For a word that gets thrown around an awful lot — not many people know what branding is or how to launch (or relaunch) a successful one.
5 Steps to Kick Off Your Brand
We are going to go over the first 5 steps for starting off your branding or rebranding project. Whether you are just starting out and on a strict budget, or you have a tired brand that needs a refresh, if you invest some time and thought into the process, you can grow your busianess. In many cases, the ROI on branding and investing your time thinking about your customer and goals will save you money, grow your business, build brand equity, and get you inspired for the future.
This is by far the most difficult and time consuming stage — but also the critical foundation for which every other branding decision will be based on. Doing the legwork to define a comprehensive picture of what the brand will be requires you to really know and answer some deceivingly simple questions. And remember, if you want to stand out, you can’t try to please everyone and be everything, as that will set up your brand to be bland and forgettable
• What is your company’s mission?
• What sets your product or service apart from the competition? Be specific.
• What features and added benefits does your company bring to the marketplace?
• What specific qualities do you want to be associated with your company? (Ex. Inspiring, bold, detailed, elegant, friendly, trustworthy, smart…)
Pick a metaphor, concept, or identity that describes your brand. (Maybe an animal that relates to your brand — for example: A jackrabbit — because we are fast, nimble, and always on the move. Or a fictional character. Brienne of Tarth (from Game of Thrones): because we are fierce, honorable, and proudly stand out in a crowd.
If you don’t yet have a business name, now would be the time to choose one. While your brand will give meaning and context to your name, it is still important to start off with a good one. Some advice on name choices:
• Be different from your competition and hard to confuse with other major companies
• Check your URL options before choosing a final name.
• Run it by a group of people you trust to tell you their honest opinion. There could be a dual meaning you didn’t see or a similar business out there you were unaware of.
Everyone one of us is a special snowflake whose character is defined by values, purposes, beliefs, and needs. BUT it is also possible to understand your target audience to gain a better understanding of what motivates your audience as well as how and where they spend their time online. Knowing who you are trying to reach, will enable you to inevitably reach them fast, and in a more enticing way.
Hubspot (one of our favorite CRMs to introduce clients to) came out with a nifty tool to help create your personas. Give it a try and let us know if it helped you. makemypersona
Now that you know what your brand is, and who your customers are, you can start to craft your voice. This step is an often overlooked aspect of branding, but it is very important to your identity and it helps reinforce to your customer what your business's character is so they can relate to you, and establish expectations. Also make sure your voice is consistent, and has a human sound.
Choose some and define just three traits that you want the voice to have. Elaborate on these traits to show what they both do and don’t do. Let’s use the word “upbeat” as an example:
Upbeat — We are proud of our product, encouraging, and always friendly and optimistic
Do — Be cheerleaders for your audience and product
Don’t — Be unenthusiastic, bland, or too formal
Once you have our voice established, you can use it as a guide for both the visual and verbal communication. Your designers will love you for it as it will help them come to a better solution, faster (hopefully saving you money) and your employees and copywriters will utilize it as a guide for their own communication. It also serves as a benchmark for behavior and can help you during your own hiring process to see if your employees embody the voice you want your brand to be.
You are the only person who can be you — same goes for your brand. Be amazing at being yourself because trying to be somebody else just won’t work in the long run. Being original and authentic is often something that big brand try to emulate, but you can truly establish an independent spirit authentically. Here are some tips on keeping your brand unique:
While being inclusive is well and good, branding by committee is a big no no. What we’ve seen time and time again is that the brand becomes a “frankenstein” — a mashed together hybrid of too many ideas with no focus or clear message. And trust us, that does not resonate with any audience.
One way to be unique and attract a loyal following is to align your brand with values and ideas that your customers can related to. This doesn’t have to mean being edgy, but it does mean that you have to choose a focus. Watered down brands and values don’t attract long term support.
Now that you have your brand essence established, you can shop around to find the right designer or design team to bring your brand to life, visually. Hire someone who asks the most questions about your brand because chances are they are the ones that will create the best brand specifically for you, not just a generic symbol or look.
Make sure that the process is fun, but also that there is strategy behind every decision made. Along the way, ask them how the choices they are making with color, typography, pattern, etc relate to the voice and values that your brand is based on. Creative endeavours are not simple, but we hope these tips give you the momentum and inspiration you need to create a killer, unique brand.