These days, it’s so easy to get lost in the crowd. Most businesses have multiple competitors all doing something that’s the same as or similar to what they do. In this blog post, we’re going to give you the basic steps you need to follow to build a memorable brand that makes you stand out from the crowd.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or are considering whether to update your brand, following the process we outline here will mean that you’ve done due diligence. That, in turn, means that you stand a better chance of building, not only a brand, but one consumers are willing to be passionate about.
But first, a bit of general information. After all, there’s more to branding than most people realise!
What is a Brand? Components of Branding
Your logo will be one of the first things you think of when considering branding - but it’s actually one of the last things you develop! Needless to say, we all know how important a logo can be: Coca-Cola lures us into stores on hot and thirsty days while the Golden Arches of McDonalds beckon temptingly when we want a quick bite to eat.
Colours and fonts matter too. Branding is all about consistency, and being consistent means being instantly recognisable, both online and off. You’ll be using your chosen colours and fonts everywhere: store decor, staff uniforms, vehicle wraps, point of sale material, signage, documents, social media, and, of course, your website are all examples of places where your choice will be implemented.
Patterns (if used) and icons should be consistent for similar reasons. Nowadays, marketers are replacing blocks of text with icons that convey ideas. Once you’ve found the ones that work for you and that resonate with your customers, consistency will be important.
Brand collateral covers the materials and media you choose for promotional purposes. While signage and websites are obvious examples, there’s more. The stationary you use, the brochures you offer and the literature you share with clients all fall under this component of branding.
Website design could be seen as part of brand collateral, but it’s such an important element that it should be given one of the greatest investments in terms of strategic focus, time, and consideration.
Content and messaging are also an important part of branding. While logos, colours and fonts provide a visual identity, this element of branding defines how you’ll speak to your customers. Will you be informal and quirky? Is it better to adopt a formal, authoritative approach? You can’t do both! Once again, it’s about consistency.
Advertising is also part of your brand. In the brand development process, consider which platforms you’ll choose to convey your brand to prospective customers. For example, while a leaflet campaign might be fine for a local fast food outlet, it won’t create the right impression if you’re a lawyer!
Print and packaging will also be a consideration. If you produce a product, the package is what conveys your brand to buyers, and despite living in an online world, print and paper still play a role. Like other elements involved in branding, these items convey a message and form part of your brand identity.
Advantages of Building a Strong Brand
There’s no getting round the fact that building a strong brand is a massive task. However it’s such a vitally important step for your business that doing it thoroughly (instead of just cobbling together a logo and hoping for the best) will be worth your while. Not convinced? Let’s take a look at the advantages you’ll stand to gain if you hit the bullseye!
Brand recognition: “I’ve heard of them before” or “I know this company.”
Customer loyalty: “I always work with them. They’re great!”
Word-of-mouth referrals: “You should try them.”
More effective advertising: “I need to know this.”
Attract and retain staff: “I want to work for them!”
More motivated staff: “I work for a great company, so I’m ready to do my best.”
Reduced price sensitivity: “I don’t mind paying more if it’s from them.”
When to Update Your Brand or Rebrand
It’s possible that you’ve already been in business for a while and already have all the elements of branding in place, but even the best brands undergo updates and sometimes even complete rebranding.
Need an example? Domino's Pizza only held 9 percent of the pizza restaurant market share in 2009. It turned out that there were several things that made it unpopular, so Domino's went about addressing those issues and made its commitment to change clear by undertaking a complete rebranding exercise. Today, it’s the largest pizza brand in Australia besides holding a dominant market share elsewhere in the world.
There are many possible reasons for rebranding: here’s a top 10:
You’re going international: What worked at home may not work as well in other languages and cultural contexts. Example: Raider becomes Twix.
Repositioning: You want to reach new markets or increase your appeal in your existing market. Example: Walmart’s 2007 slogan change.
New CEO or new ownership: A new CEO can change the personality of an entire business, and its brand should follow suit. Example: Apple’s 1997 rebrand and logo update.
Image needs updating: If your business has been around for a while, your brand probably needs updating to suit modern expectations and aesthetics. Example: Shell Oil has rebranded eight times to stay abreast of changing trends.
You merged or acquired a new business: You’d like to capitalise on both brand identities and reflect your new focus.
Your market has changed: Mastercard rebranded to make its brand mobile friendly. Gucci discovered that it wasn’t winning the heats of younger consumers. Its rebrand repositioned the business with measurable (and memorable) results.
Your brand identity isn’t clear: When brands develop organically, individual elements may be inconsistent. Example: GAP clothing tried a new logo without bothering to revise other brand elements or researching its market. Amid fierce criticism, the brand reverted to its old logo at the cost of about $100 million.
Your brand looks too similar to another: Brands are there to help you with differentiation. A brand identity that too closely matches another creates confusion - and it can even lead to litigation!
You developed or acquired a new brand: It’s great having a diversified offering, but managing two brand identities is more costly than managing one.
Developing a Brand Strategy
Before you begin with branding or rebranding, you need a strategy. A brand isn’t just about looks. It includes intangible elements, and if you want to shape a brand, you need a strategy that keeps you in control of the brand. Here are seven essentials that make up an effective brand strategy.
