Make no mistake about it: a recognizable and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets a company owns.According to a Nielson survey, 59% of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them.
As a small business, you may be competing against big brands with devoted customers and unlimited marketing budgets. That’s why you have to find ways to differentiate–with a solid brand building process of your own.
How do you build a brand?
Branding is much more than just a cool logo or a well-placed advertisement.
You need to do more.
What is a brand? Let me provide you with a quick definition before diving into the nitty-gritty of brand building.
Simply put, your brand is defined by a customer’s overall perception of your business.
A successful brand has to be consistent in communication and experience, across many applications:
Environment (storefront or office)
Print, signage, packaging
Website & online advertising
Content marketing & social media
Sales & customer service
Now, brand building being simple? The truth is: it doesn’t happen overnight…or even in a few months.
Building a brand is definitely a process. However, the ongoing effort will result in establishing long-term relationships with your customers.
This can lead to a steady increase in sales, more projects, word-of-mouth referrals, and advocacy for your products or services.
The definition of brand building is to generate awareness about your business using marketing strategies and campaigns with the goal of creating a unique and lasting image in the marketplace.What is brand building?
In 2019, the amplification of your brand image can be done effectively through various digital marketing activities:
User Experience (i.e. your website)
SEO & Content Marketing
Social Media Marketing
Paid Advertising (PPC)
Together, these channels are fundamental to gaining brand awareness and growth. We’ll dive into each of these elements in detail, later!
I simplified the path for a brand building process below, to help your business or personal brand gain a more loyal following.
Are you wondering where to start?
Use these steps as a guide for how to build a brand!
How to Build a Brand
1. Determine your brand’s target audience.
The foundation for building your brand is to determine the target audience that you’ll be focusing on.
You can’t be everything to everyone, right?
When brand building, keep in mind who exactly you are trying to reach. You’ll tailor your mission and message to meet their exact needs.
The key is to get specific. Figure out detailed behaviors and lifestyle of your consumers.
Solidify a picture of your consumers, then learn how to create a brand identity that they can understand and relate to.
Brand creation relies on truly understanding the buyer persona. Here are a few of the things to document when describing your ideal customer:
To get even more definition for your persona, dive into these details:
You may come to realize that the competitive advantage when branding your business is to narrow your audience focus. This can help ensure that your brand message comes across crystal clear to the intended recipient.
Identifying the target audience for your services or products is an exercise that will affect and benefit all areas of your brand building process, particularly marketing efforts. You want the right person consuming your content, clicking on your ads, opting into your email list, etc.
As a result, determining the ideal audience for your business will support your overall digital brand building strategies. It’s definitely an important first step!
2. Establish a brand mission statement.
Have you thought about your brand mission? In essence, you’ll have to craft a clear expression of what your company is most passionate about.
This is your why; the reason you get up every day.
Before you can build a brand that your target audience trusts, you need to know what value your business provides.
The mission statement basically defines a purpose for existing. It will inform every other aspect of your brand building strategies.
Everything from your logo to your tagline, voice, message, and personality should reflect that mission.
When people ask you what you do: answer them with your brand mission statement.
Brand Building Examples: Nike
We all know the Nike tagline: Just Do It. But do you know their mission statement?
Nike’s mission is: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world“.
You can see the Nike mission everywhere. They focus on all types of athletes using Nike products to be their best self.
Nike goes even further with their brand mission, by adding a footnote to the statement: “If you have a body, you are an athlete“. Think about how wide their target audience becomes with a disclaimer like that!
The company has built up such a reputation and brand following, that it’s able to increase the target to accommodate every “body”.
When branding your business, start small and remember to focus on your target niche audience first.
With time, your brand loyalty may grow enough to expand your reach.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. Before crafting your brand mission statement, gut check on whether you really committed to Step 1 of determining who your exact consumer is. It’s one of the most important branding process steps of them all.
3. Research brands within your industry niche.
You should never imitate exactly what the big brands are doing in your industry.
But, you should be aware of what they do well (or where they fail).
The goal is to differentiate from the competition. Convince a customer to purchase from you over them!
We’re always thinking about how to make a brand stand out. Don’t skip this step in the brand building process.
Research your main competitors or benchmark brands. For instance, study how well they have gone about building a brand name.
For a brand name to be effective, it needs to be easy for consumers to recognize and remember.
Creating a brand competitor research spreadsheet
Competitor research is a key element of your own brand development. Start by creating a brand competitor spreadsheet for comparison. You can use Google sheets, Excel, or even just a notebook.
Then, answer these fundamental questions.
Is the competitor consistent with messaging and visual identity across channels?
What is the quality of the competitor’s products or services?
Does the competitor have customer reviews or social mentions you can read about them?
In what ways does the competitor market their business, both online and offline?
Choose a few competitors, two to four (2-4) is a good number for your comparison chart. You might want to take a look at other local businesses, or even aim to benchmark against name brands.
4. Outline the key qualities & benefits your brand offers.
There will always be brands with bigger budgets and more resources to command their industry.
Your products, services, and benefits belong solely to you.
