How to build a strong brand

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Henry Brown

Branding your business is one of the most important stages of building a company. Brand is what gives your company a unique personality, and can establish your position in the market and attract the right customers.

For many startups, branding can be a challenge. Without enough funding to hire a large branding agency, and with limited resources, startups can often make common branding mistakes. It’s common to not define clear brand guidelines and thereby fail to give potential customers a strong first impression of your brand.

If you’re working on your company branding, then work with these core principles.

Audit your marketplace

Start your branding process by looking at what your competition is doing well and what they are struggling to do successfully. This gives you a good starting point for you to find an angle that your company can leverage.

Start out by identifying who your competitors actually are. Put in the work to find the right ones. Looking at too broad a spectrum of competitors can lead to analyzing companies that are too different from yours. On the other hand, if you narrow the segment too much, you can accidentally exclude companies whose customer is basically the same as yours.

Ask yourself whether or not a customer could ever end up in a position where they had to choose between you and the competitor. If the answer is yes, add this company to the list of competition to check out.

When you’ve identified them, review each competitor to identify their branding strengths and weaknesses.

Set hard deadlines when making creative decisions

When you’re working on the creative process, it can be easy to get stuck there and keep searching forever for the perfect logo, website design, or retail packaging. While it can be hard to put a schedule on the creative process, setting some deadlines can help you to stay focused and on track with your choices.

During the creative process, you will be able to develop new ideas and give the design team some autonomy during this process. Giving them some freedom is important, but moving on to the innovation process in order to start implementing all these ideas is just as important. Set a clear objective from the beginning of what you creative team needs to accomplish. Set clear deadlines, and make sure everyone has enough creative freedom to develop ideas.

Answer important questions about your brand

Think about your brand holistically. Many brand experts give companies a questionnaire to help them do this, but you can replicate this process yourself without hiring an expert. The exercise allows you to give your brand some personality and takes you through a series of questions to get to know your ideal branding better.

-What problems does your business solve?

-What is the best trait of your service or product?

-If your company were a person, who would it be? You could choose yourself, a celebrity, or anyone else.

-What would you never tell potential customers about your company?

-When potential customers say no thanks to you, what is the main reason?

Asking and answering these questions is a great starting point to get you thinking about your company and what kind of personality it has. With personality, you can start building a brand that communicates who you are and what you do.

Get outside help

Help from outside of the company could be from an agency, a consultant, or just another set of eyes to help you look over what you’re creating for brand. Be careful not to make decisions in a silo and rely only on your own opinion or those of your colleagues and employees. Relying solely on your team can be a problem, as you might not have anyone on your team that feels comfortable in giving you honest criticism, but you need honest critique if you’re going to improve.

Sometimes the best way to be able to think laterally about your brand is to bring in someone from the outside, as they will be able to see things from a different perspective. An outsider may have some useful ideas and critiques that you can use to help you to develop your brand.

Explore leaner creative options

Mid- to high-level branding agencies can cost your business tens of thousands of dollars. Instead look at services that aim to accelerate your creative process, and do this in a highly targeted way. These more streamlined services are also usually more affordable, which is great for a small business.

There are lots of different ways to get help but stay within a more limited startup budget, whether it’s hiring services like this, bringing in freelancers to help, or taking on interns who are graduating in a creative field. These options are much more affordable, but can still offer plenty of help to create a strong, successful brand identity.

Create a brand manifesto

Your manifesto is your bible. You must stick to it. Your company’s declaration of beliefs and what you stand for will help to create an emotional connection with your customers.

Creating a brand manifesto might require some outside help. Creative a value structure is hard, so help can be useful. You might need the help of a copywriter to effectively communicate what it is that your customer stands for. If you can afford it, hire a copywriter (whether in-house or freelance) who already has experience with writing company manifestos. If you have a clear brand strategy, this will help you and your team to align every message that comes from your business. You can align every marketing campaign and interaction with a customer with your branding.

Look at other business for inspiration in doing this. Red Bull is a great example of how to look at your brand laterally. Their ads are not about their drink, and instead, focus on extreme sports and pushing life to the limits. This messaging appeals to their customer base and is very memorable.  Aim to do the same with your own branding. Connect with your customers on an emotional level, don’t just tell them why you’re great.

Embrace uncertainty

If you’re not feeling energized or emboldened by this fact, then you’re going to have a tough time ahead of you when you’re trying to develop and brand.

Remember that the competition is on your heels. With the wrong attitude, this knowledge is nerve-wracking, and you can all too easily fall into the trap of wanting to constantly change what you’ve come up with and what you’re doing. If you do this, you’ll actually achieve the opposite of what you’re trying to do. By changing all the time, you’re doing the opposite of creating an effective brand. Consistency is important in branding. You need to remember that brand is your company’s DNA and helps to promote your brand recognition.

Ten quick branding tips

-Audience knowledge comes first. You can’t create a brand if you don’t know who you’re trying to appeal to.

-Keep your employees highly engaged. Employees are often the face of your brand, so they need to be engaged with it. This creates a good impression with your customers or clients.

-Strike the right chords with your voice. Brand voice should be consistent, whether you’re posting on social media, producing a brochure, or dealing with customers on the phone. Voice is the language and tone that you use.

-Be intelligent. Use data analytics to frequently audit your brand. Look at metrics to measure the success of marketing campaigns and your performance in the marketplace.

-Innovate. Don’t just do what everyone else is going. Stay ahead of the curve, as customers are more likely to engage with businesses that they see as being on the cutting edge.

-Tell a story. Good branding links into the story of your brand. A brand story tells your customer who you are, and what you want them to remember about you. Compelling brand story have a positive effect on your brand image.

-Use social media. Social media can be great communication tools, and can allow you to develop a strong brand image with your target audience.

-Remain agile. The modern marketplace is always changing, and a strong brand is always ready to pivot when needed in order to stay ahead and keep up with the changes.

-Differentiate. Your brand must stand out from the brand choices that your competition makes. Stay away from anything that reminds you of a competitor and find your own path instead. Be unique and stand out.

-Understand your position. A consistent brand is representative of who you are, and what your mission is. Your brand is the physical manifestation of your mission. It can help to build a strong community that connects you with your customers. This, in turn, helps your customer to feel a lot more loyal to you and your products, instead of switching to the products of a competitor instead.

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Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop, he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.

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