So you have a product and are ready to put it on the market, but you need to build a brand and don’t know where to start. Or, you have a brand, but your target market doesn’t seem to identify with it. There is something missing, but you just can’t pinpoint it. Don’t panic! Before you start designing or redesigning your logos, let’s take a step back.
The best way to define your strategic direction is to develop a brand strategy.
What is a brand strategy?
A brand strategy is a long-term plan that defines your company’s goals, and how to achieve them over time. It is experienced by your customers through every aspect of your business. Your brand strategy doesn’t only define who you are, but who your customers are as well.
Now you know what a brand strategy is but where do you start? This high-level thinking can seem daunting, so let’s break it down.
Define your brand’s purpose
In order to develop a successful brand strategy, think of the big picture and then go smaller. What is the purpose of the brand? What problem does it solve? Who will benefit the most from your products? How do you want your customers to feel? What is the story behind your brand?
Once you’ve come up with a purpose or an objective for your brand, draft up a vision statement that reflects your long-term goals.
An example of a great vision statement is Samsung. Their vision is simple: “Inspire the World, Create the Future.” This vision statement, although in only six words, tells about not only their products, but the experience they want to provide their customers with. They aim to be a leader in technology, and inspire others around the world to follow them into a more technologically advanced future.
A vision isn’t only about the products – it’s about the impact your brand will have on others. It’s an intangible aspect of your business, that becomes more tangible once you break it down and build your goals around it.
Do your research
Brand strategies can’t be pulled entirely out of thin air. It’s important to do research to help inform your branding. Spend time online looking at websites and social media platforms of your competition. What is their branding like? What is their look and feel, and how can you set yourself apart? Find a way that you can differentiate yourself from your competition through branding. Is there an aspect of your product that you want to promote that is better than your competition? Are you providing your customers with a greater experience? Pinpoint something that makes you different from other similar brands, and lean into that.
Define your target demographics and spend some time researching them as well. Who is your ideal customer? Develop a persona for them. Give them a name, write down their age, income bracket, what they do in their spare time, etc. Find influencers and blog writers similar to those personas, and see what they’re interested in.
Unsure who your target market is? Conduct marketing research. If you have the budget, test your products among groups of people you think would be your ideal customers.
Use your research to inform your brand strategy, by finding the best ways to relate to your target customers and differentiate from your competition.
Create a visual identity
A well-crafted visual identity can set your brand apart from your competitors. This is equally as necessary as ensuring your messaging and tone of voice are consistent. Successful brands use a visual identity to foster recognition of the brand through colours, fonts and design. These visual aspects can have an effect on how consumers view your brand, and what emotions they feel when they experience it.
What kind of emotion do you want your customers to feel when they look at your website or social media, or when they enter your store? Different colours can portray a different personality, so it’s important to think about what best suits your brand. For example, brands like Coca-Cola, Netflix, and ESPN use the colour red in their visual identity. Red personifies a brand as bold, adventurous and energetic.
A customer will experience your brand not only through your products, but through your social media, your staff, your website, your messaging, your logo and more. Since there are so many facets that make up a brand, consistency is key when building recognition.
To build brand recognition among your customers, be consistent with all external-facing elements of your business. Think about the tone of voice that suits your brand the best, and use that same tone in all of your external communications. Craft key messages about your brand to use on your website and social media and stick to them. Work with your internal staff and ensure they have a deep understanding of your brand and vision, and train them to represent it when they interact with your customers.
Apple is the most recognizable brand in the world. Their brand develops long-lasting relationships with their customers that gives them emotion-evoking recognition.
Apple users don’t just like Apple, they love it. Every one of their customers knows that no matter which store they go to, they can expect a consistent experience. Additionally, although their technology is updated slightly with every new piece of hardware, when a new model comes out, the experience remains straight-forward. Apple customers know that their new piece of technology won’t require a steep learning curve to get accustomed to.
In the early stages of creating a business, a brand strategy is a great way to get started on the right foot. Once you define your goals, your target customers and your vision, the rest of the aspects of your brand will start to fall into place. Be consistent with your branding through messaging and visual treatment, and take time researching your competition and your customer demographics. A successful brand strategy flows through all departments and is continually adapting and evolving to accomplish the long-term goals the business aims to achieve.