1. Your Purpose
Sure, you want to make money. Every business does. But that’s not a purpose on its own. A purpose can certainly include making money - but it should also identify what you do to make other people’s lives better and why your brand exists.
Look for things that your competitors don’t do. You may be solving the same problem for consumers as they do, so why should they choose you over your competitors? That’s what differentiates you. Now the only question to answer is whether there’s any real reason why consumers should care about your differentiating factors. If you can nail those down, you’re off to a great start!
2. Competitor Analysis
You’re in it to win it, so knowing your competitors is important. You can watch them carefully to see what methods they’re employing and how it works for them. Your brand will aim to position itself to be BETTER than competitors’, but you need to know yourself, your customers, and your competition in order to get it right.
Consider factors like pricing, reputation, location, product and service offering and quality, and their brands and communication methods. You don’t have to imitate them (in fact, you shouldn't) and you don't need to win on every point, but you do need real reasons why customers should choose you over the competition..
3. Know Your Prospective Customers - And Your Ideal Customers
Taking the necessary steps to understand your customers could give you the edge when it comes to building a trusted brand. The more specific you can be, the more you can direct communications to someone whose needs you understand, and the more likely you will be to create a brand that resonates with your audience. In short, you need the ability to get under their skins and know what it’s like to BE them.
Most people identify target markets too broadly. For example, they might say they cater to “Over 30s” or “women.” But that’s more like a shooting range than a target!
That’s why many companies are using “customer personas” to direct their branding and marketing towards a customer-centric approach. In essence, you will create a character that represents your ideal customer. Note - that isn't the same as every customer who might spend their money with you. You’re trying to identify the kind of person whose needs you can easily fulfil, who profits your business, and whom you’ll actually enjoy serving.
He or she will have a name, an age, a lifestyle, an income bracket, hopes, fears, and ambitions. By the time you have finished with this exercise, it should be possible to speak as your ideal customer or to your ideal customer with perfect ease. After all, it’s someone you already know!
You may be concerned that by adopting this approach, you’re pitching to a smaller percentage of prospective customers rather than the full spectrum. However, the Pareto principle, which states that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers, applies.
If you identify who is in that 20 percent and pitch to them, at least some of your message will still resonate with the 80 percent who aren’t “ideal” customers, while your brand surgically and specifically targets the “ideal” customers from whom most of your revenue flows.
4. Brainstorm Brand Mission and Vision Statements
Although an awful lot of people seem to think that vision and mission statements are just there to sound nice, they’re actually incredibly important. Let’s think about what they’re meant to do.
The mission says what your brand does for its customers.
The vision indicates your plans for the future of the brand.
Sounds simple and obvious? It isn’t always. Life (and work) can get complicated, and there are times when you need to remind yourself and others of what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it. Mission and vision statements do that. And if they feel “wrong,” you know it’s time to revise your entire brand strategy. After all, strategy is a path to a goal, and the goal should be reflected in your vision statement.
Your brand’s mission and vision might differ somewhat from the overall business's, but unless you’re offering a diversity of unrelated services, it will probably match your business’s activities and plans for the future.
Developing a good vision and mission statement can take a lot of time. As a marketing agency, we are sometimes asked to craft these statements on behalf of our clients. Since we go out of our way to know their businesses as well as possible, we’re usually able to help. However, it’s extremely important to review any vision and mission statements crafted by agencies or consultants to ensure that they resonate with you. Ask yourself: “Is this who we are and who we want to be?”
5. Think “Benefits”
Customers don’t buy products. They buy benefits. For example, credit card companies aren’t just offering a method of payment, or even a line of credit. The benefits are having quick access to extra funds when the unexpected happens, convenience, and even a degree of status: is your credit card gold or platinum?
Household detergents might seem to offer cleaning agents, but that would make all detergents the same. Perhaps the real benefits other than “It cleans stuff,” which shouldn’t be forgotten, could include “It’s gentle on your skin,” or “It’s biodegradable and good for the environment.”
Always think about how your product benefits your customers and highlight those benefits in your branding and in your brand-related messaging.
6. Develop a Consistent Style
Every single thing you do in marketing your business and its brand should contribute to your branding strategy and the message you want to convey to the world at large. Anything that doesn’t contribute detracts from that. Ultimately, your branding exercise should result in a style guide or “Brand Bible” that will promote consistency. It will begin with your vision and mission and will go on to explain the colours, tone of voice, and positioning of your brand.
Style conveys an overt message as well as a subliminal one, and you will want that message to be consistent so that you don’t confuse your customers as to “who” your business is. A Consistent style reinforces your branding and anything you do or say becomes instantly recognizable as being “you.”
7. Your Brand’s Narrative
Everybody loves a good story. But this time, it’s a true story. How did you come to be in your line of business? What was the AHA moment? How did you reach the point where you are today and why do you get up in the morning? Elements to include are who you are, what you do and why, and why people should be interested in the consumer problem that your brand addresses.
