Branding 101: why it’s important & how to get started
Imagine a company spending countless hours and money on a revolutionary new app. Now imagine you saw the app in the app store with a plain white background and Comic Sans font.
Chances are you’d just completely ignore it, no matter how great the app actually was.
A company’s brand is the calling card to consumers; it’s their personality and quickly invokes their values. In seconds, it allows consumers to make a choice based on a feeling. If a logo or tagline is unattractive, unreadable, or cringingly tone-deaf in its message, consumers quickly move on to the next choice.
Branding offers your potential customers consistency and recognition, which translates to increased loyalty and sales. If a brand cannot address their audience, the audience is gone. And today, with more options and savvier branding, that is happening more quickly than ever before.
Regardless of whether your company is brand new or has been established for years, it’s vital to ask the necessary questions when defining your brand.
What is branding?
Branding is NOT just a nice logo. Your brand should also clearly communicate to your customers what they can expect from your company, how you’re differentiated from the competition, and what you value.
Branding is an experience and a specific personality.
Your brand cannot be all things to all consumers. Some basic questions to ask:
- Are you a disruptor or are you reliable and steadfast?
- Are you new and innovative or do you have years of tried-and-true experience to back up your business’s claims?
- Are you affordable or high-end?
There are no right answers – the important thing is to decide what your brand is, and stick with that decision. Customers will respond positively when they feel they can trust your company.
Your brand is a promise to your customers. So make sure to figure out answers to:
- What will the customers come to rely on from you?
- What will they feel when they think of you?
- How will you shape their day-to-day lives?
Why is branding important?
Regardless of generation, customers value stories more than ever and are drawn to brands that have a compelling one. As a business, your customers demand consistency in look, feel, and message. If your company cannot deliver on this branding, you will lose revenue.
From Baby Boomers to Gen Z, enduring trends such as exploration and rediscovery, digital empowerment, convenience, mindfulness, and the desire to live well are fueling the consumption of brands.
Do NOT try and be everything to everyone. It’s impossible and you’ll fail, as customers will be able to sense dishonesty.
Establishing your brand identity
Once you’ve answered some of the basic questions around your brand, it’s time to go deeper.
The following questions help customize your brand’s message to your customer base. It also allows employees to align with these ideas, and create a stronger voice and vision for the company.
Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:
1. What is your brand mission?
Your mission statement should be action-oriented. This should encapsulate the purpose of your product/company. What are you making/supplying to customers? Why does it exist in the first place? Why is it a better option for consumers? Once those main points are defined, condense that into your mission statement. This should be no more than 1-2 sentences.
Some examples of successful mission statements:
- Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
- Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
- Prezi: To reinvent how people share knowledge, tell stories, and inspire their audiences to act.
2. What values do you want your customers to know you have?
Identifying core company values is key to keeping your brand on track. Beauty giant Sephora has seven key values: Passion, Innovation, Expertise, Balance, Respect for All, Teamwork, and Initiative.
Business decisions are made with these values in mind. Using values to adhere to a brand’s identity strengthens the brand’s voice, appearance, and ability to connect with customers.
3. What exactly do you want someone to know about your brand?
Keep it simple. This is your elevator pitch. Narrow down your story to four (or fewer) key sentences as an opener.
4. Who is your target demographic?
Know who you’re trying to reach. And again, don’t try to reach everyone. Determine who to target, what they love, and how they’ll be able to find you.