To connect to your target customers and help your business grow and thrive, entrepreneurs and small business owners must understand and own their company’s identity. Your unique business philosophy, personality and how you stand out from the competition comprise your brand.
When you define and build a powerful brand, you prioritize growth while understanding your business and target customers. You can connect with your audience meaningfully and encourage loyalty. We’ll explore the importance of building your brand to stand out, create an identity, and back up what you’re selling.
Your brand is your marketplace identity. Many people are familiar with visual brand elements, including logos. However, your brand goes beyond what people see to include a comprehensive internalized image of your company that includes who you are, why you exist and who comprises your target market.
Consider iconic brands and the images they conjure in your mind. For example, when you see Levi’s denim products, your impression likely goes beyond jeans. Levi’s may conjure images of the rugged West and evoke impressions of durability and even the “cowboy” mystique and charm. Similarly, when you see brands like Coca-Cola or Patagonia, your mind likely automatically evokes feelings that go beyond images of soda cans and fleece jackets. Powerful brands stay with consumers, going beyond the products themselves to capture emotions.
Your brand is your identity. It will extend to every aspect of your business communications, including marketing, advertising and public relations. It comprises the images and feelings you want to evoke in consumers’ heads when they hear your brand name.
Your brand should quickly and precisely define who you are and why your product exists.
When you begin the process of identifying and building your brand, consider the following three questions:
The answers to the first two questions may seem obvious. However, when you take time to define and understand your answers, you’ll be better equipped to express your identity. These answers will also help you identify your customer base, leaving you better positioned to deliver your brand’s message to your customers and to continually improve your offerings.
What identity do you want customers to associate with your brand? Brainstorm to create a list of descriptive words that can give your target audience a sense of who you are. Are you cutting-edge? Reliable? Youthful? Classic? Do you want to be perceived as bold, friendly, classic, trustworthy, luxurious, sexy, quirky or smart?
Ask yourself what words you’d use to describe other brands. How are the words they use to describe themselves a good fit?
List the descriptors that best fit your business before creating any communications about your company, including a logo, ads, small business marketing materials, business website, business cards, social media business platforms or any medium you plan to use.
As a business, you want to make a profit. However, why you exist must go beyond money. Customers want to know what you believe and if it’s something they also believe.
Why your business exists is as important to your messaging as who you are. Review your company’s mission statement and ensure your branding is consistent with its message. If you don’t yet have one, define your business’s tangible values and establish a company mission. A mission statement defines your cause and purpose; it should suffuse your brand and every communication.
A few years ago, the author Simon Sinek gave a TED Talk in which he explained that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. For example, megabrands like Apple don’t sell anything other companies couldn’t provide. Instead, they sell a belief. Apple’s message, Sinek said, is “We believe in thinking differently.” This resonates on a deeper level than “We sell great computers that are easy to use.”
What does your company believe? Your brand should convey that to a target audience that believes the same.
Everyone can’t be your target customer. When identifying your target market, be specific. Take the following steps:
When you know who you are, why your product exists, and who your target market is, it’s time to create your brand. Every choice you make when presenting your brand to the world — photos, images, sounds and words — should reflect the same essence and identity.
Consider the following essential elements:
For a company to remain agile, it must evolve and adapt to new realities, including new offerings, methods and audiences. Sometimes, evolving means rethinking your brand identity.
You may need to rebrand your business for the following reasons:
When rebranding is your best option, go back to the original questions that shaped your brand and answer them again to identify what has changed:
Here are some tips for rebranding:
Rebranding can come with the following risks:
Branding can require significant effort and expense. But when you understand how to create a brand identity and invest in determining the right strategy, you’ll save yourself time, work and money in the long run. You’ll have already made fundamental choices about how to present your company.
Your brand reflects your company’s mission and purpose. That goes a long way toward helping you communicate with your customers concisely and consistently so they’ll be able to recognize your brand instantly.