A brand is so much more than a logo or other elements of graphics, and building a strong one is often equal to, if not more important, than the product or service itself – it is an identity. A culture.
Creating a powerful brand can be an unnerving task and there are many brand-related decisions entrepreneurs often make, that either make or break their brand! While we don’t have all the answers to building a successful brand, we have learned quite a bit – much through mistakes of our own – that we are willing to share with you in hope that you can implement (or avoid) them on your brand-building journey.
One of the biggest and most costly mistakes that an entrepreneur can make is having a poorly defined brand identity. The first rule of thumb – “know yourself…know your brand!”
It is important to lend careful consideration to what your brand is about and who your brand is aiming to serve. Defining your brand’s identity will help you mitigate blunders like spending too much time and money on the wrong things or making the right moves at the wrong time.
Not understanding your brand often leads to chaotic, knee-jerk actions that cause a brand to appear confused because there’s no true identity and strategy. We see it all the time.
Why is knowing your identity such a big deal?
Consider going to a job interview, you will most likely dress a specific way, present yourself in a particular manner; regulate your speech, your tone, your whole demeanor to fit the most impressive and employable identity. What you are doing is creating a persona that will strengthen your employability – in the same manner, your brand is the persona of the company and the way it is presented will leave your customers with a lasting impression.
What exactly is a brand?
According to the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
In a nutshell, your brand is your reputation, a customer’s overall perception of your business. By now it should be obvious why a brand needs a clearly defined identity, especially across the multiple applications we use in business today.
Your communication and experience should be complimenting each other whether it is:
- In-office (with both employees and customers)
- In print and content publishing
- Packaging and signage
- Website and social media
- Sales and Customer service
What this means is that building a brand will not happen overnight – it will not take a few months, but years of steady work. I guess you could deduce by now that your brand is also a culture. Brand-building requires strategy and longevity. If you do the right things consistently and for a sustained period, the results will show.
Use the following tips to building your brand!
IDENTIFY THE PURPOSE BEHIND YOUR BRAND (Who, Why, How and What)
- Who are you?
What is your true identity what does your brand stand for?
This is a pretty weird question to ask since your brand is not a person, so why am I asking about who you are? The truth is that people like to do business with people, not with businesses. You need to create a brand with personality, something that people can connect with – for greater engagement and trust. After all, if you don’t know who you are as a brand, then how do you expect your customers to know?
So…is your brand bold, witty, intimate, intelligent, funny, or creative? Knowing who you are as a brand is the first critical step in the branding process.
Taking a look at a brand like M&M’s for example, we can see their funny side at-a-glance, they are what we would call The Entertainer. They are playful, they are funny, they are witty and they appear not to take anything too seriously. I mean, how seriously can you take a company that still has a mascot like Big Red in 2021? It all starts with him, he’s the face of the company, and what a memorable, fun face it is! Chocolate is merely chocolate, but M&M’s bring fun and personality to the product and ultimately the brand. I’ll leave you to judge how massive the connection and engagement are!
- Why do you exist?
As companies strive to stand out in a crowd, a brand has to draw a definitive line between its ultimate goal and its purpose. As surprising as it may sound, they are not the same. Let me try to shed a little light on this. The main goal of a business is to make money – right? In most cases that is true, but that’s not the purpose of the business.
Your brand purpose speaks to why you exist – it is the real reason behind your brand’s existence, a realistic view of what you aim to become to your audience, for instance: “To Help Businesses Grow Better!”
- How do you differentiate your brand from the competition?
Your ‘how’ is the front door to your brand’s personality – a separation created by how you go about presetting yourself as a brand.
In a room full of chefs, you could ask them to make the perfect hot dog and I guarantee you would get a buffet of different sandwiches back. Perhaps there’ll be finely minced onion alongside perfectly boiled sausage on white bread with sweet paprika and egg whites, or probably grilled dogs on brown sesame bread with pickle relish, ketchup, sport peppers, sauerkraut, onions, cheese, and so forth. Whether boiled, grilled, or roast – whether pickle or no pickle, they will all turn out differently based on how the meat was prepared.
There’s no right or wrong to this process. There will always be customers who want their dogs to be grilled and others who want them to be boiled.
Try attracting the right customers by infusing your brand personality into ‘how’ you do things, and I guarantee a stronger connection. If they love how you do what you do, they will share their experience with friends, come back, again and again, to relive the experience, and increase your bottom line.
- What solutions do you provide – products or services?
