Developing a brand is among the most sought after and yet challenging components entrepreneurs face when starting a new businesses.
A brand can be defined as the outward character a business emulates to distinguish the company from competitors. Cultivating a brand requires setting marketing and communication standards that personify the business and it’s solution to create a lasting impression in the minds of its’ customers.
Building a brand requires developing a sound strategy for a number of components including; brand identity, brand communication including logos and trademarks, brand awareness, and brand loyalty.
In this post, we examine a number of principles to help entrepreneurs define and cultivate a meaningful brand.
Act Small But Think Big
To begin with, brands should 'act small'.
No matter the company size, branding efforts should focus on the individual customer and be attentive to all the details which produce a successful atmosphere that ensures a positive user experience.
In juxtaposition to acting small, companies should invest their time and energy in developing a brand that can serve a significant market segment or population. They should 'think big'. Successful brands not only create a new perspectives on specific solutions, but they also serve a population that is ready to embrace the proposed solution.
Branding efforts should focus on building a unique business identity that personifies the company, and easily communicates what is being offered to customers in a familiar way.
Business leaders should not simply think of a brand purely in terms of what it can represent for an advertising campaign. The qualities of a brand must be pervasive throughout the entire organization, from promotional materials to employee policies.
Cultivating Brand Identity
To cultivate a brand identity, business leaders should begin by building their brand around the important personalities involved with the company.
Customers want to see a clear link between the products being offered and the leadership creating the solution. A company's leadership offers the first template for determining the character of the business’s brand.
It is important that entrepreneurs believe in their fellow colleagues and encourage them to participate in the development of a company brand. Employees can offer excellent and free insights on the qualities of the business and the impact it has on customers.
Every aspect of a company should communicate something about the brand. Therefore, it is essential that mangers, employees, board members, and even customers be engaged in the creation of the brand identity.
Cultivating a brand not only serves to build awareness about a company, but it also provides a reference to how the company should be managed. Moreover, creating a strong brand can offer insights on discovering new ways to attract customers and grow the performance of the business.
Examining how similar brands operate, approach customer acquisition, and preform in the marketplace, awards business leaders a good perspective of what their business should prioritize for their own branding efforts, and what to focus on to sustain long-term economic success in the marketplace.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Entrepreneurs should also consider emphasizing the behavior and touch of the brand over the brand voice they develop. Actions speak louder than words, and in an information overloaded society, messages are not enough to sway consumers.
Clear, visible and communicated actions demonstrate intent and character more effectively than catch phrases. Entrepreneurs should examine ways in which their business can become actively engaged in well known and meaningful causes that can become representative of their brand.
By being an active participant in the community, and committed to positive change, business can build endearment from the community and transform engaged people into customers.
All branding decisions ultimately reveal who the company is are and what the business cares about. In this way, all branding decisions must synthesize; marketing, advertising and public relations.
The ultimate goal for business leaders is to create a tangible experience that feels customized & personalized to their customers. Customers should walk away from their brand engagement with an experience to share with others. Achieving this transforms individual customers into potential advocates of the company.
Elements of Brand Building
There are 5 key elements to building an impactful brand. Here we examine the important indicators entrepreneurs should conceptualize and clearly define to help them foster a powerful brand;
A. Brand Identity:
The character and ethos that sets the brand apart in its market. Who you are, what you are about, what goals you aim to accomplish, and how you aim to achieve it.
The visual indicator of the brand & company. It should easily identifiable, and clearly personify the purpose or goal of the company.
C. Visual Imagery:
All of the visual materials and work that characterize the business and represent it's mission. This includes products, websites, social channels & promotional materials.
D. Physical Identity:
Where the business is situated, what environment it associates itself with, and what physical materials/objects are used to promote the brand.
What kinds of marketing campaigns are employed to promote the business and the strategy in place to ensure that the campaign is effectively communicating the product/service offerings.
Each branding element works together towards building a sound brand identity. The real challenge for entrepreneurs is to carefully manage the development of each element to ensure that consistency is established. By ensuring that each branding component is developed along a constant theme, the business can begin developing a strong brand narrative.
A great way for entrepreneurs to think about their branding efforts is in terms of a narrative, in so far as the effort is analogous to developing a story that aligns each component of a business along a common theme.
To create a clear narrative, business leaders should question;
What is the story being told to the public ?
How does each component of the brand contribute to the narrative?
It is important that all of the components involved in developing a brand align together in a common thread, otherwise discrepancies will emerge that bread confusion among customers, partners and even employees.
Using a brand pyramid can help entrepreneurs visualize the relationship between each component of a business's brand. With this diagram, business leaders can more clearly conceptualize ways to create harmony among each element within a common narrative.
As an example, a company such as be Apple Inc. has the brand; Apple, with sub brands including; iPhone, within which is the iPhone 6s product.
Entrepreneurs should not shy away from investing the time and effort to develop a consistent narrative with a level of wit that can engage and inspire a customer base.
Aesthetics and design have a shelf-life.
But, the larger notion of sustaining a positive experience built on a sound narrative is timeless.
Over the long term, branding is an effort that constantly requires change and evolution.
Good business leaders should consistently challenge their teams to express their brand and company in new, yet consistent, ways because brands (like companies) should have the flexibility to adapt to market and environmental changes.
Ultimately, the goal is to sustain market relevance and continuously impact the business' customer base in innovative ways.
To help develop a clear narrative for your brand, consider the following 9 rules of thumb:
A brand must be focused, with relevant values and a defined purpose.
The message must be clear, and must be consistently refined.
The more a brand contributes to their associated culture, the greater the return will be on their investment in the form of sales.
Entrepreneurs should create partnerships with complementary brands. The more channels available to a business to promote goods & services the better.
Businesses should aim to build and create a sense of community within (employees) and outside (customers) of the company.
6. Exude Confidence:
Always focus on building upon & promoting the strengths of the business. This is a step by step process, and leaders should always look at the glass as half full.
Leaders should aim to manage their company and brand such that everything they do promotes the same message.
Products must consistently deliver in a way that the company’s reputation can remain synonymous with excellence. Entrepreneurs should aim to reward loyal customers, create consistent excitement about their brand, and exceed personal standards of excellence.
Business leaders should always aim to grow the influence of their company's brand on culture & society.
There is no doubt that building a brand can be a complex & monumental challenge for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.
By applying these 9 rules of thumb, entrepreneurs can more easily tackle the challenge of creating an impactful brand identity. And, Approaching the process in terms of a narrative can help simplify the process and highlight the importance of consistency across all layers of the business and it’s promotional efforts.
Always look to iconic brands within your industry for insights on how to create a distinct brand that can positively affect the bottom line of your business.
Lastly, reaching out to advertising agencies for branding advice and guidance can be beneficial, and help business leaders develop a better understanding of how to develop a brand for their specific business.
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