When you think of Coca Cola, Nike, or even Kardashian, what comes to mind? They’re all names that have become synonymous with a look, an activity, or a lifestyle. We’re talking about branding, baby, and it’s something that every business or professional should know.
What is Branding?
In one word, a brand is everything. It’s about having a unified image that ties the senses together with emotion. When it’s done right, you will know a company just by seeing it’s logo or a certain pattern of shapes and colors. Doritos highlighted this fact with their new marketing campaign that features just a plain red or blue bag and a triangle.
They’ve laid the groundwork, and they know that you know their name without it ever being mentioned.
Think about the brands you use and why. Do you choose a particular fabric softener because the name makes you think of warmth and comfort? Does the soup you enjoy remind you of coming in from the cold when you were a kid? What about your aftershave or perfume, your car, and the clothes you wear?
Emotions and associations with certain products and companies are the result of careful branding, and it isn’t just for the big boys and girls anymore. To remain competitive and recognizable, you need to define and build your brand.
5 Easy Steps to Building Your Brand
Strong brands know who they are and why they exist, and they’ve developed a strategy that conveys that to their audience and makes them stand out from the competition. Your branding efforts should clearly communicate your identity, yet be flexible enough to evolve as your business grows.
It’s no easy task. It takes deep insight, a strong creative team, and a level of self-awareness for your branding strategy to bear fruit.
Our goal is to take you through the steps of building your brand. What you do with the information is up to you. We can’t wait to hear about your success!
1. Understand What Branding is, and What it Isn’t
Branding is about more than creating a logo or color scheme and plastering it all over everything. When creating your brand identity, you need to make a unified effort that ties that logo and color scheme to who you are and the image you want to present to the public.
These needs will differ depending on your product or industry, but branding includes:
- Photos or illustrations
- Video and motion
- Data visualization
- Interactive components
All of these elements come together to appeal to the target audience, convey emotion, and create a connection between the individual branding components and your company.
2. Do Your Research
Your brand identity is the face of your company that you show to the public. In order to build a brand that connects with people, you have to know your products or services inside and out. Then, you need to relay that insight to the public in a way that’s visual, even visceral.
To do this, you also need to know your audience. What are their pain points, their wants or needs, and how does your product address them? What sets you apart from other companies in your niche?
Get a firm grasp on your mission and vision, research your audience, create a persona of the ideal customer, and hone in on the ways your company serves them better than the other guy.
3. Craft a Brand Strategy
Once your exhaustive research is finished, you have to find a way to translate all of that data into a visual concept.
The most effective marketing elicits emotion. Get together with your marketing team to brainstorm the best words to trigger an emotional response, and pair them with images and colors that reinforce those emotional triggers.
All of these components go into crafting a unified brand strategy that includes print and/or digital marketing, social media outreach, and customer acquisition/retention.
Your branding should be:
- Memorable. This means creating a visual impact that’s so strong, seeing your logo or colors immediately identifies your brand to your audience without ever mentioning the name. Consider the Nike swoosh or the sunburst on a box of Tide.
- Distinct Don’t go the cheap, shady route and use similar colors, shapes, and patterns to the competition. You want your packaging or website to stand out.
- Flexible You want your image to grow and evolve with your brand while retaining consistency.
- Cohesive Every element of your brand should complement and build upon the next.
- Easy to apply It’s clean, uncluttered, intuitive, and easy for your design team or printer to create.
4. Build Your Brand Identity
Successfully creating an identifiable brand and watching it thrive are among the most satisfying things a business owner can achieve. But, your work isn’t done yet. You need to nurture and maintain your brand identity and reputation.
Here, consistency is key. You’ve done your research, put together a unified look for all of your platforms, and created an eye-catching, easily identified logo. Now, you’re ready to build upon that foundation and grow your brand.
One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through combining traditional marketing with content marketing. This approach combines using language that matches your brand personality, telling a story that connects with your audience on an emotional level, and leveraging your social media presence to support engagement and interaction.
Make sure to monitor and tweak your efforts by analyzing metrics, initiating customer surveys, collecting feedback, and engaging with your audience on a regular basis.
5. Know What to Avoid
Sometimes, it’s not about what you do, but what you don’t do. Just as there are black hat practices that will punish you with Google, there are bad habits in branding that you should avoid altogether.
- Don’t lose consistency between digital and print media. Some elements will necessarily be different, but the overall look, tone, and language should be unified.
- Don’t copy the competition. You may love their branding and be in the same general niche, but when it comes to advertising, imitation is the opposite of flattery. Take what works for others into account, but retain your own unique identity when it comes to concept and execution.
- Don’t send mixed messages. Keep your branding, language, and approach consistent at all times, and make sure that they clearly convey your vision.
Whether you’re a small business owner, the head of an emerging enterprise, or a solo professional, you and your brand are one and the same. Establishing your brand identity is the first step toward creating authority, recognition, and trust among your peers and audience.
It takes a little bit of work to set the foundation for brand recognition, but the ROI is huge. From there, you’ll nurture and build on your brand image, taking it as far as your ambition and imagination will allow.
What are some of your branding challenges and success stories? Tell us about them in the comments.