Now, when you hear the terms brand or branding, what springs to mind first? For most people, it’s a logo or a symbol and to go one step further, you’d be most likely thinking of a well-known brand like Apple, IKEA, Nike or Virgin. Although a logo or a symbol is a vital part of what makes up a brand, it does, however, go far beyond this.
At one level these brands simply sell consumer electronics, furniture, shoes, seats on flights or media. But at the same time, they influence amazing behaviour in the marketplace. Their ability to ‘reach out’ to people creates meaning and personal relevance. Branding involves every aspect of a customer’s experience, from your logo to your website, your social media posts, to sales & marketing events and advertising; it even incorporates how you answer the phone to how you talk to your customers.
So why is branding so important? Take a look at our top 6 insights as to how you can help your brand today and why you should take your time developing your brand for tomorrow.
INSIGHT 1 – A BRAND IS NOT JUST A LOGO
While ‘branding’ may have arisen as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another using a long piece of hot metal with a special design at one end of it, there’s much more to a brand than just a logo.
A ‘brand’ in the modern sense is built on expectation and experience. In its simplest form, it is the associations people make when they see, hear or think of your company, product or service.
‘Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ – Jeff Bezos
Now, we’re in an age where everything can and will be considered “your brand” by your audience. So it makes sense to put some effort into it, right? Brand is a community, an experience, an emotional connection, content, story, inspiration and so much more. This includes everything they think they know about your brand, from your bright pink packaging to the emotive elements, like for example that it’s luxurious, trustworthy, friendly or innovative.
INSIGHT 2 – WHY IS A BRAND IMPORTANT?
In an extremely competitive and visual-led marketplace, the look, styling and tone of your brand identity are essential. It should reflect your big idea, promise, values and personality of your company while visually appealing to your target audience. The power of a brand stems from a curious mixture of how it performs and what it stands for. When a brand gets the mix right it makes us, the people who buy it, feel that it adds something to our idea of ourselves.
In a world that is overloaded in terms of competitive noise, in which rational choice has become almost impossible, brands represent clarity, reassurance, consistency, status and membership. Basically, everything that enables a human to help define themselves. Brands represent personal identity.
So, how do you get it right?
In the construction industry, a strong foundation is built in layers: sand, gravel, steel and concrete. Your brand foundation is no different. Skimp on any of the ingredients — strategy, messaging, visual identity or people — and your brand is likely to be weak and unstable.
To help communicate your brand and start the foundation-building, begin by defining and articulating Your Role, Your Purpose, Your Big Idea, Your Values and Your Personality. Together these individual parts will inform how you behave, how you talk, what you say and how you present yourself to the world. By taking the time to define your brand’s core, which is then seen as the heartbeat of the brand, you can then articulate your ‘Why‘ enabling you to reach out to people to create meaning, personal relevance and emotional importance.
INSIGHT 3 – KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO
Have you ever played darts blindfolded? If so, did you hit the bullseye or even hit the board for that matter? Not knowing who your target audience is and how you’re relevant to them is very much like playing darts with a blindfold on.
Given the current state of the economy, having a well-defined target audience is more crucial than ever. You must take the time to identify the specific characteristics of your ideal customers, including demographic, geographic and psychographic variables. While demographics and the location of your prospects is important, you have to know as much as possible about them, so add to this list; personality traits, interests, values and opinions. The more you can possibly find out about your audience, the more powerful your branding and messaging efforts will become.
So, what are some of the methods that are used to help define a target audience?
After many years helping clients to understand their target audience and aide in creating persona profiles, we use a combination of the following techniques, research methods and resources:
- One-on-One Key Stakeholder & Team Interviews
- One-on-One Customer Interviews
- Customer Online Surveys (e.g. Audience feedback with Mailchimp or Google Forms)
- Brand Strategy Sprint (Team Workshop)
- Google Analytics
- Social Analytics (e.g. Facebook Insights, Twitter Followers Dashboard)
- Talk to Social Followers
- Analyse Competitor Social Activity & Followers
- Analyse Customer Purchasing Data
By focusing efforts on a specific target audience and customer sector, a small business may be able to better serve a more concentrated segment of the market than its larger competitors. At the same time, carving out a niche for the product or service and creating a unique point of difference.
INSIGHT 4 – BE UNIQUE
What do you want your brand to be, a chameleon or a unicorn? The marketplace is becoming more and more congested with brands fighting for a larger piece of the pie, for the attention of customers, media and viral status. With new competitors, evolving customer tastes, disruptive new technologies and many other factors altering the dynamics of the marketplace, it’s becoming more challenging than ever to be seen and listened to over the herd.
