Branding has become a buzzword nowadays. Most of us want to stand out from the competition. We want to get to our target audience. We want to grow our business beyond what it is now or start a business from scratch.
Understandably, branding helps you with that aspect of any business. Although it is no easy task to start it from scratch. What should it look like? How should it make people feel? Will it resonate with my target audience?
These are questions that inevitably come up when you start thinking about how to connect the dots of business. The bridge between what you’re selling and who you’re trying to reach.
Whether you’ve got nothing but a business idea or want to pivot your existing brand design, here’s what you need to know about building a strong brand identity for your business.
What is Branding?
Branding is the merger of a marketing plan with your business plan. It has to take into consideration all of the goals, needs and wants of the brand. That’s on a more business way of looking at it.
In general, branding is what others say about you. Specifically, how their experience was with you and what is the impression you left. Similarly as how we as people interact in our societies, so do brands. We all have names, a way of dressing up, a unique way of speaking and communicating. Through these traits, our peers will have different impressions about us.
It’s easy to talk about it, and hard to put into practice. Let me give you an example.
Have you heard about the new Circus in town?
Let’s say that you are a Circus that goes from town to town. You pop up in a new city and you paint a sign saying “Circus coming to the Fairground on Saturday”, that is called Advertising.
If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that is called Promotion.
If the elephant walks through the Mayor’s Flower Bed, that is called Publicity.
If somehow you get the Mayor to laugh about it, that is called Public Relations.
If you did all of this on purpose, that is what we call Marketing.
Here comes the twist. After your Marketing efforts, people decided to come and see your Circus. If they genuinely enjoyed the experience, then they may form a desire to return to your Circus the next time you are in town. Now that’s what we call branding.
Steps of building your identity
Now that we grasp the concept of branding, let’s lay down the groundwork for building out your brand identity. While you might revisit some steps as you pivot or create your brand, it’s important that you consider each aspect as you shape your brand identity. Feel free to bookmark this blog to come back later.
1. Research your target audience
The first building block of creating your brand identity is to find your target audience (potential customers) and who are your competitors. I like to call this phase the get to know the market. This will be one of your strong pillars on which your brand building process will evolve over time.
Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Google your niche (product or service category) and analyze the direct and indirect competitors that come up.
- Check subreddits (or forums) that relate to your customers and observe their conversations and product recommendations.
- Interact with people who are part of your target market and ask them what brands they buy from in your space.
- Look at the relevant social media accounts or pages your target audience follows and are receptive to.
- Go shopping online or offline and get a feel for how your customers would browse and buy products.
All of this will help you create your customer personas. I recommend having 1 at the start to make it easier. Think of this persona as a real person whom you will sell to. Write down their traits. Here are a couple of examples:
- What’s their name?
- How old they are?
- What do they do on a daily basis?
- What do they do during the weekends?
- What are their frustrations?
- What are their goals in life?
By the end of this phase, you should know exactly in what manner should you approach the key person for your business, the customer.
2. Establish your features and benefits
You’ve probably heard of “features and benefits” before–maybe in some eyes-glazing article about the importance of “consumer-centric” marketing. It’s not the most interesting aspect of this process however, understanding the difference between them (and knowing how to craft a message around them) are valuable cornerstones of your marketing and branding strategy.
Features are aspects of your product, which could be technical or descriptive. For example, the iPhone has a really good camera as a feature.
Benefits are why that feature matters for your customers. In other words, how that feature makes their life better. In our iPhone example, It gives you the benefit of super high-quality images.
Features tell customers what, and benefits tell customers why. When we talk to one another, we instinctively understand the power of benefits. People might not understand why the feature matters. How many times do Camera companies bombard us with 50-megapixel cameras? The feature means a lot less than the benefit.
3. Define what you do
We have our target audience, we have our features and benefits. Now it’s time to expand on these aspects of our business and write them down in different forms. From the Pitch to the Name, these will give you a statement for most if not all the ways you can express your brand. Whether we are talking about an elevator pitch where you have 30 seconds or a full-blown PowerPoint presentation about your brand.
