Beast: I want to do something for her… but what?
Cogsworth: Well, there’s the usual things: flowers… chocolates… promises you don’t intend to keep…
Lumiere: No, no! It’s got to be more something more special than that!
That, my friend, is the essence of branding. Branding is supposed to spark a feeling. Of course, there are two kind of brands: those that put on a facade, or a mask, and those that are honest. Aim for the second one. Because while the former might make your business more appealing at first sight, customers will eventually see through it and sanction you accordingly. Honesty is a value that never goes out of style.
A brand is all about the way you make the customer feel. Whether it’s nostalgia, excitement, pride, joy, it’s what will ultimately influence their decision to buy your product or service. Let’s be honest here, how many times can you reinvent the wheel? Notice how I used honest again? What you’re offering your customers is not really unique, there are hundreds of other businesses offering the same thing. You can make a difference in the way you are offering it. And that is where your brand steps up.
1. Be yourself, everyone else is already taken. How many times have you heard that? It should be the main guideline for creating your brand. You want it to reflect yourself, your values and perhaps your personality. Most experts advise to think of the brand as a person and use a few words to describe her. It will help the whole process tremendously. Creating a brand is like giving life to a completely new character. At this point, you should also define the purpose that drives your business. Defining a business mission does not come easy, trust me when I say this. I have been working on a dozen mission statements and desperately tried to make them sound different from the stereotypical empty language.
2. Consider your audience next. Define the exact segment of people your product or service address and do some research. Think like them, put yourself in their shoes. What are their needs, what do they like? Think of your own buyer experience. What makes you buy a product and not the other? What makes you go back to a brand? Aim to establish long term relationships with your customers. Create a brand they can relate to.
3. Pick an original name for your business and make sure the URL is available. If it is, snag it asap. This step is mostly overlooked, but it’s essential and should be given its due credit. I too thought is was easy peasy until I came across this problem. Chances are all great names are already taken. Pick a name that suggests the main line of business and make sure it’s just the right length. When having to pick names, I always go to my trusted friend thesaurus.com for synonyms. And since you’re at it, you can create a USP (unique selling proposition) or tagline or whatever you want to call it as well. It will offer deeper understanding of your line of business. You can use the keywords you picked earlier to define your brand for this task.
4. Creating a moodboard should follow suit once you have decided what your brand is like and whom it serves. The moodboard is the first attempt at creating the brand identity, and it will serve as inspiration for all further visuals and collaterals. Include photos, textures, fonts, colors and anything else you might think representative.
5. Your identity begins with your logo. Make sure it represents your business and your values. It’s ok to try a few options, I would highly recommend it. At the end of the day, if you think you will stick with it for at least a couple of years, pick it. Alter the design however many times you want. Because even though from the perspective of the designer it’s an ordeal, from your perspective as a customer you have to be thrilled about it and accept nothing less. I have been on both sides, so I know what I’m talking about. Go on with your visual brand elements, such as photos, colors, fonts and everything else that will help people recognize your brand visually.
6. Define your voice. I know it’s easier said than done. But just think of the way you want to approach your customers. Do you want to be witty, funny, personal, formal? I am completely against 100% formal, even for the most formal businesses. Formal scares people off. Aim to be semi-formal instead.
7. Using the elements of the last 3 steps (logo, visual elements, voice), start working on your collaterals. You have to have business cards, it’s a must. And at least a leaflet or brochure highlighting those features and benefits that make your brand unique. Then you should have personalized stationery, notecards, document headers, email signatures and all you can think of.
8. Once you have all your materials, put them in a brand book. The brand book will save you a lot of time and effort in the future. You just check what to use and how to use it, and it’s especially helpful when you have plenty of collaterals and online channels.
9. Go online with a website, blog and social media. Being online means anyone can find you at their convenience. Try to maintain a coherent presence and create a strategy to manage all these outlets. It can be hard for a single person to do that, but do not fret, there are people who can help you get the hang of it. Including myself 😉
10. Now it’s time to integrate your brand. That means you should communicate it to your employees and make sure they understand it and adopt the new ways. Branding is not just about the most common aspects, it’s also about the way the employees dress or behave, and how they communicate and interact with customers. They are responsible as much as you are for promoting your brand.
11. I hate the next phrase, but I have to say it. Be consistent. By that I don’t mean you have to send the same message all the time using the same words. That’s being boring, that’s not being consistent. Use the same fonts, the same color palette, the same image style, etc. Your brand book will come in handy. And also be consistent in offering your added value to stand out from the crowd. For instance, you could offer a handwritten thank you note. That kind of touches make the people feel appreciated and remember your brand.
Aim to be different, and people will appreciate the extra value you are offering. Invest in your branding, don’t pick the cheap way. You know what they say, if you think a professional is expensive, wait till you hire an amateur. And remember, if you work hard & you’re kind, amazing things will happen.