While there are many opinions as to which is the best strategy to adopt, we would encourage the ‘unicorn’ approach – stand out to not blend in. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that your brand architecture will not be agile and adapt when the market shifts and consumers diversify, but this strategic approach focuses on your core foundation to establish and consistently promote your identity, uniqueness and point of difference. It works to elevate your brand positioning and offering above the competition with the ability to modify and adapt accordingly.
So, how can you become a unicorn? Here are four tips that can help create that unique point of difference and really separate you from the competition:
We love stories
Storytelling can be a powerful way to bring your brand to life and create uniqueness. People are most interested in people, not things. A good story can illustrate what you do and how you do it, it can show what you believe in and feel passionate about.
We want personality
People buy from people, so making a brand more likeable and personable gives a customer the reassurance and pleasure of interacting and engaging with you. Define your brand’s character as if your brand was a person and intertwine those personality traits throughout your visuals, messaging and content. Are you traditional, stylish, helpful, glamorous or feisty?
We want an experience
Marty Neumeier defines the brand experience as “all the interactions people have with a product, service, or organisation; the raw material of a brand.” Work diligently on providing your customer with a unique and engaging experience at every touchpoint on their terms, and you will earn their appreciation, trust and attention – in a nutshell, their brand loyalty.
We want your strengths
Keep your focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to pigeonhole yourself by being a brand that specialises in a unique skill set as opposed to one that offers everything. Focus on the core products or services that you’re best at and have the most experience providing your customers with. You’ve heard it before – you can’t be all things to all people.
INSIGHT 5 – BE CONSISTENT
Successful brands are consistent. You can count on them. Day after day, week after week, year after year. They do what they do and always have done. By being consistent, you can convey the strength of your purpose and your stability. Being consistent is building equity in your brand. Over time, as your reputation builds, you’ll have something valuable in your hands.
Keeping your brand consistent, means you must uniformly brand yourself to your prospective and existing customers. However, brand consistency is not always easy.
So, how do you achieve consistency? You need the look, feel, tone, and terminology to be uniform throughout your brand. This must be implemented for every branding, design and marketing touchpoint, including business cards, websites, social channels, ad campaigns, letterhead, envelopes, invoices, signage, events and all things related to your brand.
It is recommended that every company should establish Brand Guidelines with the help of a brand expert. It should contain instructions on how to use all your brand elements: name, logo, tagline, typeface, typestyles, textures, colour palettes and all other brand attributes. This step is vital in keeping a consistent look and uniform messaging throughout your company.
Without brand consistency, customers will lose sight of the message you are trying to portray and vital trust in your business. Keep in mind that products change, people change, markets change, but great brands and the stories they inspire are constants. Good companies build products. Great companies build brands.
INSIGHT 6 – DON’T STOP, KEEP EVOLVING
Having covered the branding essentials, it’s time to step back and start looking at the bigger picture. What will success look like for your brand? How will you know you’ve done enough? Creating a powerful brand is only the beginning of your journey to develop a strong corporate image for your business.
The fundamentals that have been addressed in this post are only the first step towards building a strong brand foundation. To ensure you continue developing and growing in the right direction, you must put together the proper strategy to promote your brand in all its glory.
Here are some of the things that the most successful brands do to stay on top:
- Have a Clear Identity
- Focus on the Audience
- Always be Consistent
- Keep Your Promises
Bear in mind, branding is an ongoing process and not a ‘do it once, it’ll be fine’ exercise. It’s very common for brands to evolve as they grow and form a better perception of what the audience likes and dislikes about it. The most successful brands are the ones that can fine-tune and continue to sharpen their brands to find the right balance and integrate the insights they’re visually marketing.
In today’s world, branding is more important than ever. But a good brand won’t manifest overnight – building brand awareness is a result of meticulous planning, development and growth, which is why many startups and small businesses neglect it without realising the impact it has.
Good branding and design not only increases the value of a company, but it provides employees with direction and motivation and makes acquiring new customers easier.
If you’re thinking about creating a new brand or rebranding, why not email or call us today to book a free 1-on-1 brand consultation with David and Amos. No harm talking to us first before taking that next step. Visit brandnew.ie for details.
Event Reminder: As part of the Iconic BYOB series, we’re offering members a free 1-on-1 brand consultation (45 mins) on Tuesday 12th March – These consultations will run throughout the day both in The Brickhouse and The Greenway. Sign up here to book your place today.
This article was written by Amos Unkovich – Principal in BrandNew Creative
Amos is a firm believer that design must reflect the practical and aesthetic in business but above all…good design must primarily serve people. Drawing on more than 18 years of international experience in brand marketing and operations, Amos figures out how the various cogs and wheels fit together so that the whole machine hums.