Starting a brand that is memorable means you dig deep to figure out what you offer, and no one else is offering.
Focus on the qualities and benefits that make your company branding unique.
Assuming you know exactly who your target audience is (see Step 1), give them a reason to choose your brand over another.
It’s important to note that this is not just a laundry list of the features your product or services offer to the customer or client. Think about how you provide value that improves consumers’ lives (outcomes or results that are experienced).
Here are a few examples:
More authentic and transparent customer service
A better way to support productivity
Reducing costs with a more affordable option
Saving time on daily tasks
Brand Building Example: Apple
Apple is obviously not just another computer company. One of their key qualities is clean design, and a key benefit is ease of use.
From unique packaging to their announcement events, Apple always reminds customers that its products can be used right out of the box.
Do you remember Apple’s slogan back in 1997-2002? It was “Think Different“. This notion continues to exist, today.
5. Create a brand logo & tagline.
When you think about how to build a brand, visuals probably come to mind first. This step may be the one where you need help with execution.
The most exciting (and arguably the most important piece) of the brand building process, is to create a brand logo and tagline for your company.
This logo will appear on everything that relates to your business. It will become your identity, calling card, and the visual recognition of your promise.
So be willing to invest the time and money by creating something exceptional to reinforce the visual identity for your business.
Need help branding your business? Hire a professional designer or brand agency with logo and identity design experience, to help make your brand stand out. Their expertise will ensure that you get a unique and timeless mark for your business.
Their expertise will ensure that you get a unique and timeless mark for your business.
A designer can also develop brand guidelines, to ensure consistency for any future application of the logo and associated brand color palette or fonts.
A strong brand style guide will include the following things:
Logo size and placement
Typography and fonts
We’re almost halfway through the steps of brand building. If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a high five.
6. Form your brand voice.
Your voice is dependent on your company mission, audience, and industry.
It’s how you communicate with your customers, and how they respond to you.
There are endless adjectives and possibilities that can build a brand voice behind your messaging.
Ultimately, you want to choose a brand voice that makes sense and resonates with your target customers. (Again, going back to Step 1!)
You’ll see that if you find and use the correct brand voice, you have the strongest chance of connecting with consumers.
This is particularly important when publishing blog articles or social media posts. Maintaining a consistent voice will help your brand image become recognised on multiple channels in the same way. A community of followers, readers or subscribers will come to expect a certain brand voice and brand personality when they consume your content (see Step 8).
Brand Building Examples: Virgin America
Virgin America is known for its friendly and reliable customer service, and their voice constantly builds that brand.
On Twitter, notice their personable style–using location-based humour in this instance. They also reinforce the value that they bring to their customers–guaranteeing power outlets on every flight.
Fish sticks will fly at Pike Place before we ever offer a flight without power outlets. #FleetWide
A conversational voice in communication (using “I”, and “you”)
Sharing behind-the-scenes content
Telling stories about real experiences
Describing your products/services in a quirky manner
9. Integrate your brand into every aspect of your business.
The brand building process never stops.
Your brand should be visible and reflected in everything that your customer can see, read, and hear.
Let me explain.
If a client walks into your office, or a customer walks into your store—your brand image should be on display both in the environment and with personal interactions.
Anything tangible–from business cards to advertisements, to packaging and product–needs the stamp of your logo.
On any digital platform, ensure that your brand looks the same everywhere. Use your brand style guide to create consistency with visuals such as color and logo use, fonts, photography, etc.
Your website is the most important tool for marketing your brand. When you design your website: incorporate your voice, message, and personality into the content.
Profile pages for social media networks should be branded visually, and with your chosen voice for engagement.
And don’t forget about video! YouTube, Facebook Video and Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram Stories are all platforms that need to have content executed with your unique brand voice and personality.
For those venturing into podcast audio, adhere to a theme that supports your brand message, value, and voice.
Brand Building Examples: Warby Parker
Warby Parker has managed to quickly develop a brand that is unique and best in class. Their innovative product home try-on experience, retail environment, and digital content marketing efforts are perfectly tailored to the lifestyle of its target audience.
10. Stay true to your brand building.
Unless you decide to change your brand into something that is more effective based on measured consumer response, consistency is key.
Once you’ve chosen a brand voice, use it for every piece of content you create. (See above, Step 6 in the brand building process.)
Document all the brand guidelines you create and distribute internally for reference.
What is brand building worth, if it is not consistent? Don’t constantly change your branding. The inconsistency will confuse your customers, and make long-term brand building more difficult.
Brand Building Example: Starbucks
Starbucks is the world’s leading speciality coffee retailer, and their brand has always promised to bring people together.
The Starbucks mission?
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
That’s why at every store you’ll find free Wi-Fi, large tables, and soothing music to make chatting with others easy. They always write your name on your coffee for an extra personal touch.
Even despite a logo change in 2011 (removing the company name!), the Starbucks brand perception remains strong. When you see that simplified green mermaid logo, what do you feel? I guarantee it’s something.
11. Be your brand’s biggest advocate.
Once you build a brand that works for your small business, you (and your employees) are the best advocates to market your brand.
