All companies should precisely know what experience they want their potential and existing customers to have when interacting with them. You and your company need to take your brand seriously and evolve.
Everything from the images that you publish on your Instagram account, to the quality of your automated service messages - your brand extends very far beyond your logotype and colour palette.
That's why we provide this guide — to give you a good start when you have decided to create a strong brand that'll help your company to become credible, trusted, and selected. Use the links to jump to your sections of interest and not forget to bookmark this guide later.
What is a brand?
A brand is a feature/set of features that distinguish one company from another. A brand usually comprises a name, tagline, logo, brand voice, design, and more. A brand refers to customers' overall experience interacting with your company — a potential or existing customer, a social media lurker, or a mere passerby. If a customer has a bad experience, as described in this Hub article from 2014, you have a branding problem.
And an even easier way to formulate what a brand is would be to say that it's a gut feeling; a brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, solution, service or organisation. Your brand is your promise, the big idea, and the expectations in each customer's mind about a company, their offering or your service.
What is branding?
Branding is the process of researching, developing, and applying a distinctive feature/set of features to your company so that customers can begin associating your brand with your offering.
Branding is very iterative and requires getting in touch with your customers and your company's heart. Your branding is essential for a variety of reasons.
Why branding is important
Your brand is arguably one of your company's most important assets. It gives you and your company identity, makes your business memorable, encourages customers to purchase from you, supports your awareness efforts, and brings your employees pride. It can even contribute to your overall customer satisfaction - find out how in this article.
Branding is usually a deciding factor for customers when they are about to make their purchase decision. Most customers actively buy from brands they know, and some purchase because they like the brand here and now.
However, potential customers will be put off when the promises of a brand don't match up with reality, as Stellan illustrates in this article about buying a car. When a brand presents itself as slick, modern and digitalised, there's a severe risk of damage to the brand if the experience doesn't meet the potential customer's expectations.
Branding gives your company an identity beyond its offering. Also, it gives your potential and existing customers something to relate, interact, and connect with.
Branding makes your company memorable, positively and negatively. Branding is the front of your company and helps customers distinguish your company across all mediums and touchpoints.
Branding also supports your awareness efforts and helps your promotion package with that extra punch of added recognition and impact.
Branding shall make all your colleagues proud. And when you brand your company, you're not only giving your company identity but also creating a reputable, highly-regarded workplace. Strong branding brings in the wanted employees.
Find out more about what makes branding so important in our article, 'The importance of branding'.
I have listed some brand-related buzzwords you should know. They all demonstrate the importance and value of branding your company.
Brand awareness usually refers to how familiar your target audience and the general public are with your brand. High brand awareness sometimes leads to brands being referred to as trending or popular. Brand awareness is essential because customers generally appreciate purchasing from well-known and familiar brands.
Brand extension happens when companies extend their brand to develop new offerings in new industries and markets. And brand extensions allow companies to leverage brand awareness and brand equity to create more revenue streams and diversify its offering.
Brand identity is your company's personality and the promise you make to your potential and existing customers. The brand promise is what you want your customers to walk away with after they touch or interact with you and your brand. Your brand identity comprises your values, how you communicate your offering, and what you want people to feel when they touch or interact with it.
In a qualitative definition, brand loyalty is customers who repeatedly purchase from your company, build trust in you and your company and consistently choose you and your company over competitors. Brand loyalty always involves emotional attachment and overall positive affinity. You earn brand loyalty through great relationships with your existing customers. For a deep explanation of brand loyalty, read our article 'How to build brand loyalty'.
Brand management refers to the process used by creating and maintaining your brand. Brand management includes managing the tangible elements of your brand, e.g. style guide, packaging, and colour palette and the intangible brand elements, i.e., how your target groups and customer base perceive it. Your brand is a breathing asset and should always be managed as such.
As we explain in the article 'Brand personality, and how to get one', brand personality is a group of human characteristics you associate with your brand to describe better the impression it makes upon your prospects and customers. Brand personality is how you would describe your brand if it were a person.
Brand recognition is how well a customer recognises and can identify your brand without seeing your company name. Brand recognition goes hand-in-hand with brand recall, the ability to think of a brand without visual or auditory identifiers.
Brand trust refers to how strongly customers believe in your brand. Do you deliver on your promises? Does your sales service fulfil the customer's expectations, or do they go above and beyond? Brand trust creates trust among your customers, which is essential in a world where few customers feel confident in large companies.
Brand valuation is a commercial valuation of your brand derived from customer perception, recognition, and trust. Brand valuation goes hand-in-hand with brand equity. A compelling brand can be invaluable to investors, shareholders, and potential buyers.
How to create a brand
Here is a few advice on how you can create a brand — or begin the process of rebranding your current one, step by step.
- Determine the target audience
- Clarify your mission and vision
- Define your uniqueness
- Create visual assets
- Establish your brand voice
- Brand activation
Determine the target audience
Branding shall lead to awareness, recognition, trust, and revenue. If your brand doesn't resonate with your target groups, the brand won't lead to that desired awareness, recognition, trust, and revenue. That's where target market research comes in.
Before pressing your cursor, you need to understand to whom your branding will be speaking:
- Whom does your offering serve?
- Who is your target customer?
- How is it to be them?
- Why does your company exist?
Clarify your mission and vision
Why does your company exist? Answering this will be helpful when you define your brand's vision.
