What is a brand? Which are the necessary actions towards building a brand for a company? Which are the deterministic factors that shall be considered during the process? This article aims at answering these questions and provide guidelines with regards to building a brand for every business venture in the making.
Initially, to define the term, according to Investopedia, “a brand is an identifying symbol, mark, logo, name, word, and/or sentence that companies use to distinguish their product from others”. A combination of one or more of the above elements can form the brand identity.
Though, why the brand matters? In reality, brand when used properly, may constitute one of the company’s most valuable assets. Regarding the extent of brand’s influence, there are cases in which a company and its brand become identical terms. And when a company has managed to create a positive sentiment in its target audience, it is said to have built a brand equity, in which case customers are willing to pay a high price for products that could buy for much less from competitors. Thus, when a company has developed such a powerful brand it can resist and generate high profits even amidst periods of crisis, as its product is memorable, recognizable and superior in quality and reliability. Some examples of such companies may be Apple, Microsoft, Nike or Coca Cola, which have created deep roots in the lifestyle and memory of societies all around the world.
Indeed, forming a powerful brand can provide leverage, distinguish your business from your competitors and overcome all the hardships they may arise in your way. But how can small enterprises assimilate such practices and thrive in a competitive business environment?
7 steps for building an impactful brand
To begin with, the most important factor when building a company and consequently a brand is to define your reason why. According to Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it” and “if you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe”.
However, which are the concrete steps that every successful entrepreneur should consider and apply?
1. Discover the purpose behind your brand
This involves the thing for which you wake up every day loving to do for other people and the world, through your product or service. More specifically, the purpose can be found when answering to 4 key questions:
- why do you exist? It is crucial for every business to shape a brand mission statement where it puts its mission explicitly to the world
- what differentiates you? (from your competitors, why are you special?)
- what problem do you solve?
- Why should people care?
When these questions are addressed, it derives what is the firm’s purpose and and where it stands in the competition.
Simon Sinek, in his TEDx speech in 2010 in USA talked about the “Golden Circle” when it comes to shaping a brand by leaders. The circle is formed by three parts; the outer part involves what you do (i.e. which services you offer to your customers), the intermediate relates to how you do it (the things that differentiate you from the competition), and the inner part- why, the reason you are passionate and why you do what you do.
According to Sinek, true leaders, those who manage to inspire and make an impact in the world, are those who put first their reason why. Those who their purpose is solely to increase their sales follow the opposite direction; they stick to their product and its features (what), or some move to the process (how), so they can never truly connect with their audience, since they have not cultivated a common idea. Therefore, only those who demonstrate a powerful why, something in which people believe in, can continuously succeed and grow big.
2. Analysis of competitors’ brands
In order to properly place your business in the competition, you firstly need to know where you stand in comparison with your competitors; you need to search the market you are about to penetrate, to note down everything regarding their product, its quality, their business activity, what they do well and what they do not.
In this way, you will clearly comprehend the competition and you will be able to differentiate your offering from your competitors. Hence, knowing theirs and your strengths and weaknesses will you be able to shape a brand capable of providing you with a competitive advantage.
3. Determine your target audience
It is obvious that you cannot do everything, and you cannot be everything to anyone. You need to be specific. So, you must keep in mind who exactly you want to reach and this action as a result, will form your mission and your message in order to meet their exact needs. In order to narrow your targeting audience, you need a solid picture of them, such as their age, their gender, location, income, education level, motivations, influences etc.
Though how can you reach them out successfully? You need to figure out behaviors and the lifestyle of your customers in detail; for instance, what is that they like, how is their everyday life, what are their cultural influences, what are their beliefs and what makes them happy. When you take everything into consideration, you can ensure that your message comes across crystal clear to your potential customers.
4. Create a logo and a tagline
Your logo will be the “identity” of your company; it will appear on everything that relates to your business, so make sure you create something exceptional to reinforce the visual depiction of your brand. Do not hesitate to invest for this purpose. You can hire a professional designer or a branding agency, so that you manifest the visual identity of your company in the best possible way. Of course, for newbies with insistence and devotion, searching through the internet and working solo can always bring decent results.
5. Build a story and messaging
A brand story is a unique opportunity to make emotional connection with your audience. When you present a story throughout your communication you can truly communicate on a human level and come closer to them. Also, the language you use should be simple and clear, so that it can be understood immediately.
Furthermore, when creating your story, do not stick to what your product can do but why is it important for your customers, since that is the most persuasive factor.
6. Outline the qualities of your brand
In order the promotion of your product to have an impact, you need to emphasize what makes it special, which are its special benefits that make it unique. And when you go through the process of presenting your brand, you should always insist on the way you provide value that improves customers’ lives.
7. Be consistent with your brand’s personality
Finally, once you choose a brand identity you want to embrace, you must stick with it in every communication with you customers. You need to integrate your brand into every aspect of your business; it should be visible and reflected in everything your customer can see, read and hear about your business. In that way, through insistence and consistency your brand can establish a position in peoples’ lives and their minds.
Taking all into account, the road to successfully building a brand for your company is neither an easy job nor a difficult one. What is challenging is how to effectively communicate your brand, how to be consistent, persistent and persuasive, so that you make an impact and attract followers. And that is something which will be produced from each entrepreneur’s personal inspiration, their purpose and their commitment.
*More info on brand strategy you can find on fresh sparks.