If you’re a business owner or an aspiring public figure, you’ve probably heard that you need to develop your brand. Maybe you’ve thought about it a bit and put it on the back-burner. After all, what does branding even mean?
“Branding” is one of those terms that is often misunderstood – but it’s crucial that you get it right.
People often mistake branding for simply having a logo or mark that identifies your business. But, while a logo is part of your brand, it isn’t your brand itself. Your brand is emotional, rather than physical.
Here’s what that means:
As one of the most important factors to your business’s success, branding is the promise you make to your customers. More specifically, your brand is the set of emotions and perceptions that you intentionally cultivate around your business, which you constantly communicate to your customers through a series of visual and verbal cues.
The first step for your business may be to reflect this in your logo. Next, you can bring that message across to all of your digital platforms such as your website, Instagram, Facebook, etc. And as another piece of the puzzle, you may choose to create branded products or merchandise with your logo on them.
Now, that’s all fine, but why do you really need to devote time to developing your brand?
Because, branding helps potential customers identify your products or services, distinguish you from competitors, and create a persona that your customers can connect with.
In other words, it’s not just the physical products or services your business provides, it’s also the emotions your audience feels when thinking about your business – emotions that you can help create.
Have you ever looked at an Instagram page and been like: “Damn, they have a nice aesthetic!” That’s what you want to create for your brand – an aesthetic that can make it easily identifiable and get your core message across.
Ask yourself: What do people say, think, and feel about your business? That is your brand, and you have the ability to form that impression by choosing how you present yourself, your service, and/or your product.
On that note, let’s take a closer look at why branding is important and the elements that go into creating your own brand.
Without branding, your company is just one of millions, lost in the nebulous world of businesses, trying to make a name for themselves. You’ll have nothing to stand on to help your business get noticed, aside from a (hopefully) good product.
And, on the other hand, good branding helps you make a powerful impact on your audience, allowing you to differentiate your products and services from competitors and become the go-to business in the niche that you occupy.
It says: “I’m The Beetle Juice company and I make the best Beetle Juice soda in the entire soda industry.”
A key takeaway is that users and customers expect a certain level of humanity when it comes to brands they interact with. Whether it’s the customer service they receive or how vocal the brand is about social issues, everything’s important.
You need to find the balance between selling your brand and its product/service and being there for your customers when they need it.
Show you care.
There are many statistics that show consumer preferences; as a business, part of what you want to do well is cater to your customers’ wants and needs.
For example, 86% of consumers say authenticity is important and 77% say that a brand that has meaningful values (that align with their own) is going to have more engagement.
As was stated in the beginning, branding encapsulates many things that your business will need in order to be successful, and it’s important to develop your brand well so that you can see future success with what you’re selling.
To be more specific, branding helps you create the following:
Over time, your brand will help your business be known to consumers. As you consistently use visual cues like your logo and brand imagery, your audience will come to associate these cues with your brand.
So, brand recognition refers to the amount your audience is able to identify your logo and brand colors with your business.
A lot of your brand recognition is going to be built on the reactions of your customers. You need to make sure that what you’re offering gives the customer additional value while you provide them with great customer service.
Over time, the service you give your customers will be appreciated more and then you get to something called Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM).
WOMM is when some of the marketing and branding efforts lie in the hands – or mouths, rather – of your customers. Those who are impressed and satisfied with their purchase are likely to recommend your business to others. As a result, your brand gains recognition.
Think about two best friends, Sam and Fletcher:
Sam recently bought a new comb from a zero-waste eco-friendly small Instagram business. He loves the comb so much for his curly chin-length hair and he can’t wait to tell Fletcher all about it.
Because Fletcher trusts Sam, he takes the recommendation to heart and is more likely to purchase a comb for himself as well.
This cycle continues as Fletcher’s girlfriend mentions she loves how his hair looks recently and he tells her about his new comb. The information about the new comb continues being passed from friend to family member to many more people through simple Word of Mouth Marketing.
There are additional ways to up your brand recognition, but this is a good place to start.
Take a look at how Evolve Coffee Co. is using branding to its advantage:
What makes them unique is that each type of coffee blend has varying packaging. They maintain the brown paper bag-looking resealable pouch with the same logo and description format stamped on but give each blend its own identifiable logo.
