The marketing world is buzzwords and trends, but branding is a foundational principle that all businesses should take seriously — no matter their size or industry.
After all, branding is so much more than a company’s name or logo. It’s a consistent, memorable and differentiated identity that should drive everything you do. Branding starts with a unique voice and story, brought together by a cohesive look and feel. Your brand extends across your products, services, employees, locations and experiences to create a positive emotional connection with customers.
Branding communicates your business mission, its value proposition and what makes it unique. More importantly, exceptional branding sets you apart from your competitors.
What Can Branding Do for You?
Great branding helps customers answer the following questions: “Why should I do business with you?” “What is this company all about?” “What makes this business different from the competition?”
A compelling brand story also allows customers to connect with your business on a deeper level, so you can start to build and nurture long-term, loyal relationships. For example, a brand built on sustainability can attract customers who care about the planet, while a brand focused on luxury can appeal to status-conscious consumers.
The stiffer your competition, the more important branding becomes. A memorable and distinctive brand helps ensure that customers think of your business first.
How to Build Your Brand Strategy
To create a memorable, effective business brand, follow these three simple steps.
1. Identify your unique selling proposition (USP)
What sets your business apart from competitors? Are you the best sandwich shop in your local area? Do you serve a niche market for high-quality, sustainably sourced athletic apparel? Is your tax preparation firm a core contributor to your local community? Whatever your industry, it’s essential for your business to “own” one defining element and make it a reason for customers to believe in your work.
Are you unsure of what makes your business unique or are you having trouble deciding between a few USPs? Determine what each of your competitors own in the market to find a space where your business can shine. Customers make a lot of decisions every day and they want to make decisions quickly and easily. It’s your job to tell them what your brand stands for and why they should choose it, so they can make the right decision. Whether it’s a principle you believe in or a market you serve, your USP will show customers why they should buy from you instead of your competition.
2. Define your brand’s reason for being
Be authentic during this process. Don’t try to be something you’re not just to be different.
Start with your business purpose. What goal or goals are you striving toward? Your purpose is the “why.” Your mission takes your purpose a step further by asking, “What do we do, how do we do it and for whom?”
Your company’s values are the core principles that guide everything you do. Remaining authentic to your values sets you apart from your competition and brings your employees closer together.
Finally, define a character or personality to carry through your brand messaging. If your brand was a person, what words would you use to describe it — fun, serious, feisty, reliable, innovative, friendly, sophisticated? Defining your company’s personality will help inform the voice you’ll use in all your messaging and communication with customers. It’s what sparks interest, drives engagement and, ultimately, what forms strong relationships.
To effectively develop your brand’s character, think about your target audience. The best brands understand their target audiences’ personalities and how to appeal to them. Are you appealing to an older demographic or are you trying to attract a younger crowd? Who are your products or services aimed at, and what makes those people tick?
If you’re trying to reach an older customer base, more traditional and detailed messaging may work better. If your target audience is younger, a brief, quick and straightforward message will be more effective. You may want to sound less serious. Throw in some emojis, pop-culture references or current buzzwords to help make your brand relevant to younger customers.
Social media has made brand messaging more important than ever. The majority of consumers from every demographic are active on social media daily. This gives you the opportunity to directly communicate with your target audiences via platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
3. Refine your brand’s look and feel
Once you have your brand personality nailed down, carry it through visually. Whether you’re taking the first steps of branding your startup or just want to give your current marketing materials a facelift, the same principles apply: Any customer-facing materials — such as your website, promotional items, advertisements and packaging — should reflect your business’s personality.
Start with the basics. Pick standout colors and a signature font that best embody your brand. Are you an established, family-run business with decades of experience? Adopt a more traditional look by using strong colors that illustrate reliability and expertise (like navy blue and forest green) and fonts that are intentionally structured and timeless. A cutting-edge startup built on the latest technology can use bolder fonts with sharp, sleek edges and colors that pop, like lime green or fiery orange.
When it comes to visual branding, consistency is key. Develop a palette of signature colors (one or two primary colors and secondary accent colors) and one or two fonts, and display them consistently throughout your website, signage, social profiles, advertisements and promotional materials. When creating your logo, tie in your brand’s fonts and colors to help maintain cohesion. Consistent visual elements make it much easier for potential customers to immediately recognize your brand.
Overall, your goal is to create a brand that is memorable, differentiates your company from your competitors and accurately reflects your business’s values. When your brand is out in the market, you’ll be able to gauge how your audience responds and determine how you can make tweaks and improvements over time.