The Definitive Guide to Brands, Branding, and Brand Strategy

The Definitive Guide to Brands, Branding, and Brand Strategy

Branding requires courage as it is a vulnerable message that is constantly being shaped by the public’s perception. A creative agency can help you lay the foundation of a dynamic brand, but there is a lot of confusion surrounding what brand, branding, and brand strategy actually means. It is imperative that the foundation of your brand is laid correctly; therefore, clearing up any misunderstandings is essential.

What Is Your Brand?

What a Brand Isn’t

Before we uncover what a brand is, it is important to explain what a brand isn’t. Many believe a brand is your company logo, a slogan, an advertising campaign, or a sum of all these parts. However, while each of these items represents your brand, they all lack the ability to explain or sell your brand. A mere identification trigger, though memorable and recognizable, is not your brand. Although there is a vital creative design component to having a brilliant brand, the design exists to translate into effective communication.

What a Brand Is

A brand is the emotion behind what someone feels, sees, tastes, or experiences when they interact with your business, product, person, or organization on any level. It goes beyond appearance into how your company interacts with your consumer. Your brand is what your company stands for, how you describe what you do so that people can quickly understand it, and what makes you different from everyone else. In short, it’s the emotional response someone has when they experience any part of your company or organization. It is your persona.

Brand Personality

Perceptions are everywhere and people are usually making them based on first impressions—often without ever getting to know you or your brand personally. Establishing a winning brand personality is vital to positively (and quickly) standing out among your competitors. Ask yourself: If my company were a person how would I want it to be known in the world? Write down five adjectives you would use to describe the personality of your brand. In what ways can you prove that those words describe you? Having a brand personality that includes dimension and character is the only way to penetrate the barrage of advertising consumers are hit with every day.

 

The Visual Elements of Your Brand

Just like a person, every brand has both a mood and a look. The mood—or feel—is its emotional identity, which we have just explained. The look is its visual identity. Every brand has both.

It’s important for your brand’s visual identity to be consistent everywhere it is seen. Your logo, fonts, and colors are each members of your brand and represent your organization’s overall look and image. They need to be used consistently in order to exemplify your brand persona. Creating rules and guidelines of usage assures that your brand is always dressed appropriately for the public.

Brand Design

Consumers are visual, so telling your brand story through beautiful design and colors is important for audience engagement. Making an audience feel joy is far more effective than talking about joy–and that’s where brand design comes into play. Once you’ve established your brand and its brand personality, it’s time to focus on brand design.

Although brand does go beyond appearance, brand design visually communicates the emotion and senses behind your brand. Through carefully executed brand design your audience will see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and experience everything they need to know about who you are.

Brand Logo

Your branded logo is a mark or symbol that serves as a recognizable identification of your business, product, person, or organization. While being a symbol for your brand, a logo lacks the ability to explain or sell your brand. Simply, a logo in itself is merely an identification trigger that should be memorable, simple, and timeless.  It should be present on anything visual—business cards, letterhead, packaging, signage, website, e-marketing, videos, etc.—and consumers should be able to immediately recognize it as your brand. Your logo shouldn’t change much over time, so be sure to use colors and fonts that are timeless.

Brand Colors

Keeping your brand consistent across all platforms results in greater clarity, trust, and recognition. Your brand’s visuals will be a potential customer’s first impression, and your brand colors are strongly connected to your brand identity. When choosing brand colors, focus on the emotions behind colors. For example, yellow is associated with happiness and optimism (McDonald’s), gray often represents neutrality and balance (Apple), and blue represents tranquility (Aquafina) and trust (Ford). You may have up to three primary brand colors, but you may also include a complimentary brand color palette that can be used for branding campaigns. Brand colors should be used consistently in all of the company visuals and have a set of brand color standards that everyone within your company and creative agency understands.  

Brand Typography

Your target audience should be able to recognize your brand at any place or time.

Typography marks your company and is one thing that will repeatedly and easily identify your brand. The font will communicate with the reader before they even consume the content. Typography communicates the style of your brand, as well. Is your brand modern or is it classic? A brand will also include a secondary font and a font for copy, along with the weights available for use. The more specialized your typography, the more connotations come along with it, so pay special consideration to everywhere your primary font selection will be used.