This makes Evolve’s brand stand out from others who keep their coffee pouches looking very similar.
As you consistently implement your brand strategy (we’ll get to this below), you’ll help to generate what’s known as brand awareness.
All brand awareness means is how aware people are of your business, and the character traits they associate it with.
This takes brand recognition a step further; rather than just identifying a logo with a specific company, your audience will see your logo and instantly be able to correctly associate your product or service with your brand.
When your brand is recognized, people can tell what it is by looking at it (even if it doesn’t have your name printed all over it) – like Dunkin’ Donuts and their easily recognizable font and color scheme – whereas when people are aware of your brand, talking about it is second nature.
So, why is brand awareness important? Because it helps businesses stand out from competitors, generate leads, and ultimately build an audience.
Think about it this way; have you ever heard someone say: “Can you Bing/Safari/Firefox that?” Nope. It’s always: “Can you Google that?” Or, “I need a Kleenex.” People will say “Just Do It” and know that the reference is to Nike. That’s what brand awareness is.
You want your target audience to remember and think of you first, so start thinking about how to interact with them in a way that will help make that happen for you and your business.
Brand loyalty is ultimately what keeps your customers coming back. The more your audience connects with your brand, the more likely they are to become repeat customers.
Think about how you interact with brands in your daily life. Are you open to trying the new coffee blend from the store on the corner, or are you heading straight to Starbucks for your morning Americano?
What about when you have a specific gift in mind for a relative; are you going to Google the gift name and try to find sellers, or are you typing “Amazon.com” into your browser without a second thought?
This is brand loyalty, plain and simple.
You’ve come to rely on brands to deliver the experience that you want, and you’ve formed a strong enough connection with them to keep coming back, without exploring other brands that may provide the same – or an even better – experience.
Brand loyalty is cultivated over time, and it’s a product of consistently branding your business.
Customers that are with you for the long haul.
Loyalty is not easy to come by, that’s why knowing your audience is super important. Ensure your customers are engaged and cared for by taking action with the tips about brand recognition, awareness, and loyalty above.
Along the way, if you see that there’s a specific thing your brand does that gains a lot of traction with your customers, keep building that to help solidify your relationship with them.
In the long run, this will help you if you ever encounter issues or need to compete with other brands in your industry.
There are three main questions you should be answering to help you define the purpose of your brand. A concept named The Golden Circle outlines how you should approach this: What products or services do you offer? How are you different from your competitors? And, why do you do what you do?
The originator of this concept is leadership expert Simon Sinek who said: “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.”
Think of this concept as concentric circles and try to refine each answer you give. This will set you up to have a well-defined purpose.
Try to write down your answers to each of these questions and use them as a reminder of your purpose and what you want to achieve with your business.
You’ll be able to further refine and define your brand which is important for you and your customers. The more specific and better you are at articulating what your business is and does, the more confident you will be with your brand.
In the same way there are different kinds of businesses, there are also different types of branding for said businesses. Because various companies appeal to a wide range of audiences, it’s important to choose the best lens through which to create your brand – a lens that’s based on your audience.
Here is an overview of the most popular types of branding:
Corporate branding: This type of branding creates a brand around an entire corporation rather than a specific product. Companies with good corporate branding are usually associated with a promise that they deliver on; for example, any time Apple comes out with a new product, their customers assume that it’ll be unique and use top technology.
Or, think about Trader Joe’s for a second. What do you associate with this mid-level grocery store franchise? Probably a lot of great-quality, healthy, and fun people and food. You know that no matter what you can trust TJ’s to put your best interest as a customer first, which is all because of their branding efforts for their company as a whole as opposed to individual products.
Product branding: You know how “Kleenex” is now used instead of “tissues”? That’s a result of strong product branding – branding centered around a product, rather than a company or a person.
Girl Scout Cookies also claim this type of notoriety. There’s no question that millions of Americans look forward to GSC season every year – so much so that many stock up on boxes of cookies to keep them company for some time after they’re available for purchase.
Personal branding: Like it sounds, this refers to creating a brand around a person rather than a business. It’s an important thing for politicians and celebrities to cultivate, although CEOs and other public figures also benefit from investing in their personal brand.
