Although the word ‘brand’ is commonplace, many people don’t know what the word really means. How can one create a brand without really knowing what it means to do so? The term brand refers to a business and marketing concept that helps people clearly identify a company, product, or individual.
A brand is not necessarily something that you can touch or see, but help inform the views of companies, products and individuals. Brands should be easily recognised by people and, as such, use identifying markers as part of their brand identities, such as logos, specific fonts and colour schemes. Brands can give a company or person a competitive edge in the industry, depending on how well the brand is perceived by its target audience.
Building a strong brand identity is possible, but it does take some work. If you’re looking to create a brand for yourself, your company or even a client, read on to give yourself the best shot at success.
Why is it important to have a brand identity?
Brand identity is often perceived as only an online marketing tactic or only important to people involved in social activism, corporate responsibility, etc. The truth is that brand identity is important for all businesses; it’s not limited to one audience or set of values. Businesses use brand identity to share their company values with their target audience, and customers gravitate towards businesses whose brand identity reflects values that align with their own.
When properly instilled, a strong brand identity will:
- Act as a representative of your business – It should tell consumers what your business is all about and what it stands for.
- Build trust and credibility with your customers – Your brand identity sets your business up as an authority in its field, especially when viewed as consistent over time. Your brand presenting as trustworthy will attract more of your target market.
- Act as an advertising template – The brand identity of your business will shape anything you include in your advertising campaigns. When your business has a face and a strong industry reputation, it is in a good position to make an impact on potential customers.
- Speak to a company’s mission – In creating an identity for your brand, you give it something to stand for, giving your company a purpose. Without an identity, a mission statement cannot exist.
- Attract new customers and give existing customers a positive impression – When a brand has a clear identity that presents what it stands for and builds trust, it will attract people who hold similar values. Existing customers will continue to identify with the brand’s identity, giving them a sense of belonging and inspiring loyalty.
How to create a brand for your business
The first step in creating a brand identity, like most steps in starting a business, is to do thorough market research. When conducting your research, your aim is to gather information about how your target audience will perceive your intended messaging. Aim to find out the following information:
- Who is your audience? – Establishing your audience or target market is the first step. Understanding who you will be selling to will inform how you would target the product. For instance, you wouldn’t target a product to a teenage girl in the same way that you would an elderly man. Understanding who your audience is and what they want from businesses such as yours is crucial if you are to create a brand they will be attracted to.
- Establish your value proposition and competition – Your value proposition essentially answers the question, “Why should customers buy your product?” The value proposition you present can give you an advantage over your competitors. Knowing the difference between you and your competition, particularly what makes you unique in the industry and what your business offers that others can’t, will help you develop a successful brand. Observing the competition and their strategies is a good exercise in finding out what branding techniques are successful and which ones fail.
- What is your business’s mission? – Investopedia tells us that a company’s mission defines its ethics, values, agenda, culture and fundamental goals. Essentially, your mission tells your audience what your company is about, what matters to it and what it stands for. Creating a brand identity depends heavily on its mission. Without knowing what a business is about, you can’t create a personality for that business.
- What is your business’s personality? – For people to relate to your brand, it needs to have human characteristics that they can identify with. You want your brand to be personable. Say, for instance, you want your brand to come across as fun and quirky. You would then assign fonts, colours and imagery to support that personality, such as bright colours, asymmetry and incorporate a sense of humour into your efforts.
When researching, endeavour to learn as much as you can about your business if you want to strengthen your brand identity. A good way of doing so is with a SWOT analysis.
In a SWOT analysis, you examine the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation’s capabilities, as well as its opportunities and threats. It is a popular model of strategic analysis.
- Strengths – Positive attributes of your business that give it an edge over the competition.
- Weaknesses – Attributes that could be disadvantageous for your business.
- Opportunities – Trends and changes in your industry that can be taken advantage of to create opportunities for your business.
- Threats – Aspects of your industry or environment that could negatively impact your business.
2) Logo and design
Once you truly understand your business, you can start to give it life with design and visual elements. Keep in mind that this visual element of your brand identity will serve as the face of your business.
- Logo – It’s true that the logo is not the whole brand identity, but it is an important component. Your logo will likely be the most recognisable part of your brand as it will appear on everything from business cards to letterheads to your website to online advertisements and social media posts. Take your time with logo design; it’s vitally important to your business.
