How to brand your business is a question many entrepreneurs and business owners ask often. They think it’s a complicated process – reserved for corporations – that won’t yield any return on their investment.
But competition in today’s cluttered marketplace creates an infinite amount of choices for consumers. Simply having a better product or service is not enough anymore. There is too much noise. Creating a brand for your business is essential to its success.
Businesses need to find better ways to reach their audience. Sure they may see your ad campaigns and read your emails, but will they remember what you are saying, or are you just adding to the noise?
A strong brand needs to stand out, it needs to connect emotionally with customers and become irreplaceable.
If your business is struggling with:
- Increasing leads and sales
- Attracting customers
- Gaining repeat business
- Demanding higher prices
- High employee turnover rate
Then it’s time to dig deep and take a look at the fundamentals.
Use this as a guide to build a brand for your new business and gain traction in your marketplace.
What is a Brand?
First of all, what is a brand?
There are so many misconceptions surrounding brands. It blows my mind how many businesses think their logo is their brand, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s begin by establishing an interesting concept.
First of all, a brand is not a tangible asset.
You do not own your brand. A brand exists only in the viewer’s mind.
Yea, it’s quite the concept to wrap your brain around, but a brand is simply a perception people have of your business.
So, if a brand is just a perception, how do we build a brand your customers will never forget?
With a brand strategy.
By developing and executing a brand strategy we can help shape the perception our audience has of our business.
Do I even need branding?
This is a question we hear all the time.
Most new business owners and entrepreneurs think branding is a waste of their time.
Most small businesses start out like this:
The owner has an idea, starts a website, opens up a social media account, buys some google ads, and hopes for the best.
But what is guiding their actions? What is guiding their marketing campaigns? What is guiding their communications? Why would anyone buy their products or services over their competitors?
I bet you 90% wouldn’t know how to answer these questions.
Branding acts as a compass to all your decision making. It gives you a crystal clear understanding of who your target audience is. It defines what makes you different and why people should even bother buying from you.
When you think about this, you can’t have marketing, or advertisements, without a brand.
How to brand your business
Creating a simple brand strategy can be intimidating.
After all, a brand is just like a real person. It has beliefs, values, and personality.
How do you even begin to build a brand for your business?
It all starts with a strategy. We can simplify the brand-building process by breaking it down into six steps.
- Brand core
- Target Audience
- Differentiation Strategy
- Brand Persona & Tone
- Messaging Framework
- Brand visual identity
Yea you’ve seen it before.
Brand mission statements and values plastered all over big business websites.
They seem like a bunch of useless PR statements used by large corporations, but they serve a bigger purpose.
Your brand core is essential to creating a brand for your business.
Your brand core will act as a compass to your brand’s direction and decision making.
Everything your business does, all the communications it sends out, every marketing campaign it runs; all this starts with your core fundamental beliefs, your mission, your vision, and your purpose.
No, this isn’t just a statement that gets posted on your website only to be forgotten about. This is the foundation of your brand. It is the reason why you do what you do beyond making money.
Your core is what gives your business life. It adds a human element to your business, allowing it to connect on a deeper level with your audience.
It’s one of the reasons why customers will resonate and fall in love with your brand.
To build a genuine, authentic brand, you need to know what you stand for.
To build a brand for your business, you need to define the following:
Purpose – Why do you do what you do beyond making money.
Goals – Where your brand will be in 5 and 10 years.
Commitment – What you promise to do day in and day out to reach your goals.
Values – What your brand stand for.
If you try to talk to everyone, no one will listen.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is not defining their target customer.
Knowing your target audience will shape your marketing campaigns, communications, and visual identity.
Saying you’re going to try and sell to everyone will only lead to failure.
Think about this, if you’re getting married and looking for a photographer, are you going to hire a “wedding photographer” or the photographer that shoots everything under the sun?
Targeting a specific audience ensures your message is heard.
The idea is to understand your audience on a deeper level. Dig deeper than just the demographics. You need to understand your audience’s psychographics, emotions, desires, and fears.
- What are their goals?
- What are their problems?
- How do these problems impact them?
- What do they fear?
- What motivates them?
- What do they desire?
By understanding our audiences at a deeper level, we can begin to shape a brand that speaks to them emotionally.
If you want to know how to brand your business, you’ll need to learn how to differentiate it from the competition.
Your differentiation strategy will define what you want to be remembered for. You need to give your audience a reason to choose you.
Having a better product is not a differentiator.
Just ask your competitors, I bet they will say the same thing; “Our product is better!”
Another strategy that doesn’t really work is having the “lowest price”.
In reality, there can only be one “lowest price”, and if everyone in your marketplace is fighting for this title, do you really want to be the winner of this battle?
Here’s a quick way to figure out what makes your brand different from your competitors.
Complete this sentence
“Our business is the only __________ that __________.”
In the first blank put in what you do (English language school, dog breeder, grocery deliver service). In the second black describe what you do differently than all your competitors.
According to Marty Neumeier, if you can’t complete this sentence using the word ONLY, you do not have a differentiator.
Brand Persona & Tone of Voice
Humans are driven by emotions and the best way to connect with your audience on a deeper level is by giving your brand a human personality.
We’ve already begun this process when we defined our brand core, but now we need to expand on it and give your brand character.
Knowing what you believe in, and understanding your audience’s psychographics, you can begin to craft a personality that not only communicates your beliefs but also speaks and resonates with who you are targeting.
Here are some of the things you need to consider when developing your brand’s Persona and Tone of Voice:
How will your brand sound?
What words will it use?
Will it be witty, serious, or professional?
Will it be casual, fun, and approachable?
Will it be respectful or will it be controversial?
Understanding who you are and why you are different is one thing, but if you can’t communicate that effectively with your audience you will never gain any traction.
A communication framework will guide every piece of content that you put out into the world. Whether it’s an ad campaign, a social media post, or a company email.
Each message should have a purpose.
Before you put out any content, think about what it is that you are trying to communicate.
Is it your values? Your differentiation? Is it the benefits your product or services provide?
Everything you put out there needs to serve a purpose.
Visual Brand Identity System
A guide on how to brand your business wouldn’t be complete without discussing the visual side of things.
After developing your brand strategy, you can begin to develop the visual identity system that will represent everything you’ve defined.
The first thing to understand is that your visual identity is more than just a visually appealing system. You need to put plenty of thought behind the design.
Each element of your visual identity needs to be influenced and aligned with your brand core, target audience, and brand persona.
Yes, your identity system will begin with a well-designed logo, but other elements such as fonts, colours, and imagery have a major role in making you stand out and communicating who you are.
These are some of the elements you should include in your Visual Identity System:
- Primary logo
- Secondary logo
- Responsive logo family
- Brand fonts
- Brand colour palette
- Brand photography style
- Brand pattern and textures
After designing your brand identity system, you can begin to design your brand touchpoints. These are the tools you will use to connect your brand to your audience.
Some of the touchpoints you will need to develop are:
- Web site design
- Business cards
- Social media campaigns
A Brand Evolves Over Time
This is just the starting point.
A strong brand has many different moving parts to it, but don’t get caught up in it, your brand will evolve over time.
Its customers may change, the look and feel may evolve, but your core beliefs and purpose will always remain the same. Stay true to your core fundamentals and you’ll reap the benefits over the long run.