Behind every brand exists a business, but not every business has a brand. To create a business, you need ideas, financial resources, paperwork, and eventually, products and services you can sell. Creating a brand is much different. It’s not about having products or services to sell, building a website, setting up social media profiles, making business cards, or doing anything else that makes you look like a legitimate business.
Instead, it’s about telling a compelling story and sharing a captivating vision and purpose that people can rally behind. It’s about putting genuine time and effort into connecting with, serving, and creating memorable experiences for your customers. It’s about using words, visuals, and actions to set yourself apart from competitors and convince people that you actually care about them, that you want to help make their lives better, and that you’re not just in it for the money.
As a new entrepreneur, the idea of building a brand that people ultimately recognize and choose to support might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. In this blog post, we’re sharing a number of resources you can leverage, best practices you can implement, tools you can use, and actionable steps you can take to build a successful brand for your new business.
When it comes to building a memorable brand for your business, taking the time to educate yourself on the topic is the best way to put yourself on a track toward success. Here are a few recommended resources you can start exploring when you’re ready to build a brand for your new business:
Sticky Branding: 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers, and Grow an Incredible Brand by Jeremy Miller In Sticky Branding, author Jeremy Miller highlights 12.5 principles that help provide readers with an actionable blueprint for developing a winning brand—no matter how big or small your business is. The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design by Marty Neumeier In the Brand Gap, author Marty Neumeier introduces 5 specific disciplines as a framework for helping readers understand how to create a brand that customers feel is essential to their lives. Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman In Brand Thinking, author Debbie Millman shares interviews between herself and other branding experts in the industry to help readers better understand the current state of branding as it exists in the modern world today.
Where Marketing Ends, Branding Begins by Clayton Wood In this Kissmetrics blog post, author Clayton Wood highlights common misconceptions about branding and helps readers understand how to create a brand the right way. Why You Should Get Excited About Emotional Branding By Rick Sloboda In this Smashing Magazine blog post, author Rick Sloboda introduces the concept of emotional branding and explains how the roles of brands are changing. This Startup Cracked a $2.4 Billion Market with Branding — Here’s Their Formula by First Round In this First Round Review blog post, the author presents a case study on branding from Harry’s—a startup taking the men’s shaving industry by storm and giving powerhouse brands like Gillette a run for their money.
30 Must See Infographics That Will Help Build a Winning Brand Strategy by Kylie Garner In this blog post, author Kylie Garner presents readers with a handful of infographics that can be referenced and used when building a brand. Topics covered range from storytelling and design to customer service and brand identity. Definition of a Brand by Seth Godin In this quick blog post, author Seth Godin shares his definition of a brand. Here’s an excerpt from the post: 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. If the consumer… [read on] Brand Over Brain from TED Radio Hour This podcast from NPR features highlights from a collection of TED talks on the topic of branding.
Branding Best Practices
There’s no surefire equation that can be used to build a lasting and memorable brand for your business, but there are a number of best practices you can follow that can increase your likelihood of success:
Best Practice #1: Tell your story. To create a great brand, you have to be able to tell a great story. These days, competition for the attention of consumers online is fierce—there are more entrepreneurs launching businesses in more industries than ever before. It’s no longer about making the best products or providing the best services (although those things still matter). In order to effectively differentiate from competitors and create long-lasting relationships with potential customers, you have to become a skilled storyteller. To shape your brand story, think about why your company exists, the problems you’re trying to help people solve, why people would want to work with your business rather than one of your competitors, how your company or products came to be, and who the team is that makes up your company. The more genuine of a story you can tell, the better chance you’ll have in attracting and connecting with potential customers.
Best Practice #2: Serve customers first. Today, the best and most memorable brands are the ones who put the customer first above everything else. In an age where everything is out in the open and every individual conversation you have with customers has the potential to be shared with the entire world, it’s more important than ever to make exceptional customer service and delight a defining characteristic of your brand. To make customer service a priority when shaping your brand, go above and beyond to be proactive when it comes to communicating with customers, and use all interactions as opportunities to strengthen the reputation of your brand. For example, if a customer has an issue with your product or service and communicates with you on Facebook or Twitter, don’t delete the post or respond privately. Take the opportunity to respond and alleviate the problem in real-time and for the entire public (and future customers) to see. The positive actions you take when it comes to interacting with and serving your customers can help you build loyalty, maintain a positive reputation, and boost brand exposure through word-of-mouth.
