Branding Basics: How to Build a Brand

Branding is a process that is overlooked by many small businesses, but every business has a brand, whether the company is actively involved in the branding process or not. Wouldn’t you like to have a hand in shaping your company image in the eyes of your current and potential customers? This article provides six essential steps to building your brand.

What is a Brand?

A brand represents a company’s personality. It is the embodiment of all information, ideas, images, and associations that people have of your company, product or service. A brand is built through word of mouth, experiences with the company/product, marketing materials and more. Branding helps people to distinguish one company from the next.

What comes to your mind when you think of Apple? Words that come to my mind are trendy, hip, creative and sleek. This is no accident. Everything from the name and product designs to the TV commercials and other marketing materials helps to establish this image.

You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to influence brand perceptions. Here are six steps to get you started on taking control of your brand:

1. Determine Your Target Audience

Your brand must appeal to your target audience, so it is essential that you know everything there is to know about who you are marketing to. The methods you would use to market to stay-at-home moms will be vastly different than those used to market to business owners. Discover the people who are mostly likely to buy your products and services. Be specific—how old are they, what are their interests, what are their values? Learn more about defining your target market.

2. Find Your Primary Message

When someone thinks of your company or product, there should be one thing that stands out in their minds. For instance, when you hear Volvo, you probably think safety. Again, make sure that the message is one that appeals to your target audience. Find out what is important to your audience and how your product/service can benefit them. The message should be simple and easy to understand. It also must be authentic. If you want to be known for superior customer service, be sure you can deliver on that promise.

3. Choose a Tone and Personality

Strive to create an emotional connection with your target audience. Do you want to make them laugh, cry, relax, get excited? When you walk around with a Starbucks cup, do you feel upscale and classy? How would you feel if you were driving a Lexus? A Hyundai? Do you want your company to be a cool kid or someone stable and trustworthy? Determine what your company’s tone and personality should be to effectively target your audience and portray your message.

4. Create Your Image

Once you know how you want your product/service to be remembered, all other marketing decisions are easier. Every font, color, paragraph, photograph, design layout, and marketing medium used should work to establish the company’s personality and image.

Do you want to be fun and hip? Use trendy fonts and bright colors, write funny ads and run them in popular magazines and TV shows, sponsor a hit music event… you get the idea. With every business decision, ask yourself if you are helping to establish your brand. If someone sees your fun and hip ad and then comes to your store, they shouldn’t be welcomed with elevator music and guys in sweater vests.

5. Be Consistent

Evaluate your business name, logo, business cards, brochure, outdoor signs, website, storefront, etc. Do they go together? Are you using the same fonts and color scheme in all media? Do all your materials work together to portray the company’s main message and personality? Think beyond marketing materials. What about your sales pitch, pricing, customer interactions, employee dress codes? Consistency is key to a building a strong brand.

6. Track the Results

The main purpose of branding is to drive sales. Not all businesses get it right the first time. Test your strategy to see if your target audience sees your brand as you see it. If they don’t, perhaps you are not reaching them with your marketing, or maybe they have personal experiences with the product/service contrary to the brand message. If they do understand your brand, is the message strong enough to get them to buy from you? If not, find out what will.

Ask your current customers what they like most about your product/service. How does it fit into their lifestyle? Look online to see if anyone is talking about your brand on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. You may come up with a new message that will resonate with your audience. Try not to do anything drastic that will alienate your current customers, but don’t be afraid to change things up a bit. Attitudes change over time, and messages may need changing to keep your company fresh and up to date.

Feel free to comment! What are some good examples of strong branding? What brands do you use that you identify with? What companies seem to have drastically changed their branding for better or worse?

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Jason said on June 17, 2009:

Very concise post. Overall very informative but particularly well conveyed was the section on “Tone”. Burger King’s recent ad campaign with “The King” are a great example of setting a corporate tone and shifting a brand to stir up interest in the product. Cheeky and off-beat enough to build interest without making the client realize they’re falling into a marketing campaign.

Robert Meyer said on January 20, 2010:

Very inspiring article. Thank you.

Yogi Milsap said on February 8, 2010:

This article has been extremely helpful. I welcome more info on Branding. Gary Vaynerchuk Crushes it!

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