Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business and could be said to be the foundation in which all businesses are built.
But, branding is also a term that is often confused and misunderstood.
So, exactly what is branding?
According to Jerry McLaughlin of Forbes, a brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea. Brand building is the deliberate and skillful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind.
Essentially, a brand is a promise to the consumer about what they can expect from you as a business. A brand differentiates a business from its competitors, and building a strong brand identity can help your business to stand out in an ever saturated market.
But, where do you start?
It can be difficult knowing where to start with branding for your business – whether you’re just starting out, need a brand refresh, or a complete re-brand.
So here’s the deal:
We’ve put together they key steps to get you started – the following checklist outlines the 8 key steps to build your business’ brand identity.
1. Define your Unique Selling Point
The first step is to define your unique selling point.
A unique selling point (or proposition) – sometimes referred to as a USP – is a statement that helps a company distinguish itself from other businesses in its category.
What makes your business unique?
Do you offer the lowest price in your category?
Do you offer the highest quality?
Are you a local, family owned business?
The most important part of defining your USP is remembering that you can’t be everything to everyone.
Think about this:
What aspect of your business would persuade a customer choose you over a competitor?
Take furniture brand Ikea for example:
Ikea are renowned for their low-price, flat pack furniture items. With the ambitious mission statement to create a better everyday life for the many people, Ikea’s products must be low in price yet of reasonable quality to meet their goals. They don’t however, create luxury, high priced furniture.
This USP has formed the foundation of Ikeaís position in market as innovators in their field. This USP has formed the foundation of Ikea’s position in market as innovators in their field, and helped them differentiate themselves from competitors in the market.
2. Understand your audience
It’s extremely important to define your target market before developing a brand identity.
You have to know who you’re talking to communicate with them effectively. Knowing your audience really well will not only help you to tailor any marketing campaigns but will be the driving force behind your branding strategy.
When getting to know your audience, be specific. A target market is not just an age or gender group – it’s a group of people who have similar interests, purchase habits, lifestyles etc.
The branding of a clothing line targeted at young females, 18-24 is going to be quite different to that of the branding targeted toward successful women in their 40s and 50s.
There’s going to be a big difference in terms of your tone of voice (the language you use to communicate), how you appeal visually, where you can reach them online and so much more.
If you’re serious about understanding your audience, it’s a good idea that you create a buyer persona for every type of customer that your business is targeting, to help you understand, segment and communicate with your target audience more effectively.
3. Understand your competition
Before you start to build a brand, it’s important to understand what your competitors are doing. You want to be aware of what you’re up against to ensure your branding is unique and stands out from competitors.
The Washington Post gives a great example of why it’s important not to copy your competition; as tempting as this might sometimes be.
A good starting point when looking at your competition is to conduct a brand competitive analysis so you can understand the strengths and weaknesses in your market, which will help you carve out your own niche.
4. Define your brand values
Your brand values are the core elements of your business that will guide everything you do.
Your brand values are 3 or 4 words that represent what you stand for. They are the starting point to developing your brand’s visual identity – so it’s extremely important to stay true to your business.
This Airbnb video is a great example of how a key word such as ‘belonging’ can drive a brand’s visual identity and how they communicate to their audience.
Or take design software company Adobe, who have four simple but powerful values:
Although it’s only four simple words, these values help demonstrate and communicate what Adobe are about, and sum up their company’s identity.
Need some inspiration for developing or refining your own core values? Check out this monster list of over 100 examples of brand values.
5. Develop a strong visual identity
A visual identity is what is often mistakenly referred to as a ‘brand’.
This is partly correct, as a visual identity does make up part of a brand. But, as you’ll know by now, a brand is a sum of all parts of a business and not just its visual elements!
A visual identity is made up of a brand’s logo, typeface (or font), colour palette, any icons or graphic elements and photography.
The visual identity is driven by both a brand’s values and the audience that it will be communicating with – as discussed above.
Logo – the design or mark that represents a business.
