There’s a pandemic which seems to be spreading. It’s aimed at small business owners and it’s not just annoying, it’s potentially harmful and dangerous.
Make no mistake about it: a recognisable and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets a company owns.
According to a Nielson survey, 59% of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them.
As a small business, you may be competing against big brands with devoted customers and unlimited marketing budgets. That’s why you have to find ways to differentiate—with a solid brand building process of your own.
Look… Branding is much more than just a cool logo or a well-placed advertisement. You need to do more.
Let me provide you with a quick definition before diving into the nitty-gritty of brand building.
Simply put, your brand is defined by a customer’s overall perception of your business.
The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, says it even better: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Your brand is your reputation!
In today’s market, a successful brand has to be consistent in communication and experience, across many applications:
Now, brand building being simple? The truth is: branding doesn’t happen overnight…or even in a few months.
Building a brand is definitely a process. However, the ongoing effort will result in establishing long-term relationships with your customers.
This can lead to a steady increase in sales, more projects, word-of-mouth referrals, and advocacy for your products or services.
The definition of brand building is to generate awareness about your business using marketing strategies and campaigns with the goal of creating a unique and lasting image in the marketplace.
Positive impression + standing out = brand success.
In 2020, the amplification of your brand image can be done effectively through various digital marketing activities:
Together, these channels are fundamental to gaining brand awareness and growth. We’ll dive into each of these elements in detail, later!
I simplified the path for a brand building process below, to help your business brand or personal brand gain a more loyal following.
Are you wondering where to start?
Every successful brand has a powerful purpose behind it.
And so should you.
It’s what you wake up every day loving to do for other people (and the world) through your product or service.
There are four questions you should ask yourself when defining a brand purpose:
You’ll use these ideas to inform the foundation of your branding, through a tagline, slogans, voice, messaging, stories, visuals and more.
Studies show that 50% of consumers worldwide say they now buy based on a company’s brand values and impact.
So dig deep and find those nuggets of truth which can distinguish your brand from others.
The Golden Circle concept can help in identifying the purpose behind anything in business or life, really.
In fact, in the video you’ll see below, Sinek explains how to truly differentiate a brand when most of them fail.
I’ve probably watched this presentation over a hundred times, and still get chills when I do. It’s one that I send to all clients prior to our kick-off meeting for the brand discovery phase.
Some people in the marketing industry think it’s overrated, but I disagree. It’s inspiring, certainly if you are new to branding a business or idea. And, there’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular TED talks of all time.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
The goal is not to do business with everybody that needs what you have.
The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
– Simon Sinek
You too can use The Golden Circle as a starting point to identify your unique brand purpose.
You should never imitate exactly what the big brands are doing in your industry.
But, you should be aware of what they do well (or where they fail).
The goal is to differentiate from the competition. Convince a customer to purchase from you over them!
We’re always thinking about how to make a brand stand out from what’s out there already. Don’t skip this step in the brand building process.
Research your main competitors or benchmark brands. For instance, study how well they have gone about building a brand name.
For a brand name to be effective, it needs to be easy for consumers to recognize and remember.
Competitor research is a key element of your own brand development. Start by creating a brand competitor spreadsheet for comparison. You can use Google Sheets, Excel, or even just a notebook.
Then, answer these fundamental questions.
Choose a few competitors, two to four (2-4) is a good number for your comparison chart. You might want to take a look at other local businesses, or even aim to benchmark against name brands.
The foundation for building your brand is to determine the target audience that you’ll be focusing on.
You can’t be everything to everyone, right?
When brand building, keep in mind who exactly you are trying to reach. You’ll tailor your mission and message to meet their exact needs.
The key is to get specific. Figure out detailed behaviors and lifestyle of your consumers.
I’ll explain with a few brief examples.
As you can see, targeting a niche requires committing to something very focused to start.
You’ll come to realize that the competitive advantage when branding your business is to narrow your target audience focus. This can help ensure that your brand message comes across crystal clear to the intended recipient.