Gary Vaynerchuck, also known as Gary Vee, is a great example of this. He is consistent with his content in the digital space and has a clear vision of the message he wants to deliver. Part of his success is attributed to his transparency in what he does, so if you’re doubting how to get started with your personal branding, take a look at his resources.
Co-branding: Here, two companies are involved; this type of branding is specific to companies who have partnered up to create a joint product or service for their audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the offering is a new single product as a result of their collaboration, it may just mean that you can now get the experience of their individual products on a different platform.
You know how you can now seamlessly stream Spotify while you’re driving with Waze? (If you didn’t then you’re missing out!) This experience is a direct result of co-branding.
No-brand branding: Also known as “minimalist branding”, this is a relatively new trend that assumes a company’s product is enough to speak for itself. These brands are often simple and have generic designs, based on the belief that their minimalism is what will draw in their target audience.
Some brands go this route for the exclusivity aspect. Supreme very successfully managed to create that narrative with their customer base as a luxury brand. They use their established customer relationship to build momentum and buzz for products that are ultimately collectibles because of the exclusivity aspect.
Geographical branding: Are you in the tourism industry? If yes, you should consider geographical branding – branding that is specific to the unique aspects of a particular region. This type of branding emphasizes their geographical uniqueness as the selling point for a particular product or service.
Although there are many Dead Sea companies, they all have similar branding and marketing approaches relevant to the local landscapes. You can also look at the IAmsterdam campaign which was a photography exhibition employed to promote tourism in Amsterdam.
As you can see, there are a number of different aspects a business or individual can focus on in order to set themselves apart and make their brand stand out on its own.
Now that you know what a brand is and why it’s important, the next thing to understand is what actually goes into forming a brand.
At the heart and soul of branding is your brand identity. This is the face your brand shows the world; it’s the visual representation of your brand that distinguishes you from your competitors.
To put it simply: Your brand identity is the way that your brand, with its core mission and values, is expressed to your audience.
Think about Lyft’s campaign, Undercover Lyft.
Although the end-goal for Lyft was to generate a larger user base, they never once mentioned that sentiment in any of the videos in their series.
It’s important to recognize that by repetitively showing up as a suggestion for viewers, Lyft furthered their branding because now a new association was made with the brand – it’s cool, it’s fun, it’s just as much for everyday people as it is for celebrities.
Lyft was able to create a memorable brand identity, and we, as their audience, have learned to associate that with the businesses behind it.
So, let’s break down which elements go into creating your brand identity:
At the core of your brand identity is your logo, and it’s the symbol that acts as your brand’s spokesperson. Before you create a logo, it’s important to think about what your brand’s mission is and the values that you stand behind.
There are many directions you can take when designing your logo, but it boils down to 3 main categories: font, color, and symbol.
You don’t need to use all three elements in your design, but you can if it matches the needs of your brand and business.
The font you choose will leave a big mark on your business. It’s important to play around with different options to find what best fits your brands’ vision.
Do you want to give off structure and formality, freedom, grittiness, vintage vibes, or any other feeling? Good. Write down exactly what you want.
This list will help you decide which font(s) will best suit your brand.
You can even take a look at what fonts other brands use and the emotional association you make with it to find out what will best fit your vision.
Color can also shape or reflect emotions. Think about what product or service you’re selling and what color associations come to mind.
Alongside this you can, like for your font choice, think about the feeling you want a customer to have when they look at your logo.
Warm colors often reflect positive emotions and cool colors can reflect calmness or formality.
Some businesses will opt for an icon to take the lead in their logo design.
The symbol can be either abstract or realistic to what you’re selling. For example, Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce uses a chili pepper as the icon for their logo design. It gives off a bold look which says a lot about the bold flavor of their product.
Whatever you choose, make sure that it is memorable and makes sense for your branding goals.
These traits should be expressed in your logo’s design – you can use a green color palette to express an eco-friendly brand, a cursive font to emphasize your elegant clientele, or a symbol of a mustache/beard combination to represent your barbershop business.
Your brand imagery is an important part of communicating your brand identity. It refers to the acceptable images you can use across all of your communications with your audience, and it’s usually centered around the colors used in your logo – think of it like having an overarching aesthetic.
