This article has been contributed by Janil Jean.
Building a brand, like building anything else, requires more than just stacking one brick on top of another. If you don’t lay a foundation and build strong walls, you’ll end up with a shaky building that will likely collapse at the first gust of wind.
Similarly, to build a brand that withstands fluctuations in the market, you need a solid foundation and carefully crafted branding strategies.
How to Build a Brand: 7 Steps to Follow
1. Analyze Your Business
Who you are and what you offer is a big part of building a brand identity. In fact, your brand identity will be built around the personality and qualities that your business exhibits, and a lot of those traits are reflected in the services that you offer and the people you offer them to.
Take the time to sit down and think deeply about this. Write out the point and purpose of your business, your goals, your products and services, your target audience. Write down your mission statement, the thing that drives you.
With this time and effort, you should be able to compile an outline for the start of your business, including the following:
- Mission statement
- Main product or services
- Possible supplementary products or services
- Initial audience or niche
- Goal for the first six months to five years
2. Research Your Market And Competition
Starting a business is tough, no matter what market you’re aiming for. There are almost 500,000 new small businesses started each month, which means lots of competition.
So take the time to do research on your competitors, both those who operate directly in your arena and those who might offer competitive services or goods as sidelines. Most businesses use market research tools to help collate data.
Important areas of business research include:
- How many businesses are direct competition
- What kind of services they offer
- What service gaps you might fill
You should also do in-depth branding research:
- Your competitor’s logos and color palettes
- Their visibility in the community
- How they have taken advantage of social media
- The effectiveness of their website
Overall, your research should help you to identify areas of need, which can help you to outline your business strategy and further refine your brand. It will also tell you what branding details to avoid, so that your brand stands out from the competition.
3. Choose A Name And A Slogan
Once you’ve got those preliminaries under your belt, and you’ve got your foundation, it’s time to start putting up the walls!
Solid features to a business, such as a name and a tagline or slogan, will help shape your business plan and brand strategy.
But there’s an art to choosing a business name, too. Solid methods of choosing a name include:
- A family name, either first or last
- A name that includes the area in which you operate
- A name that reflects a quality or trait that your business exemplifies
- A quality or trait that is inherent in your type of business
Slogans, meanwhile, are optional. You don’t absolutely have to have one for your business. But they can be a great way to tell people what your brand is all about, in just a few words. Try brainstorming a few ideas, and see what works and what doesn’t. According to Forbes, a bad tagline can actually do more harm than a good one can benefit.
4. Outline Brand Personality
About 91 percent of consumers state that they would prefer to buy from an authentic brand, so staying honest and true to a brand personality drives customer loyalty.
With your initial business analysis at hand, picture your business as a person. What sort of person would they be? What type of personality would they have? Would they be solid, dependable, and trustworthy? Hip and young? Offbeat?
Outline your brand’s personality with the JUST Creative Brand Personality Matrix and refer to it often as you go about crafting your brand.
Image credit: Campaignlive
A creative way to expand on your brand personality that resonates as authentic and real is to describe the brand as you would a person that you have just met, and then again as though you had known them for several years.
Craft this brand personality by writing down:
- Brand personality traits that are immediately obvious upon first sight (e.g. edgy, trendy)
- Traits that can be revealed on further acquaintance (e.g. loyal, interested in others)
- How your brand reacts to certain situations (e.g. a challenge from a competing brand, a nice review, a chance to reach out in the community)
5. Create The Look Of Your Brand
Now it’s time for one of the more fun aspects of creating a brand: crafting the visual aspects.
First of all, put together a style manual for your brand. This will include things like your color palettes, a few different font choices, and the types of graphics that you want to use.
Once you’ve got those basic choices down, you can start crafting your visuals, using your brand personality and your style manual as guides.
Designing the perfect logo is tricky but it’s not impossible. What you need to keep in mind is that your logo should be immediately reflective of your brand as a whole, as it is what most people will think of when they think of your business. There are different types of logos to choose from, and each type has a different feel and a different connotation. On top of that, you can also combine different fonts to create a highly unique logo.
- Lettermark or wordmark, like HBO and NASA
- Monogram, like Louis Vuitton
- Brand mark, like Twitter or Apple
- Abstract, like Nike
- Mascot, like Cheetos, Wendy’s, KFC
Once you’ve got the logo underway, work on other visuals, following the same guidelines to create a harmonious brand across all your products. Studies show that consistent branding, regardless of the platform or channel, can actually increase your revenue by up to 23 percent.
You’ll create some of these as you go along, rather than all at once, but keep these in mind for branded visuals:
- Marketing materials like business cards
- Official website and blog
- Social media accounts for your business
- Product packaging design
- Content creation
Again, refer back to your brand personality as established earlier. Think of these visuals as more opportunities to show that personality. If your brand had a blog or a Tumblr account, would they feature these visuals?
6. Build Your Website
With your style manual in place and your visuals already having a jump-start, it’s time to put your website together.
We recommend sites like WordPress, which work well both as a hosting site for a variety of website types and as a blogging option.
Remember to follow the general rules that you’ve outlined for your branding when designing your pages. This will especially show up in the color palette and in the style of the website, which should reflect your brand personality.
You can also use your brand new logo throughout the website, to reinforce that visual. Logos are commonly used in the top left hand corner of the page.
Take the time to outline what you want your site to accomplish. Is it primarily an e-Commerce site? Or is the focus on growing your business? This will change the features that you include on the site. E-Commerce sites are often a little more stripped down, focusing on the products that are available and getting the viewer along the journey from audience to consumer as efficiently as possible. But sites that focus on growing the business often include extra material:
- User reviews
- Featured employees
- “How we got started” stories
- Inspirations behind certain products and services
Our suggestion is to craft a blog along with the site. Blogs are incredibly useful for:
- Creating fresh, new content
- Inviting comments
- Proving usefulness and/or entertainment value
- SEO opportunities
Make sure you update your blog regularly. It’s important to keep the content fresh, interesting, and entertaining in order to reinforce to your viewers why they’re visiting your site to begin with. And, of course, it’s a great way to establish your brand as an authority.
7. Brand Your Social Media
Along with the website, effective branding should be extended to social media platforms. You don’t need to be present on all social media channels, of course; certain platforms appeal to certain groups of people. So this is where that market research comes in handy.
Based on your intended audience, you can concentrate your efforts on the platform which will yield the best ROI. For instance, if your target audience is older adults, Facebook is probably your best bet. On the other hand, 90% of Instagram users are under 35.
Remember to stick to that style manual because 90 percent of customers look for consistent branding across all platforms. And while almost all brands have formal branding guidelines, only about a quarter of them actually follow those guidelines.
But the fact that bad branding visuals have actually turned more than half of consumers off from buying from a brand really illustrates the importance of consistency.
The important thing here, as with all the other steps on this list, is to keep your brand in mind at all times. And as you continue to build your brand, becoming more and more of a pro with each design and each customer interaction, that “building” will become stronger and stronger. In the end, you’ll have a brand that will last the test of time.
Build your brand on social media by:
- Creating social media profiles in the name of your company
- Including “about us” information on each profile
- Make sure to include ways to contact you as well
- Link back to your official website and other social media profiles run by your brand
- Invite your customers to engage with your, and make sure to follow through on comments
- Use your branded colors and visual styles
- Stick to the personality of your brand in each post
About the author: Janil Jean is Director of Overseas Operations at LogoDesign.net, a DIY logo design software. She loves to write about branding, small business management, and digital marketing. Follow her on Twitter.