Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, no matter the size. An effective brand strategy sets you apart and makes you easily identifiable.
But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business or new startup? Simply put, your brand is your promise to customers. It communicates the product or service they can expect from your company and the experience they’ll receive. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be.
Strong brands don’t just happen. They are usually the results of a long-term strategy guiding regular business and is tightly bound to understanding customer needs. A strong brand gives customers confidence to move forward with a purchase decision. According to Harvard Business Review, building a solid brand benefits companies in three ways:
Brands today must be more than a logo or a design. They have to build meaningful relationships with customers. To do this you must know the audience you serve…truly know them. Know their needs and desires, and their struggles and challenges to progress. It’s also important to recognize how and why they purchase, as well as the channels they use to interact with businesses like yours. Learning about what drives them will help you shape your Brand Perception – what your brand has been in the past, what it is now, and what you want it to be in the future.
Within your wider audience is your niche — prospects who benefit the most from the services you offer. Tailor your brand strategy and your marketing primarily to this niche rather than trying to appeal to everyone at once. As you expand into new markets you will add more groups and craft targeted messaging for each. When you market to your niche you can design value propositions addressing distinct needs and triggers.
We’ve addressed effective ways of getting to know your audience on our Content Strategy Building Series Day 2: Getting to Know Your Audience. We highly recommend using these tips for sitting down with current and future customers to gain a robust understanding of how they think and work.
How do you then craft a brand that compels your audience and their needs? The answer lies in discovering and articulating your specific brand values — that is, the passion and purpose behind your company. This will be the driver for everything you design moving forward including Brand Promise, Brand Voice, and Brand Positioning. What inspired you to create the business? What value do you offer your customers?
To articulate this correctly, avoid superficial or vague statements about profit and revenue. Your brand values should be declarations that reflect winning qualities of a memorable brand and should center around core company values that you hold near and dear. You might hold authenticity above all else, or strive to be the simplest solution in your industry. Whatever it is you do, have something clear and enticing.
These three elements are important to craft individually because they help shape the look and feel of your visual brand as well as future method for communications. While they might all sound the same, they each provide unique angles that must be considered.
Once brand values, promise, voice and positioning are established, it’s time to start putting brand communication into use. First impressions set the standard for every future interaction so it’s good to start with authority and clarity. How effectively you communicate about your product/service can have more impact on your success than the product itself. Here are helpful tips when communicating around your brand:
Compelling brands are instantly recognizable and very memorable. They have a style that is unique and relevant to their niche market. Branding should speak to the brand values, as well as the promise to customers, so that graphics don’t get lost in translation. Designs should not be confusing or require elaborate explanation. Your website, logo, and collateral should all be designed for maximum aesthetic appeal, exude professionalism, and trigger reminders of your brand values, voice, and positioning.
One of the easiest and most important elements to effectively communicating brand strategy is by being consistent. Too many times, companies agree to a brand look and feel and try to roll it out, but end up redesigning or not using it at all. Companies (especially if they are a small or new company) need to be consistent in how often they’re using branding and agree to stick to it!
Without consistency in their brand strategy, businesses never have the opportunity to evolve into sustainable brands. Consistency builds trust, breeds recognition, and drives greater profits. Capitalize on your brand values, your impressive design, and your intimate understanding of your audience by delivering a consistently enjoyable brand experience.