Solidify a picture of your consumers, then learn how to create a brand identity that they can understand and relate to.
Brand creation relies on truly understanding the buyer persona. Here are a few of the things to document when describing your ideal customer:
To get even more definition for your brand’s buyer persona, dive into these details:
Identifying the target audience for your services or products is an exercise that will affect and benefit all areas of your brand building process, particularly marketing efforts. You want the right person consuming your content, clicking on your ads, opting in to your email list, etc.
As a result, determining the ideal audience for your business will support your overall digital brand building strategies. It’s definitely an important first step!
Have you thought about your brand mission? In essence, you’ll have to craft a clear expression of what your company is most passionate about.
This is your why; the reason you get up every day.
Before you can build a brand that your target audience trusts, you need to know what value your business provides.
The mission statement basically defines a purpose for existing. It will inform every other aspect of your brand building strategies.
Everything from your logo to your tagline, voice, message, and personality should reflect that mission.
When people ask you what you do: answer them with your brand mission statement.
You can use the information gathered from The Golden Circle exercise (see Step 1) to create a clear and impactful brand mission statement.
We all know the Nike tagline: Just Do It. But do you know their mission statement?
Nike’s mission is: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world“.
You can see the Nike mission everywhere. They focus on all types of athletes using Nike products to be their best selves.
Nike goes even further with its brand mission, by adding a footnote to the statement: “If you have a body, you are an athlete“. Think about how wide their target audience becomes with a disclaimer like that!
The company has built up such a reputation and brand following, that it’s able to increase the target to accommodate every “body”.
When branding your business, start small and remember to focus on your target niche audience first.
With time, your brand loyalty may grow enough to expand your reach.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. Before crafting your brand mission statement, gut check on whether you really committed to Step 3 of determining who your exact consumer is. It’s one of the most important branding process steps of them all.
There will always be brands with bigger budgets and more resources to command their industry.
Your products, services, and benefits belong solely to you.
Starting a brand that is memorable means you dig deep to figure out what you offer, and no one else is offering.
Focus on the qualities and benefits that make your company branding unique.
Assuming you know exactly who your target audience is (see Step 3), give them a reason to choose your brand over another.
It’s important to note that this is not just a laundry list of the features your product or services offer to the customer or client. Think about how you provide value that improves consumers’ lives (outcomes or results that are experienced).
Here are a few examples:
Apple is obviously not just another computer company. One of their key qualities is a clean design, and a key benefit is ease of use.
From unique packaging to their announcement events, Apple always reminds customers that its products can be used right out of the box.
Do you remember Apple’s slogan back in 1997-2002? It was “Think Different“. This notion continues to exist, today.
We’re almost halfway through the steps of brand building. If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a high five.
Your voice is dependent on your company’s mission, audience, and industry.
It’s how you communicate with your customers, and how they respond to you.
A brand voice could be:
There are endless adjectives and possibilities that can build a brand voice behind your messaging.
Ultimately, you want to choose a brand voice that makes sense and resonates with your target customers. (Again, going back to Step 3!)
You’ll see that if you find and use the correct brand voice, you have the strongest chance of connecting with consumers.
This is particularly important when publishing blog articles or social media posts. Maintaining a consistent voice will help your brand image become recognized on multiple channels in the same way. A community of followers, readers or subscribers will come to expect a certain brand voice and brand personality when they consume your content (see the next step).
Virgin America , (maybe not as much as about 3 months ago…), is known for its friendly and reliable customer service, and its voice constantly builds that brand.
On Twitter, notice their personable style—using location-based humor in this instance. They also reinforce the value that they bring to their customers—guaranteeing power outlets on every flight.
Customers aren’t looking for another cookie-cutter company that offers the same thing as everyone else.
They are looking for an experience tailored to their needs, backed by genuine personal interaction.
Wondering how to brand your business in a unique way? Make your personality stand out in every aspect of your brand building process.
