Brand Building 101: 11 Steps to Building an Effective Brand
Each day, consumers encounter thousands of advertisements. From display advertisements and social media posts to product placement and email marketing, marketing tactics are constantly growing, evolving, and competing for advertising spaces that are becoming increasingly cluttered. People purchase great products, but for a brand to truly stand out amongst your competitors a great product is not enough – you will need a strong and effective brand.
A good branding strategy delivers a unique experience – one that will enable you to distinguish yourself in a saturated market, establish an emotional connection with your consumers, and convert your ‘one time purchasers’ into loyal ‘users’ and ‘advocates’ that will drive growth for your company over time. In the following article, we lay out 11 steps to effectively build your brand and deliver your distinct experience at every touchpoint.
What is Brand Building?
To understand what brand building is, it may be useful to first understand other terms in branding. For example, what is a ‘brand’? Your brand is essentially your company’s personality, a combination of every aspect of your company, including its products, people, logo, voice, graphics, colours, fonts, messages, and values. It is the impression and emotional connections your consumers have of you that extends beyond the functionality of your products. Therefore, your 'brand strategy' is the creation of your personality according to your business and marketing goals.
Once you have created your brand, ‘brand building’ is the process by which you maintain, grow, and refresh your brand through marketing and promotional activities. Brand building is not a onetime activity, but an ongoing process that requires creativity, authenticity, knowledge of trends in the market, consistency, personalization, and comprehensive analytics to establish a brand that connects with your consumers in the long term.
Building your Brand
First, you need to create a brand that effectively suits your company while resonating with your market and target consumers:
1. Define your Business and Marketing Objectives
At the beginning of brand building, you must ask yourself – what are your business objectives? What do you aim to accomplish in the long run? Where do you want your business to be in a few years? How big do you wish to scale your business? What do you need to do to reach your goals? What types of audiences are you aiming to reach in the process?
All marketing objectives should then stem from your business objectives. Whether you aim to generate product awareness, increase return purchase rates, acquire new customers, increase profit margins, increase traffic, or improve your brand reputation, you will need to set concrete goals that define the basis of all your branding activities. To set effective goals that you can later use to measure your progress, use the SMART framework:
The SMART Framework:
Specific: Your goals should be clear, unambiguous, and focused, so your team knows what they will be working towards.
Measurable: Your goals should use key performance indicators (KPI) to benchmark your progress and measure your success.
Achievable: Your goals should be realistic and attainable, set within the capabilities of your team.
Relevant: Your goals should be an extension of your business objectives and push you in the direction you would like your business to go.
Time-Bound: Your goals should have a specific time frame in which you achieve your goals to ensure maximal efficacy
An example of a great goal could be: To increase our market share by 10% in the next six months.
2. Conduct an Internal Brand Audit
To assess the company’s position, capabilities, and stakeholder vision, you may consider starting with an internal brand audit. No matter what stage your business is in, you may benefit from an internal brand audit to understand how your C-suite, managers, investors, and employees envision your company and areas for growth. A crucial element of successful branding is authenticity, and authentic branding can only stem from the people in your company.
You may conduct a brand audit in multiple forms, such as interviews, polls, surveys, and focus groups. In our other article, we have listed 25 sample questions you can use for your internal brand audit to better understand your company.
3. Conduct External Research
Next, you want to understand your current consumers' needs fully, your target consumers' desires, ongoing market trends, and your competitors' positioning to create a brand that is set for long-term success. With this, you will need to conduct some external research into the following three categories:
Desktop Research into ongoing market trends to understand which topics, designs, and behavioural patterns are on an upward incline and allow you to position your brand building for success without needing a re-brand or brand refreshment too quickly.
Competitor Research to understand your competitors' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, identifying their positioning to decide whether your products can succeed in direct competition or whether you want to find a niche in an area of uncontested market space.
Consumer Research – And finally, most important of all, you want to conduct comprehensive research into your current and potential target consumers. You will need to understand what they need, desire, the problems they encounter, and how they behave to build a brand that can connect with them on a more fundamental and emotional level.
4. Extract Insights
From your research, you will then extract, corroborate, and compile relevant insights to help you and your team in the brand-building process.
A great tool for extracting insights is called Perceptual Mapping. Developed by the Harvard Business Review, it allows you to connect your desired brand positioning with business outcomes (such as sales and price), and map them in relation to your competitors on one graph. With this tool, you can then easily visualize where your brand stands in the market.
