Branding refers to a group of visual components, written copy, and stylistic choices that work together to create a whole image. While almost anything can have a brand, we’re going to specifically talk about brands for small businesses. We’ve discussed the visual aspects of branding in a previous post, and now we’re going to talk about the strategy behind a brand. Here are 7 steps you can follow to create a brand for your small business.
Step 1: Conduct Research
Research is an important part of any marketing effort, and it is especially important when building a brand. Before making any other decisions, you should research your target audience and your competitors.
When researching your target audience, take note of the way they talk about products or services like yours. What kinds of words do they use? What are their overall impressions? Answers to questions like these can help you develop a voice for your brand. You can also create buyer personas to better define the type of customer you hope to attract.
When researching your competitors, pay attention to what they do well and where they may be lacking. By noting what works for them, you can get a better idea of how to directly compete with their successes. By noting where they leave gaps in the market, you can see which gaps you can fill with little to no competition.
Step 2: Define your Mission
Once you’ve conducted research, it’s time to write a mission statement. Mission statements are primarily for internal use, so it doesn’t have to be snappy or marketable. You can use this statement to clarify your brand’s purpose and define the position you want your brand to take in the market. By defining your mission early, you can use it as a foundation for all of the other aspects of your brand.
One way to write a mission statement is to answer questions like:
- Why does my company exist?
- What problems will my products or services solve?
- What makes my company different from other companies?
These can all help you to direct and clarify your vision for your brand. A strong mission statement will help to give you focus and keep you on track with your goals.
Step 3: Name your Brand
From here, you can come up with a name for your brand. You may need to do a little extra research to ensure the name you pick isn’t too similar to a name that already exists. Make sure your name is easy to remember and hard to copy. And, if you plan on pivoting or expanding your brand later, consider a name that won’t box you in.
If you need a little inspiration for your brand’s name, consider the following:
- Using a made-up word—Lots of brands, like Pepsi, Xerox, and Kodak, use made-up words. This can be a great way to create an association between your product and your brand, and it can make it easier to register a trademark.
- Using an unrelated word—This is another helpful naming technique for brands that want to trademark their name. Some examples of brands that use unrelated words are Apple, who sells computers, and Domino’s, who sells pizza.
- Using a word that suggests a quality about your brand—Often referred to as suggestive names, this kind of brand name can help to distinguish your brand and tell your customers something about it. Some examples of brands with suggestive names are Lush and Dove.
- Using a literal name—While this does work for some brands, it can make it difficult to register a trademark. It can also make it easy for copycats to capitalize on your brand’s space.
- Using a portmanteau—Portmanteaus are formed when you combine two words and their meanings to make a new word. Examples of brands that do this are Pinterest, Instagram, and FedEx, to name a few.
Step 4: Find your Brand’s Voice
Once you’ve defined your brand’s mission and selected your brand’s name, you can start to get into the specifics of your brand. In much the same way that individual people have distinct personalities, individual brands should too. Take time to think about how you want your audience to perceive you, and what kind of things appeal to your audience. After determining that, develop your brand’s voice and personality.
Will you use a conversational tone in your literature and advertising? Is your brand humorous, serious, or somewhere in between? What type of customer do you want to attract? Questions like these can all help you to develop your brand’s distinct voice.
Step 5: Write a Slogan
Slogans are not strictly necessary, but they can be helpful. Your brand’s slogan should be short and descriptive. You can focus your slogan on a product feature (like Wendy’s “fresh, never-frozen beef”) or on your brand’s overall attitude (like Nike’s “Just do it”).
The beauty behind slogans is that they can change. Unlike your brand’s name or mission, your slogan can be more flexible. If you pivot or expand, you can implement a new slogan to market that change.
Step 6: Create a Visual Identity
At this point in the branding process, you can start to define your brand’s visual components. This includes things like a logo, colors, fonts, and imagery style. Read more about this aspect in our previous post about branding.
Step 7: Apply your Brand
The final step to building a brand is to apply it. Brand your business cards. Brand your website. Use your logo on a sign, a car wrap, or an envelope (or all three!). Use your brand across your business, both internally and externally, so that people can start to build the association between your products or services and your brand. That association will ultimately create recognition, reputation, and relationship between you and your customers, and it will help you to attract new customers too.
Overtime, you may find that parts (or sometimes all) of your branding becomes dated. Don’t be afraid to let your brand evolve to keep up with the times. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should re-brand, but it does mean you should be open to the possibility if that’s what will help your business grow.
If you’re a small business owner and you’re looking to start a brand, give us a call. We can help you to research your target audience, develop a mission statement, and create a brand that will differentiate your business and attract more customers.