You know you need a brand. You know the other guy has one. You know prospective clients and customers will whiz right on by if they don’t sense a strong branding coming from you, but that doesn’t mean you know how to build that image from the ground up. Unfortunately, without a solid understanding of your own brand goals, the face you present the world is likelier to be a muddled mess than anything else.
Yet brands are harder to define than one might think. Looking at successful competitors and big names in other industries, it appears these brands have sprung, fully formed, from someone’s expert imagination. That can create a lot of stress for you, making you wonder whether you’re doing something wrong if your brand doesn’t come into being all in a day’s work.
Take comfort: If you’re a bit confused by the branding process, that doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.
“A brand is a funny thing,” Lucidpress points out. “It’s not something you can hold in your hand, yet a brand is the bread and butter of an organization.” They go on to quote Boundless in explaining that “A brand is a personality that identifies a product, service or company, including a name, term, sign, symbol or design. A brand also represents the relationships between customers, staff, partners, investors, and so forth.” (1)
As you can see, that’s a lot of steps to branding your company. Let’s take them one by one.
You might think a company’s name comes first in the branding process, but that’s not true. What you sell must always get first billing, because your products and services – and therefore your values – are the cornerstone of who you are and why others want to work with you.
For instance, if you sell wine or artisanal beer, you’re selling fun, companionship, taste and celebration. If you sell legal services, you’re peddling safety, security, trusted help, protection for the future, peace of mind and expertise. For those who purvey educational help, you’re selling a bright future and a more evolved world.
Before you can establish any branding principles, you must translate your products and services into values.
Next up: Your name. This is how your clients and customers will think of you, speak of you, refer you to others and file you away in their minds for the next time they need one of your products or services.
Your name can stem from any number of places, including:
- One of the aforementioned values (think a name such as Integra or Intel, which imply integrity and intelligence, respectively)
- A personal name (think Martin, Amari or Diaz)
- An associated word (think SafeCo for insurance companies who sell peace of mind)
- A non-associated word for which you create the association (think Luluemon, which is meaningless until it gains a cult following of yoga gear lovers)
- A mission (think Seventh Generation, whose goal is to ensure the planet is still in good shape in two hundred years)
Once you pick your name, you can move forward.
This is a single sentence or phrase that tells your prospects, clients and customers what you do. The direction of your slogan, just like your name, is rooted in your products, services, values and background, but must make a specific statement that generates interest and trust. Why should people pick you over others?
By way of a sample, a pet food company might choose a slogan that says, “Keeping pets free of hormones and antibiotics since 1961.”
A logo, like a name, may or may not express your exact products or services. You can also draw on:
- Preexisting symbols
- Plants or animals
- Abstract patterns
- Geometric designs
- Stylized names or initials
It’s wise to get a designer to help guide this direction.
Theme colors should express your products and services. If your goal is happiness and celebration, yellow is a great color. Red and pink signal love, blue and pink are gender-specific, green and blue (surprisingly) are powerful hues for environmental products. If you’re not sure what colors you ought to use, try looking up some color theory and experiment from there.
The logo and colors are the building blocks of the visual face you’ll present to the world. Again, a quality designer is critical here. Don’t trust online DIY logo generators and at-home Windows programs to create collateral, because without expert help, you’ll simply reveal yourself to the world as a novice. People will turn away from you, rather than gravitating toward you.
If you make the mistake of thinking that your environmental approach is an “extra” you can deal with once you’ve built the other aspects of your brand and started generating big income, think again.
These days, it’s more critical than ever that you think through your stance on ecology upfront. According to big cheese research company Nielsen, millennials in 2015 reported that sustainability was a major shopping priority for them: “Despite the fact that Millennials are coming of age in one of the most difficult economic climates in the past 100 years, a recent Nielsen global online study found that they continue to be most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings.” (2)
Impressively, a full three-quarters of them were willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings, up from just half the previous year – and that was several years ago. If this trend continues, we’ll soon reach full market saturation of environmental importance, meaning any company that doesn’t create a sustainable face will get left behind.
Promo items are a huge ingredient in any brand-building recipe. Not only do they make your prospects, clients, customers, business partners, employees and vendors feel special, they get your name and logo out into the world. According to Sageworld, six out of 10 consumers keep items for up to 2 years, while reusable bags generate almost 6,000 each in a lifetime. That’s a huge vote of confidence for promotional items. (3)
Again, going the green route is a good idea here. That lets clients and customers know that not only do you believe in helping the world, but you actually apply those principles to your purchases and decision-making. It is tangible proof that you walk the walk, and everyone from prospects to employees will want to support your environmental stewardship efforts. Resist the urge to purchase cheaper items, and you’ll profit from your wise decision later.
Before you call it quits with brand-building, keep in mind that packaging matters. Again, make sure eco-friendliness plays a role. Minimize your packaging, brand it well, use it only when necessary, and include instructions for how to dispose of it responsibly afterward.
Keep in mind that brands grow and develop for years – and if you’re lucky, for decades. Next time catch yourself seeing how you stack up next to strongly developed brands, take a step back. You can’t compare your start to someone else’s finish, after all. Instead of playing the comparison game, look to the steps above, put your head down and get to work building a brand that matters.
(1) Lucidpress: 25 Stats and Facts About Branding. (2017.) Retrieved from https://www.lucidpress.com/blog/25-branding-stats-facts
(2) Nielsen: Green Generation: Millennials Say Sustainability Is a Shopping Priority. (2015.) Retrieved from https://www.nielsen.com/eu/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority.html
(3) Sageworld: Let the Facts Do the Talking: 25 Stats About Promotional Products. (2018.) Retrieved from https://www.sageworld.com/blog/index.php/2017/03/09/let-the-facts-do-the-talking-25-stats-about-promotional-products/