Be consistent with this brand personality across all points of contact.
It can be as simple as:
When building a brand, tell customers succinctly who you are.
Use the business voice you have chosen for your brand.
Your messaging should be intricately associated with your brand and conveyed consistently.
This part of the brand development process goes beyond your logo and tagline to define the key aspects of:
A brand story is an opportunity to communicate on a human level, making a direct emotional connection with your consumers.
What this means, is that the language you use should be understood immediately while striking an emotional chord.
Make it simple and clear.
Most importantly: when creating a brand story, address not what your product can do…but why it is important to your customer.
TOMS Shoes has built a huge social following and overwhelming positive brand perception.
They clearly define their message front and center on their website: “Improving lives. With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One.”
This story is carried out through every touchpoint a consumer has with the brand.
When you think about how to build a brand, visuals probably come to mind first. We haven’t even talked about these until this deep into the branding process!
This step may be the one where you need help with creative execution.
The most exciting (and arguably the most important piece) of the brand building process, is to create a brand logo and tagline for your company.
This logo will appear on everything that relates to your business. It will become your identity, calling card, and the visual recognition of your promise.
So be willing to invest the time and money by creating something exceptional to reinforce the visual identity for your business.
Need help branding your business? Hire a professional designer or branding agency with logo and identity design experience, to help make your brand stand out.
Their expertise will ensure that you get a unique and timeless mark for your business.
A designer can also develop brand guidelines, to ensure consistency for any future application of the logo and associated brand color palette or fonts.
A strong brand style guide will include the following things:
The brand building process never stops.
Your brand should be visible and reflected in everything that your customer can see, read, and hear.
Let me explain.
If a client walks into your office, or a customer walks into your store—your brand image should be on display both in the environment and with personal interactions.
Anything tangible–from business cards to advertisements, to packaging and product–needs the stamp of your logo.
On any digital platform, ensure that your brand looks the same everywhere. Use your brand style guide to create consistency with visuals such as color and logo use, fonts, photography, etc.
Your website is the most important tool for marketing your brand. When you design your website: incorporate your voice, message, and personality into the content.
Profile pages for social media networks should be branded visually, and with your chosen voice for engagement.
And don’t forget about video! YouTube, Facebook Video and Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram Stories are all platforms that need to have content executed with your unique brand voice and personality.
For those venturing into podcast audio, adhere to a theme that supports your brand message, value, and voice.
Warby Parker has managed to quickly develop a brand that is unique and best in class. Their innovative product home try-on experience, retail environment, and digital content marketing efforts are perfectly tailored to the lifestyle of its target audience.
Unless you decide to change your brand into something that is more effective based on measured consumer response, consistency is key.
Once you establish a brand voice, use it for every piece of content you create. (See above, Step 6 in the brand building process.)
Document all the brand guidelines you create and distribute internally for reference.
What is brand building worth, if it is not consistent? Don’t constantly change your branding. The inconsistency will confuse your customers, and make long-term brand building more difficult.
Starbucks is the world’s leading specialty coffee retailer, and their brand has always promised to bring people together.
The Starbucks mission?
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
That’s why at every store you’ll find free Wi-Fi, large tables, and soothing music to make chatting with others easy. They always write your name on your coffee for an extra personal touch.
Even despite a logo change in 2011 (removing the company name!), the Starbucks brand perception remains strong. When you see that simplified green mermaid logo, what do you feel? I guarantee it’s something.
When you build a brand that works for your small business, you (and your employees) are the best advocates to market your brand.
No one knows your brand better than you, so it’s up to you to spread the word.
When hiring employees, ensure that they are a culture fit–aligning with the mission, vision, and values of your brand.
Encourage employees to establish a personal brand that aligns with your company branding process, further strengthening reach.
Give your loyal customers a voice. Encourage them to post reviews, or share your content.
There’s a pandemic which seems to be spreading. It’s aimed at small business owners and it’s not just annoying, it’s potentially harmful and dangerous.
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