Branded Photography

There is photography and then there is BRANDED photography. Branded photography supports the narrative and emotion of your brand by being visually consistent with the your overall brand design. Branded photos are aesthetically specific. They reflect your brand colors, values, mission, goals, and personality. Branded photography is yet another visual cue that connects your brand to your audience on a deeper level.

Unique Brand Assets

A powerful brand will differentiate you from your competitors in the marketplace. Your brand is unique because it authentically reflects who you are–and YOU are unique. There are a few ways to keep your brand from being like everyone else.

Trademark Assets: Naming & Uniqueness

Registering your brand name and slogan as a trademark will save you considerable time and money in the long run. It is best to do it as soon as possible, as it will reduce the risk that your brand name isn’t available and throw a wrench into your marketing campaign, or worse yet get you into an expensive legal battle. It is best to hire a professional to help you register your brand name as a trademark. Choosing a unique brand name will also increase your chances of successfully registering it as a trademark.

Content Assets: Messaging and Uniqueness

Entrepreneurs always have an eye on their competition. One thing is commonly true about your competitors and your target audience. They are both made up of human beings. One thing to note?  Most of your competitors forgot that truth. The best brand messaging is the one that makes a personal, one-on-one connections which gives value to your target audience. Therefore, the most beneficial message is a human one. Your humanity–emotions, desires, senses, and thoughts–is one of your greatest brand assets. Use it to send the best brand message.

Graphic Assets: Visibility and Uniqueness

The power of visual branding rests in making a meaningful, emotional connection. The elements of your brand logo, typography, photography, and video should evoke your brand’s name in the mind of the consumer, even if they aren’t seeing your brand name in front of them. It’s connectivity that is subliminal. Creating engaging, unique brand visuals that go with your unique brand messaging should be like sitting down for coffee with a friend.  The experience includes words, tone, visual cues, expressions, and sometimes even some cool music in the background. When approached this way, your visual assets will live in the viewers’ hearts and minds long after the experience. Without question, emotions drive action.

Your Brand in Use

Implementing a Brand Guide

There are two ways to make a first impression–how you look and how you sound.

Implementing a brand guide ensures that consistency is maintained in the your brand’s visual appearance as well as your brand’s voice. Specific voice, style, and design guidelines are created to support your marketing initiatives and ensure that all brand visuals and messaging match your goals. A brand guide establishes consistency and cohesiveness to the nuances that distinguish your brand from your competitors. When done correctly, a brand guide helps establish a strong, obvious brand message that resonates with your target audience and builds greater brand awareness. Over time, that brand awareness and consistency builds trust.

Opportunities to Use Your Brand

Use some part of your brand’s visual identity, whether it be the logo shape, typography, or brand colors, on everything that is associated with the brand. Include the company logo and contact information at the bottom of every email. If you have delivery vehicles, cover them in a branded wrap. If you ship items, use boxes that are the brand color.

Branded Video

Beyond visual identity, creating content for social media is advisable because you can dynamically express the brand’s values and share the brand’s story. Video is a powerful way to accomplish this. Engage your customers by bringing them valuable content that is relevant or entertaining. Branded video can come in the form of commercials, web series, a paid social media campaign, etc.

Branded Social Media Strategy

Bringing your brand to social media is an essential marketing technique, but it is also important to select which social media platform you post on in accordance with your target audience. If you are using more than one platform, be sure your brand looks the same on all of them. Post regularly, come up with a hashtag that shows off your brand’s personality if possible, and do not neglect your bio, especially when your company is new.

The Importance of a Well-Thought-Out Brand

Why is Branding Important?

Branding allows you to leave a stronger impression on the public by making you more unique and memorable. Branding clearly defines what the consumer can expect of your company and gives you the opportunity to speak not only with tangible aspects but intangible ones as well. Strong branding also drives how you go about marketing yourself and gives your employees a structural idea of what the company represents.

How Can Branding Increase Sales?

Branding makes you distinguishable against your competitors. If a customer feels like your brand is aligned with their personal values or if they identify with your brand, you are likely to be picked over others that are providing the same product or service. Maintaining brand consistency also offers the customer stability. By simply being a familiar name, consumers may pick your product over others.