- Colour and font – When used correctly, a specific colour palette will become synonymous with your brand and be instantly recognisable by your customers. With a colour palette assigned to your brand, you will be able to create unique designs that will be easily associated with your brand identity.
Font impacts your brand identity in several ways. For starters, the type of font you choose will speak to the personality of your business. For instance, a sleek, minimal font sends a vastly different message than a squiggly free-hand font. While you can certainly mix and match a few font types, you want to maintain some consistency to create a cohesive brand identity.
- Templates – Any business will send out a fair amount of correspondence, including letters, emails and handing out business cards. Having a template that is ready to go for all of this creates a professional, unified look and feel for your business.
- Consistency – If there’s a common thread to be noted through each step, it’s that consistency is vital and can be the deciding factor in successful brand identity. The visual side of brand identity is all about being recognisable at a glance, which is nearly impossible to achieve without some kind of consistency.
- Flexibility – As important as consistency is to your brand identity, you must keep some room for flexibility. As consumers and the nature of business are continuously shifting and evolving, it’s imperative that you leave room for your brand to move with the times. The key here is to be consistent in your flexibility. For instance, if you decide to modernise your logo, update the rest of your visual style and apply it across your brand, including details such as business cards and email signatures.
- Documentation – When you have laid out specific rules for your branding, it’s best to have them all written in one place to act as a guide. Documenting a comprehensive list of company do’s and don’ts for your business and branding that you can pass on to marketing companies, web designers and such will be helpful when you need to communicate your visual brand identity to an outside source and still come out with a result that flows with your existing branding.
3) Integrate within the community
Having taken the time and put in the work to create a brand for your business, you can start to put together a plan to connect, advertise and build a strong social media following. Integrating your brand within the community is a vital step not to be missed.
A simple, effective way of achieving this is for your brand to start putting out quality content online. When you’re putting out content online, you are effectively selling your brand on an enormous scale. Publishing content online gives your online audience a taste of what your brand is about. You can talk about your story, industry, products, and more. Every piece of content you put out into the world reflects your brand, so it’s crucial that you’re sending the message you want to.
- Reflect your brand’s personality with language – Make sure you’re using language that matches your brand’s personality. For example, a high-end brand is less likely to use conversational, informal language than a more laid-back brand. Be sure that this language style is used consistently in all facets of your business.
- Connect on an emotional level – A strong brand identity should establish an emotional connection with its customers, be it by sharing a moving success story, showing how the brand has positively affected the community, etc. This will provide a solid foundation upon which a strong, lasting relationship can be built between a brand and its customers.
- Advertising still matters – As much as the marketing game has changed considerably and will continue to evolve, advertising is still the most efficient way of gaining exposure for your brand. Whether you choose traditional or digital advertising mediums, advertising is an effective way to send a message directly from your brand to your target audience.
- Your brand needs a social media presence – You are probably already aware of how important a strong social media presence is for any brand. Social media enables you to connect with both existing potential customers, wherever they may be. With so many social media platforms available, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, TikTok and more, you have every opportunity to develop a social media presence that reflects your brand’s personality and mission. It’s an excellent platform to interact with your customers through public posts, comments, direct messages and more. Brands can really develop a good reputation by keeping in touch and responding to customers on their social media platforms. A social media presence gives customers the sense that they are interacting with a brand on a personal level and can really boost brand loyalty when employed the right way.
4) Avoid some of these common mistakes
After putting so much work into creating a strong brand identity, the last thing you want is for a small mistake to ruin it all. Below are some hiccups to avoid:
- Don’t send mixed messages (This comes back to a key point: be consistent!).
- Don’t copy the competition.
- Keep online and offline visuals and language consistent.
- Don’t chase trends that don’t align with your brand’s identity for the sake of staying relevant.
- Don’t stray from your brand’s values and mission – Going against your brand’s identity will cause customers to question your brand and its trustworthiness.
5) Continue to monitor your brand
You won’t know whether your efforts are successful without tracking their performance. There are many options available to track your brand’s performance, including Google Analytics, keeping a close eye on your social media comments and discussions, email feedback and more. Getting a sense of how people feel about your brand and what they have to say about it is the best way to know whether you’re on the right track. With that vital information, you will have the ability to make corrections or build upon your brand’s strengths.