By Jennifer Wright, Head of Marketing, BlueSky PR
A brand is a promise. It’s what you say to your customers in every interaction and it’s the expectation they place on your business. A strong brand can be an extra layer of protection against competitors, as well as an invaluable tool for communicating with customers.
The first step to building your brand is getting to know your target market.
- Who are you looking to reach?
- What are they interested in?
- Do they have any existing brand preferences?
- Why do they need your product / service?
- How does it make their lives better / easier?
Now you know who you are talking to, what do you want your brand to say to them?
Define your brand
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Why do people buy from me?
- What makes us different from our competitors?
- What do we want to be known for?
Understand your business
There are many different types of brands, but the key is knowing which one fits your business.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What type of personality does your brand have?
- Is sustainability important to you?
- How about diversity and inclusivity?
- Do you support a particular charity?
- What’s it like to work there?
Company values are the “why” behind your brand. They’re the foundation of what you stand for and how you want to be perceived by consumers. If a company has a great product, but their company culture is toxic, then people won’t want to work for them or buy their products.
Company values should be based on the Founder’s beliefs and communicated clearly to every employee in your company. Your brand strategy will outline these values, but the values you exude internally and externally need to align with each other so that they make sense as a whole.
Building a brand is as much about your vision for the future, as where you’ve come from. So, ask yourself:
- What is the brand’s story?
- What is the mission statement?
- What is the vision of the company?
- What is the company’s history?
- Who are key people in your business and what do they bring to it – and why are they important to your brand story, vision and/or values?
If you don’t know all the answers yet, make it a point to find out as soon as possible. And if you’re lucky enough to have some (or all) of this figured out already, great – you’re well on your way to defining your brand.
Know your unique selling point (USP)
We work with a lot with recruitment agencies, and our Director is very fond of telling them their services are not USPs.
What they do is not their USP.
What is, is:
- What they know.
- Why they do what they do.
- And their people.
- Or a combination of all three.
Now if you’re selling a product or providing a service that no-one else does, sure that might be your USP. But most of the time someone else does or sells the same thing you do. So, most of the time your USP is something less obvious. Something you should be shouting about but most likely aren’t.
Differentiate yourself. Make sure that your brand talks about what sets you apart from other brands and why customers should buy from you.
Are you cheaper? Faster? Do they get more for their money? Do you offer value added services as part of your standard fee? Perhaps you are experts in an extremely niche sector and can offer advice (due to your people’s experience) that your competitors can’t?
Consistency is the key to success when you’re building your brand. Any change in your brand story or style will confuse people.
For example, if you were to write a blog on how to make healthy food choices, then all of a sudden you publish an article that tells people how to eat unhealthy foods because it’s better for them, you’re contradicting yourself and people will be very confused.
Being consistent with what your brand stands for (online and offline) helps build trust with consumers so they know exactly what type of product / service they’re getting when they purchase from you. This then encourages brand loyalty.
Clear messaging and communications channels
One of the keys to consistent branding is clear messaging.
You’ve defined your target audience, your brand personality, your USP etc. etc. – now think about how you intend to communicate all of these things. Through your style, tone of voice and imagery.
And where do you intend to communicate with them?
When you did your target research you got to know their interests and what they’re influenced by. This will help you decide on communications channels such as the social media networks to use, the magazines and newspapers to seek out interviews and comment opportunities, the sites you look to guest post on, and whether it is worth investing in advertising.
Brand guidelines are the bible of your brand. They help everyone in the company to understand how the brand should be represented at all times. They should be a living document that is updated as the company grows, and should as a minimum include:
- Logo formats, colours and clear space (the spacing around your logo) requirements
- Typography guidelines (what fonts to use, when to use them, what colours they should be)
- Colour palette (how many colours you can use, what shades of those colours)
This can also include more detail on your visual identity such as the style of imagery (illustrations over photography etc.) in as much depth as you see fit. And the tone of voice and language choices for the brand.
Regular internal communication
A strong brand is built on internal communication – of more than just the brand guidelines staff should be following. Regularly communicating the goals, achievements and challenges of your organisation to your employees will help them understand how they can contribute to the overall success of the company — and it’s one of the most effective ways to build your reputation as an employer that cares about its people’s wellbeing.
You can’t create a brand overnight. Branding is a long-term process that requires both strategy and execution. You need to define your business and your goals for the future, and then work backwards from there. The goal should be to create something that resonates with your audience and can be put into actionable steps.
In order to do this effectively, you need to understand what makes up a strong brand story: who are you? What do you stand for? How does what you offer compare with others in your industry or marketplace?
The answers will help define where the boundaries of the brand lie, which will make it easier for employees and customers alike to identify with the company’s ethos.