How to Step-by-Step Brand Your Next Startup
How to Build a “BRAND” from the ground up? What should it look like? How should it make people feel? Will it resonate with my target audience?
Branding identifies and helps differentiate the Goods and Services from one seller to another.
At a high level, it consists of the following:
- Or a combination of the above three
Businesses have names, products, logos, colors, fonts, voices, and reputations that make up what they are and affect how they’re perceived.
Branding is the Art of connecting the Dots between “what you’re selling” and with “whom you’re trying to reach”.
Whether you’ve got nothing but a business idea or want to pivot your existing brand, here’s what you need to know about building a strong brand identity for your business.
You can’t build a brand without being consistent and maintaining that consistency as you extend your brand to every part of your business. But it all starts with establishing what that consistency is going to look like and the feeling you want it to evoke.
How to build a brand
Building your own brand essentially boils down to these steps:
- Research your target audience and your competitors.
It might sound obvious, but there are tons of small businesses who put so much focus on figuring out who they are and what kinds of products or services they want to deliver that they completely neglect figuring out who they’re trying to sell those products or services to—and their branding suffers as a result.
Take some time to define your ideal customer. And write it Down:
- Who are they?
- How old are they?
- What kind of income and education do they have?
- Are they predominantly one gender?
- What are they looking for in the companies they do business with?
- What matters to them?
- When would they use your product or service?
- And most importantly why would they need it?
Ford once famously said if I asked my customer what they wanted, they would unanimously say they wanted a “Faster Horse”. And I built the Car to solve that problem!
When you know who your target market is, you can use it to guide your branding strategy—and the end result will be a brand that truly connects with the customers you want to work with most.
- Choose your business name.
Great brand names often trigger emotional responses.
As a business owner, your company’s name is probably one of the first big commitments you have to make.
And for most Tech savvy Entrepreneurs, it is the hardest thing to do.
Remember how Steve Jobs famously called his company APPLE?
Your brand can’t be everything to everyone, especially at the start.
It’s important to find your focus and let that inform all the other parts of your brand as you build it.
Ideally, you want a store name that’s hard to imitate and even harder to confuse with existing players in the market. If you have any plans to expand the product lines you offer down the road, consider keeping your business name broad so that it’s easier to pivot, rather than choosing a brand name based on your product category.
You can use the business name generator to brainstorm some names, or try one (or a combination) of the following approaches:
- Real Names – like Burger King or QuestBay.com
- Invented Names – like Uber, Twitter, Starbucks or Atrenos
- Mis-spelled Names – like Flickr, Froot Loops or Tumblr
- Unrelated word – like Apple for Computers or BestNesting for Realestate.
- Use a suggestive word or metaphor, like Amazon, Yahoo or EpicTurbo for Automotive business.
- Describe it literally (caution: easy to imitate), like The Pizza Place or or Pizza Hut.
- Alter a word by removing letters, adding letters, or using Latin endings, like Tumblr (Tumbler) or Opportunty for Opportunity.
- Create a short acronym from a longer name, like BBC, HBO, CNN or BMW.
- Combine two words: Pinterest (pin + interest) or Snapple (snappy + apple)
- Write your slogan.
A catchy slogan is something brief and descriptive you can use as a tagline in your social media bios, website header, custom business cards, and anywhere else where you’ve got very few words to make a big impact.
- Airbnb: “Belong Anywhere.”
- Nike: “Just Do It.”
- Coca-Cola: “Taste the Feeling.”
- Toyota: “Let’s Go Places.”
Keep in mind that you can always change your slogan as you find new angles for marketing—Pepsi has gone through over 30 slogans in the past few decades.
- Choose the look of your brand (colors and font).
Color is the most foundational element of a brand’s visual identity. It’s the thing that audiences tend to remember most about an organization; and when it’s used effectively, it can even become symbolic of a brand.
Once you’ve got a name down, you’ll need to think about how you’ll visually represent your brand, namely your colors and typography. This will come in handy when you start to make your own website.
According to Iconic Fox, here are some other common color connotations in the U.S.:
Red: intensity, fearlessness, excitement, warning, danger
Blue: reason, strength, alertness, wisdom, loyalty, dependability
Orange: creativity, enthusiasm, courage, risk
Green: health, hope, stagnation, openness, freshness
Black: security, power, authority, coldness
Yellow: youthfulness, happiness, fun, impulsiveness
Purple: wealth, sophistication, imagination, excess
Pink: imagination, passion, care, creativity, flippancy
White: cleanliness, purity, innocence, plainness, distance
- Design your logo.
At this point, it’s also good to look at fonts you might want to use on your website.
So, what makes a good logo?
These five qualities make a logo instantly identifiable, and ensure that when consumers look at it, they’ll connect with your brand.
Pick two fonts at most to avoid confusing visitors: one for headings and one for body text (this doesn’t include the font you might use in your logo).
- Apply your branding across your business.
A company logo design is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when you think about building a brand. And for good reason: it’s the face of your company after all and could potentially be everywhere that your brand exists.
Ideally, you’ll want a logo that’s unique, identifiable, and scalable to work at all sizes (something often overlooked).
Consider all the places where your brand’s logo needs to exist, from your website to your Facebook page’s profile picture to even the little “favicons” you see in your current browser tab.
