Brands are more than just what they sell. What first comes to mind when you think of a brand? Probably an iconic logo or catchy slogan, but these are just parts of what makes a great brand. A well-polished brand is a valuable asset. If your brand is recognisable, customers will see you as credible and trust-worthy. If your brand is memorable, customers will engage with you because they like your style or values.
Branding is the research and developmental process that forms an identity that customers will associate with your business, shaping the impression that will be left after purchasing a product or service.
But we can’t all recreate the Nike swoosh or McDonald’s golden arch. So for small business competing against big-name brands with dedicated customers and expansive marketing budgets, their own branding will help separate them from large-scale corporations and create more intimate connections with customers.
Creating Your Brand
Above everything else, consistency is key with branding. From how you communicate to the experience you provide to your visual style, your customers should get a strong sense of your brand identity across the board. This includes your the look of your shopfront/office environment, website, online content, social media profiles, signage, and the way you conduct sales and customer service operations.
As you are defining your brand, there are some core questions to ask yourself to specify your purpose.
- What makes you stand out from your competitors?
- What problems do you solve?
- Why should customers care about your business?
- What impact do you want to have on the world?
People are drawn to brands whose values align with theirs, so if you outline what your purpose is, it will make it easier for people to differentiate you in the marketplace.
It’s important to be aware of how your competitors have branded their businesses so you know what environment your customers are in and what they connect with.
If you know what similar businesses do and don’t do well, you can take initiative and apply this knowledge to your branding.
Analyse how consistent they are with their messaging, the quality of their product or service and how they market their business on and offline. Research customer reviews so you have a direct line to what people are thinking. However, be sure to avoid copying your competitors, as this will do the opposite of making you unique!
Identifying your target audience will help you clarify your brand and support your marketing efforts. It’s best to get as specific as possible, as once you have a niche that you can commit to for the foreseeable future, you can eventually expand to a broader audience once you’ve grown.
Performing market research and identifying your buyer persona will help you decide who your ideal customer is.
For the buyer persona, identify the age, gender, location, income, education level where relevant, and also consider what their motivations, goals, influences and pain points are.
Think about who your business serves, and keep this in mind as you continue to form your brand.
Writing a mission statement will guide all future aspects of your branding strategies. This is a clear expression of all of your business values, so your customers will have an easily accessible and understandable way to understand who your business is.
Don’t forget to discuss your goals and the ways you can help your customers, and they will be able to quickly decide if your business matches their beliefs.
Every brand needs its own unique voice. This involves how you communicate who you are to your customers so they know how you can add value to their lives, strengthening connections with them in the process. Your voice needs to strike a careful balance between professional and authoritative as well as welcoming and conversational, but this can be done distinctly to make you stand out.
Remember who your audience is, your voice should be able to connect with your target. All different aspects of branding should reflect your voice, from online content to ads to product packaging. Find what suits your brand identity and communicate it. If you want to be open and transparent with your customers, try sharing behind the scenes content. Or, if you want to develop an emotional connection with your customers, try sharing personal anecdotes so people can learn the stories behind your brand.
Applying Your Branding
Your brand identity should be evident throughout all of the content that your customers interact with. Your business cards, on/offline ads, packaging, campaigns, products, website and social media profiles should all reflect the essence of who your brand is.
Logos are one of the first things you think of when you think of a brand. It should reflect your brand name and tagline, something that’s both easy to remember and recognise, as these represent the face of your brand and will be hugely influential in forming first impressions. Hiring a graphic designer could help you perfect the process as there are lots of details to consider when designing a logo. You will need to carefully decide the size, colour palette, fonts and imagery. This will help establish your style that will need to be consistent throughout your brand.
Product and mailing packaging can be easily overlooked, so investing attention to detail into this will suggest the extent that your business cares about your customers and product quality. Elevating packaging can make an ordinary product feel like an exciting present and distinguish you from other similar products. Like your logo, the graphic design of packaging can tell a story and create an emotional connection, which will hugely improve the likeliness of your customer returning for this established high quality.
Implementing your brand identity into your digital marketing efforts will help boost your brand image on a wider scale. Perform SEO research to find what keywords will best target your niche to improve the reach of your content marketing, this will also give you an idea of what words to integrate into your regular language. You can also use this information to place Google Ads onto websites that suit your brand and draw in more customers.
Fuse your brand identity into your social media presence. This means not only connecting your visual identity into your profile but the voice in your posts as well. Remember to think of social media as an opportunity, you can use comments as feedback to improve how your brand reaches customers, and use different platforms to create communities that grow connections.
Keep in Mind
Just because you need to prioritise consistency, don’t overrule flexibility. Being open to adjustments and changes as you evolve will help maintain your customer’s interest and keep your brand relevant. Try doing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) to assess when you need to reevaluate your brand strategy. Monitoring your growth through analytics, surveys and comments will help you maintain your brand and point you in the right direction of when and where you need to integrate changes.
Branding is an ongoing process. But if you devote a high standard of attention to detail, a strong brand will help you achieve:
- loyal, life-time customers
- increase in revenue
- more fulfilling projects
- more word-of-mouth referrals.
Your brand supports your marketing campaigns and helps to generate awareness of your new projects through a strong memorability factor. If done well, a small business can grow its brand to stand out against established competitors and create a unique, lasting impression on consumers.
Don’t forget, your people are your brand’s biggest advocates. When you all know, understand and are proud of what drives and defines your brand, you amplify what it stands for. This includes negotiating changes and updates to the brand, but also when hiring to ensure that all stakeholders exemplify the brand values and fit with its identity.
If you don’t feel your brand is all it can be, talk to us. Branding is something we’re passionate about, and good at.