical construct called the AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) method. Since then, AIDA has evolved into various (and more complicated) structures, but it always begins with getting the consumer’s attention. One of the ways to do this is through brand awareness.
The Curse of Brand Anonymity
“We have so many great products/services. We have this great team. How come no one seems to know we exist?”
It’s a common question. You pour your hard work out into the Interwebs and you just know everyone will flock to you… but nothing happens. Why?
It’s the curse of brand anonymity, or lack of brand awareness. People don’t know you exist, so they aren’t looking for you. You need to spread the word.
First, however, you have to make sure you have a brand to share.
What’s in a Brand?
As we wrote about in “The Difference Between Branding, Marketing and Selling“, “brand” is more than just your logo and tagline. It’s one of the 4Ps marketing mix.
Charmin is a perfect example. Most people won’t picture the Charmin logo. They won’t automatically think of toilet paper or flushable wipes. Instead, they’ll picture those cute little bears (image is property of the Charmin brand), or the “squeezably soft” baby. The rest comes after the babies and bears.
Now, let me ask you. Do you really want to cuddle your toilet paper? No. No you don’t. But if you did, you know Charmin is the toilet paper to cuddle because it’s so soft. Soft enough that you might want to use it on your sensitive derriere.
Welcome to the school of brand.
So. Have you developed your brand? Let’s look at the four cornerstones of a strong brand.
1. Your message is consistent.
If you’ve shared your brand story, you can’t change it. Oh, sure. It can grow, develop, evolve… but it can’t change. You can’t start out as a car mechanic shop, switch to selling clothes, and expect people to play along like they never knew you had grease up to your elbows.
Your message (who you are, what you stand for) has to permeate everything you do. Do you stay consistent throughout your site? Will visitors be able to tell exactly what you’re about within a few seconds?
2. Your business is personable.
Does your business have a personality? Is it friendly, brash, crass, “out there”? The Verisign brand creates feelings of trust, for example, which is why so many online businesses use them.
You want people to think of your business as a person. Not just any person, though: a memorable person. “I’ve heard of them. I know them. I like them. Hey, have you checked them out?”
We may talk about how marketing is growing away from the “big business” attitude to this newer, friendly communication outlook, but the fact of the matter is, marketing is reverting. We’re going back to the days where you talked about Sam, that builder who did you right or wrong, over a proverbial neighborhood fenceline AKA social media.
Give your business a personality!
3. Your business values are transparent.
If you hug trees, don’t be afraid to share where you hugged them last. In other words, if you try to make sure your operations are environmentally friendly, make sure it’s known. If you try to keep your carbon footprint down, share how you do it. If you support a charity, share which one (or ones).
Sharing philanthropic activities with consumers can go a long way towards having them align themselves with your products. It’s a fine line, however, between sharing and bragging. Give the information its place on your site, but keep the blinking lights down low.
Salesforce does this well. They have this awesome “integrated philanthropic approach,” which uses the resources they have to improve communities around the world. They give their employees six days off per year to go do good somewhere. It’s fantastic work… but if you go to their website, all there is, is a link in the dropdown navigation, mixed in with the rest, that says Salesforce.org. You’d never know what it was just by looking at it.
For Salesforce, they can check this one off the list.
4. Your repetitive exposure pieces are simple.
You’re going to be blasting people at all sorts of times and places with your logo, tagline/slogan, jingles, and other marketing magic. You want to make sure they’re not too complicated, but you also want to make sure they’re easily remembered.
Head On is the perfect example. When I think of repetitive exposure, I automatically think of that annoying commercial. They didn’t have to think too hard about that one, and it’s about as simple as it comes.
Your brand is the soul of your company. It will become what moves your customers to follow you. You’ll eventually gain brand advocates and brand cheerleaders. People will say, “Hey, you know that brand…” and others will say, “Oh, yeah! I’ve heard of them!” or better yet, “I love them!”
To get there, however, you have to start with the basic checklist above:
- Consistent message
- Business personality
- Transparent ethics
- Simple and memorable
Brand building is a continuous process; more intense in the beginning for sure, but it’s something that never stops. You must be around and proactive in ensuring that all team members and outsourced providers understand the brand, and correctly apply it as needed. It is also wise to update your brand every few years according to changing market requirements, business objectives and consumer preferences etc. Remain consistent in your branding message, and you’ll find yourself gaining traction, visibility and authority with your audience.