- Define how you want to be perceived
When your customers have finished using your product or service, how do you want them to describe their experience? If you own a restaurant, for example, what do you want them to say?
- “Wow, this restaurant has the largest portions in town. It’s great!”
- “You really feel as though you’ve been invited for a traditional Italian family dinner. The dishes are simple but so delicious!”
- “The service is quick and the food is OK, but the price is unbeatable!”
- See your brand as your promise to your customers – a promise that’s different from your competitors’.
- Organize your business based on this promise
Keeping the promise that sets you apart from your competitors implies that you’re doing something more than what they’re doing. The restaurant that wants to be recognized for its unbeatable prices, for example, will have to find a way to maximize the number of customers served per table in one evening. The margin per individual customer will be less, but the number of customers will make up for it.
In other words, your brand will greatly influence the winning formula that you’ll base your business on.
- Communicate your promise
All of your marketing material – from the colours of your logo to your website text – must be developed as a function of this promise. What you say on Facebook or LinkedIn must be aligned with this message, as must the decoration of your premises.
It’s at this stage that your brand becomes central to your advertising campaigns. What’s more, your ads will be even more effective, since you’ll have a clear message to convey.
- Be consistent
After defining how you want to be perceived, then organizing your business based on this perception and communicating this promise, you must be consistent. Apple, for example, is recognized for making products that are both elegant and innovative: it can’t afford to launch a new phone that’s unattractive, or a new tablet that’s technologically behind, because that would mean breaking the promise it has made to its customers.
The idea here is to develop trust. Your customers must no longer see your brand as a promise but as a reality. Consistency is often the hardest part, but the one with the greatest rewards.
Over time, a well-managed brand stops becoming a company promise and increasingly becomes a customer expectation. There may be 10 Italian restaurants in the neighbourhood, but only one where customers expect to experience a traditional Italian family dinner. That restaurant’s brand is no longer its name or logo – it’s the expectation of its customers.
When applying such a strategy, your business will gradually be able to increase both its prices and its sales (that’s right, both at the same time!). Your brand will become one of your business’s most valuable assets and the one with the most impact on your bottom line.
- Write down your brand messaging.
What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
- Integrate your brand.
Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
- Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand.
This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
- Be true to your brand.
Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
- Establish your POD (or brand “special sauce”)…
No matter what your business does, chances are, there are already other companies doing the same thing. So, if you want your business to stand out, you need to figure out what makes it stand out.
The thing that makes your business different from your competitors is called your point of difference (or POD). Your POD is what makes you special; it’s what makes a customer choose your company to do business with over your competitors—and it should be infused into every part of your branding strategy.
Your POD doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering. Think of it this way: if your company is a Big Mac, your POD is your “special sauce;” it’s what makes your company uniquely you. Do you only use ethically sourced ingredients in your products? Do you have the best customer service in the biz? Has your family business been serving the community for multiple generations? Whatever it is, figure out what makes your business stand out—and build that POD directly into your brand identity.
- Establish yourself as a subject matter expert with the right content
As a business, you might not have a huge advertising budget. But luckily, you don’t need to spend millions in ad dollars in order to get yourself in front of the right people. There’s a better, easier, and more affordable way to get your name out there—and that’s content marketing.
Content marketing works on so many levels. First, it gives you the opportunity to show off your industry expertise; by establishing yourself as a go-to resource and subject matter expert in your field, your audience will come to trust you—and, when it comes time to them to choose a company to do business with, you’ll be the first place they go.
Content marketing is also a great strategy because it gives you an opportunity to strengthen your branding. By developing a strong brand voice (and then carrying that brand voice throughout your content) you reinforce who you are and what you’re about to your customers—which strengthens the relationship and helps to drive business.
- Look for partnership opportunities
People like to do business with brands they trust. But if you’re a new brand, establishing that trust can be time consuming. But a great way to speed up the process? Look for partnership opportunities with other brands your customers already work with.
Think of it as trust building by proxy; if your customers are introduced to your brand by a brand they already know and trust, they’re much more likely to extend that trust to you—and give you their business as a result.
The key to success with this strategy? Finding business with similar—but non-competitive—audiences. So, for example, let’s say you’re launching a new energy bar targeted towards endurance athletes. You could look to partner with local races to include your bars in their gift bags, leave samples at local running stores, or offer to write guest posts on popular endurance blogs. All of those companies have the audience you want to target—endurance athletes—but none of them are direct competitors, which will make them much more willing to work with you.
- Research competitor brands within your industry.
You should never imitate exactly what the big brands are doing in your industry.
But, you should be aware of what they do well (or where they fail).
The goal is to differentiate from the competition. Convince a customer to purchase from you over them!
We’re always thinking about how to make a brand stand out from what’s out there already. Don’t skip this step in the brand building process.
- Build Your Brand Digitally with Multi-Channel Marketing
A great way to build your brand is to do so digitally with multi-channel marketing, which involves reaching potential customers through a variety of online channels. The main online marketing platforms available to you include social media, email marketing, and display ads.
When marketing on social media, it’s important to understand that some social media platforms differ significantly from one another. Certain channels may be better at reaching customers at the beginning of the buyer’s journey compared to other channels. While Instagram and Facebook reach very similar markets, being in a variety of places will invariably allow you to reach a larger number of customers.