What is your Pitch
The pitch is the long-form story of your brand and business. Think of it like talking about yourself for the next 10 minutes. Here is an example of points to touch on with your pitch:
- Current world situation
- The problem
- Here’s the solution
- This is what we do
- So that we can change the world
Write your Value Proposition
Your unique value proposition has one or two lines that stake your claim in the market. This isn’t necessarily something you put on your website or business card. Rather, It helps you answer the right questions about your brand and aids in creating your brand’s tagline. is the one thing you’re competing on.
It represents the value that your company promises to deliver to your customers should they choose to buy your product or service.
Find it, go in on it, and make it a part of your brand's messaging.
Create your Slogan or BHAG
A catchy slogan is a nice-to-have asset. It can be something brief and descriptive you can use as a tagline in your social media bios, website header, custom business cards, and anywhere else where you’ve got very few words to make a big impact.
A general misconception about your slogan is that you can’t change it later. In fact, you can always change your slogan as you find new angles for marketing for your business. For example, Pepsi has gone through over 30 slogans in the past few decades.
A good slogan is short, catchy, and makes a strong impression to boost brand awareness. Here are some ways to approach writing a slogan of your own:
- Stake your claim. Death Wish Coffee: “The World’s Strongest Coffee”
- Make it a Metaphor. Redbull: “Redbull gives you wings.”
- Adopt your customers’ attitude. Nike: “Just do it.”
- Leverage labels. Cards Against Humanity: “A party game for horrible people.”
- Write a rhyme. Folgers Coffee: “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”
- Describe it literally. Aritzia: “Women’s fashion boutique.”
Design hill has a Slogan Maker to brainstorm some ideas.
You can also use the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) method. Incorporating your business’ goal into the slogan. A BHAG is a huge, long-term target or goal that energizes an organization and focuses its people, rallying them to a common cause and leading them through a process of transformation.
Here are a couple of BHAG promises made by famous companies:
- Google: “Organize the world’s information.”
- Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
- Microsoft: “A computer on every desk and in every home.”
Choose a Name
In my experience is better to leave the name for the last step before jumping into making any visual assets. You are more than prepared at this moment, as you have everything written down in front of you.
What’s in a name? Depending on the kind of business you want to start, you can make the case that your name matters very little or it matters a lot.
A brand is so much more than a name. The personality, actions, and reputation of your brand identity are really what give the name meaning in the market.
If you are a small business owner, your company’s name is probably one of the first big commitments you have to make. It’ll impact your brand logo, your domain, your marketing, and your trademark registration if you decide to go that route (it’s harder to trademark generic brand names that literally describe what you sell).
Here are a couple of examples of name types you can create for your business:
- Make up a word, like Pepsi.
- Reframe an unrelated word, like Apple for computers.
- Use a suggestive word or metaphor, like Buffer.
- Describe it literally (caution: easy to imitate), like The Shoe Company.
- Alter a word by removing letters, adding letters, or using Latin endings, like Tumblr (Tumbler) or Activia.
- Create an acronym from a longer name, like HBO (Home Box Office).
- Combine two words: Pinterest (pin + interest) or Snapple (snappy + apple)
Of course, there are a bunch of name generator websites to try your luck in. This is one of them.
If you are not sure about what people think of your name, it is a good idea to run your name by a focus group of close people. This is a way of making sure it doesn’t have an unintended meaning or is too similar to something else that you might’ve missed.
4. Create the assets for your brand
We have everything ready, to begin with, the visual design of your brand. Whether you want to do it yourself or hire a designer (hint I am here to help ya if needed), the previous steps work well as a creative brief as well for this process. Let’s start with the colors.
Choose the Colors
Colors don’t just define the look of your brand, they also convey the feeling you want to communicate and help you make it consistent across everything you do. You'll want to choose colors that differentiate you from direct competitors to avoid confusing consumers.
Color psychology isn’t an exact science, but it does help to inform the choices you make, especially when it comes to the color you pick for your brand logo.
This infographic offers a nice overview of the emotions and associations that different colors generally evoke.
The first thing I would suggest is based on your market research done in the first step. Look back at what your competition use and create a comparison between them. The second step would be to see based on your value proposition what emotions you want your customers to associate you with.