No one knows your brand better than you, so it’s up to you to spread the word.
When hiring employees, ensure that they are a culture fit–aligning with the mission, vision, and values of your brand.
Give your loyal customers a voice. Encourage them to post reviews, or share your content.
Building Brand Awareness in 2019
Now that you know the steps for creating a brand successfully, I want to quickly go over the components needed to really set up a good digital foundation to build upon.
These are the key elements my own brand agency executes on when we build brands for businesses just like yours. Let’s review the ways to build brand awareness through:
Website User Experience
Your website is the most important marketing tool you have for business growth and brand building.
This is the place that your consumers will visit to learn more about your business, and take action when they are ready. Not only does the user experience have to be exceptional in order to convert, but your messaging needs to tell your brand story.
It’s important to have all the right pieces in place when first launching your website, from domain name registration to web hosting, to the right content management system (we recommend WordPress).
Your website has to load fast and be mobile-friendly (a responsive web design).
The majority of your brand marketing activities will drive traffic back to your website. Aside from a professional and beautifully designed interface, your content has to be compelling.
This brings us to the next element of a great digital brand strategy: SEO and content marketing.
SEO and Content Marketing
One of the most effective long-term ways to increase brand awareness and generate relevant organic traffic to your website is search engine optimization (SEO) and the right content.
A defined content marketing strategy will help you better connect with your target audience and support them through their customer journey—building brand trust to ultimately result in conversions.
Most importantly, the foundation piece for your SEO and content publishing efforts will always be your website’s blog.
When building a blog for your brand, you’ll want to consider:
Which content will resonate with your target audience?
How will the content get found in organic search results?
When is the optimal frequency and scheduling of publishing?
What is the plan for promoting the content?
Don’t just stop at a blog though! Brand content can also exist as info graphics, video, podcasting, case studies, whitepapers, lead magnets and more.
Savvy consumers frequently use social networks to make the decision to purchase from a brand—over 74% of them!
How can your brand best educate, communicate and engage with customers and clients through social media?
Social media marketing best practices include the following activities:
Curating relevant content
Publishing original content
Engagement and community building
A well-defined social media strategy will help determine what to achieve in order to better connect with your community.
Every brand should be represented consistently across all social media networks via the posting of relevant, high-quality content. With social media, your aim for consumers is first to gain trust. Then become loyal. And then, advocate for your brand’s products and services.
Did you know your highest click-through rate will come from the emails you send to your list? Don’t underestimate the power of list building early on in your brand building process.
Think of your email marketing list as your most close-knit community, and treat your subscribers as such.
You can build a brand subscriber list through various opt-in forms on your website, such as:
Lead magnet forms
Landing page forms
The right content, at the right time, to the right person is critical for driving traffic to your website and increasing conversions from email. What’s more, not all email messages need to be sales-driven, as consumers are in different points of the buyer journey.
Use the following types of email campaigns when targeting specific audiences within your marketing funnel.
Building a successful paid advertising campaign for your brand comes with a unique set of challenges. There are multiple elements that contribute to the overall effectiveness of your pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
A strong paid ads campaign on platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook relies heavily on:
Smart paid advertising goals
A well-defined target audience
Clear organisation / campaign structure
Tracking performance meticulously
Compelling creative copy and design
Split-testing for optimisation
Using the right keywords
Paid advertising alone can drain your budget…once the ads stop, so can the leads and sales.
The allure of paid advertising is that it can yield quick short-term results. It is certainly effective, however, you’ll want to do PPC in conjunction with all of the above inbound marketing channels for long-term ROI.
Analytics & Reporting
Ongoing, you’ll want to monitor progress in key areas month-over-month and year-over-year. From this data, tweaks to your brand building and marketing activity can be made to leverage those tactics which show the most opportunity.
Analytics reporting should always support the strategic goals and KPIs for your business.
Your first step is ensuring that your website has Google Analytics installed. This tool is free and will give you loads of valuable information about user behaviors. It also allows you to set up goals to track conversion.
Now you have a great overview of the tactics behind building brand awareness through marketing, engagement and community building.
Putting all these components together with a strategy and consistent execution packs the punch that any new or existing business needs for successful brand building in the digital age.
Interested in any of these brand building services? Book a call to learn more.
Brand building can be one of the most significant things you can do for your new or existing business.
A solid brand building process can transform your business from a small player into a successful competitor.
You’ll discover that your customers will develop a deeper level of trust for your brand, and be more likely to purchase what you are selling.
Therefore, always develop a consistent message and visual identity to reinforce your mission.
Integrate your brand into every aspect of customer experience: from your storefront to your website, to your personal interactions!
Think you are well informed about how to build a brand? Let’s recap the steps of brand building:
How to Build a Brand
Determine your brand’s target audience.
Establish a brand mission statement.
Research brands within your industry niche.
Outline the key qualities and benefits your brand offers.
Create a brand logo and tagline.
Form your brand voice.
Build a brand message and elevator pitch.
Let your brand personality shine.
Integrate your brand into every aspect of your business.
Stay true to your brand building.
Be your brand’s biggest advocate.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes about building brands: