building a stellar brand

Building a stellar brand doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly involves much more than crafting a logo and creating branded images. Branding requires some serious marketing focused on creating a brand personality and consistency in all your marketing messages across platforms and channels.

What is Branding?

In the most narrow sense of the word, branding is:

In the first sense of the word, then, a brand is simply the non-generic name for a product that tells us the source of the product. A Coke is a fizzy caramel-colored soda concocted by those folks in Atlanta. [source]

Originally used by farmers and ranchers to identify their property since all cows look pretty much alike as do all sacks of flour. In the simplest terms, branding refers to the name and logo of your business. More recently, David Ogilvy, who founded the massive advertising agency under the same name, realized a brand was much more than a name and logo; that a brand was really the total of all consumer attitudes and beliefs about the product.

Branding is your business’s identity; it’s a representation of your business’s values, culture, and aesthetics, as well as the attributes built into your products. Remarkable branding results in a memorable first impression. Branding efforts work to effect the way consumers see your company and what they think about the products you make. Brands are memorable for their attributes, what we know about the brand from first-hand experience, and what we hear about the brand, which makes it difficult to change attitudes about your brand if they don’t work to support your market performance. To quote Jeff Bezos, “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Figuring out your brand is a crucial, and ever-evolving, part of building a successful business.

Your brand’s personality

Just like people, brands have personalities formed through the sum total of their marketing efforts including messaging, spokespeople, and other marketing efforts. For instance, Godiva has a sexy, rich brand personality based on associations with Lady Godiva and the gold used in their packaging.

Here’s a graphic showing different brand personalities and brands that exemplify each personality.

brand personality

Image courtesy of Better Marketing

Or, look at this tweet from Wendy’s about their new pretzel burgers featuring Chef Mike, a former McDonald’s corporate chef and now a serious gamer with heavy metal influences that create a personality for Wendy’s as strong and cool, as well as a fighter against foes, in this case, McDonald’s. Placing them in the archetypes above, you’d call Wendy’s a rebel.

In essence, branding revolves around the decisions you make regarding the following:

  • Who are you?
  • What is your business’s personality?
  • Are you the edgy, funny company that leaves cheeky Twitter comments on competitors’ feeds, like Wendy’s, or do you represent the utmost in sleek professionalism?

Defining your business’s personality is a major component of branding and something you need to determine before you start branding if you’re interested in building a stellar brand.

Today, when it seems like there are a thousand options for every product and service, having a unique and memorable brand sets your company apart. Branding helps customers and prospects remember your blogs, your webpage, or your advertisements. Wendy’s snarky tweets are shared countless times, and do wonders for the burger joint, arguably more than their burgers have!

Building a stellar brand

Buibuilding strong brandslding a stellar brand takes a concerted effort with everyone pulling toward the same goal. In his book, Building Strong Brands, David Aaker says:

A common pitfall of brand strategists is to focus on brand attributes. Aaker shows how to break out of the box by considering emotional and self-expressive benefits and by introducing the brand-as-person, brand-as-organisation, and brand-as-symbol perspectives. A second pitfall is to ignore the fact that individual brands are part of a larger system consisting of many intertwined and overlapping brands and subbrands.

Hence, building a stellar brand is challenging, requiring a combination of skills not often available in a single employee or founder. So, how do you go about building a stellar brand?

Read on.

Consider a branding agency

Branding agencies make it their business to develop and draw out the qualities that define your business. They specialize in helping you uncover and bring to life the story behind your business and then use that story to create a cohesive identity.

If you’re more of a DIY entrepreneur or don’t have the funds to hire an agency, don’t fret, there are ways to focus on what makes your brand unique without spending a ton of money on a professional consultant.

So where do you start?

Focus

Begin the branding process by focusing on how you want consumers to see your brand. Create a list of values and a list of strengths that separate you from competitors. Don’t forget to include emotional words and feelings as part of that list.

These inform the direction you want to go in terms of logo, look, and messaging. Compiling a list of keywords helps you determine what’s most important to you and your customers.

Ask yourself questions to help you get started. Consider the following:

  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • How do you want customers to feel when they visit your website or storefront or see your content?
  • What’s the first thing you want clients to think about when they visit your website?
  • What sets your business apart from your competitors?
  • What would a customer miss out on if they didn’t use your business?
  • What would a customer gain by using your business?
  • What other brands would your brand be buddies with?

After you answer these questions, try to narrow it down to five words that truly define your business. (for example, humor, passion, honesty, colorful, creativity or sleek, cutting-edge, accessibility, clarity, cunning) Keep these words with you each step of the way as you create your logo, your website, your social media presence, messaging, advertising, and content; anything that represents your company.

marketing basics

While you may save a little money by asking your unemployed brother who took a couple of graphic design courses in community college to mock up a logo for you, consider investing in a professional company to give your business the look it deserves. An impressive image sticks in a consumer’s mind. Brands like Nike and Apple use logos that are instantly recognizable because they are clean and simple, yet unique and pleasing to the eye. Other brands like Starbucks have more stylized artwork as their logos. Newer brands with less awareness might consider cobranding in their logo, such as this from Carvel in which they cobranded with a much more recognizable brand, Cinnabon.

Choosing the style that’s right for you will come out of realizing the attributes that represent your brand.

Think about aesthetics in general when it comes to your website and the materials you use. You need cohesiveness across all platforms. You don’t want an Instagram account populated with bubble-gum pink pictures and cutesy quotes, and a website that’s all black and grey. Pick a color palette and stick to it. John Deere even went so far as to patent the shade of green used in their logo, communications, and even on their tractors. Use a few fonts for all your advertisements and packaging, as well as the text on your website, to help create your identifiable brand.

Most brands develop a style sheet containing the colors, fonts, and images used to define their brand. The style sheet ensures everyone knows exactly which style elements are appropriate and never has to guess if they’re using the exact color as the logo.

Now that you have your brand, market it!

Marketing your brand

OK—You’ve got your color palette, your striking logo, a mission, a story, and a personality. Now you have to get it out there! Consider all the options available today for gaining exposure.

Know your audience

Knowing who you want to reach is the first step in actually reaching them. Research the kind of person who uses your type of product or service. How old are they? What websites do they visit? Know your customers’ values. Are they budget hunters or label-snobs? What will they sacrifice, and what is non-negotiable?

Watch what’s hot

Imagine creating a video that goes viral not because you paid a ton of money to get it on everyone’s iPhones, but because it struck a chord with an entire generation or subset of consumers. Sometimes this happens accidentally, like with the recent TikTok video (see below) that got Oceanspray a ton of free exposure, but a great business should always be on the lookout for how to make this happen for themselves. Stay up to date on the trends across all platforms.

Remember, stay active in not only marketing your brand but keeping your brand updated and evolving as consumer attitudes change. Your logo and name shouldn’t change, but giving things a revamp to stay relevant can kickstart a surge in business!