For many businesses, branding is a nebulous concept that has something to do with logos, colors and advertising materials. And while all of those things are important aspects of branding, the overall concept is much more subtle and pervasive. Briefly put, business branding is about crafting an image of your company in the minds of your current and potential customers. This image includes:
- Who you are as a business,
- What you stand for as a business, and
- What you have to offer as a business
When successfully implemented, it can lead to fierce brand loyalty and customer advocates. A customer advocate is essentially a hyper-loyal superfan who loves your products or services and loves to tell everyone about them. Avid iPhone users are a prime example of this due to a 97% retention rate among users. While this level of devotion isn’t always attainable, it is possible to craft your brand image in order to help mold public opinion in regard to your business.
When Should Branding Begin?
You can begin creating a brand narrative early, focusing on how you want people to perceive your company. If you wait until after you’ve been established for a while, public opinion may already be formed and it may not accurately reflect who you are as a business or who you want to be as a business. Shifting public opinion is always far more complicated and difficult than guiding it from the beginning.
“To succeed, your brand has to become instantaneously recognizable and connected to your core values in the minds of your customers and potential customers.”
As a business owner, you need to know that it is never too late to start creating a brand that people can identify with and remember. For example, Apple was on the brink of failure before the late Steve Jobs rebranded the company in the 1990s. His rebranding of the company as the cutting-edge creator of sleek, stylish, and user friendly electronics was so successful that many people are still willing to pay a great deal of money just to own one of their devices. Strategic branding and marketing both played a major part in making Apple what it is today.
An Ongoing Process
It’s also important to note that branding is not a “one and done” process. Strong brands find themselves in an ongoing process of pushing and shifting public opinion in their favor.
Public opinion has always been easily swayed by word of mouth, but advocates for, and detractors from, a brand now have far more reach and volume than at any time in the past. As a business, you have to be aware of what potential customers and clients think of your business and how you can shift those opinions in your favor.
After identifying the select qualities and unique value propositions (UVPs) that make your company something special, you can then craft them into a brand image that people can immediately identify with. Your brand has to become instantaneously recognizable and connected to your core values in the minds of your customers and potential customers. To start, you should find meaningful answers to questions like these:
- What is the core mission and purpose of your business?
- What qualities and values do you want people to associate with your business?
- What benefits and features of your products or services are unique or highly beneficial?
Answering these types of questions can help you find the brand narrative that will help your business become something great in the eyes of the public. If your business is already established, it can also be useful to know what people currently think of your business. Market research can help you accomplish
A Good Logo is Crucial to Branding
The most obvious place to start is with your logo. To really stand out from the crowd, it’s simply not enough to slap together something that “looks okay” and has your company name in it. A great logo should help to visually define your identity as a business. This is done by distilling who you are and who you want to be down to a core idea and then crafting an image that conveys that idea to the world in a simple, striking manner.
In tandem with creating the perfect logo, you’ll need to create a style guide that will allow you to present a single, unified look to the world. This style guide can be incredibly complex or relatively simple, but the important thing is to have one. This style guide will allow you to maintain consistency in colors, logos, fonts, taglines, tone, and more throughout your digital presence and offline assets.
Branding in Advertising
One of the most crucial areas for maintaining your brand identity is in your advertising. This is made easier by creating a style guide as we mentioned before. All of your advertising efforts should reflect your company and its core values. Below are a few ways that you can create a consistent brand throughout your advertising efforts.
- Make sure that you use your awesome logo frequently and consistently. This allows people to instantly recognize when a product or service is being offered by your company. Then, if you’ve done your job right, they’ll immediately associate your core values with any product or service you advertise.
- Pick colors for your brand that evoke the emotions you want people to associate with your brand. Then consistently use those colors throughout all of you advertising, packaging, and other assets, both digital and physical.
- Find a voice that works for your company and use it consistently across all communications from email and blogs to print ads and websites. This voice is the use of language to convey who you are. As an example, informal language can be used by companies that want to convey a sense of fun, but more formal language would be appropriate for a company that wants to embody high-end quality. See the difference?
- Use photos and images that convey a single, unified style. That doesn’t mean that they all have to look alike, but they should be consistent. And all of your photos and images — especially photos that depict lifestyle— should convey the same kind of tone as your company “voice.”
- Create design templates that allow you to maintain a consistent look. These templates can be for such diverse things as flyers, brochures, installation manuals, web pages, software, apps, social media profiles, and more. And all of these templates should be consistent with your brand style guide.
Yes, we live in a digital age, but print advertising can still be an extremely effective tool. Keep in mind that print advertising should present your company in a manner consistent with the brand narrative you’ve created. This means that all print advertising should follow the same style guide you use for digital advertising and assets.