It takes a lot of work to develop a brand from scratch. The process requires a lot of study, money, and effort, regardless matter whether you’re rebranding an established business or developing a new brand for a startup.
However, the most sensible first step in building the reputation you desire with your audience is developing a strong brand image. Although it’s a large task, brand building doesn’t have to be difficult.
A brand is a set of visual assets, stylistic choices, and other resources that combine to form a cohesive image. A brand is more than a logo, name, or slogan. It could include almost anything that contributes to your company’s reputation — like the tone used in your messaging or the dress code for your employees. The various ways you’re perceived by the public is your brand.
A strong brand image helps differentiate your business from the competition. If you can establish a positive impression among your audience, attracting leads and retaining existing customers will become easier over time. This could lead to organic marketing as loyal customers feel inclined to advocate for your brand.
What is Brand Identity?
A brand identity is made up of what your brand says, what your values are, how you communicate your product, and what you want people to feel when they interact with your company. Essentially, your brand identity is the personality of your business and a promise to your customers.
The terms “brand” and logo” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Originally, the term “brand” was used to refer to the mark that cattle ranchers “branded” on their cattle.
However, the idea of a “brand” has since evolved to encompass much more than just a name or a symbol.
A brand is a feature — or set of features — that distinguishes one organization from another. A brand is typically comprised of a name, tagline, logo or symbol, design, brand voice, and more.
Brand identity, then, is the aspect of branding that focuses on your brand’s personality, as well as the values you convey to customers.
As Wayfair Senior Brand Manager Jared Rosen puts it, “Brand identity is more than just finding the right logo to place on coffee cup sleeves or mount above your front door. It’s about crafting a personality that amplifies the core elements to your brand’s DNA.
Today, the most magnetic brand identities scale across digital platforms, IRL experiences, and even naturally converse with real customers.”
Three categories usually contain branding tactics: brand strategy, brand identity, and brand marketing. Even though these are similar, they nevertheless differ in significant ways. For a brand to become powerful, all three are required.
Brand strategy determines what you want the brand to look like at a high level, prioritizes goals, and plans accordingly. Consistency is fundamental to a strong brand so it’s especially important to create a clear plan before addressing the fundamentals.
Consider if you want the brand to have a professional and authoritative tone, or a casual and conversational one. Determine what demographics you want to target. Clarifying these types of factors will help you in the initial steps toward building your brand.
Your brand identity is how you want to put basic concepts to practice. This involves concrete tasks like deciding on colors, brand messaging, and more. These should all tie together so audiences can recognize your brand in different contexts and on different channels.
Marketing your brand is about how you use your strategy and identity to generate the best outcome for the business. Brand marketing focuses on questions like what social media platform to target or how to allocate advertising budgets. This should be handled by marketers who understand how to create messaging and run campaigns.
How to Build a Brand Identity
The most important steps to building a brand probably sound like a lot, but it’s a manageable process if you break it down. Let’s take a look at what brand building looks like in practice.
1. Identify your audience
Before you can work out how to develop a brand, you first need to think about who that brand is for. Clearly identifying your target audience is an easy step to skip in brand building, but the reality is that different people respond to different tones, aesthetics, and brand personalities. If you start by considering what that audience is looking for, you’ll have much less trouble designing a brand that engages and connects with them.
One simple way to identify your audience is to create buyer personas. A buyer persona is a rough sketch of the typical lead you want to sell to. It should include basics such as age, location, and income as well as more in-depth information like political views, product use cases, and any related brands they buy from. Of course, you’ll naturally learn about your audience over time as you develop the brand and make more sales.
2. Research your competitors
Conduct competitor research to get a better idea of how to cultivate a unique niche. Find a way to match competitors’ strengths while capitalizing on weaknesses like market inefficiencies or underserved sectors.
Examine other areas of competing brands as well, like websites, pricing, and voice. Strong SEO practices can generate steady web traffic through organic search, and competing websites should give you a good idea of which topics to target. You can also use keyword research tools to identify subjects that aren’t being targeted yet by competitors.
A competitor research spreadsheet like the one shown above may help you prioritize your findings. This should provide a clear view of how your company compares to others in the same industry and help you find more effective ways to differentiate your brand from the competition.
3. Define your brand’s purpose and position
Think about where your brand fits in your industry. Start with a single purpose or mission statement that clearly communicates what you want the brand to accomplish. This statement will inform other branding activities, so it needs to align with your business plan as well as your core values.
Read Also: Fostering Brand Loyalty
If you’re having trouble creating a mission statement, try answering a few fundamental questions about your business. For example:
- Why does your company exist?
- What problem can your product or service solve?
- Why should customers buy from you instead of a competitor?
Remember that a mission statement is intended primarily for internal alignment rather than for audience-facing marketing campaigns. You’ll have time to craft marketing messaging later on, so don’t spend too much time trying to make your mission statement catchy.