(This isn’t to be confused with brand image, which is the way that your customers come to think about your brand over time, based on interactions they have with you.)
Brand imagery works with other elements of your brand to express your brand identity. It creates consistency throughout any physical products you create and digital platforms you may post on.
Anywhere you look, Bumble’s branding lies within these two elements – it’s very rare to see the word “bumble” printed or promoted because the color and symbol do so well that any text is unnecessary.
What this does is creates great brand imagery by offering users a consistent tone across any platform.
Think of the imagery on your website or your social media accounts; each of those images needs to be carefully chosen to make sure they use or complement your brand’s colors, values, and overall messaging.
You know how the most memorable people are the ones whose personalities stand out? The same goes for brands.
Your brand personality is the “human” part of your brand – the part that your audience can connect with.
Creating a brand personality is one of the most important aspects of branding because it’s what separates your brand from the others out there. A personality positions your brand as a “being” to which your audience can attribute human characteristics, which helps them form emotional connections.
To create your brand personality, research your competitors and how their brand behaves, so that you can know how to distinguish yourself from them and others in your niche.
Think of adjectives to describe your brand and draw what you think your brand would look like as a person.
You can decide to speak out on social issues, participate in lighthearted holidays (National Pancake Day, anyone?), or any other direction you want to take. Just make sure you’re consistent with your messaging.
Then, when you have an idea of who your brand is, commit it to paper and prepare to regularly communicate with it. This brings us to:
Once you have your brand personality worked out, you need to come up with your brand voice – i.e. the tone you will use in your messaging that expresses your personality.
Your voice should be distinctive, easily identifiable, complementary to the rest of your brand identity, and used consistently. In other words, your brand voice should always be recognizable as belonging to your brand.
You’ve probably encountered Skittles’s tagline, “Discover the rainbow. Taste the rainbow.” If you’ve seen any other ads of theirs you’ll have noticed how deeply they play into the rainbow scheme – some may say it’s borderline weird, but it works!
Their kooky, sarcastic, and funny approaches to marketing their product are expected which shows just how good of a brand voice they have. They use the same line of messaging in all of their materials which has helped them maintain a dialogue with their customer base.
When creating a brand voice, picture your brand as a living person that is talking to their friends. What do they sound like? Are they serious, comforting, and helpful? What about sarcastic, witty, and playful?
Write down three adjectives that define your brand voice, as these will help you create consistent messaging that expresses your brand identity in the long run.
Finally, you need brand guidelines that bring it all together. Although it sounds complicated, these guidelines are just a set of rules that explain how your brand works.
Consider building your brand style guide. It’ll be a way to consolidate all the specifics of your brand as a whole, and you’ll be able to reference it down the line if needed.
They include all of the above information about your brand identity, laying out the acceptable uses of your logo, the written traits of your brand voice, the types of imagery your brand can use, and your overall company mission.
Whether you work with others or are the only one running your business, your brand guidelines will make sure you’re branding your business consistently when communicating to your audience. And, like we said, this will help to create the brand awareness and recognition that builds your audience and customer base.
Can you guess what I’m going to say next? Write it down. In the end, you’ll have a clear picture of each aspect of branding.
Once you have a brand identity set up, it’s time to come up with a strategy that helps you implement your identity.
A brand strategy determines the who, what, where, when, and how you communicate your brand messages to your audience. Think of it as the blueprint for conveying who and what your brand is.
Your brand strategy should consist of 4 things: Your target audience, brand positioning, creative messaging, and brand marketing.
This should help you discover – if you’re not already sure – the purpose of your brand. The more you fine-tune these categories, the better you and your future customers will understand your business’s What, How, and Why – also known as The Golden Circle, mentioned above.
Without knowing who your brand is targeting, it will be difficult to form connections with your audience. So, before creating a strategy, it’s important to focus on your “target market”.
Who is your target audience
To do this, ask yourself these questions:
– Who would benefit from my product or service?
– How old is my ideal customer?
– What is their income range?
– What do they do for work? For fun?
Then, write down who your ideal customer is; this is the person you should be gearing your strategy towards.
