What does your company stand for? What are its ideals, its goals, its advantages. What makes it different? If a customer can’t get a clear answer to those questions, it’s only a matter of time before they jump to a clearly defined rival.
That’s where brand identity comes in. One of the strongest forces in marketing, it can compel ordinary people to become zealous advocates for their chosen products. Pepsi vs Coke. Canon vs Nikon. Gates vs Jobs. You probably know people who are passionately on one side or the other, and it all starts with a strong idea of what that brand represents. Canon has great colours, Apple makes tech easy, Pespi wins the blind taste test. How true any of these statements are is pretty contestable at this point, but that perception is out there already, influencing how consumers perceive these respective brands.
Define your Brand
So, how do you build an effective brand? A good way to start is by writing down the defining aspects of your business and your products/services. This is a useful exercise even for businesses that have already started work on their branding, as it can help to identify areas that are being overlooked or underrepresented in your current brand building efforts.
You should include both strengths and challenges, as effective brand building requires you to look at your business as a whole. Once you have a broad list, rank each aspect based on how important it is for your customers to be aware of it. The aim here isn’t just to create a list of USPs but to drill down into the core of what your businesses really is and how you want it to be perceived. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to work those points together into a consistent brand image. High quality, low quantity, high-value goods? You’ll likely want to brand yourself as luxurious. Taking on a heavily contested market? Brand yourself as an innovative challenger brand come to shake up the status quo.
Once you’ve defined your brand, you’ll want to create a set of brand guidelines. Committing this to an actual document is an often skipped step, but one that’s well worth the time. Putting your ideas onto paper in a concise form helps transform those airy ideas into something clarified and precise. A common piece of advice is that if you can’t summarise your business in 30 seconds then you don’t really understand it. The same can be said for your brand: try and boil things down to a single sentence, a mission statement.
With a solid idea of your business in mind, it’s time to get visual. A logo is a vital piece of small business branding, it’s often the first thing that your customers will see when they interact with you, the thing that they take with them. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words. Think of how many times you see the Starbucks logo everyday, in the street, in advertisements and on social media. Your logo should ideally have something to do with your business, or qualities that you want associated with your brand. A legal firm, for example, might choose a lion: a symbol of strength, authority and honour. Get creative, and work closely with your designer to find something that really fits your brand.
Tone of voice
How you say something can be just as important to your brand image as the thing that you’re talking about. Think about brands like Innocent, Oatly and Graze. Their conversational, happy go lucky, ever so slightly hippyish tone plays a big part in how people perceive them. It makes them seem cool and approachable. Instead of just another corporation, they come off as people that are passionate and caring about what they do. Now think if you heard that same sort of tone from your bank or lawyer. Finding your voice is an essential step that ensures your communications all help to a bigger brand identity.