Humans feed off of emotion. When developing and evolving your brand, pull on the heartstrings whenever you can. As a business, it can be easy to be over-professional, but that’s not what your customers want—they want to know that they’re doing business with actual human beings who understand them and can relate to them on an emotional level. To see an example of a brand that focuses on emotion.
Best Practice #4: Be consistent and original. Originality and consistency are both key when developing a strong brand. No one likes copycats. As such, you should take the time to hire a designer who can help you shape the visual identity of your brand (logo, imagery, graphics, colors, font, personality, etc). You should strive to make your brand as original as possible, and once you have a brand identity that you like, you should incorporate it into everything you do and create. To get a better grasp of this concept, think about what you see and feel when you walk into an Apple store or land anywhere on their website. What you get is consistency. What you feel is familiarity. Those two things make for an incredibly powerful brand.
Best Practice #5: Keep your brand alive and let it evolve. Don’t be afraid to let you brand breathe and evolve over time. Even the best and most popular brands in the world have seen their identity change through the years. Accept the fact that your brand will likely change at one point or another during its existence. As long as you can stay true to your vision, purpose, and story, you have nothing to worry about.
Best Practice #6: Communicate your brand over and over again. Once you settle on a brand, incorporate it everywhere you can—in copy, in visuals, in marketing collateral, on your website, in conversations with employees and customers, and anywhere else you can think of. The more you reference it, the more real your brand becomes to you and everyone else.
Brand Planning Tools
When you’re ready to start developing your brand, there are an endless amount of tools you can use to keep your thoughts and work organized. Here are a few worth checking out:
- XMind - a mind mapping tool that makes it easy to organize your thoughts as you work to define the meaning and purpose behind your brand.
- Trello - a visual-driven organization tool that can help you track progress and accomplish various tasks along the way as you work to develop and formalize your brand.
- Evernote - a note-taking app you can use to collect your thoughts and feedback from other people (employees, early customers, friends) during the brand creation process.
- Pinterest - a social media platform you can use to easily create branding mood boards and store examples of other brands and visuals you like as you work to develop the visual identity of your brand.
- Google Forms - a simple survey tool you can use when you want to collect feedback from others about the potential direction of your brand.
After you’ve spent time diving into branding resources, familiarizing yourself with best practices, and trying tools, you can finally start taking the first steps toward developing a living brand for your business. Here are the first 6 steps you should take:
Step 1: Define your vision purpose. Think about why you’re in business and what you’re trying to accomplish. The answers you come up with should act as the cornerstone of your brand story and identity. Brainstorm using one of the tools mentioned above and come up with concise statements (2-3 sentences each) that you can reference throughout the brand development process.
Step 2: Define your customers. Think about who your customers are, how you can relate to them, how you can help them, where they spend their time, and why they should care about your business. Organize your thoughts and reference them when it comes time to think about how to create a brand that will allow you to connect with them on an emotional level.
Step 3: Define what makes you different than everyone else. Remember: be original. Figure out what makes your business different than everyone else, then embrace it fully as you work to create your brand.
Step 4: Define your story. Incorporate everything (what you know about customers, what makes you different, why you’re here) into a compelling brand story that you can use to attract new customers, establish trust, build loyalty, and stand out from other competitors in your industry.
Step 5: Define your visual identity. Once you have defined your story in words, think about the visuals and imagery you’d like to use to help people understand who you are and what you represent. For help with this step, read through this helpful guide from Smashing Magazine.
Step 6: Make your game plan. Make a master plan for developing and promoting your new brand. For example, you may want to add pieces of your new brand story to various pages on your website and include statements in marketing and advertising collateral. Or maybe you want to include brand-specific graphics and messages and visuals throughout your office, in employee handbooks, training materials, and manifestos, in your product packaging, in your emails to prospective clients, and so on. Remember: the best thing you can do once your brand is formalized is to start communicating it whenever and wherever you can.
Branding can seem like an intimidating task, but if it helps, remember this: every famous brand throughout history and in the present day started exactly where you are now. You have the tools and resources needed to create a brand for your business—it’s up to you to take the first steps. What is your brand story? Share it with us in the comments section below!