Almost any designer can tell you that branding is more than just a pretty logo. As consumers, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that a unique logo and company name are the only items that matter. However, brands are defined by several factors, including customer’s perception of a business’ reputation, customer service and interaction, product offerings, advertising strategies, and, of course, the logo and other design elements. So, while a logo, tagline and company name are important, there are many additional components that add meaning to those elements.
Building a brand from scratch can be a bit mind-boggling, so we have outlined the five key ingredients that are instrumental in helping cook up a unique, successful brand.
Identify Your Niche
As the ecommerce market continues to grow, the competition is becoming fierce. The global market is oversaturated with hordes of similar brands in all industries. This makes obtaining a good spot in the marketplace extremely difficult. Before you begin selling products, you have to identify your niche and unique selling points.
Your niche should be extremely specific to your offerings and highly-focused on a relevant demographic. “Smaller is bigger in business,” according to Lynda Falkenstein, author of Nichecraft: Using Your Specialness to Focus Your Business, Corner Your Market and Make Customers Seek You Out. Don’t waste time trying to sell everything to everyone. Instead, focus your offerings on a specific audience.
For example, let’s look at one of the most successful fashion brands out there today: Zara. Zara is not simply a fashion brand because fashion is not a niche, it’s an industry. Fast, affordable fashion for stylish Millenials is Zara’s niche, and the company is successful because it has created a niche for a very unique audience. Moral of the story: find how your products fit into a specific industry and craft a niche around it.
Your unique selling points (USPs) can help you find or create your own niche. USPs are those special qualities that your brand or products bring to the table. Why would someone choose your product over another? What differentiates your product or brand from the competition? What are you offering that no one else in the market is? Answering these questions can help you pinpoint your niche and define the special qualities that live within your brand.
Examples of USPs:
- Awards or industry distinctions
- Partnerships with organizations or charities
- Social enterprise policies
- Excellent customer service
- Consistent free gifts with purchase
Know Your Audience
Once you identify your niche, it’s time to research your target market. You should learn their values and interests, how to speak to them and how they think. A good way to do this is with demographic data, whether through Google Analytics, social media or even newsworthy articles. It’s important to fully understand the buying patterns of this specific target market so you can better identify selling opportunities and trends that you can jump on.
Creating personas can be extremely helpful when getting to know your audience. Personas are figurative representations of the business’ target market. By creating 2-4 separate personas, businesses are able to internalize the way potential customers perceive the brand and how the brand can solve problems.
Key Information to Include in Each Persona:
- Job Title & Role
- Demographics: Age, Gender, Income, Location, Education, Marital Status
- Goals & Challenges
- How the Brand Can Help
- Persona Values & Fears
- How to Market to Each Persona
Grab Attention with Visuals
Now that you have identified your niche and you know your target audience, it’s time to start combining those ingredients to create compelling graphics that visually define your brand, including a logo and website.
Your logo is ultimately what you will use to represent your brand on various mediums. It’s the most easily-identifiable aspect of your business. But a logo should be more than just a cool image. It should truly embody the values and identity of your brand, from the color to the design. For example, the Apple logo has undergone a multitude of changes as the brand evolved. Now, with its simple black 2D design, Apple showcases that its brand is clean-cut, modern and attempts to make technology as simple as possible.
Along the same lines as the logo, a website can be your brand’s biggest cheerleader. It not only showcases who you are, but what you offer. You can even think about your website as a physical store. What is going to make customers come into your store? What will make a visitor stay on your website and browse your products? Think about how your navigation is set up, what your color palette is, how your layout should look and what header or slider images you will use.
Sometimes visualizing a brand can be difficult. If you get stuck, a mood board can be a big help. Close your eyes and think about everything that comes to mind when you think about your brand and products. Use Pinterest or Tumblr to find images and create a collage of all the pictures or words that you feel represent that brand. Once compiled, it’s easier to visualize how your brand should be represented online and in print.
Develop Consistent Messaging
Once you have a solidified brand and a target audience in mind, start thinking about how you want to speak to your audience. This is where the personas we discussed before will come in handy. When you know what shoppers value, want and need, it’s easier to create messaging that speaks to them. Think about brand voice and tone. How will you speak to your customers? Will you be fun and friendly or professional and educational?
Messaging also includes the medium of communication. For instance, if you have an older demographic, the best way to reach them may be through banner ads or email marketing. If your target audience is younger, think about reaching out on social media.
Effective messaging clearly communicates your brand and core values. For instance, if you sell natural cosmetics, you should clearly state your commitment to staying natural in all aspects of your business and let customers know this through the content on your website, on your product packaging and even on social media.
Remember: your messages should remain consistent in all aspects and channels of your business, from marketing and sales to customer service and culture.
Encourage Customer Loyalty
Finally, encourage customers to engage with and talk about your brand, and make them feel important. This will increase buzz and also strengthen customer loyalty. Sure, when starting a business, sales are most important; but a strong brand will keep customers coming back for more. Effective branding will turn a one-time customer into a brand ambassador.
About 81% of customers research a product online before making a purchase. If you have a solid number of evangelists or influencers recommending your product to others, you will likely see higher sales and a boost in customer retention.
Branding is one of the most valuable pieces of a business, whether you’re a new store or an established company looking to create a new competitive edge. When done well, branding can be the difference between a fizzling and flourishing business. Remember, branding is more than a logo and a pretty picture; it’s about how you want your company to be perceived and how to create a loyal following. Now that you have the recipe, it’s time to go cook up a brand of your own!