Branding can be a scary word in the business world. For the uninitiated, a brand can be perceived as how a company looks visually in such aspects as website design and logo. Those are great places to start branding, but they are not the full picture. Branding, in essence, is whittling down your business to solve a pain point, yielding positive results, both profit-wise and through word of mouth to build your company’s reputation. All businesses sell an experience, whether it be the perfect mouthwash to kiss a lover or a set of high-quality tires that make customers feel safe in a snowstorm. There will always be businesses selling exactly what you offer – the trick to standing out in a crowded market is being unique.
There are 5 steps to the branding process, and they should be treated as individual processes rather than a melting pot.
Step 1 : SWOT Analysis
When writing your business plan, you most likely assessed your business through using the SWOT acronym: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is time to dig back through the data to reevaluate.
• What pain point is your business solving?
• Which areas are your weaknesses?
• What are avenues within your business on which you could expand?
• How is your competition smoking you?
Step 2: Tell Your Story
Every day we tell ourselves the same story: we are successful for this reason or conversely, we are not successful for this other reason. In a business, clients want to be in the know and you can do this simply by sharing your story. Perhaps you started your vacuum cleaners for dogs business as a result of enlightenment in India, or you figured out on your back porch that the world needs more pumpkin flavored gluten-free items. Throw your personality into your story. Make the experience memorable and delightful – only the Soup Nazi gets away with berating his customers to their delight.
Step 3: Stand Out
Angle yourself to stand out. If you have the best meatballs, passed down through twelve generations, use that as a selling point. You’re solving a pain point by offering up the best meatballs this side of Italy or Sweden, and the customer can bring their family in and share your delights, thus creating a memorable experience.
Step 4: Build Character
During this step in the process, take a break. Sit down and review steps 1-3, because you’ll be looking towards the future from this point on. Consider how your identity is being perceived and make sure your intentions are clear. Be creative and make a personality that matches your brand. If you sell organic dog treats, make sure it comes across that your brand’s personality loves canines.
Step 5: Unified Voice
The final step is to express yourself in all facets of your business.
• What is your voice for social media?
• How will visuals represent your identity?
• What will your signature be?
Perhaps it’s a vegan cheesecake, or roses on everything in your store. Consider Bethany Frankel of Skinny Girl fame – her signature is the color red. It goes on everything and she herself always wears red when making appearances. Be intentional with your message, both overtly and in the subtext.
Branding is an ongoing process.
SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis should be done on a consistent basis.
- Aim for every three months and prepare goals to meet each time when doing an in depth review.
- Stay true to your vision and brand without jumping on every trend. Your target audience will reward your efforts with loyalty and act as your brand advocates.
- Your brand message should be consistent. Consumers need to be able to identify your brand’s voice and character. After you have solidified your brand’s voice, make in known both on social media and in-person.
- Don’t follow trends, be consistent, and focus on providing excellent customer experiences.
- Your target audience should also be engaged with your brand, not inundated with advertising.
One example of brand continuation is Starbucks. With its humble beginnings as a Seattle coffee shop, the brand now has become a global phenomenon. They have simplified their packaging, graphics, storefronts, and make every attempt to make customer experience memorable while making trends of their own. All one has to do is ask if anyone they know is excited for a pumpkin spice latte. Excitement is usually the response and there are even websites that count down the days until it is returned for the season. Starbucks continues to evolve the brand by opening Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Rooms offering premium products, new consumables, and seasonal offerings that have amassed a cult following.