By this phase most likely you have a rough idea of the basic colors you want to use. To choose the right combination, you can search your color schemes on Adobe Colors and see what matches. I use it all the time to make final adjustments when it comes to choosing colors.
Choose your fonts
At this point, it’s also good to look at fonts you might want to use on your website, social media and offline promotional materials.
The best way to build a brand when it comes to fonts is by keeping it simple. Pick two fonts at most to avoid confusing visitors: one for headings and one for body text (this doesn’t include the font you might use in your brand logo).
You can use Google fonts to browse from a wide selection of simple and free fonts that go well together.
My favourite part is when it comes to branding. Uniting business details listed above with the colors and fonts that you’ve chosen. It is a big thing, as it represents the face of your brand.
Your logo should be unique, identifiable, and scalable to work at all sizes. Among other details. If you are hiring a designer to do the job. Here are 6 things to take into consideration:
- The place where your brand will exist. Write down all the spots your logo will fill such as your Website, your Social Media pages, your YouTube Channel, Banners, Flyers, etc.
- Avoid too much detail. Simple logos are recognized faster than complex ones. Strong lines and letters show up better than thin ones, and clean, simple logos reduce and enlarge much better than complicated ones.
- Your logo should work well in black and white (one-color printing). If it doesn't look good in black and white, it won't look good in any color. Also, keep in mind that printing costs for four-color logos are often greater than that for one- or two-color jobs).
- Make sure your logo's scalable. It should be aesthetically pleasing in both small and large sizes, in a variety of mediums. A good rule of thumb is to image your logo on a business card and billboard. Your logo should look good on both.
- Your logo should be artistically balanced. The best way to explain this is that your logo should seem "balanced" to the eye. No one part should overpower the rest. Just as a painting would look odd if all the color and details were segregated in one corner, so do asymmetric logos. Color, line density and shape all affect a logo's balance.
5. Apply your branding
Applying your branding across your business gives it a cohesive brand story. A brand story represents who your business is and what it stands for. It sets the stage for every interaction customers to have with your brand, in-store, online or offline
- Instagram where you can create a grid and a linear story presenting who you are.
- Facebook biography section (or bio)
- Website About Us page
In general, buyers shopping on an online store for the first time often look for a business’s mission and purpose to see if they share any values with the business (e.g., sustainability). If your business has a brand story, share it, because it can help the shopper feel reassured yours is a legitimate business.
When building a new brand, your positioning statement can get you started, but you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions for your brand story:
- What motivated me to start my business?
- Why does the company exist?
- How do we contribute to the world?
- What is the story behind my business the customer should know?
Hint, most of these questions are answered in the third step of this blog.
How to double-check if you did these steps right
Have you heard about the onliness statement? It’s a short condensed way of telling your brand story. Ideal for the elevator pitch. I’ve used mine numerous times and got the point across really easily with it.
It also acts as a double-checker for your branding. From the target audience all the way to the pitch. From the “Why” behind your brand all the way to the “Who” of your brand. It encompasses all of them. here is an example from the famous motorcycle manufacturer, Harley Davidson:
Harley Davidson is
What: The only motorcycle manufacturer
How: That that makes loud, big bikes
Who: For for macho guys (and macho wannabees)
Where: In mostly in the United States
Why: Who wants to join a gang of cowboys
When: In an era of decreasing personal freedom
Evolve your brand as you grow
Building a brand doesn’t stop with creating a logo or slogan, or even with your brand awareness launch. Your brand needs to exist and remain consistent wherever your customers interact with you, from the unique presence of your website, the marketing materials you produce, all the way to how you package and ship your products
You’ll continue to shape and evolve your brand design and identity over time. Step by step your customers will get to know your brand. You will learn more about who your customers are and how to speak to them. Shifting the brand as you go along.
An important thing to know is that you will never have full control over how people perceive your brand. You can make a great first impression and manage your reputation, but you can’t control the individual perception of people.
You can, however, use branding to make sense of it all and to resonate with your core audience. You have the tools and resources to start.
If you are looking for a helping hand regarding branding. I would love to jump on a quick call with you and bounce a couple of ideas. Maybe even take on the challenge to help you build the visual aspect of your business.