5. Create your Brand Strategy
Once you are confident in your understanding of your company, market, and consumers, you can begin creating the textual elements of brand strategy. Altogether, the below elements will form the primary messages and values your brand will convey, and how you will communicate them:
Brand Positioning Statement – After understanding the niche you wish you to own in your relative marketplace, you will want to create a one or two-sentence statement that will serve as the guiding foundation to your brand strategy. Here, you define your brand's primary value and message that will form your company's identity. For example, Uber’s positioning statement is: “We are about moving people to where they want to be. In their day, in their lives, in the moment.” From this statement, we can easily understand that Uber’s brand message is grounded in empowering people through movement
Mission – An aspirational statement that tells your consumer what your company aims to achieve in the big picture
Vision – Another aspirational statement that describes your company’s desired future position in the market.
Tagline – A simple and punchy slogan that relays what your company wants to achieve in a catchy way
Value Proposition – This is a statement that will define how your brand delivers certain functional or emotive benefits and describes why consumers should choose your brand.
Brand DNA – A series of short adjectives woven throughout your text that describes the image and key emotional benefits of your brand that consumers can expect from your product.
Reason to Believe – A statement that explains why consumers should trust your company and why they may identify with your company's values and the products you deliver.
Unique Selling Proposition - This statement explains the unique benefit(s) your company, service, or product exhibits that enable you to excel over your competitors.
Tone – You will also want to define how you want to convey your messages. Would you adopt a more colloquial and casual tone? Or will it be more authoritative and informative? Will it be more humorous and cheeky? Or will it be more professional and serious? Your tone is the voice of your personality and plays an important role in carving a unique impression in your consumers' minds.
6. Define your Brand Identity
Next, create the visual elements of your brand, which we have explained briefly below. For more detailed explanations, please check out our article on brand identity:
Colour palette – Different colours can invoke different emotive responses. For example, blue is a more calming colour and red is a more fiery, passionate, and exciting colour. Depending on your brand strategy, what colours will represent your brand?
Typography – Different fonts can also affect your consumers’ perceptions of your brand. Do you use a cleaner and minimal font to convey an elegant and refined brand, or perhaps a thicker font for a trendier look?
Graphic/Photographic style – Distinctive images are among the most effective ways to grab your audience's attention. What kind of mood do you want to convey through your image? Is your brand more editorial or every day? The consistency of your images and style plays a crucial part in building your brand’s image.
Logo – Your logo is essentially the front door to your company. As one of the first branded elements your audience sees, what kinds of colours, shapes, and images would you use to reflect your brand message?
7. Test your Brand Strategy and Identity
When all of your textual and visual elements are complete, you will want to test them in the market to double-check that they resonate with your audience. There are multiple testing methods through surveys, focus groups, and gauging your engagement through social media advertisements.
8. Market your Brand Strategically
Now that your brand has been created, consider how you will express it through different marketing channels. Think about your audience and which channels resonate with them most, which social media platforms will reach the majority of your target audience. You will need to translate your brand identity through content creation. Will you use articles, videos, images, user-generated content or other mediums to communicate your brand messages? Whether or not your marketing is promoting a specific product or an overarching value, your content should reflect and uphold the brand messages determined in your strategy.
9. Analyse your Brand
Learn about the success of your brand building through a host of online analytics tools are available to gain information through your digital platforms, such as websites and social media accounts. There is Google Analytics for website analyses, Brandwatch for social listening, Heepsy for social media engagement, Facebook Audience Analytics for information on your Facebook followers, and Instagram’s built-in insights tool for Creators or Business Accounts. With these tools, you can understand which content and messages solicit more interest and engagement, and which marketing efforts may need more improvement.
10. Maintain Consistency
It takes an average consumer five to eight encounters with a brand to remember it. One of the most crucial elements of your brand building process is maintaining the consistency of your brand through all your channels. Consistency can prove a challenge for companies with employees that come and go, and marketing output can vary accordingly. With this, we often utilise a set of ‘brand guidelines’, also called a ‘brandbook’, to list all the dos and don’ts of your brand strategy and brand identity. The more specific your guidelines are, the better you will be to maintain your brand's consistency.
11. Revise and Refresh your Brand
Ultimately, brand building is an ongoing process. As the market evolves and changes over time, patterns of consumer behaviour will change as well. Steps 1-11 of this guide should be repeated periodically to ensure that your brand grows with the market, and remains relevant to your current and potential target consumers. Continuously revise and refresh your brand to effectively deepen brand loyalty and see growth for your company over time
Consumers recognise when the messages they receive are not built upon truth, so a brand’s strength lies in the authenticity. Undertaking the ongoing process of brand building is one of continuous improvement, bolstering relevancy and deepening relationships with consumers. From comprehensive analytics and data sets derived from your market, industry and target audience to activating your brand strategy throughout marketing channels, your brand building journey is a long-term process of discovery, growth and assessment – a journey that results in greater returns.
What did you think about this? We would love to hear your feedback! Please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to learn more, please also see our other articles on branding and how we have helped our clients grow their brand effectively.