Target Audience Research
Now that you have a good idea of who your ideal customer is, it’s time to put it to the test by conducting target audience research and analysis. You want to make sure that the people you’re reaching are interacting well with what you’re offering.
Sometimes you’ll also be able to find out if part of your target demographic is different or missing, based on the results you collect and use that information to guide your future marketing endeavors.
It sounds complicated but there are analytics tools integrated into social media platforms, exactly for this reason, that can assist you.
This information will give you a leg-up in refining your audience, crafting appropriate content, developing relationships with your customer base, be cost-effective, be more competitive in your industry, and improve conversion rates.
It’s going to help you be better at what you’re already doing from a sales and marketing approach.
Most importantly, this will help you refine your buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a profile of your target customer(s). It describes who your ideal customer is, which is based on your target audience research.
This may feel like a redundant step because it’s similar to initially defining your target audience, but it’s important to note that your buyer persona is much more research-based, and as a result more accurate.
After your initial assessment of who your target audience is and using analytics tools to back up your hypothesis, you can refine your target audience by sepcifying your buyer persona.
What position will your brand ideally hold in the minds of your customers? This is your brand positioning.
Think about who your competitors are, how you compare, and what sets you apart from them. What’s your position in the market, relative to them?
You can boil this down to a brand positioning statement – one or two sentences that explain what your brand does, the audience you target, the benefits that you bring to the market, and the “proof” you have to back yourself up.
When you’ve created your statement, it should look something like this:
“For [target audience], my brand is the only one in the [bring in the category of competition or industry] that does [what sets you apart] because of [proof].”
Try your best to be specific with your answers. I’ve said it time and time again, the more refined your answers are, the easier it will be for you to follow through on consistent and specific branding.
We keep talking about how it’s important to communicate your brand to your customers, but how do you actually go about doing that?
At the heart of strong messaging is your brand story. Stories can elicit emotions from your audience – dry messaging that’s all about your products and services will not have the same outcome.
An effective brand story puts your audience at the focal point and allows you to form deep connections with them.
To create your messaging, first come up with your brand’s mission statement. This should define the purpose of your work and the impact you want to create on the world.
For example, Bill Gates’s mission statement was once “A computer on every desk and in every home” (see how that turned out?), and Southwest Airlines says the following:
Your mission statement needs to be concise and consistent with your brand story. It’s okay to repeat phrases because at the end of the day you are talking about your business, just in a different way.
Once you know your mission statement, all of the messaging you create – on your website, product packaging, or social media pages – should embody this statement in some way.
That said, make sure that your customers are always at the center of your messaging; they are the hero of your brand’s story.
Purpose and impact are key.
Like it sounds, brand marketing is the place where your brand and marketing intersect. It’s marketing in a way that increases brand awareness, promoting your products or services while putting your brand in the spotlight.
However, brand marketing is not the same as “traditional” marketing or direct-response marketing. Instead of creating ads and touchpoints that are geared toward resulting in a sale, brand marketing campaigns focus more on building a relationship with customers that lasts over time.
What does this have to do with your brand strategy? Well, the goal of your brand marketing is to increase your brand equity – or the perceived value of your brand – by connecting the core values of your brand with communication to your audience.
Think of your brand as what your customers say about your business and your brand marketing as what you say about your business.
In other words, you’re using marketing to communicate your brand identity and story in a way that forms relationships – a vital part of your brand strategy.
Note that brand marketing is more than just slapping your logo and brand colors on every surface on which your brand appears and calling it a day. It’s about creating a positive sentiment around your brand and growing brand recognition by meeting your customers on an emotional level.
Think about creating content that simply puts you in front of the eyes of potential customers. A sponsored post on a social platform or paper flyers hung around your town are both wonderful ways to implement brand marketing.
Note: Good brand marketing also includes having a strong product or service, because that’s going to influence your business’s reputation – and, by extension, your brand’s.
Think about a business with no branding at all. I can’t picture that because, without branding, success is limited if at all possible.
Remember, branding is the promise you make to your customers and your brand is the set of emotions and perceptions that you intentionally cultivate around your business, which you constantly communicate to your customers through a series of visual and verbal cues.
Because of this, your business’s success can depend on whether or not you’ve branded it right.