What a brand does is the least important of the “who, why, how, and what conversation.” Though the “what” is not as important as the “how” – it is often the first thing that owners and brand ambassadors talk about! All mechanics solve the same problem, right? All restaurateurs’ mission is the same, however, what differentiates one restaurant or mechanic from the competition is “how” they approach business.
When a customer chooses to go with one brand over the other, many factors go into that decision be it quality, convenience, price, or trust – what’s true is that people support your brand based on how it makes them feel!
They are turned on to the reasons why you are doing what you are doing as this is what attracts them.
BUILD AN IDENTITY THAT PEOPLE WILL APPRECIATE
I know you can’t control people’s emotions, neither can you force someone to trust and love your brand. However, here’s a simple hack – if you can find just one customer who is impressed by your offer, then you can easily turn that one customer into thousands.
By leveraging the testimonial economy.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who reads all of the customer reviews on an item on Amazon before deciding which one to choose – it is the same in every business. An excellent review from one customer is being displayed before the eyes of thousands (or millions, based on your reach) and that review can make or break your customer base!
That’s the age in which we now live. We no longer pay attention to what businesses say about themselves, instead, we go online to learn what customers are saying about them. (Sadly, businesses without an online presence will suffer greatly soon.)
We often make our buying decisions based on comments from others who have experienced the same product or service that we are seeking to buy. Leveraging this economy to build a community of ambassadors ready to share their love of your brand online is pivotal.
IDENTIFY AND TARGET YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
Be mindful of exactly who you are trying to reach and tailor your message to meet their specific needs.
Instead of targeting ‘all Moms’, you could narrow down the niche to focus on ‘single Moms who work full-time from home’, for example.
A strong brand knows, sees, and appeals to its key demographic. The best way to do this is to create your ideal buyer persona in crystal clear detail. Consider geographical location, use of technology, age bracket, parental status, spending habits, goals, online/social media status, education, fears, dreams, weaknesses, dislikes, etc. When you know who the ideal customer is, you can modify your message to speak directly to this person.
RESEARCH COMPETITOR BRANDS WITHIN YOUR INDUSTRY
Though tempting it may be, you should avoid imitating exactly what the big brands are doing in your industry. However, to make informed decisions, you should be aware of what they do well (or where they fail). Remember, the goal is to differentiate from the competition. Convince the customer to choose you over them!
Invest time and effort into understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. This move will give you a clear picture of where you stand in the competitive landscape and where to channel your resources and strategy as you leverage opportunities that will help you gain market share.
Your competitor list will be determined by whether you’re targeting a local, national, or global market, as well as the amount of time you’ll need to devote to this task. This is not the time to be stingy with your time!
Determine your direct competitors
A direct competitor offers the same or very similar products or services that you offer. These brands would be directly competing in the market category you’re targeting, with similar target audiences and buyer personas.
Determine your indirect competitors
Brands that don’t directly operate in your market segment or offer similar products or services as you, but could cause conflict between vendors whose products or services could satisfy the same consumer needs.
A simple example is a jerked chicken shop that competes indirectly with a pizza shop and directly with another jerked chicken shop.
OUTLINE THE KEY QUALITIES & BENEFITS YOUR BRAND OFFERS
There will always be bigger brands with bigger budgets. Your products, services, and benefits belong solely to you. Figure out what you offer, that no one else is offering. Focus on the qualities and benefits that make your company branding unique.
FORM YOUR UNIQUE BRAND VOICE
Your brand voice is tied to your company’s mission, audience, and industry – it is how you and your customers interact. Let your voice be attractive to your target market.
Endless possibilities are surrounding the direction you go with your brand voice and messaging. Ultimately, it is more productive to go with a brand voice that makes sense and is attractive to your customers.
Your brand voice becomes important when publishing blog articles, vlogs, courses, social media posts, etc. Consistency is going to be key in establishing a trusted brand voice, as it will help your brand become recognized across 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.
Incorporate your brand into all aspects of your company.
The process of developing a brand never ends! Your brand should be reflected in everything that your customer sees, reads, and hears. In the office/store, online, in conversations, and customer service, it should all be the same!
A brand is a promise of an experience that is intrinsically linked to trust. If you want to create a successful brand, you must first define its personality. What are the brand’s ABCs: traits, behaviors, and characteristics? Then make sure that every interaction a customer has with the brand incorporates those ABCs. Consistency strengthens the brand and generates trust.
REBRAND IF NECESSARY
It’s never too late to look at where you are relative to where you need to be unique and find success! It’s perfectly okay to rebrand, particularly if you feel like you need to change your company’s perception in the eyes of potential clients.