Our brand and marketing strategist, Kristine Root, recently led a webinar, “Branding: How to Stand Out for Success” as part of a series of webinars on marketing that we’re offering in partnership with Colorado Proud. This a blog version of that webinar – watch the video version here.
How do you create the momentum of success for your company, even without a big budget? The answer is both simple, and more complicated than you’d think:
There is no one commonly agreed upon definition for the word “branding”, which can make it difficult to understand the value in investing in building your brand.
The most successful brands are instantly recognizable and immediately convey a message about that business – especially when up against the competition. Think of it like this: there may not be that much difference between what you offer and what your competitors offer, but with a strong brand, potential customers can more clearly see that your company will meet their needs.
Maybe you’re a startup looking to build a brand from the ground up. Maybe you’re an established business looking to rebrand so you can take your business to the next level. Either way, the foundational principles in this blog will help you make better decisions towards taking the big branding leap, so your dollars work harder and translate directly into sales.
What is a Brand?
Many people think a brand is a logo, colors, and fonts. In reality, these elements just make up your brand image.
While this is a part of the greater whole, visual assets fall extremely short when it comes to what branding can really do. It’s the brand identity – made up of your brand positioning, core values, brand purpose, brand promise, brand truths and personality – that is the first step in constructing a brand image.
Together, the brand identity and brand image work harmoniously to create your overall brand, which is what ultimately makes a lasting impression on the consumer.
Think about Apple. They’re not worth billions of dollars beyond their actual equity because of their logo – that money comes from something much deeper. It comes from an entire culture, community and ethos that the company is built on through branding.
Marty Neumeier, author and speaker on all things brand, defines brand by first laying out what a brand is not: “A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product… A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”
A great brand is a combination of many elements, including how you make others feel, the trust you create and what you inspire in people. It’s also how you convey that you meet customers’ needs without telling them directly that you will. This is a powerful tool that defines your marketing efforts, campaigns, sales strategy, and much more.
Defining Your Brand
So knowing that there is no common definition of the word brand – that rather, it’s a feeling… how do you build that for your business?
The Research Phase
There is a process guided by best practices, and it all starts with a solid foundation of information. Researching your industry, competitors, consumers and your company’s sense of “self” is essential for creating a brand that is unique and authentic:
- INDUSTRY RESEARCH: What’s happening in the market? What are the trends? Where is the industry headed? Where is the biggest opportunity?
- COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS: What are the other options for your customer? What do they offer and promise? How does that fit the consumers’ needs and the market opportunity?
- CONSUMER INSIGHTS: Who are your ideal customers? What do they want and need? Why? How does that impact their life? What does your company offer to meet those needs? What does that do for your customers?
- SELF EXPLORATION: Who are you, as a company? What really matters to you? What is it that you are dedicated to and unwilling to bend on? Why does that matter?
Once the research is complete and your customer is identified, work on building your brand can begin. This starts with dissecting all of this information and looking for themes to pinpoint the overlap. This overlap is where your brand positioning lives: the place that a brand occupies in the minds of the customers and how it is distinguished from the products of your competitors.
Once you have figured out how you’re going to position yourself in the minds of your existing and potential customers, you can start working on your brand core. This is made up of three components:
Your brand purpose is the framework to branding. Who are you and why do you exist? Most commonly, this is laid out as:
“We exist to [primary contribution], so that [impact].”
Some examples include:
- Google = To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- Walmart = Saving people money so they can live better.
- Chobani = To make better food for more people.
- Patagonia = Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.
- Coca-Cola = To inspire moments of happiness.
- Nike = To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
The brand promise statement allows you to set expectations and reinforce the position you intend to own. It is your commitment to deliver a certain experience. What promise do you make to your customers?
While not every brand chooses to create a promise statement, some brands go so far as to use their promise as a tagline. We at ROOT find that it’s particularly empowering for companies working to establish a memorable brand. It creates accountability to deliver an experience that will solidify your position in customers’ minds. Examples include:
- Coors = The World’s Most Refreshing Beer
- BMW = The Ultimate Driving Machine
- FedEx = When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight
- Geico = 15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance
What 3-5 values or guiding principles are essential to who you are and how you operate? These are the values that stand at the core of your company and are influential in determining how customers view your company. Think of your brand truths as the keys to differentiating your brand from competitors.
Consistent application of brand truths in action and communications can strengthen your relationships with your employees and your customers. They can also be a great guide when building your brand story while supporting consistency within your actions and decision-making process.
When combined, your 3-5 brand truths should be something that your company alone can truthfully say that you own.
A good brand personality is one that allows you to visualize the company as if it’s someone you know. Companies achieve this by defining themselves with human characteristics.
Why? Because we, as humans, resonate with the complexity and depth of other humans. The more you can give your brand a character and personality that is recognizable and aligned with a strategy, the easier it is for your customers to identify with and support your brand.
First, identify your traits. If your brand was a person, how would you describe it to somebody? Second, bring them to life with definition. Create clear guard rails, like do’s and don’ts, around your voice and tone; or offer examples of the best expression of the voice.
Building Your Brand
After this in-depth work is complete, bring the brand into everything you do and say as a company. You’ll start by crafting your core messaging, then extend the brand into your identity with your logo, colors, and fonts. Next you’ll build your photo, video and design assets. You’ll leverage all of this to design or redesign your website, packaging, sales collateral and marketing or advertising materials.
By building all of these materials based on your brand core, you’ll be able to align your message with consistency across all of your efforts. It will also help stop you from repeating the same headline all the time, which gets tired so fast and so easily, and is not how effective marketing works – even if it’s what many companies do.
Why Is Branding Important?
Real-life benefits of taking the time to do branding work (the right way) for your company include:
- Stronger customer loyalty
- More word of mouth
- Able to command a premium price
- Increased advertising effectiveness
- Attract and retain better talent
- Better response to new product launches
- Enhanced teamwork and team collaboration
- Higher credibility
- Creates more opportunities and amplifies your success
That translates to greater visibility, higher customer retention, owning a larger share of the market, and increased sales. What business doesn’t want (or need) all of that?!
Whether you’re starting from scratch or rebranding an existing business, agencies like ROOT can bring the marketing expertise and perspective needed to build an exceptional brand. Give us a call to chat about how we can help you achieve success with a powerful brand.