Building a brand is easy to do. Building a strong, sucessful brand that stands the test of time, people, and competitors? Now that’s a different story.
I view brands like I view pieces of architecture.
Stand back and you see the structure as a whole — it’s big or small, overpowering or underwhelming, corporate office-y or dance club-y. Stand a little closer and you start to notice the individual bricks that make up its structure — positioning, personality, logo design, color scheme, tagline and so on.
And, similar to an architectural structure, if a brand can’t handle an earthquake here and there, ain’t no chance I’m going to stick around for long...
The “earthquakes” of our technology-driven, fast-paced modern society can be anything from changing trends to changing politics. And if your brand can’t keep up? Welp, good luck!
But before you start to panic about the sustainability of your small business and your brand equity, keep in mind that developing a lasting brand strategy is within reach, you just have to know the right formula. Continue reading below to learn how to develop a strong brand strategy
Brand building is the process of shaping customers’ emotions, feelings, memories, and opinions associated with your brand through a strategy-driven plan that stands the test of time and people.
Brand Development Process and Strategies:
Step 1: Establish what your brand represents, at its core.
Create a list of your business’s core strengths. Why was the business started to begin with? What problem did the founder (you?) set out to solve?
One great way to succinctly summarize your brand’s purpose is to create a mission statement. Honest Tea does a great job of providing a mission statement that clearly defines values, benefits, and quality all at once.
It’s succinct, yet inspiring. I know exactly what Honest Tea is all about, whether I’ve used their product or not.
Your mission statement doesn’t even have to be displayed to the public for it to be impactful. Using one as an internal guiding light can still provide the vision and inspiration your employees need to know exactly what the company stands for and how their work should reflect that on a daily basis.
Step 2: Keep your brand distinct from its competitors.
Is it possible to sell the exact same product as competitors but still differentiate somehow? Yes. And companies do it all the time.
Take chocolate chips for example. Pay attention to each product’s main ingredients.
Great Value - $1.98Sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, vanillin, natural flavors
Hershey’s - $2.49Sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, vanillin, artificial flavor, milk
Nestle - $2.72Sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, natural flavors
Virtually the exact same ingredients, yet each package sells at a different price. How? Different branding. Hershey and Nestle have become icons of the cocoa industry, positioning themselves as authorities on all things melt-in-your-mouth-chocolate related. Great Value is just… generic.
That’s the secret to competitive marketing. It’s not just your product, it’s how you position your brand personality compared to everyone else.
Take a deep look at the competitive field, find out how others are marketing their successful brands, then throw it all out the window and get creative. Domo, for example, is a software company that realized all other software companies had incredibly boring brand personalities. So what did they do to stand out? Got pretty weird with their billboards, for one.
Step 3: Determine your target audience.
As good as your intentions may be, your business simply can’t be everything to everyone.
Don’t be afraid to get specific and think about exactly the kind of person that would most benefit from your product or service. Are they female student athletes? Middle-aged men with receding hairlines and receding pride? Single, working moms looking for a fun outlet?
It may be tempting to skip this part of the process (or to continue ignoring it if your business already seems to be doing well), but brand building is about building for the long term, and the more generic your targeting is... the more generic your brand becomes down the road.
Step 4: Create an elevator pitch.
Recently my boss had me sit down and create 25, 50, and 100-word descriptions of Lucidpress for our Business accounts. We dissected every single word, discussed the implications of certain phrases, took out any and all fluff, and got ourselves down to the very basics: this is what we are, this is what we do, this is why you (customers) want it.
Here’s our 50-word description:
Lucidpress is a content creation & brand management platform that empowers employees to quickly create on-brand collateral. With easy-to-customize marketing templates, Lucidpress cuts down design request turnaround time and improves brand consistency. Save time and increase your marketing ROI with Lucidpress — a product trusted by over 3 million users worldwide.
The value in having a well-thought out statement that we (our whole marketing team) all agreed on was that at any given moment — whether I’m providing a company bio to a client or submitting a summary of what we do to exhibit at a conference — I can provide a succinct and accurate description that stays consistent everywhere our brand is represented.
Step 5: Build out your brand.
Now that you’ve determined the foundation of your brand and what it stands for, it’s time to put everything into action. That means creating a style guide, determining your brand personality, formulating your brand’s strategy, and making sure everyone is on the same page.
Food for thought: Broadway productions don’t tell great stories by simply creating ravishing brochures, and businesses don’t tell great stories by simply designing clever logos.
Your brand is the feeling your ads evoke, the kind of people you hire, the friendliness of your support team, your brand’s voice, your brand’s visuals, your business’s values… your brand is everything your business produces and represents. Make this step of the brand building process priority from the beginning and your brand will have the life and depth it needs to strengthen your business’s image.
Step 6: Promote away.
This is the fun part. We all know what promotion means, but the right promotion can mean different things for different businesses. So whether it’s social media, radio ads, magazine covers, YouTube videos, billboards, PPC, content marketing, or guerrilla marketing — figure out where your target market already is and then go to them. A whole article could be dedicated to this subject, but for now just make note that this step is important for raising brand awareness, and you should dedicate a lot of time to it.
Step 7: Personalize, personalize, personalize.
As much as you can, at least. It’s 2017, and consumers expect their products and businesses to get smarter about how they speak to them. That means understanding your target audience’s pain points, getting on social media, using their first name in emails, and so on. Robotic language, over-enthusiasm, and baby talking are looked down on and feel inauthentic. So get real, and find out the tone of voice your customers most appreciate.
Step 8: Consistency is key.
You can build a brand for the books, but it’s not going to last long if you don’t figure out a way to guarantee it stays consistent. What happens when Sandra from Sales stretches your logo? Or Evan from Events changes the color scheme on a branded flyer to orange and pink?
Zillions (to be exact) of brand managers face these harrowing situations every day and watch their strategically-built brands fall apart in the hands of well-intentioned employees.
One of the best ways to protect your brand from rogue content and inconsistencies is with web-based lockable templates. That way, beautiful branded content can start with your graphic designers and still look just as beautifully on-brand by the time it reaches your customers.
Your graphic designers can lock down the elements of your brand that should never be changed (logo, fonts, images, etc.) before sending the template off to other employees in the company to put to use. Pretty enticing, right? Saying goodbye to brand inconsistencies forever is one massive sigh of relief for brand managers, and anyone who cares about properly building your brand equity, for that matter.
If brand consistency is something your business could stand to improve as part of your brand management strategy, consider trying Lucidpress and the myriad of marketing templates available for you to customize. They’re free, easy-to-use, and they streamline the process of building a brand that’s consistent, interesting, and most importantly… lasting.
For a real-life example of a company mastering their brand consistency with Lucidpress, read about Club Pilates and their experience using marketing templates here.