Introduction to Branding
The Cambridge Dictionary defines branding as “the act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services.” This, unfortunately, is how many people understand or think of branding – as solely about a business’s visual identity or logo. Branding encompasses so much more than that. Yes, your business’s visual identity is a huge part of its branding, but so is your messaging and voice, the way you interact with your customers, your mission and your values, your company culture, and more. Branding is the complete identity of a company. It involves getting in touch with the heart of your customers and your business and sharing that heart with the world.
In this blog post we will walk through everything from the importance of branding, to how to build and maintain a strong brand, what branding mistakes to avoid, and how to choose the right branding agency for you.
The Importance of Branding
Branding has always been an essential part of building a strong business, but now it may be more important than ever before. Consumers today are craving authenticity and personal relationships with the brands and products they use. A brand that lacks a strong brand identity and fails to share their brand story with their audience is sure to fall by the wayside. In contrast, a brand that shares their story with their audience, presents authentic and consistent messaging and weaves their branding into every aspect of their business is sure to stand out from the crowd and experience scalable growth.
Branding involves more than just creating a logo. The process of branding involves researching, developing and defining a distinctive set of features to your organization so that consumers begin to associate your brand with your products or services. It involves digging deep and uncovering your brand’s true voice, your why and your story. Once your brand has a voice (how you want to communicate your products and services to the world), your visual identity and strategy will follow. Companies with strong brands know and understand that their brand identity needs to live in every aspect of their business. For small businesses, investing in your branding can have immense benefits. From increased brand recognition and loyalty, to building brand trust, inspiring your employees, and more, investing in your brand will directly grow your business.
How to Build a Strong Brand
Defining Your Brand Identity
Your brand identity can be thought of as your brand’s personality; how your brand presents itself to the world, what values it holds true, how it interacts with its audience, etc. Wayfair Senior Brand Manager Jared Rosen defines brand identity as “more than just finding the right logo to place on coffee cup sleeves or mount above your front door. It’s about crafting a personality that amplifies the core elements to your brand’s DNA.” Your brand identity shapes a consumer’s perception of your product or service. In order to build and define your unique brand identity, you must first know your business inside and out. This includes defining your mission as a brand, your value proposition, your unique positioning within the market, and your brand voice. These elements define your brand identity. It is essential to have a clear and concrete understanding of each prior to developing your full identity.
Creating a Brand Strategy
Once you’re clear on who you are as a brand, it’s time to develop a strategy to share your brand with the world. Your brand strategy should align all your marketing efforts across all channels being used. It should define your metrics for success. A solid brand strategy should act as a guide of the ins and outs of your brand, a plan of action for sharing your brand with the world, and a roadmap for creating a solid, successful and lasting brand.
Establishing Your Brand Message
Your brand messaging is a set of key messages or statements that will act as the foundation or guide for all of your external and internal brand communication. It involves finding the perfect balance or words that both reflect your brand identity and how you meet the needs of your audience. Therefore, the first step in establishing your brand messaging is getting to know your audience. In order to craft the perfect messaging for your brand, you’re going to want to know who you are talking to and what they care about. Once you’ve got a handle on that, you can articulate your value propositions, your mission statement, your tagline, and other brand messaging, to directly appeal to them.
Choosing Your Brand Elements
Once you’ve got your brand messaging and voice established, you can use that as inspiration to develop your visual brand elements, including your logo, your typeface, design elements, color palette, etc. It is important that your brand voice and your visual identity blend together seamlessly, complementing each other in perfect harmony.
Branding and Consumer Perception
The Impact of Branding on Customer Perception and Loyalty
Branding and consumer behavior go hand-in-hand. Strong branding has the ability to directly influence consumer’s perception of a product or service, their purchasing behavior and their trust and loyalty. A brand that presents a strong, consistent and positive identity and image to its audience will undoubtably experience better brand loyalty and trust among its consumers and see higher sales and revenue than brands with a weak or poorly represented brand identity. Once a consumer aligns with a brand – sharing the same values, view points, etc. – they become loyal to that brand, perceiving it as the best fit for them. Brand alignment comes with the presence of a strong brand promise, which lets your consumers know what your brand stands for, what makes it unique and why they should choose it over its competitors. All of this is presented through your brand identity, your brand messaging and voice, and your brand’s value proposition. Simply put, investing in your brand will help you create a strong connection with your audience, resulting in increased sales or clients and scalable growth for your business.
How to Shape the Perception of Your Brand
Brand perception is rarely set in stone. With each new generation, ever changing markets, societal and environmental norms, and, as we’ve recently experienced, global pandemics, a customer’s view of a brand has the potential to change. That is why it’s so important to continuously study your audience and your market, and be adaptable in order to flow with the ever changing norms of society. Through your unique brand voice and messaging, a strong visual representation of your brand, engaging with your audience and remaining consistent across all marketing channels you will be able to directly impact and shape the perception of your brand.
