Good branding may seem like a nebulous concept — something that falls in the category of “I know what it is, when I see it,” or something that is reserved only for those super trendy consumer-oriented companies like Apple or GAP. Regardless of your company, building your brand is important.
A brand is your mark in the industry that distinguishes you from your competition. Think about a cattle ranch where the owner burns his cattle with a hot iron bearing the unique symbol of his operation. The symbol would let others know it was his cow. In the same way, when you build a brand, you are letting people know that your product or service is distinct from everyone else. Yes, it is about the logo and the color choices, but it goes beyond that to include the intangibles. Branding also involves the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one business over the alternatives.
Building a unique brand means giving your business a distinct identity. Benefits of a solid brand:
- It helps you compete in a crowded marketplace.
- A good brand image frees you from having to compete on price alone.
- It builds customer loyalty.
- A powerful brand attracts quality employees and motivates staff.
- It can be extended across new products and services.
Have a clear vision
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A good brand doesn’t happen by accident. Instead of trying to make your business “all things to all people,” you want to focus your message and how it’s being conveyed. A good idea can get muddied when it tries to do too much. Instead, focus on your strengthens and on a singular direction. That way, it’ll stick in people’s imagination more easily. Like the master sculptor, you want to remove everything from the block of marble that isn’t “it.”
Visually appealing to your audience
Looks matter. Stick with a consistent font scheme for all your material, one font for the logo itself and another reader-friendly font for all other content. You want a consistent color scheme, possibly one or two dominant colors that go well together, then an accent color.
Make sure it’s concise
Can you say what your company is about in one sentence? In one tweet? I’m not talking about a cheesy motto or ad slogan. You need to be able to describe what your company does, how it does it, and how it’s different in one solid statement — even better if the statement is artfully worded without meaningless jargon.
Make sure it’s consistent
Once you’ve decided on your branding, you should commit to that approach. Get new business cards, new signage, and new stationery. Use it as often as possible. Don’t leave any of your old branding leftover to confuse people.
Beware of fake hype
Your brand is a promise, but you don’t want to over promise or oversell. Authenticity is always valued over hype. When the hype machine is in full gear, you aren’t projecting the confidence that comes with letting a well-branded product speak for itself.
Before you launch your brand, you will want feedback. Lots of it. You will want to test it on your target audience. More importantly, you should turn to the experts if branding isn’t your forte. Branding is deceptively harder than it looks. If you aren’t a graphic designer, hire someone. Find a marketing professional who can walk you through the process.