As I said in my previous blog post, ‘A brand cannot be directly created by the company or a designer. The brand is consumer driven and represents the relationship between the consumer and company.’ However, there are steps you can take to make this relationship as strong as possible and for your consumers to be more likely to view your brand the way you want them to.
After doing some research into brand, I have come up with what I think are the 7 main steps to building a strong brand. Before I go through these steps, it’s important to realise that these are just as valuable for small businesses as they are for the large corporate giants and just as useful for businesses offering a service as they are for those selling consumer products.
Having a strong brand ultimately results in more sales and longer-lasting relationships with customers – you would expect this to be one of the main goals for most businesses, wouldn’t you?
Nearly all of the steps below can be carried out for free – so there should be no excuse for not creating a foundation in which you can develop a strong brand.
1.) Define your brand
Firstly, you need to figure out what exactly it is that you do and to know what separates you from the competition (your ‘USP’ as many like to call it). Of course, many businesses provide the same thing and it can be quite challenging to find what it is that you do differently. What can you provide your clients that company X down the road can’t? Why should a potential client choose you over company X?
If answering these questions still doesn’t provide much insight, then you can look further into your company for some clues. What history or culture does your company possess and how can you work with this? Is there a certain individual in your company who you view to be a particularly valuable asset? Can you “sell” this person as part of your services and what you can offer? The ultimate goal is to find something that the world needs and to be the go-to place to fulfil this need.
Don’t let this first step put you off. It may take a while to come up with something original, but just take a look at the big brands for inspiration. What do Apple and Samsung both do when it really boils down to it? They sell consumer electronics. Doesn’t sound too exciting does it? The difference though is that Apple relies on innovation and unique designs and patents. Samsung’s mission statement seems to be: ‘Inspire the World, Create the Future’. Perhaps the difference here then is that Apple’s focus is on their actual products and making them the best that they can be, whereas Samsung is more customer-focused, aiming to inspire the world.
Note: You should constantly be re-evaluating your ‘USP’ to ensure that you are still providing what it is that your customers want and need.
2.) Think of your brand as a person
Once you have figured out what your brand is all about, the best way to build on this is to think of your brand as a person. Brands have personality, strong brands create relationships and even stronger brands use these relationships to create customer loyalty.
Think about what your brand’s beliefs, values and purposes are. How would your brand dress, or introduce itself? What characteristics would make your brand stand out and be remembered? Once you have created a personality for your brand, the rest of these steps should be a lot easier to follow.
3.) Name your brand
Now it’s time to name your brand. There are a few things to consider…
Firstly, keep it simple. Great names are usually short, memorable and easy to spell and pronounce.
There are 3 routes you can go down when creating your name:
– Descriptive (eg: The Home Depot, BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation], Jack’s Hill Motors)
This is usually the most obvious path to take and can sometimes work quite well, especially when abbreviated. However, this doesn’t provide you with much of a platform on which to build an engaging brand with personality.
– Suggestive (eg: Netflix, Pinterest, Staples)
Being the middle option between being completely obvious or completely random, many companies choose to go down this route when naming their business. They not only allow your consumers to connect the dots themselves but they usually allow for more creativity than the descriptive names.
– Playful/arbitrary (eg: evian, Starbucks, Samsung)
Although ‘evian’ was supposedly named after a town in France, not many people would know this when hearing its name. It also happens to be naïve spelt backwards. Having a playful name is a great way to convey an inviting brand, which welcomes curiosity and instantly represents innovation.
Once you have a few ideas, ensure that the domain for your name is available. It’s important to have a website that is easy to find and this is more likely if your website name is your company name. If the name has already been taken, try to figure out how established they are. A lot of the time, you can request to buy the domain from them or reserve it for when it expires.
4.) Have a visual identity
The next step is to visually communicate your brand. This includes your logo as well as other aspects such as website and stationery design, office space, uniforms, signage, products, etc.
Coming up with a good logo is one of the most important parts to building a strong brand. Apart from your name, this is the largest representation of your brand and is what people will see when they think of you. Although this symbol doesn’t necessarily need to communicate what it is that you do, it should be easy to remember and work well at a range of sizes and on different media.
The rest of your visual identity can then follow on from this. Consider colours, shapes and images.
Once you have completed this important step, all visuals need to be kept consistent. Looking at the image below, which company would you choose to buy product A from? This should be enough to highlight the importance of the visual elements of your brand.
5.) Company Culture
It is essential that your employees understand and believe in your brand. A successful way to ensure that everyone is on the right track is to create a company culture and to stick to it.
Come up with a few, meaningful company values and make sure that everyone agrees on them. Constantly referring to these will make sure that your brand is creating the right reputation for itself and, hopefully, communicating your brand to others in the best possible light.
Company values/culture can include things such as the way you interact with people outside of your company, embracing change, being a supportive team with outstanding communication, among many others. For more examples and ideas, feel free to take a look at 8 steps to getting company culture right.
6.) Share your story and build trust
The value of this is becoming more and more evident. Brands used to be a lot more corporate and lifeless than they are today. With social media, brands now have more of a voice and can reach out to a much wider audience. The more honest, truthful and interested you are, the more your customers will learn to trust you and engage with your brand.
Adam, of course, was delighted with the service provided and went on to tweet, ‘Can we please take a moment to thank the best train service provider @VirginTrains’.
A Virgin spokesperson added, ‘At Virgin Trains we work really hard to respond to our customers quickly, to make sure they get the information or help they need – whatever the request!
We recognise that we’re all human and if we can brighten a customer’s journey and be a little cheeky along the way, all the better.’
7.) Reach your audience
Following on from the previous step, you should try and be involved on as many relevant platforms as possible. Whether this be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or perhaps something more niche and applicable to your sector. You also need to stay active on these accounts and possibly post an update every day. Your audience will find it a lot easier to build a connection with you if they’re able to interact with you frequently.
Of course, these 7 steps are just the start of building a strong brand. Building a strong brand takes time and these steps need to be re-evaluated regularly, always with the aim of providing what your audience wants.