Your brand is not just about your product—it’s about the colors and aesthetics you choose for your packaging and marketing material, the words and phrases that describe your product, the font style and size you use, and the image and values that you project. Your brand needs to take on a personality of its own; it must be something your customers will recognize and trust. To build your brand, you need to start with a strategy to see you through the important planning phase.
Back in the 1900s, it was easy to walk into a store and view the limited offering of products on the shelf. You made your decision based on the quality of the product, and your budget. These days, there is a much wider range of products on the shelves, and strict regulations mean that quality is standardized. This makes the consumer’s choice much more difficult. With this standardization of quality, consumers are increasingly turning to brands that are distinct and brands that they can trust.
Establishing a new product takes skill; you need to be creative, innovative, and daring when introducing your brand to the world. Success in business relies on superior products, superior quality, and superior branding. The branding process establishes your company profile and your values; your reputation will follow.
Identity and image are important to your brand and need to be relevant to your product. For example, if you are selling sneakers to teenagers, the image you project needs to be vibrant and colorful. Never lose focus on your customers, and always maintain a high standard of quality and customer care.
If you would like to perfect your skills and learn the art of branding, the SBU Communications Master’s online with St. Bonaventure University teaches you essential business communication skills and the value that storytelling has in the world of marketing. With this course, you can hone your strategic and conceptual thinking skills while working towards an illustrious career in marketing and communication.
Research and the power of big data
The importance of accurately identifying your target audience cannot be stressed enough. The key to a successful marketing plan is tapping into the needs and challenges of your potential customers, their likes and dislikes, particular age and population groups, spending habits, and more. Once you have established your potential customer base and the data surrounding it, this information will guide you in creating a strategy. Once you have identified your target audience and what motivates them to buy, the next steps in the process should be easier, and more accurate: how to name your company, how to design your logo, and what type of personality your company should project. These steps involve some conceptual thinking to come up with original, innovative ideas.
Without customers, you don’t have a product, and if you’re not aiming your marketing efforts at the right people, you are wasting both time and money. While you may be attracting sales by word of mouth or by being in a sought-after niche, if your branding is not accurate, it may eventually fail when someone else enters the market with a better strategy than yours.
So, research, research, research! With tools such as Google Analytics available at the touch of a button, there is no excuse not to conduct proper research. Data analytics tools give you access to market activity around your proposed product and help you understand buying trends and customer preferences. Having conducted some data analytics, you are best placed to target specific customers with emails informing them of your product, giving details such as ingredients, how to use the product, and what needs the product is likely to fulfill.
It’s important to use your intuition in business too. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic created awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Savvy entrepreneurs took advantage of this, and there was an influx of health and fitness products on the market.
Conducting research on your competitors is an essential part of your branding process. Conducting research might include doing Google searches on your product or industry or searching for conversations and hashtags on social media. There are companies that sell sophisticated tools that will enable you to do more in-depth investigations; however, if they are not within your budget, go the manual route and make an effort to do this research yourself.
Once you have information on your competitors, it’s important to ensure that your branding is sufficiently different. Analyze their marketing strategies, what platforms they use, what their customer reviews tell you, and what you think works for them and what doesn’t. Find out whether there are any gaps that you can fill and improve your strategy accordingly.
An SEO strategy will tell you what words and phrases are likely to come up in customer searches, and these can be incorporated into your company’s vision or marketing statements.
Data analytics can also help you when creating content for your website, with information on what type of content goes down well with your target audience, what phrases to use, popular colors, styles, and more.
Based on your data you should be able to identify some unique customer personas and use these profiles when sending out marketing emails. Targeting a specific group of potential customers by email is more effective than sending out a general email to your entire list of customers. It also enables you to give additional information about your product and address their needs. You can give details such as quality specifications or how the product works.
How to develop your brand
1. Giving your brand a name
This is the name that will appear on your products, websites, and marketing material. It needs to be strong and make an impact. When deciding on a brand name and image always bear in mind the possibility of expansion of your product range, and make sure that the brand name and image are flexible enough to accommodate new additions to the range.
