The only thing harder than making great products is creating a compelling brand to promote those items. The ideal brand is one that speaks to the mood and quality of both the products and the company that makes them. It sends a clear message to consumers that they’ll want to be a part of their community. The best marketers make branding look effortless, but in reality, creating a brand identity is just the opposite. It takes a lot of introspection and work to develop your brand’s soul. But once you’ve got it down, it’ll take your marketing to new heights.
Understand Your Customers
It’s a marketing adage that bears repeating — if you don’t understand your target audience, you can’t expect to successfully market to that group. This is especially true when forming your brand identity. You’re not just selling products — you’re selling consumers on why they should embrace your company as an entity, almost as a friend they’d like to hang out with.
It sounds like an odd concept, but think of the most successful brands out there. Nike, Apple and Supreme don’t just sell items. Instead, they’re vital organizations whose philosophies share core values with those that buy their products. Your brand might not be on that level just yet, but the sentiment remains intact. You want to align your brand with the lifestyle of your audience. And you can’t do that unless you understand that audience’s needs and wants very well.
How do you better understand your customers? Move beyond simple demographics and grasp people on an individual level. How do they prefer to buy? What marketing mediums do they best respond to? What causes do they support? Create personas for your most notable marketing segments, and take note of the common ground between those segments. That overlap is where you want to focus as you start to develop your brand identity.
Understand Your Business
As valuable as it is to get to know your customers, and as vital as it is to appeal to those individuals, you can’t be something you’re not. If you compromise your company’s integrity just to curry favor with a particular audience, it’s certain to backfire. People will be able to tell if your efforts aren’t genuine. That’s why it’s just as important to conduct an internal analysis as well.
You don’t need to get overly analytical and dissect every aspect of your business. But you should be able to answer a few simple questions. Specifically, what is your company’s main philosophy? What makes your business unique? What do you provide for your customers that nobody else offers? What is the image you want to portray to your audience? On one level, these are isolated fragments of a marketing strategy. But combined, they become your brand.
Your internal review shouldn’t just cover your owner’s view of your business. It’s also important to look at the people working in your organization. Identify their unique skills and personality traits. Assess their vibe and culture. Think about what this group of people is capable of doing that no other organization can match. These traits should also be part of your brand identity — after all, your employees set the tone for your entire output.
Cultivate Your Brand
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your brand identity, it’s time to put your knowledge to use. It’s also time to have a little fun.
Your brand is, in essence, your company’s personality. You want your brand to capture the heart of your business. It shouldn’t be this carefully calculated enterprise that’s geared toward maximizing revenues. Instead, it should be a natural extension of the research you’ve just conducted. If your company employs people straight out of college, your brand will likely be youthful and exciting. If you work in financial services, your brand should convey trust and integrity. However, the particulars of your team and your customer base will point you in the exact direction you should go.
The hardest part about branding is taking these undefined nuances and converting them into something tangible. Everything about your presentation should reflect your brand’s identity, and that’s something that’s much easier said than done. For instance, how do you take your overall vibe and turn it into a logo and color scheme?
Fortunately, converting your brand’s personality into physical marketing assets is something that’s done over time. Nike’s swoosh, for example, was just a logo before it was turned into an iconic symbol by athletes around the world. You’ll have plenty of time to fine-tune your marketing as your brand develops and as you get feedback from your audience. A gradual approach may even be more beneficial, especially if you’re making a drastic change in your branding.
Keep it Consistent
No matter where you go with your branding, there’s one thing that’s more important than anything else — consistency. The success of your brand’s identity rests entirely with this aspect of branding.
Picture Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most famous brands. Now, imagine how you’d perceive Coca-Cola if you saw the Coca-Cola logo in various different fonts, or if there was a different shade of red every time you saw its advertising. You’d probably be less impressed, if not totally turned off by the inconsistency. There are countless examples of brands that have underwhelmed audiences in this way, and they’ve lost significant business as a result.
Every time someone sees your product, your marketing materials, or even your company’s website, they’re taking in your brand. In some cases, they’re seeing your brand for the first time. You always want to make a good first impression. And you want to reinforce that impression at every turn.
One of the biggest challenges of branding is making sure everything is on the same page. From logos to typefaces to color schemes, your branding should present a universal front to the consumer. This immerses the consumer in your brand and lets them feel like they’re part of something. Any break in the chain — whether it be an outdated letterhead or a landing page based on obsolete web designs — can damage the shopper’s affinity with your brand. In some cases, they may begin to question your identity and start looking for other alternatives.
This is undoubtedly one drawback of a protracted brand roll-out. Tinkering over time lets you grow into your brand, but it also gives you more to keep track of. Frequently changing guidelines also make it harder to keep uniformity across all platforms. However, large-scale changes that haven’t been tested may backfire if they prove to be unpopular with your audience. Understand the benefits and drawbacks of both approaches, and know what you have to do to maintain consistency in whichever path you choose.
Experiment on Social Media
One great thing about modern marketing is that you can get immediate feedback on anything. For this reason, social media is your best friend as you start to hone in on your branding.
Virtually any branding activity that you’d do on a large scale can be tested on social media. The text in your posts could mirror the type of copy you might use on your site. You could incorporate a potential new color scheme in infographics or promotional materials. You can even test out new logos. In every case, you’ll get an instant response in the form of likes, comments and shares, the results of which will tell you if you’re on the right track.
Social media can be a crucial training ground as you start developing your brand identity. Use it to build on the incremental changes you’ve made and to test-drive bigger changes. This will also further your brand’s reputation as a forward-thinking business that incorporates user feedback and gets its audience involved, which are great values for any company.
When approached correctly, branding is less about creating something new and more about crafting something that’s already there. If you’re looking to take the passion that’s already in your office and translate it into your brand’s identity, contact us today.