Build a brand with these 10 brand-builder essentials.
Most companies have figured out that strong brands are good for business. Consistent branding across platforms can bump revenue by 23%. Companies often enlist an agency to help them build said brand, yet, many are unsure about what the brand-building process involves and what they’ll get when all is said and done. This blog will lay out all of the different pieces that go into a brand so you’ll know what to expect.
What Is a Brand?
Let’s start by defining what a brand is not. A brand is not a logo. It’s not an ad or a tagline. And it’s definitely not the product or service you sell.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another,” is how author and business executive Seth Godin defines it.
And he’s right. Your brand is the total experience you create for your customers and everyone else. That experience is made up of a sum of parts, with things like:
So if you or an agency is in charge of building your brand, know that you’ll get more than just a logo. You’ll get a variety of parts that, once put together, create your brand identity.
Let’s review those parts.
The first step to building a brand is understanding the marketplace in which your brand will be living. We like to ask questions like who are your brand’s competition? What advantages or disadvantages do they have over you? Who is your brand you targeting and why? What value does your brand offer? Sometimes we conduct additional research or customer interviews, looking at trends, opportunities, or threats are emerging in your industry.
Once we’ve learned as much as possible about your marketplace, we want to understand your position in the field. We look for opportunities of differentiation or gaps in the marketplace that we can leverage to create a powerful brand. This is how we can strategize ways to build a brand that will stand out from competitors while still resonating with your desired audiences.
Your vision statement is an aspirational sentence describing what you want your brand to be, do, or accomplish in the future. This isn’t fluff. The vision statement offers a focal point to align employees, stakeholders, and partners and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal. It provides direction and clarity about where the company is going because, well, what company doesn’t think about how it will grow in the future? It’s much easier to get from A to Z when everyone is on the same page.
If your vision statement explains where you want to be in the future, your mission statement explains how you plan to get there. It’s a description of what your brand does, who it serves and how; essentially it lets audiences know why your brand exists.
Some brands use both a mission and vision statement, some brands pick just one. We think using both fully illustrates where you are today and where we want to be in the future.
Everyone has a set of values that they live by. A brand is no different. Your brand values are the guiding principles that influence your culture, actions, products, people, and everything else you do. They’re also opportunities to connect with people who share the same values as your brand.
Take makeup brands for example. Millennials, which make up a large target market for makeup manufacturers, care about social issues including sustainability and animal welfare. Makeup companies are responding by promising products that are cruelty-free or made from recycled materials. It is through these shared values that these companies are building relationships with their customers.
Your audience is the people who would benefit the most from your product or services. A brand can have many audiences, which are called audience segments. It’s really important to understand the goals and challenges of your segments so you can address them in your messaging, marketing, and sales strategy. Defining your audience is a way to make sure you’re sharing information your audience actually wants to hear. Otherwise, it will be impossible to build relationships with customers.
Sometimes, we like to dig even deeper into audience segments, looking at more than just their challenges and goals. We do this through personas, an exercise that asks more in-depth questions about demographics, firmographics, and psychographics. This is how we learn even more about what makes a given audience segment tick. This is especially helpful if your brand targets multiple niche audiences with a distinct set of wants and needs.
For example, high school athletes and senior citizens both visit physical therapists, but for very different reasons. Understanding those reasons makes it easier to create compelling marketing messages that resonate with each audience.
Taglines are short, memorable descriptions used to identify your brand. They are very helpful at building brand recognition or helping your brand connect to audiences through a shared sentiment, value, or promise. Taglines can be very powerful. Nike’s tagline, Just Do It, is an example of how a tagline can help your brand emotionally connect with audiences.
Here’s a little tagline pop-quiz. See if you can identify the brand by its tagline.
Think of brand pillars as proof points–they describe how your brand will support and carry out its mission. Your brand pillars are also your core messaging. The essence of everything you say or write should stem from one or more of your brand pillars. With brand pillars, you’ll be able to tell the same story every time, everywhere.
We build brand pillars from a mix of what makes you unique, what you value, and what you promise to customers. Pillars are strategically developed with all of that in mind. Your team can cross check their work against the brand pillars. If their message says something completely different, then they should probably revisit it.
One of our favorite analogies is comparing brands to Woody from Toy Story. Animators brought Woody to life by giving him a personality–he has a unique tone of voice, a sense of humor, a strong liking for order, and a loyal heart. Audiences fell in love with him because they could emotionally relate and connect with his character. A brand is no different. For people to make connections with your brand, they need a personality to connect to!
Your brand personality is a series of words and phrases that describe your brand as if it were a person. They help bring your brand messages to life and should describe how it should feel when interacting with your brand.
This isn’t just a list of adjectives. When building your brand, it’s important to think about what really makes your brand special to avoid the pitfalls of being like everyone else. A lot of brands are considered professional, but not every brand is scrappy or ambitious. We spend the time to be really specific on your personality to help your team create memorable brand experiences that drive connection.
The brand voice simply describes the way the brand speaks to audiences. Your brand voice might be professional, playful, simple, or calm.
How is this different from brand personality? Think about the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. His personality is simple-minded but hopeful. His voice compliments that personality by using goofy phrasing and a gentle, wistful tone. The brand voice complements the brand personality, giving concrete examples of how the brand should sound in messaging.
As you build your brand, it’s important to define how it should look in addition to how it should sound and feel, which is why visual identity is equally as important as brand personality, pillars, or voice. Brands are visually expressed through logos, color palettes, iconography, photography, illustration, and typography.
Logos need no introduction because we all know how important they are to a brand. They are the visual representation of your identity. Symbols are an effective and efficient way to make an impression, distinguish yourself from the competition, grab attention, and sustain brand loyalty.
Your logo also reflects your color palette, the colors you’ll use throughout all your marketing and branding material. The psychology of color can make a powerful statement about your brand. Spas, for example, typically use calming colors, like blue or green, to reinforce the relaxing qualities of their services. Colors work a lot like copy in that they too set a tone for what kind of brand experience audiences can expect.
Your brand’s typography also contributes to your overall visual identity. You wouldn’t expect to see a casual, handwritten font used by a law firm. You’d expect to see it used by a preschool. Brands can have more than one font, assigning a title font, a body copy font, and a font used for emphasis.
Putting It All Together: Brand DNA & Guidelines
Ok, so we’ve covered all the pieces used to build a brand. Now what?
Once all the parts and pieces of your brand have been identified, it’s important to capture them all into one consolidated document, which we call Brand DNA & Guidelines. This document ensures that your brand identity is accessible to all the people on your team who help create those brand experiences we talked about earlier.
You can think of Brand DNA & Guidelines as an internal tool that your team can use. The guide helps them constantly tell the same brand story by guiding them on what fonts, colors, and messaging to use across any and every platform. Because consistency is the name of the game. People need to interact with your brand at least 7 times before committing it to memory. But they can’t commit it to memory if your brand identity keeps changing.
Reaching your business goals starts with a clear understanding of who you are, what you offer, and why it matters. Your brand will answer the who, what, and why and your Brand DNA & Guidelines will allow your team to share that brand with the world.
Want to learn more about building your brand? Give us a shout!