What is Brand Equity?

Brand equity is directly correlated to how well known you are amongst consumers. How the consumer perceives your brand, or how they feel about your brand, can increase or decrease this value. It is important to ask yourself how well known your brand is, whether your product or service is performing at the level it should be, and how consumers react to your brand’s visuals. On a deeper level, understanding how customers feel when using your products or service will allow you to cultivate repeat business. The holy grail of brand equity is to become the brand that consumers recommend and identify with so much that they seek out other consumers who purchase the same product or service.

Marketing vs. Branding

Marketing is the method you will use to reach your target audience and let them know who you are. Marketing is also how you will cultivate an audience to convert into customers or supporters. Your brand should be well-developed by this stage along with your core values and principles. What your brand represents is what your customer base will ultimately connect with, which is most important in building loyalty. Your brand should remain constant and thus needs to be based on timeless ideas. Marketing campaigns will change because they should be attuned to your target audience and how they are perceiving your brand. Branding will always be the starting point for your marketing campaign and be the structure to build your campaign on. What medium you choose for your marketing campaign should be consistent with research-based data that illustrates what medium is relevant to your customer base. If your target customers are 13-18-year-olds, print advertisements are probably not where you will gain exposure from this crowd. In the end, remember that marketing is the tactical plan to get your audience familiar with what your brand represents.

Brand Strategy

Once you have developed your brand, it is imperative to come up with a brand strategy. We have to remember that it’s not what we say our brand is, it is how the customer perceives it, that builds equity. In order to make sure that our customer base is perceiving the brand correctly, we have to streamline our communication with the customer, thus comes in the brand strategy.

A Brand Roadmap

Your brand strategy roadmap will be shared with all the company employees to ensure that everyone is on the same page, similarly to the brand guide. Your brand strategy roadmap should be broken down into key elements that will keep the brand agenda clear and concise. These key elements should include your vision for the future of the company, the purpose, or what the company originally set out to do, the brand idea which an idea that fulfills the customers’ emotional needs, the company values, company goals, strategies to achieve these goals, and the tactics behind these strategies. If the company has issues that have been researched, issues should also be included as a category.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is where the brand sits in the marketplace, in the mind of the consumers, and how the brand is distinct from its competitors. When coming up with a brand position strategy it is important to research your customers’ desires, how your brand can meet those desires, and how your competitors are positioning themselves in the market. Now you can come up with a position strategy or statement that will connect with your customers, that is distinct from your competitors, and that you can actually deliver. It’s important to note that this strategy or statement should be used in all levels of the company.

Brand Development and Building Strategy-

  • Increasing Brand Awareness

In order to increase your customer base and ultimately your sales, you first must make a larger amount of customers aware of your brand. There are many ways you can accomplish this, starting with creating relationships with influencers. Influencers already have a customer base that trusts them, and in most situations, the partnership benefits both parties. Some other strategies for building awareness are brushing up on SEO research, utilizing your social media platforms, introducing a referral program, and community involvement.

  • Aided and Unaided Awareness

When conducting market research, aided and unaided awareness make up the total percentage of consumers that are aware of your brand or product. If a consumer can answer an open-ended question about the market and come up with your brand, then they have an unaided awareness of your brand. For example, if the researcher asked, “What pizza companies come to mind?”, and the consumer replied Papa John’s, then they have an unaided awareness of Papa John’s. If a consumer does not readily come up with your brand name but recognizes it once asked about it, then they have an aided awareness.

  • Top of Mind Awareness

If a brand or product is the first thing a consumer thinks of in a specific market, then this brand or product has a top of mind awareness. Consider that if someone asks for a soda, a lot of the time they might simply say they want a coke when really they mean any kind of soda.

  • Brand Differentiation

How you make yourself distinguishable from your competitors will allow you to become more memorable and often more compelling. Just make sure that your strategy for how you differentiate yourself is also in line with the core principles and values of your brand. You can distinguish your brand by taking on a mascot, being the expert in your field, by your price points, and many other ways.