For example, Nike’s slogan is “just do it,” but the company’s mission statement is less flashy — “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete.” That purpose helps guide all of the company’s activities from product design and development to marketing and sales.
4. Develop a personality and brand voice
Personality is one of the most important aspects of your brand. It’s the easiest way to demonstrate that your company is unique, and it’s what will attract the type of customers you want.
The same voice should echo across brand operations — from web copy and social media profiles, to emails and product pages. Whenever a customer interacts with your brand, they should hear the distinct brand voice and see your personality. The voice you choose will depend largely on your audience, mission statement, and industry. For example, Gen Z audiences often use slang, so you might consider integrating that into your brand voice if you want to connect with that type of audience.
Research what personality your target audience is interested in within your field for inspiration. There are five basic brand personalities you can review to help you conceptualize, define, and develop your unique personality.
Once you understand your brand’s personality, develop an editorial style guide. Imagine your brand as a real person and speak like you think they would. Decide how formal or informal you want to be, even drilling down to word choice and contraction usage.
For example, Harley-Davidson uses a rugged, adventurous tone that customers have come to identify with their brand.
5. Create your brand story
Stories connect people on a personal level, so using them in your marketing is a great way to appeal to customers.
The book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller provides an outline of what to include in your brand story. It starts with a character — your customer — and a problem. The character meets a guide who gives them a plan and a call to action to help avoid future failure. This simple formula can be used by casting your brand as the guide and your unique value proposition as the plan.
- Hero. Give a face to your customers to help them relate to your brand. You did a lot of this when you built buyer personas in step one.
- Conflict. Like in any good story, the stakes should be high. Assess what your customer wants or needs. Expose the practical need but don’t forget to appeal to emotions.
- Guide. Show your customers why your brand is the solution to their dilemma. Provide client testimonials that highlight the differences between your brand and the competition.
- Climax. Give your customers an idea of the potential negative impact of not choosing your solution. Then deliver your call to action.
- Resolution. List several promises your customers can rely on if they choose your brand. Show how their decision will lead to success.
Storytelling is a great supplement to your mission statement. It can explain why your brand exists and its beliefs. Once you’ve established your story, incorporate it into ads and landing pages.
Burt’s Bees introduces their story on the search results page. The copy presumes the customer has the problem of taking care of their skin, but also faces the dilemma of not sacrificing their health with harsh chemicals. The brand then offers the perfect solution — natural products.
6. Pick a brand name
Naming your brand is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Most top brand names are either abbreviations or one to two words — memorable and easy to remember.
There are some simple techniques you can use when creating a name for your brand.
- Made-up words like Adidas
- Inspirational figures like Nike — the winged goddess of victory in Greek mythology
- Relevant words or phrases like Mastercard for a brand of credit or debit card
- Word combinations like Facebook
- Altered words like Tumblr
Before committing to a particular name, search for the name and similar variants on Google to make sure you won’t face too much competition. Choosing a name that resembles the name of a competitor can pull traffic away from you and send it to them.
7. Write a slogan
A strong slogan is invaluable. It needs to be brief yet descriptive so that it can easily fit in many spaces like your bio on social media, website header, email signature, and more. Your slogan needs to be both concise and easy to remember as well as consistent with the rest of your branding efforts. No matter how catchy and memorable your slogan is, if it clashes with the rest of your branding customers can become confused by the conflict.
Beyond being concise and impactful there is no definitive criteria for creating a slogan, but below are few approaches to help you start.
- Use a metaphor. Skittles uses “Taste the rainbow” as a metaphor to convey the range of flavors and colors of their candy.
- Capture an attitude. Toyota’s “Let’s go places” express the adventurous spirit of their consumers who use their vehicles to explore the outdoors.
- Describe what you do. Home Depot’s “How doers get more done” quickly states their objective — to provide DIYers and contractors with the means to complete projects.
- Highlight your benefits. Rothy’s “Reduce your carbon footprint in style” targets the eco-conscious buyer and tells them the two benefits of their brand — style and reduced environmental impact.
- Create a catchy rhyme or saying. Bounty’s “The quicker picker upper” both rhymes and showcases its claim to be more absorbent than other paper towels.
Unlike a brand name, your slogan can change. As you engage with your target audience, see which approach resonates with them and tweak your slogan. Wendy’s has changed their slogan several times in the decades they’ve been in business. In 1984 they started with “Where’s the beef?” which was a huge success. Next, they tried “Give a little nibble,” which ultimately failed and the company pivoted to extolling their use of “never-frozen” patties.
Establishing your strategy, identity, and marketing to decide how you want your customers to view you is the process of developing your brand. It’s a synthesis of your objectives, imagery, tone, and campaigns rather than a single component, like your name. Each of these components aids in increasing brand visibility so that consumers may see it and engage with it as you see fit.
It’s a big plus to have a variety of customer engagement options at your disposal even before you begin developing your brand. Products that improve customer experience might assist you in anticipating how to interact with clients through various channels.