A product or service can be easily be copied, but a brand will always be unique.
A brand is an image or idea people have in mind when thinking about a product or service of a company. It is the feelings that consumers develop and relate to the company and its products. You branding essentially defines what your customers would expect to see from your company.
So far so good. But how do you build a successful brand?
Andrew Hope, Creative Director of Hope Creative Design, loves developing brands and has been helping companies build a brand for 30+ years.
Andrew shares six steps to building a successful brand.
Step 1 – Create it from the heart…
Great brands aren’t about clever marketing and big budgets. They’re about personality and emotion. Every successful brand comes from the heart.
Designing a quirky logo is not the be-all and end-all of your business identity – it’s not even the start.
The first thing you should do is understand what you believe in, what drives you, and how you want your customers to feel when they connect with you. We call this your brand personality or your business DNA.
Work this through carefully and you have your first building block. This will help to shape the way you describe your business and the benefits it has to offer. Once you understand its vision and values, you can imagine what it looks like. This is where the graphic designers and wordsmiths come in.
Step 2 – Describe how it looks and feels…
So a great brand is created by people who know what their business stands for from day one. It has a clear identity and it lives and breathes. It has a tangible personality that resonates through everything you do. Every phone call, email, brochure and social media post.
Strong brands interact with their customers in a way that makes everyone feel good. This is what people scientists call the “emotional connection”. So, think of your brand as a person. What’s its persona? What does it look like? And, what does it feel like? This stage is vital to your brand success.
Brand creation should never be delegated to the marketing people. Also involve your key contacts – staff, business partners, potential customers. This will make sure that your brand is built from the inside out and that it is validated and challenged before you commit to spending money on visual identities such as logos, mailers and websites. Invest well here and you will see the business benefits.
Step 3 – Connect with your customers…
As business people, we all talk about promoting our services but this is where we go wrong. Today, more than ever because we’re living in the digital age, it’s more about connecting.
Before your business identity takes shape, think ahead to how you’re going to interact with customers because every connection says something about your brand. You can have the greatest logo in the world but it means nothing if you get things wrong. You need people to be your brand advocate and that means working hard at the way you communicate.
So everyone involved in your business needs to sign up to the things your business stands for and to try to make every touchpoint a great experience. This doesn’t mean scripted answers, automated responses or being ‘on-message’, it means genuine, honest encounters.
Step 4 – Tell your brand story…
Brand creation isn’t just about creating a mood board of logos, images, fonts and colours. It’s about telling your story. Words are key to the whole identity process – from your business name and strapline to your customer testimonials and case studies.
Every great brand has a great story to tell but the key is to capture the essence – not bore everyone rigid with heritage and company landmarks. These things are part of the big picture but your brand vocabulary needs to be crystal clear and easily communicated.
Your brand values should be evident in your visual identity and should be the building blocks of your key marketing messages. Having five or six one-liners to describe what your business does well or differently is essential too. Even better, if they’re based on real-life customer experiences.
Everything should be backed up by authentic customer feedback – testimonials, comments and anecdotes. If you weave these through your marketing materials, websites and social media platforms, you can’t go far wrong.
Step 5 – Keep brand on your plan…
If you’re a start-up business, brand creation will inevitably be part of your initial business plan. But what if you’ve been running your business for years?
Your brand should always be under review because of your business changes. You launch new services and products – you start to compete in different markets. So, keep it on your business agenda. Ask yourself, do you need to change your image to attract a new crowd?
It’s OK to change the look and feel – take John Lewis for example. Their cafés proudly show you how their brand has evolved over the years. They’ve changed to reflect key moments in history and key milestones as a business. But the John Lewis personality has stood the test of time. It’s embedded in everything they do and is the bedrock of their brand.
Step 6 – Own your brand…
Brand gurus claim that no one owns their brand – their customers do and this is essentially true. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t its custodian or guardian. Take care of it and it will take care of you.
It’s important to own responsibility for your brand – to nurture and protect it – and to recognise how important it is to your business.
Just remember these five things:
1. Build it on firm foundations
2. Involve and connect people with your brand
3. Let it evolve under your watchful eye
4. Makes sure it lives and breathes
5. Treat it as your best business asset
Credits: Cartoon by Simon Chubb
Article by: Andrew Hope, Creative Director of Hope Creative Design.