  • Brand Affinity Preference

Brand affinity looks a lot like brand loyalty, but they are not the same customers. Customers with brand loyalty might buy from you because they believe you have the best product, or because you consistently have the lowest prices. Brand affinity refers to a customer that actually feels a deep personal connection to your brand. These customers are invaluable as they will refer you to others and still buy your brand despite better deals elsewhere.

Brand Reputation Management

This is exactly what it sounds like, but includes a lot of different approaches. Some of the most common tactics are responding appropriately to bad reviews and remaining active on review sites, keeping your social media posts professional and appropriate, and applying your SEO research.

Why and When to Bring In Outside Help

Brand Strategists/Consultants

The need for a brand consultant really varies according to the size of the company, what stage the brand or marketing is in, and what your consumer research is reporting back to you. If you’re a small local business, it’s understandable that you might not focus your personal attention on branding, but it is imperative for every company to put a considerable amount of resources into branding.

Chitika statistics state that the first link from a Google search result page gets 32% of the average traffic share. Hopefully, that statistic helps you hone in on why search engine optimization is so powerful and an essential tool. A 2016 study by Search Engine Watch found that Google searches including the phrase “near me” have increased twice over in the past year. Another study by WordStream in 2016 found that 72% of consumer who did a local search visited a store within five miles. Both of these statistics are important to businesses either large or small if they have brick and mortar storefronts. Whether you do or don’t have a marketing team, it can be highly beneficial to get help from marketing experts. Experts can analyze the market and give you a real idea of what you need to focus on. If you have a large customer base, it is especially essential to have experts analyze your competition and the market as there are more variables in play. Experts can give you the leg up to outrank your competitors by providing SEO research, content marketing, and website auditing among other things.

Brands That Get It Right

There are some brands out there that have really mastered brand awareness. If you ask most people about Nike, they can tell you their slogan is “Just Do It”, and what that means. Nike was actually only marketing themselves to marathon runners before they launched that campaign. The “Just Do It” slogan is one that everyone can connect to. Another company that has successfully resonated with an entire population is Dove.

In 2013 Dove launched a campaign called “real beauty sketches” which became the most viewed online video ad of all time up until that year. In the video, several women sit behind a curtain and describe themselves to an ex-FBI sketch artist. Unbeknownst to the women, a stranger that they had a conversation with the day before then comes and describes the same woman to the sketch artist. One by one the women are brought in to see the two sketches, both their own description and the strangers’. The video pulls on the viewers’ heartstrings just as much as the participants. Before releasing this video Dove did a study of women 18-64 in five different cities around the world and found that only 4% would use the word beautiful to describe themselves. Dove was able to use their resources to figure out the pain points of not only their customers but of the female global population.

Further Subjects

Personal Brand

Personal branding happens whether we like it or not. Remember that branding is essentially how other people perceive you. This might happen as a result of your social media accounts or how you behave in the workplace. Personal branding can be especially valuable for you when trying to climb the ladder at work or within your industry.

Rebranding

Rebranding can be a good thing and be help you remain competitive in the market. Rebranding can be as drastic as changing your brand name to simply revitalizing your brand. It can also happen out of circumstance, say when companies merge. For whatever reason that it happens, watch your numbers closely in the days following your rebranding launch. In some instances, it makes sense to revert back to the original part of the brand you changed.

Multi-Brand Strategy

Multi-branding is when your brand markets two or more competing, similar products. For example, Unilever (among many other products) owns both Dove and St. Ives. The point of multi-brand strategy is to increase market share, saturate the market, and leave less room for other competitors on the shelves. Other reasons for this strategy may be to capture the entire market by offering different products for different target groups or different price points. It also makes sense to take this approach so that you are ahead of the trend curve. If you have one product that is popular currently, and another that will be popular once the current trend is over, you’ve always got sales coming in.  

Brand Extensions

Brand extension is a strategy used when a brand is already successful in a market, and the brand is used to introduce a new product. This can be initiated in several different ways. A brand might simply exercise a line extension and introduce a new variation or variations of a product. If the brand is launching an entirely new product, it is called a product extension. Often these new products are still within the same realm as the original product. If a company launches products that aren’t within the same realm but use the brand name, this is an extension of company expertise. Carefully examine customer opinion based research on whether they view your brand as an authority to introduce new products.

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