Branding your business correctly can increase your business value dramatically. Just compare a business without branding and one with.
It’s important to note that the increase in value doesn’t always come easily. You need to invest time and money into good branding for your business. After some time, you will see those positive results.
A great way to connect with your customers in a way that will positively impact your business is through video marketing.
In our day and age, no medium is off the table. You don’t even need a fancy camera since there are many smartphones that come with professional-grade cameras built-in.
Take the time to create promotional videos for multiple platforms. Watch your competitors and see where they have the most engagement (this is a super useful tip). You can use websites like socialblade to check analytics from social sites.
Invest into your branding efforts so that you can make the best impression on your client base. And remember, branding impacts your business, it’s up to you in which way.
As mentioned above, it’s important to breach a variety of mediums when it comes to branding.
For your first branding efforts, you should consider focusing on social media. There are many platforms to choose from and each has its own slightly different approach.
Social media branding will allow you to engage with users who may not even be aware of your business in the first place. Utilizing social media for brand growth will allow you to engage with users and customers at a more personal level.
The Royal Academy of Arts has done a great job at making social media work for their branding efforts. In their own words, the RA is more than a museum or gallery in that they “promote not just the appreciation and understanding of art, but also its practice.”
What they’ve done is bring art to a very relatable level with posts showcasing famous works of art captioned with millennial slang and jokes.
Find an authentic way to relate and be relevant to your audience using your brand voice. Go over what you’ve written down until now to help you here.
Especially when you’re starting out, it’s important to get a feel of what other brands in your industry are doing. This will give you an idea of what works, what doesn’t, and how you can make yourself stand out.
Researching your competitors will be a continuous process, but a lot of the work can be done at the beginning of starting your business.
It’s important to understand who your competitors are and what they’re doing because it will give you a feel for how things are done and what gets a good response from customers.
Your goal is to understand the market better, enhance your marketing process, discover gaps, and create a plan for your business. How you find out this information is through a method called competitive analysis.
Competitive analysis is a way to collect and evaluate the strategies of other brands in comparison to your own. When doing competitive analysis you need to:
Know your competition: Whether or not it’s clear who your competition is, it’s important to have it on your radar so that you can reference them in the future. It’s good to see what they’re doing well or not so well so that you can make your brand better.
Identify which products or services they offer: This will help you identify if you’re in direct competition or if you’re simply in the same industry. Remember that you can (and should) identify which specific niche you work in, so take that into consideration when doing your research.
Analyze their sales and marketing strategies: Identify if the techniques your competitors use are successful and where their weaknesses lie. Knowing this will help you know what part of the market isn’t being appropriately engaged.
Evaluate their content strategy: Alongside this, evaluate the level of engagement your competitors have with their users. Regardless of if the users are engaged, try to find out why and utilize that to your advantage.
Find out how they’re promoting marketing content: There are many ways to do this, including but not limited to, posting organically, boosting content, partnering with influencers, posting user generated content, etc. Make note of how well each type of post works.
Look at their social media strategy: Social media strategy includes which social platforms they’re using to market their content. If other businesses in your industry aren’t using a certain platform, ask yourself why and maybe you can be the first to bridge that gap.
We finally made it.
Over the course of this post, we talked about all aspects of branding and what makes a good brand. Now it’s time to tell you how to build a brand and what tools you’ll need.
To create a brand you need to just start. Get your idea, what you’re selling, and your logo as the first step. Now, you’ll need to tell the world you’re open which you can do on a variety of mediums and platforms.
Register your company so that you can accept payments as a business with tools like LegalZoom. There you’ll be able to get all your legal paperwork done.
Brand your website (with a connected domain) and social platforms with your logo and other branded themes that you can take from your branding book.
Start marketing to your customers with content (on socials and your website), emails, and advertisements. This can be done both with SEO and SEM capabilities.
And make sure that visually, your brand is cohesive no matter where you look. Tools like Tailor Brands give you access to a one-stop-shop to build your logo, website, and branded content so that your brand stands out.
Now that you know what branding is, it’s time to take your brand into your hands! Remember to think about the values behind your business, your company mission, and the audience you want to target before you begin designing your brand identity.
Ready to build your brand? Head to Tailor Brands and start creating a logo!