Typefaces – the fonts that are used in all areas of the business – the website, marketing collateral, any publications.
Colour palette – the colours applied to all areas of the business – the logo, website, staff uniforms, storefront, marketing collateral, social media, packaging – you might choose one strong primary colour (think Jetstar’s orange or Cadbury’s purple) and a number of secondary colours that can be used secondary to the primary colour.
Icons or graphic elements – Small icons to make information easier to digest or devices such as circles, lines or squares that are used for a reason throughout designs
Photography – images used in marketing, on your website or on social media. Can include a particular type of treatment (or filter) that is applied to each of your photographs.
A brand whose values are bold, disruptive and energetic might have a strong bold typeface with a red or bright pink colour palette, accompanied by sharp, focused imagery – take the ridesharing company Lyft as an example.
On the other hand, a brand whose values are tradition, excellence and authenticity might have a more traditional serif font with a navy blue, grey and white colour palette, such as Monash University.
When you think of some of the top brands in the world you’ll probably think of Apple and Coca-Cola.
Apple are renowned for their minimal designs and if you take a quick look at their website, you’ll notice a consistency in colours, fonts and the look and feel of everything relative to their products. This is not by accident. Apple have a very clear and strong visual identity.
Coca-Cola have used their signature red since the beginning and it’s now synonymous with the brand. Whilst their packaging and marketing collateral have changed over the years, the red has stayed the same, as has their logo.
Their photography and marketing material is generally quite fun and light-hearted. All of this forms part of their visual identity.
In developing a visual identity, it can be very useful to hire a graphic designer. A graphic designer will have expertise in the visual elements that make up a brand’s identity and can help you explore the best fit relative to your brand values and your target audience.
6. Develop a tone of voice
The visual identity is how a brand looks but tone of voice is the personality of a brand.
Your tone of voice is essentially how you communicate a message with an audience.
You want the way in which you communicate to your audience to be consistent in order to build a brand.
Virgin Australia for example, have a really strong tone of voice. The way in which Virgin communicates as a brand is little cheeky and not doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is rolled out across all of Virgin’s business areas.
Remember the time they accidentally gave away a BILLION frequent flyer points instead of a million?
It was a big stuff-up, but using their cheeky tone of voice, they were able to turn this mistake into a successful marketing campaign: Again, knowing your target audience is extremely important when deciding on a tone of voice. Who you are speaking to will make all of the difference as to how you do it!
7. Be consistent
Whatever you decide upon, make sure it’s consistent across all areas of your brand. Consistency is key to building brand recognition with your target market and can eventually lead to strong brand equity.
Think of a company such as Tiffany & Co who have been able to leverage their brand equity to charge a premium for their products and deliver unbelievable profit margins. Whilst they are certainly a premium product, they wouldn’t have been so successful without a consistent brand strategy.
Jetstar’s signature orange is used across all areas of the business from their logo on planes to their website to their staff’s uniforms.
It’s important that you immerse yourself and your staff in your brand to build brand recognition and equity.
8. Be adaptive
Lastly, and certainly not of least importance, is to be adaptive to the market in which you’re in. Some of the biggest companies in the world have had to re-brand to stay relevant and successful in today’s market:
In 1997, Apple were nearly bankrupt until Steve Jobs launched the Think Different campaign, that was aimed at a new generation of tech lovers. And it was a game changer! Today it’s almost hard to believe that Apple weren’t always the leaders in the field of tech and had to rebrand to get there.
But this example is a good reminder that no matter what size company you are, it’s important to remain adaptive to your market and audience.
Now that you know and understand the importance your brand can have on your business, you can use the steps outlined in this article to give you the foundation you need to start building and refining your brand.
By doing this, you’ll be able to better understand your target audience and customers, your competitors and market as a whole. Knowing this detail will help you refine and position your brand to help you stand out against your competitors and display your unique selling point to get more customers.
So what are you waiting for? Go get branding!
What are your best branding tips? Anything we’ve missed or overlooked? What’s worked for you in the past?