Maintaining a Strong Brand
The Importance of Consistency in Your Branding
Consistency is the key to maintaining a successful brand. A consistent brand identity and brand promise across all touch points and marketing channels will build trust and loyalty among your customers. From messaging, to visuals, to customer service and interactions, every aspect of your brand promise must be represented consistently and continuously in order to convey authenticity, trust and credibility to your audience. Yes, you may be reaching different audiences across different channels, but your messaging and brand promise must remain the same. It will create connection with your audience and reassure them of your commitment to delivering the products/services they need.
Ways to Maintain Your Brand Over Time
The most successful brands know who they are and what they promise to their audience. They stick to their brand promise and identity, from the visual to the interpersonal, while enhancing it as needed for transition and growth. Here are a few ways you can maintain your brand over time:
- Keep it consistent and keep it fresh. Consistency across all channels, from your website, to marketing materials, social media, and more, is imperative for the longevity of a brand. Messaging and visuals may evolve over time but honoring your core brand values as you grow will help you maintain the loyalty and trust of your customers.
- Root your brand deeply within your team. If you have a team that believes in your brand, it will really go a long way. Ensuring that your team knows your brand identity, your values and your messaging is key to maintaining a strong brand over time. Encourage them to share your brand story at any chance they get.
- Stay true to your core values and brand promise. It’s absolutely okay to update your brand look, refresh your messaging and evolve alongside the market and consumers. However, at your core, you want to remain true to your brand value proposition – your promise to your customers. This will not only solidify your position in the market, but also help you maintain brand loyalty and trust as you grow.
- Create a strategy and stick to it. It’s important to have a strategy in place for your brand in order to hit milestones, measure success and hold your team accountable. Be clear about your goals and how you will reach them, but always be open to new opportunities.
Common Branding Mistakes to Avoid
When it comes to branding, there are some things you want to avoid in order to build the strongest brand possible. One of the most common mistakes small to mid-size companies make when it comes to their brand is not truly understanding the power of branding, and as a result, not investing in their brand. Ignoring the importance of branding can cost you financially and result in missed opportunities.
Another mistake to avoid when developing your brand is failing to build solid brand guidelines for your company to follow. Developing strong brand guidelines and having a team in place to ensure that your branding is consistent across all channels is an essential part of developing and maintaining your brand. These guidelines should include everything from your messaging, to your logo, color palette, typography, and more. They represent your brand identity as a whole.
Finally, one of the biggest mistakes to avoid when it comes to branding is inconsistent representation of your brand. We discussed the importance of consistency in branding earlier, and failing to represent your brand in a consistent manner can really cost you. Not only will it cause confusion and distrust among your consumers, it will de-value the perception of your brand, costing you consumers, clients, sales and money. Always remember, consistency is the key to strong branding.
Working with a Branding Agency
The Benefits of Working with a Professional Branding Agency
So, you’re ready to start building your branding, but no sure where or how to begin? That’s where a professional branding agency can help. Working with an agency or branding company can not only result in a stellar brand identity, but it can save you huge amounts of time and money that you might spend trying to do it all yourself. A branding agency will help you create a solid brand strategy, define your mission and brand values, develop your visual identity, build your brand guidelines, and craft memorable messaging and marketing materials. They will also help you to research and define your unique position in the market and identify your target audience. The benefits of working with a professional branding agency are immense.
What to Look for in a Branding Agency
When it comes to hiring a branding agency, some things to look for might be a diverse portfolio of clients and projects, an excellent branding reputation among their peers;, regular, timely and consistent communication, a well-defined branding process and proof of branding success.
How to Find the Right Branding Agency for Your Needs
Finding the right branding agency to fit your needs may take time, but it will be worth the investment. Knowing whether an agency is a good fit for your brand really will come down to a feeling. Does the way the agency communicates fit your own team’s communication style? Does their past work and portfolio speak to you on a creative level? Do they have a solid branding process in place to get you from point A to point B? And, most importantly, does a partnership with them feel right?
Investing in your brand may be one of the smartest and most beneficial things you can do as a business owner. It will not only help you carve out your unique position in the market, but it will also help to build brand awareness, loyalty and trust among your target audience. Good branding has the ability to tell your story in an instant, build credibility and confidence and ultimately deliver results. Never underestimate the power and importance of branding.
Capital CFO+ offers a full suite of Brand Design + Development services that will help you fully develop and define your brand, from the inside out. We work with you to create a distinct brand identity and to ensure that it is carried out across all touch points and aspects of your business. Whether you’re just starting out and need help building the foundation of your brand, or you’re already established but feel as though your brand could use a little refresh, our services can be tailored to meet your needs. We’re here to help tell your story.
About Capital CFO+
Capital CFO+ LLC is based in Saratoga Springs, New York, providing bookkeeping, accounting, and CFO services. Capital CFO+ helps small firms access the economies of scale, efficiency, and expertise that large companies enjoy. Visit Pearl, our branch manager, at capitalcfollc.com or LinkedIn for more information.