People are important in narratives. While customers do view your brand much as they’d view a natural person it still lacks a human element. It’s easier to like a person and their story than to like a business and its story, so this is also the point where you have to accept that hiding behind your brand will dilute its appeal, come out from the shadows, and shine!
Need an example? Did you know that colonel Sanders, the face of Kentucky Fried Chicken was a real person? He took humanising his brand to the next level by making his face part of the brand, and although the Colonel died in 1980, we still know about his secret recipe and instantly recognize “his” business when we see the familiar signage. By the way, Kentucky has rebranded, but it has never dispensed with the Colonel.
8. At Last! The Logo, Tagline, and More!
We can equate everything we’ve done up till now to identifying and describing your business’s “body.” Now we’re ready to start dressing it up in a style that incorporates its personality and attributes.
Your Logo: No matter how big or small your business is, it’s logo is an at-a-glance mark of its identity. As your brand grows into a trusted and recognized brand, people will associate all your business’s positive (or negative) attributes with this seemingly-simple symbol.
Apart from keeping it crisp, clear, and simple, you also need to consider what size it will be in a variety of contexts and where you will place it.
Your Colour Palette, Typography, and Fonts: The logo speaks to your colour palette: another way to reinforce your brand’s identity through visual elements. It’s a range of colours that you’ll use everywhere. As for fonts, they also convey a message. For example, you wouldn’t choose a cartoonish font if you want to be taken seriously and Times New Roman wouldn’t work for a high-tech business since it harks back to the days of the typewriter.
Iconography and Photography: Icons and images should also reinforce your brand, so making a purposeful choice based on the work you’ve done so far will make a difference and ensure a visually congruent message.
Web Page Elements: This step combines functionality with visual impression. Consider things like tables, information for different geographical regions, whether you’ll present information in longer-form style or prefer bulleted lists, tables, and check boxes for the presentation of important information.
All of these elements should be captured in a “Brand bible” or brand style guide that specifies how the people who are doing your marketing work should approach it. If you don’t have time to go through this process yourself, you can ask for help from consultants. However, check their work carefully and ask any questions you may have before finalizing it, since it’s a bigger decision than most people realize it is! After all, it will guide your brand development team, and changing it amounts to rebranding - an exercise that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
9. Incorporate Rewards Strategies Into Your Branding
Your loyal customers are your best marketing asset. Don’t forget them when developing your brand strategy. Consider how you will encourage them to interact with you and how you will go about thanking them for doing so. If you already have a loyal customer base, use them as a sounding-board for your ideas and remember to give them recognition in return.
That’s why you see so many stores offering loyalty cards nowadays. It’s not the only way to do it, however. There are tons of ways to reward your customers provided you have a good CRM system and track customer behaviour, sales history and so on. While this is more difficult for brick and mortar businesses than online ones, there are ways for them to incorporate the strategies used by the online giants into their operations.
For example, YDMA has developed a tool called “Guest Services” that makes it possible to nurture your loyal customers, encouraging repeat business and reducing the cost of customer acquisition. Although not all branding guides recognize this step, loyal customers are easier to sell to than new ones, so don’t forget them in the process of building your brand.
10. Use Your Brand in Every Possible Context
The final step in building a strong brand is to incorporate all the elements we’ve discussed into everything you do. That’s also why your full satisfaction with the results achieved in all the steps we’ve been through so far is so important.
Although your brand is there to help customers to recognize you, it has to be representative of who your business is. When you start using these elements in every part of your day-to-day activities, it should never feel false or contrived. Customers will soon pick up on it, and instead of trusting your brand more, they’ll trust it less!
If, however, you’re comfortable with the brand and the way it reflects your business, flaunting it at every opportunity is something you'll be enthusiastic about, and customers will pick up on that too! Enthusiasm is infectious!
The Biggest Reasons Why Companies Fail to Build Trusted Brands
The most common reason why big companies fail to build trusted brands is lack of authenticity. They have a vision of how they’d like their audience to view them, but that image isn’t who they are and they can’t deliver on the promise implicit in their branding. The result? Their audience stops trusting them!
For smaller businesses, it’s usually a matter of not having enough knowledge or enough time. The proprietors are already tied up with routine work in which their expertise is needed, so even if they have an idea that brands are important and that they should develop one, efforts are piecemeal at best. The result? A brand that deserves to be recognized, but never is.
Never Underestimate the Importance of Your Brand
“Hey! Some company (I forget it’s name) did some awesome work for me, and I’d recommend them if only I could remember who they are.”
Could your customers be saying this about you? Your good work is memorable, but your brand is the identity that shaped that memory. If you don’t have a brand, your business doesn’t have a strong, memorable, instantly-recognizable identity. In a word, it’s weak.
Just as your own name is your identity, and just as personal names can be famous or obscure, so your brand is your business’s identity. Without it, you’re just another “face in the crowd,” and everything you do to differentiate from the competition becomes all-but-pointless.
If you haven’t given your brand the attention it deserves and don’t have the necessary skills to develop one, or the time to go through the process of developing or updating your brand, get help! Find out how Your Digital Marketing Agency can help you to build a strong trusted brand. The full extent of the rewards may not be immediate, but with the passage of time, they will be enormous.