How is it to be them? What are their challenges and needs? Answering this will help build your mission statement, which defines your primary task as a company.Before you can craft your brand so that your target group recognises, find it relevant and trusts, you must communicate the purpose and the mission of your company. Your purpose and mission statement are the two building blocks of your brand manifesto, encompassing your company task and why people should care about your brand. After that, every part of your brand can reflect your purpose and mission.
Define your uniquenessLet's focus on your company, and what your company has that no one else can mimic, your company brand. You must always ensure that your brand comprises and inspired by elements that are only yours: the values, benefits, and qualities that make your company unique.
Take your time creating a gross list of what you believe sets your company apart from the alternative others. And I do not mean in appearance, features, components, or capabilities; I mean how your offering makes life easier, stays relevant and contribute to success.
Create visual assetsThe visual assets are your logo, colour palette, typography/fonts, iconography, and other visible components.
When you create these elements, you must build brand guidelines or a brand style guide to govern your visual assets' composition and use. Brand guidelines will ensure that whoever uses your new branding does so accurately and consistently.
Establish your brand voiceBrand voice is the auditory component of your brand. What do you want your brand to be like if you had a conversation with it, or if it sent a text message to you?
How you decide to communicate with your target market is considered the central part of your branding. The brand voice that you define must connect and resonate with your target groups, and don't hesitate to return to repeat the target groups to get acquainted with whom you're speaking.
Ensure that your brand's tone of voice is consistent throughout all of your content. Give your target groups a fair chance to get familiar with your brand and learn to recognise the sound of your brand voice.
Brand activationYour brand only works well if you do. Once you have created and designed your new or rebranded brand, you must integrate it throughout every inch of your company. And you shall pay extra attention to ensure that the brand is displayed anywhere your company interacts or touches your potential and existing customers. Here you find a handful of tips to apply your brand across your whole company.
.com/.xxUse your logo, colours, typography and tonality. Only use predefined assets in your brand guidelines. Your website is the most significant part of your companies identity — it must reflect your brand. Also, make sure that all content, CTAs (call-to-actions), and how you present and describe your offering reflects your brand voice.
Social media (SoMe)All images, cover art, and branded imagery must reflect your brand. Uniformly use your logo as your profile photo — this will make it easier for customers to recognise your brand and company. Also, be sure that all profile information, posts, and captions reflect your decided brand voice.
PackagingIf your company provide physical products or solutions, your products and solutions are a tangible way that customers touch or interact with your brand. Therefore, your packaging should reflect your branding — in its design, colours, size, look and feel.
AdvertisingAdvertisements, digital and analogue, are often used to establish brand awareness and to introduce potential and existing customers to your brand, they must reflect your branding. Your branding shall make the advertisement creation process smoother — through your brand style guide. You should already know how your ads must appear and what type of content and assets to use.
Sales and serviceYour brand will be as powerful as the people you have behind it, and if your people don't put your brand to work, it won't work. Involve and inform your sales and service representatives of your brand guidelines, and tell them to use it when interacting directly with your potential and existing customers. Encourage everyone to use your brand in all interactions.
To build a strong brand, I suggest the following tips and tricks:
- Treat your brand as a person.
- Brand consistency
- Create and follow a brand strategy or brand profile
- Brand goals
- Competitive brand analysis
- Using branding to attract the right employees
- Ready, set, brand
Treat your brand as a person
Think of your brand as a person. Your brand should have an identity, personality, and experience.
Try to ask yourself the following questions about your brand:
- If your brand had to describe its appearance, how would it do so? How would your brand introduce itself?
- How would your brand describe and talk about your offering?
- What would someone say about your brand when your brand left the room after a meeting?
The primary purpose of branding is to create a strong relationship with your target groups and customers. The best way to do so is to treat your brand as it was a person and understand that you want your potential and existing customers to do the same.
Recognisable, valuable companies prioritise brand consistency — and they collect the benefits. When your brand uses a unified presence across mediums, platforms and touchpoints, your customers quickly get familiar with it, and they will prefer your company over time. Creating and following brand guidelines help you achieve brand consistency.
Create and follow a brand strategy or brand profileA brand strategy is more than brand guidelines; it covers at least four questions and answers:
- What is our desired position?
- What is our most important message?
- What strengths do we have?
- How shall we be perceived (core values) and behave (people values)?
Brand goals are your specific, long-term achievable goals as your brand evolves. These goals revolve around your brand purpose, emotion, flexibility, competitive awareness, and employee involvement.
Branding is a continuous process, and a lot goes into it. Your brand strategy and goals should help you and your company evolve into a well-oiled practice that keeps your brand moving toward the desired future state.
Competitive brand analysis
Competitive analysis is essential. A competitive analysis will educate you on where your competition stands and how they excel, and it can give you ideas of how you could improve or further set apart your brand from the competition. However, be very conscious and do not fall into any imitation or blueprint. Limit your competitor research and stay focused on what your company want to bring to the table.
Using branding to attract the right employees
Strong branding makes your employees proud. Leverage your company branding to attract talented people. If hiring is a vital initiative for your company, dedicate some of your resources to people branding. People branding is how you market your company to job seekers and current employees. If you're publicly proud of your company, others will be.
Ready, set, brand
Branding is your company's name, logo, colour palette, voice, and imagery. And it's more. It's that intangible feeling that your customers have when they touch or interact with your brand.
That's how a powerhouse brand varies from other brands. The powerhouse brands' tangible components contribute to this — through the logo, tagline, manifesto, and a clear brand voice. Ensure you get to your target groups, and your company's heart and soul, and a successful brand will follow.