Whether you’re a fresh new start-up on the tech scene or an established multi-national corporation, branding is an important factor to ensure the continued growth and success of your company.
But what exactly is branding? Branding is a marketing practice enlisted by a company which uses it’s name, logo, tagline and more to become easily identifiable and distinctive against the competition. And in when it comes to securing yourself in first place, it’s an essential ingredient.
In the article below, we will discuss the importance of branding, how to build a branding strategy from scratch, and why it’s an important first step in your branding endeavors.
Why branding is important
Branding is important because it shapes how your brand is perceived by existing or potential customers. Branding also helps to drive new business, retain customers and increase brand equity.
What is brand equity? Great question! You can learn more about it in our article: What is brand equity?
What is a branding strategy?
Like with any big project that requires different stages and team members, it’s best to devise a strategy to help guide you throughout the process. A branding strategy can stretch out for any amount of time (from a few months to several years) and can include elements like:
- The long-term goals for your branding campaigns
- How you will achieve these goals at a step-by-step level
- Key stakeholders responsible for different projects
- How this will benefit the customers
- Competitor analysis
Branding tip: Building a brand, is not the same as building a branding strategy. Building a branding strategy is about using your core brand assets like logo, color palette, websites and social media accounts to convey a feeling, emotion or purpose to your audience.
When outlining the goals you would like to achieve, it’s important to think about:
- Brand awareness. What qualities of the brand do we want customers to be familiar with?
- Positive brand associations. What is the first thing that comes to a consumer's mind when they think about us?
- Brand loyalty. What does a loyal, regular customer look like?
- Perceived quality. When referring us, what qualities will customers highlight in our product or service?
- Brand preference. How do we ensure customers choose us over the competitor?
- Brand experience. What will customers say after trying our product or service for the first time?
Why is building a branding strategy important?
There are several positive outcomes that come from developing a branding strategy. Here are just a few:
A branding strategy helps align your marketing efforts
One of the clear benefits you will see from your branding strategy is that it will help you align all your marketing efforts—and ensure that you're on brand with your campaigns, imagery and social media marketing. It also helps serve as a framework for any marketing brainstorm meetings.
Having a cohesive brand strategy helps you communicate with your customers more clearly. And the more consistent your messaging, the more likely you are to attract and maintain loyal customers.
It helps align multi-disciplinary teams
Not only does it provide consistency for your customers, but it provides a focus for employees too. With varying specialties, large projects can sometimes become unclear and more complicated than originally intended. A clear branding vision allows you to come back to the drawing board on a regular basis so that you can refresh and ensure that every decision helps achieve the larger branding goal.
It helps you evaluate what worked and what didn’t
An important part of any big project is to reflect and analyze how it performed. A branding strategy helps refresh the team about what the goals were and easily assess if they were met.
How to build a branding strategy
Define your brand
The first step in building your brand strategy from scratch is to define your brand. This can be broken down into a few different categories:
- Brand personality. A brand personality is a set of human characteristics that are attributed to your company. Building a consistent brand personality that permeates through all of your external facing communication helps build brand equity. When ideating your brand personality, it’s important to ensure that it aligns with your product or services. For example, if you’re a law firm, it’s likely that you want to be seen as trustworthy and strong. However, if you work for a creative agency, you’d want to ensure that you are seen as creative and playful.
- Brand voice. Similar to brand personality, brand voice is about ensuring there is a uniformity in grammar, tone and word choice so that they accurately communicate the brand. It is how a brand conveys its brand personality to the external audience. Some common themes brands use are personalities like friendly, approachable and understandable.
- Brand identity. Your brand identity is compromised of the visual elements that help communicate your brand. This includes your color palette, graphic design, logo, and images. The goal of these visual aids is that it’s easily distinguishable to new and existing customers.
- Brand values. These days, a brand is a lot more than the products or services they sell, it’s also about the values and ethics they have. Customers like to believe that they are putting their money to good use, and interweaving your values with all of your messaging helps achieve that.
Above is an example of WeWork’s brand values. WeWork is a company that provides shared workspaces for freelancers, startups, and communities around the world. As we can see from their website, they have taken that product and iterated it into a brand mission to “Create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living.” Here, the company is allowing its audience to envision a flexible and stylish lifestyle—with the help of imagery.
Its values are also clearly displayed on the website. This helps take the audience further down the funnel, connecting with them on a deeper level.
Establish your brand purpose
While it can be confusing the discern the difference between brand values and brand purpose, it’s easiest to think of brand purpose as—the core reason that the brand to exists aside from making a profit.
For Nike, according to AdWeek, this purpose is to “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world … by creating groundbreaking sport innovations, by making our products more sustainably, by building a creative and diverse global team and by making a positive impact in communities where we live and work.”
For Apple, Bolt Group outlines that it is to, “To empower creative exploration and self-expression.”
Tip: When ideating your brand purpose, think about the start of your company or brand, and the gap that it was trying to fill.
Determine your brand objectives
Similar to what was mentioned earlier in the article, it’s important to define what you would like your branding efforts to achieve. This is usually awareness of the brand, brand associations, brand loyalty, perceived quality, retention, and conversion.
Identify your focus audience
It’s not unusual to want to build a brand that appeals to a wide net of varying demographics, however, it’s important to identify who your key audience is for various branking campaigns to that you can target them to speak to different types of audiences. It’s important to invest time and effort into narrowing down your focus audience and experimenting with how to communicate best to them.
A core element of any branding endeavor is to use the power of design to help communicate to your target audience. This is where a brand kit comes in. When thinking about your branding strategy, it’s important to assess whether the visual elements of your brand—think logo, brand colors, fonts, photography—align with the overall branding strategy and what you are trying to achieve.
If you feel like it’s worth tweaking some elements or rebranding, don’t be afraid! It’s something that many mega-companies have invested in before.
Want to learn more about the art of rebranding? Here’s an article on the 10 questions to ask yourself before starting a rebrand.
One easy way to improve your services or product is to assess your competition. The primary goal of this type of analysis is to assess strengths and weaknesses and as a way to inform your own branding decisions. Some helpful initial questions to ask:
- Who are our competitors?
- What do they do better than us?
- What are some of their weaknesses?
- What branding strategies are they employing and does this look successful?
Remember, a strategy can always grow and change
One important last note to remember—your strategy isn’t set in stone. In a world that moves so quickly, it’s easier than ever to experiment, pivot, shift a completely rewrite strategies that aren’t working. While it’s worth giving your original ideas a go, it’s also important to remember that there are always learnings that can be added in the future.