Your brand is a way of identifying your business. It is how your customers recognize and experience your business. A strong brand is more than just a logo – it's reflected in everything from your customer service style, staff uniforms, business cards and premises to your marketing materials and advertising. There are really 3 types of brands: a corporation or company brand, a product brand and a personal brand. Depending on your business, it can fall into one or occasionally all three of these areas. Let’s use Apple as an example. The company brand is Apple, the product brand is the iPhone, and the personal brand is Steve Jobs.
Your brand is your reputation, vision, and identifier; it tells people exactly WHY you do what you do, HOW you do it and WHAT you do. So what does it take to build your brand? First, you need to define your ‘Why’. Why you do what you do. This is what makes you different from all your competition. For example, let’s look at an imaginary marketing agency. There are thousands of them, so what gives you the competitive advantage? Most marketing agencies follow a structured process that says, we provide proven methodologies that have been time tested and have a proven track record, our experienced staff will guide you through the process, and they deliver measurable results. You should hire us. They do the same thing for everyone; all they are doing is checking the boxes. Do they really understand your products or services? Do they know who you are as a company? For the most part, the answers are probably, not really. They just do what they know, and why shouldn’t they? They’ve been doing it this way for years, and for the most part, it works.
Your agency wants to look at building its brand differently. You don’t just check boxes; you get to know the products or services in depth. You want to get to know your clients, build a relationship, understand their ‘Why’ and understand their goals. Only then do you build a modern, customized approach, developing thought leadership with a PR/Marketing approach, leveraging their social media and utilizing the latest technologies to drive lead generation for them.
Your ‘Why’? You believe that the traditional marketing approach doesn’t work anymore; technology and the world change daily, and you believe your marketing company should too.
When building your brand, it is important to remember, ‘People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.’
Building Your Brand: 5 Most Important Steps
Step 1 - Brand Discovery
The first step in any brand development process is to gather the information necessary for optimal brand positioning. This requires defining the business problem that branding will help solve, identifying what your competition is doing and how you are solving client challenges even more efficiently than they are. Evaluate your current brand materials, and audit your brand. This is an important step for building a brand as you want to leverage what is already working and identify what is not so that it can be fixed.
Step 2 - Brand Positioning
Positioning is truly about owning a unique position in the mind of the target audience. It’s about exploring, defining and crystallizing your brand’s position so that your brand is unique in its space. This positioning framework is what guides the development of the following phases, providing the focus necessary to build visuals, messaging, and other brand elements that are created with vision and purpose.
Step 3 – Creative
Many people think that creativity is branding in a nutshell. However, without steps 1 and 2, creative work will be all style with little substance. Great creative work is always done with positioning in mind. A logo is made to highlight your brand idea or purpose, and messaging is created to communicate how your brand is different from your competitors. This step is where the brand identity design process happens through visual and verbal expression.
Visual Identity: The imagery and graphics that express a brand.
Visual Guidelines: Guidelines (often in the form of a Brand Style Guide) that define how a brand can be shown.
Verbal Identity: Ability to tell others about your brand through a distinct and precise message.
Verbal Guidelines: Guidelines for how a brand is expressed through grammar and tone. This is often expressed through “what we do say” and “what we don’t say” statements.
Brand Assets + Files: Logos, imagery, and collateral that are pre-approved to be used by the brand in all channels.
Step 4 – Brand Activation
In this step, it’s time to “activate” your brand, meaning it is time to create the brand touch points that your customers and prospects will see and interact with. The first step is the development of a brand launch plan. This is a crucial step in the introduction of a new brand. Also, the transition to a rebrand must be done strategically and communicated effectively to your customers and prospects so that they understand why a rebranding is happening, what is different, and what this change means for them. The brand is then implemented across high-priority touch points such as your website, collateral, social media and other tangible brand touch points. If customers and prospects interact with your brand in a physical space (like a shop or office), creating a brand experience that is in line with the overall brand strategy is also a critical touchpoint to address.
Step 5 – Brand Management
A brand is not static. It is a desired perception, and as such, it lives in the minds of your customers. You don’t really own it. This means that in order to maintain the desired perception you want customers and prospects to identify with you, you must constantly evaluate, adjust, and manage the brand over time. This may require market research to understand how the presence of new competitors affects your position in the market, as well as research to understand your target market's shifting desires, wants, needs, and perceptions of your brand.
These 5 steps are essential for building your business brand, and we hope by sharing our process, you now understand the importance of branding thoughtfully and thoroughly.
One final note, building your brand will take time; it’s not built overnight. Your brand is your consistent message, your look and feel, your type of business, your style, your authenticity and your culture. In addition, your brand isn’t always about what others perceive; it will also be about what your people think and how much they enjoy where they work. The best way to build your company brand is when your people tell others about what the company does, what it stands for and what a great place it is to work. Don’t overlook the power of the brand.
You are not alone. To build a brand plan with the help of someone with over 30 years of experience, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get you started on the right path to reach your business goals. Also, listen to my recent podcast episode about building your personal brand with Cisco's top recruiting agent.