When deciding upon a name for your company, some of the following phrases come to mind:
- Relevance to your product.
- Easy to repeat and remember.
- A catchy phrase that grabs attention.
If you are able to combine at least two of the above, you are doing well. Choosing a brand slogan that is catchy and easy to remember is not easy but is worth the effort. Sometimes it can be useful to brainstorm with staff, family, and friends or conduct research on the internet.
2. Determine your brand’s focus
Knowing your focus areas upfront will keep you on track during the brand design and implementation phases. Don’t try and be everything to everyone; focus on what you do best and on your customers’ needs.
3. Design a unique logo
Your logo needs to be unique and preferably, simple. Think McDonald’s and Nike. A simple design is easily recognizable, more versatile when printing marketing material such as promotional gear and banners, and more cost-effective. It’s important to remember small details, such as the fact that each color you add to your branding costs extra when printed.
Having said that, color and design are critical to the success of your logo. While the logo is not the only consideration when creating a brand, you can’t undermine the importance of the iconic logos used by companies such as McDonald’s and Apple.
4. Find your voice
Your voice as a company is found in the tone of your communications and determines the personality of your brand. Personality is everything when it comes to making an impact on your audience. Your personality as a brand includes your logo, packaging, promotions, advertising, pricing, and expertly worded statements.
Your product offering needs to be functional, but at the same time, you should appeal to people’s emotions. Give them something they need and make it attractive at the same time. Persuade them that your product is better than the competition. Your brand also needs to tell a story; decide on a theme and be consistent and loyal to it.
5. Understand your customers and build relationships
Understanding your customers, their needs, and their preferences is essential. See what your competitors offer and go one step further. It’s not just about getting customer recognition. Be bold and imaginative and make sure you’re bettering your competitors. The best way to sell your product is to become a necessary part of a customer’s life.
Social media can help to achieve this. You can use social media to build your brand’s awareness and form strong customer relationships. It can be used as a communication base and a platform for posting product information. Social media is great for sharing ideas with your customers and encouraging feedback.
Having a social media policy in place is essential, particularly if you are relying on staff to post articles. Always be polite and true to your brand. Post videos and images and establish relationships that will produce the important word-of-mouth element of your business strategy. Word-of-mouth marketing is the sharing of positive (or negative) product experiences by consumers. Studies indicate that a large percentage of people are likely to act on the advice of friends and family when buying products.
Keeping your customers loyal to your brand
When starting out, decide on your promises to your customers and uphold them. When you promise quality and good service, be consistent with the delivery thereof, and don’t let your customers down. You, your staff, and your marketing materials must be consistent and uphold the values of the company at all times. Staff training and periodic reinforcement of the brand principles should be ongoing.
Compliance with your chosen company values is important. When you change tack it tends to confuse customers, and they may go in search of a different product as a result. Therefore, your promises and values need to be clear from the start of the brand-building exercise.
- Company responsibility
People today are concerned about sustainable products and company ethics and values. Some brands establish strong cultural or philanthropic bonds with their customers, targeting their customers’ values and beliefs.
If you can reflect your responsibility as a company, you are more likely to be noticed, and your products will be favored. Phrases such as ‘cruelty-free,’ ‘giving back,’ and ‘fighting for reform’ send an important message to your audience. Of course, you may be called upon at any stage to prove your sustainable practices, so make sure that your claims are relevant and consistent.
- Customer loyalty programs
The establishment of customer loyalty programs not only encourages customers to buy your products but also enables you to receive consistent feedback from your customers.
Thorough research is essential before starting a company. Determining your target market, giving your company an appropriate name, and designing a great logo while keeping your target customer base in mind, will set your company up for success. Work on the voice of your brand—the image you want to project and the message you want to send out. Your brand needs to take on a personality of its own.
Good branding, however, is only the beginning. You need to remain loyal to your brand and be consistent. Use analytics tools to stay abreast of market trends. Follow your customers, follow the trends, and adjust to keep up with the competition while retaining your special brand persona and your core values.