Crafting a compelling story about your brand is an important step in connecting with your audience. But where do you begin? Consider the tips below to create a strong brand identity that fosters meaningful connections with your target audience and help your business grow.
What is a brand?
Before you can begin to identify your brand’s identity, you need to understand what a brand is and why it is important. According to Investopedia®, a brand is “a product or a business that has a distinct identity in the perception of consumers. The brand is created through elements of design, packaging, and advertising that, as a whole, distinguish the product or service from its competitors.”
The brand, including its logo, slogans, website, and materials, are all coordinated to convey the brand’s message to the customer. As such, a company’s brand is typically one of its most important and valuable assets. Many companies may even seek legal protection for their brands through trademarks.
A strong brand identity takes all the elements of a company’s brand and ties them all together into a cohesive strategy, meant to engage and connect with their target audience. Crafting the identity is a crucial step in building and maintaining a successful brand, helping your business to stand out from the competition.
It may help to think of your brand as a storytelling device. Each piece tells a story about your business, who you are, what you offer, and what makes you special. The art of storytelling weaves together all these elements to craft an identity that is as unique as your business.
Developing a brand identity: The basics
Now that you know why a brand is important, here are some steps to consider when developing your brand identity:
- Define your brand identity. Your identity should include the brand’s purpose, vision, personality, and positioning. Ask why your brand exists beyond making a profit. Consider your long-term goals, aspirations, personality traits, and what value or benefit your brand offers your customers.
- Identify your target audience. Who is your ideal customer? Create detailed buyer personas including demographics and consider what problem your product solves for them.
- Conduct market research. Analyze your industry and competitors to understand market trends, customer needs, and what sets you apart. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis may be useful in assessing your brand’s internal and external factors.
- Draft brand messaging. Develop a clear and concise brand message that communicates your brand’s value proposition. Consider if a memorable tagline or slogan may be useful in connecting to your audience.
- Create visual branding. Once you have these elements developed, it’s time to design a visually compelling brand identity, including logos, color schemes, typography, design elements or icons, and imagery. These elements should all reflect your brand’s personality and values. For example, a bakery may feature whimsical illustrations, while a finance company may prefer professional photography.
At a minimum, these are generally important elements of crafting your brand identity.
Bonus brand elements: Next steps
Beyond the basic components of a brand identity, there are additional elements that may be useful to consider as part of your comprehensive brand strategy including brand voice and tone, guidelines, planning content strategy, considering your brand experience, engagement and loyalty.
Defining the voice and tone of your brand, whether it’s formal or casual, friendly or professional, can be useful in creating additional messaging for your brand. These elements are identified to ensure consistency across different platforms.
Planning your content strategy, including what types of content you will create and where the content will go, is an important part of ensuring your content is successful and reaches your target audience, when and where they are. Blogs, videos, social media posts, advertisements and other digital or traditional marketing should all be strategically thought out. Consider your target audience demographics. Where are they spending most of their time, both online and in the real world? Are they on TikTok® or Facebook®? Do they subscribe to blogs or email newsletters? Are they looking for promotions and deals?
It’s best not to create content just for the sake of creating content, just as it’s wise to thoughtfully select which social media platforms should be used for your brand. It’s better to do a few well than have too many accounts that are not helping drive your brand forward. A branding guidelines document may also help keep your content and messaging on point.
Diving into your brand experience by considering every touchpoint where your customers interact with your brand, both online and offline, helps to ensure a consistent and positive interaction. You want your brand to be clear throughout the customer journey and reinforced at every opportunity. Developing strategies such as reward programs or personalized experiences may further engage your audience and maintain customer loyalty.
Evaluating your brand
After you launch your brand identity, the work isn’t quite finished. It’s important to continuously monitor what is working and what is not. Defining key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your brand strategy, such as brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and growth or sales figures.
Be ready to adapt and refine your strategy, especially for any paid endeavors like advertising, based on customer feedback and the results you are seeing, or as market conditions change.
Real-life successful brand stories
When you hear the words “Just do it.”, do you picture the Nike® swoosh logo in your head? If you see a white tech product with clean lines, do you automatically associate it with Apple®? Can you picture the logo, cups, and store design of the coffee shop you visit each morning? These are all examples of real-life successful brand identities.
Some of the biggest brands, like Apple®, Starbucks®, Google®, Amazon®, Nike®, and Coca-Cola®, all have well-established brand identities. It doesn’t matter that Starbucks and Nike are selling very different products; they both execute their brand strategies flawlessly throughout every part of their communications - delivering on their promise and fostering customer loyalty.
Small businesses can do this too. Start with the most important components of your brand, create an implementation plan, and monitor your results. Ultimately, you want a brand that is reflective of your business, telling your story to your customers, and making them want to know more.
And, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Hiring a marketing, design, or advertising consultant or agency may be one of the best investments you can make in your business. Apply for a SBA or other loan through the SmartBiz network and invest in your brand identity today.