Since strong branding is essential to success, you need to know the right steps to take (and why you need to take them) when establishing your brand. If you have a website, social media, or any form of marketing distributed to consumers, then you have already started to brand your business.
Unfortunately, many businesses jump right into marketing before consciously establishing their mission statement, business values, and official tone or voice. This causes branding to be unclear, inconsistent, and generally ineffective. And this isn’t a mistake solely made by small start-ups — businesses of all sizes and industries can (and have) made detrimental branding blunders.
Building your brand is not only a crucial first step in creating a successful business, it’s an ongoing and evolving process — and that’s why we want to help in any way we can. This post is the first of a four-part series that will take you through the entire process of creating a brand for your business from start to finish.
Let’s begin with bare-bones basics.
What is a brand?
Despite what you may have heard, a brand is not a logo. A brand is a culmination of your business’ mission statement, values, voice, and appearance, reflected through every aspect of how it operates. Essentially, your brand is your business’ entire identity.
Often a brand is what summarizes a company’s personality and promise to consumers. For example, ask almost anyone what Nike is, and they’ll be able to tell you that they’re a business for athletic apparel and gear. Why? Because Nike promised to bring inspiration and innovation to athletes, and they’ve consistently kept their word through their products, advertising, and every other aspect of their business.
Screenshots of Nike’s main and corporate websites, social media, and print ads.
The elements of a successful brand
Basic elements that culminate to create a brand can include a mission statement, logo (and tagline), website, a brand guideline, etc. Unfortunately, even if you have all of these elements, your branding efforts could fall flat without the following:
No matter where, when, or how your consumers interact with your business, it’s important to fully and clearly reflect your brand — and this doesn’t just mean placing your logo on everything you do.
You need to use consistent type, color, imagery, and voice throughout all your marketing and business materials. And to ensure this is done thoroughly and successfully, you and all your employees and partners need to understand the rules and expectations of your brand identity. (This is where creating a branding guideline for the company comes in handy.)
As William Arruda wrote in an article for Forbes, “Brands are built through the consistent delivery of the brand promise through all stakeholder touch points. It is the consistent, desired experience that builds trust and trust is the foundation for loyalty and promotion.”
As marketing tools like social media and video become an increasingly larger part of consumers’ everyday lives, it’s more imperative than ever for brands to establish a unique voice. Why? Giving your business a voice helps humanize your brand.
Screenshots of Taco Bell’s wit and humor on Twitter.
From Facebook to Pinterest to Snapchat, there are endless platforms on which to advocate for your brand. And each one has the potential to make or break your branding. Therefore, it’s important to utilize each platform according to your business’ needs and goals.
For example, Pinterest may work wonders for a clothing or jewelry company, like Alex and Ani — but that same strategy won’t be nearly as effective for a law firm.
When you establish your brand, you’re making a promise to your consumers. And if you fail to keep said promise, consumers aren’t going to be pleased. So, when you’re deciding on your official mission statement, be confident that it’s a mission you and your business can follow through on.
It’s important to remember that you and your employees are an extension of your business, so you should be following through with everything you do for your business. Whether it’s creating content for your website, writing blog posts, posting to social media, or talking to your co-workers, employees, or clients, the success is in the details. This also means that branding should factor in to how you train your employees; every part of running your business should reflect the branding and value proposition you’ve settled on.
The marketing industry (like most industries) is always changing. If it’s not a new social media platform, it’s a new Google Algorithm update. The key to a long-lasting brand is to be flexible — marketing evolves, your brand should with it.
Flexibility allows for a change in target demographic, design updates, and other spontaneous changes that can occur overtime. In fact, McDonald’s branding has changed over ten times since their founding in 1948. From the 1940s to today, consumers have grown more health conscious, and trends in the food, design, and marketing industries have changed. So, McDonald’s shifted their branding in order to remain one of the top five fast food chains in the world. The visual iterations of that changing brand are pictured below.
Why a brand identity is important
Your brand is the embodiment of everything your business is and does. As we mentioned earlier, without a strong, solid identity, your business’ messaging and marketing can be unclear, inconsistent, and ineffective.
Establishing a brand will help your customers remember and differentiate your business from competitors, earn authority and credibility in your industry, and can increase the value of your company, direct and motivate your employees and clients, and help acquire new customers.
On the flip side, here are a few dangers of inconsistent branding:
Ruin trust and credibility
If you don’t keep your brand promises — or communicate them in the first place — consumers are going to find it difficult to trust your business. Lack of brand consistency conveys carelessness and inexperience, which then reflects poorly on your credibility.
Lose authority and recognition in your industry
Visuals and other branded content reinforce your brand and help drive positive conceptions and establish authority. Without coherent branding, consumers won’t be able to differentiate your business from your competitors.
Sabotage your business’ growth
By not standing out from your competition you can do immense damage to your business’ growth. In today’s social media and customer review-centric world, it’s extremely arduous to build up a brand if you lose the trust of your consumers.
We understand that creating a brand identity can be a daunting task, but we also know it’s a mandatory undertaking for success. With a consistent — yet flexible — brand, you can triumph over challenges and setbacks, establish a loyal following, and ensure long-term business growth.
Since your brand is, well, everything, we want to ensure you fully comprehend what one is, why you need one, and how you can go about establishing one. So be sure to stay tuned for the second installment of this series: Building a Brand, Part II: Designing a Logo.
This article originally appeared in Mainstreethost.