The most valuable and influential companies worldwide have created brands in order to differentiate themselves and become more than their products, but how do companies or individuals establish brands in the first place?
Brands represent an intersection between product innovation, competition, and customer relationships. In a nutshell, brand identities are the sum of what your product really means to the consumer and to the market. So, the first step to building a brand is pretty simple: make your brand mean something!
Obviously, you cannot have a brand without having a brand name, and there are plenty of different ways to go about discovering one that is a perfect fit (we wrote a blog post all about this process that you can find here). After you have finished that process, you will have the opportunity to build and expand your identity through the processes of Inception, Impression, and Amplification.
1. Mission Statements (Internal & External): your mission statements need to lay out in clear terms what your brand is about, what it is trying to accomplish, and how it is going to go about doing so. The internal statement should be focused on directing the efforts and results of the company, while the external statement should lay out why and how these efforts will reach whatever goals the brand has set. Use these directives (and of course be creative) for this part:
- Are you seeking to make a social impact? Are you looking for profit?
- What inspired the creation of the company/specific products/features?
- Who makes up the target market? How does this brand reach them specifically
2. Image: this includes all visual aspects of the brand including photo, video, logo, site/app design and interface, font family, color scheme, etc. It is important that this aspect is cohesive and unified so you become recognizable to consumers
3. Voice: honestly, this one is slightly more tricky. Voice is all about your brand’s personality and should create the tone for all your non-visual communications with consumers. It includes your brand’s use/non-use of humor, proper grammar, emojis, active/passive voice, 1st or 3rd person, and more. This cheat sheet helps to lay out the different factors in forming a brand voice, but as with any other aspect of your brand, do not be afraid to think outside the box!
4. Design: this aspect is more about the centralized aspects of your brand such as the website or mobile application. Design should always be streamlined and logical for the best user experience; users should not be struggling to find anything on your platform, and when they do find what they are looking for, it should be easy to understand. Feel free to make your design reflect the spirit of your brand, but make sure it keeps users’ needs and desires first
1. Engagement: now that you have the Inception process figured out (or you at least have a solid starting point), it is time to start interacting with the target market. Beyond making your product and platform available to the public, you should look to reach out and engage with consumers or interested parties on social media, in email, or in person. This is an essential piece of familiarizing consumers with your brand and initiating what will hopefully be a lasting relationship between your brand and each consumer.
2. Product Experiences: the link between your product and your brand is found in how your product makes the consumer look, feel, think, act, etc. Your brand is more firmly established by a) creating a more unique and memorable product experience and b) making this experience last beyond the consumer’s actual use of the product. Things like product design and customization, brand communities (both brand-led or community-led), creator/influencer collaboration, and pure “cool factor” serve as great ways to maximize and personalize product experiences for the best impression on consumers.
3. Thought Leadership/Content Generation: now that you have established a brand identity and connected with consumers in order to form a relationship, you can begin to draw them into the depth of value that your company has to offer. In other words, now that your target market knows how much you care, they care how much you know, and you can finally start to show off exactly how much you know through thought leadership and content generation. This can come in the form of blog posts, recipes, tutorials, and more; it honestly does not have to directly relate to your product offerings either! This step is all about expanding the scope of your brand from a provider of products/services to a provider of novel ideas and unique value. Do not be shy about branch out and letting your organization’s members pitch into this part of the process specifically!
This step is about bringing all the previous processes together and making them work together to maximize the returns of each individual step. Amplification connects touchpoints and experiences to multiply the positive effects of your hard work in establishing a brand, building upon positive word of mouth, your industry network, and the inevitable process of refining each piece of your brand so that the brand experience is constantly being improved. A crucial part of this step will be monitoring, analyzing, and acting on market data as well as both positive and negative brand experiences to ensure that no stone is left unturned in creating the best brand possible over time. This aspect of brand building will require a lot of hard work and hard questions, but it will serve as a tool that will take your brand from good to great to a full-fledged industry leader.
To summarize the process, brand builders need to establish the identity behind the name by creating a cohesive mission, voice, and image that fleshes out your brand across all touchpoints and allows you to establish yourself for the target market. Once consumers know who you are as a brand, you can create conversations, gain market insight, and most importantly, make sales which will both familiarize consumers with your offering and make you more than just a seller. After this is done, all that is left to do is continue to refine and update the brand while staying true to your mission in order to promote quality and leadership over time.