What comes to mind when you think about branding? Logos, colors, taglines?
Those are all important parts of a brand, but branding is more than just a logo or a tagline. Your brand isn’t just one element. It’s the way customers feel when they think about your company. It’s your reputation. It’s your story.
Branding is the process of actively creating the reputation, story, and feelings customers associate with you. The brand isn’t a product—it’s the process.
As a business, you need to take control of that process and create a brand that aligns with who you are, connects with people, and showcases what’s unique about you. Read on to discover the six steps you need to take to create a rock-solid brand!
Step 1: Know Your Audience
Branding starts with your audience. You can’t make any strong branding choices until you get clear on who you’re selling to.
It can be tempting to not want to niche or narrow down your audience. But when you try to market to everyone, you won’t appeal to anyone. Niching lets you come across as more authentic and more of an expert in your industry, and it saves you money on marketing mistakes.
Get clear on who your target audience is before you establish your branding elements. Everything you create for your brand should be done with that target audience in mind.
If you have trouble defining your audience, think about what problem your business solves. Who benefits from what you offer the most? That will help you narrow in on the people who will want to become your loyal audience!
Step 2: Discover Your USP
With 500,000 brands in the world, it’s harder than ever to stand out. The most important step in branding is finding a way to differentiate yourself. You need to uncover your USP, or unique selling point. It’s the benefit that you can offer that sets you apart from your competitors.
We tend to think this needs to be something big and revolutionary. Sometimes, it is. Uber’s launch, for example, disrupted an entire industry and paved the way for the modern gig economy. The entire concept was new. Apple did the same with the first personal computer and the first practical smartphone.
Most of the time, though, the USP is more subtle and more difficult to discover. It’s a smaller quality that sets you apart.
Think about what makes your company special. Are you family-owned? Do you use local products? Maybe you personally handle your customer service. Those special touches that your customers love form your USP.
The USP then becomes the focal point of your brand. Every other part of the process centers around that.
Step 3: Write a Brand Positioning Statement
If you don’t get clear on where you’re going with your branding, you’re going to make mistakes. Those mistakes will cost you time, money, and momentum. Just as you would draw up a business plan or a marketing strategy, you need to define your branding strategy before you start creating brand elements.
The best place to start is by writing your brand positioning statement, which helps you simplify and clarify your branding goals.
A great brand positioning statement has four elements: your industry, your target market, your big benefit, and why you do it better than anyone else.
Think about those four pieces, then write it into a statement using this framework:
Let’s take a look at an example. Here’s Chipotle’s brand positioning statement:
“Chipotle provides premium, real ingredients for customers looking for delicious food that’s ethically sourced and freshly prepared. Chipotle’s dedication to cultivating a better world by cutting out GMOs and providing responsibly raised food sets them apart in the food industry.”
You can clearly see the four elements in their statement. They state what they offer (premium, real ingredients), their target audience (customers looking for good, ethically sourced, fresh food), and their big benefit/USP (cultivating a better world by cutting out GMOs and concentrating on responsibly raised food).
Your brand positioning statement isn’t a marketing tool—it’s usually an internal guide. But defining it and writing it down is important. It keeps you driven and focused on the direction your brand should be taking.
Step 4: Establish Your Brand Story
It seems like everyone’s talking about brand storytelling these days, but it’s more than just a passing trend. Storytelling works. It connects people, builds relationships and trust, and engages people. But more important than any of that? Stories stick.
The only way to stand out in a sea of competitors is to make sure that you are not forgettable.
With a strong brand story, you can make sure that consumers remember you. This leads directly to more profits. People who appreciate your brand story are 55% more likely to purchase from you.
A brand story is more than just a bio or an origin story. It should incorporate the reason you started your brand, the struggles you faced, and how you overcame them. It should also include your values and mission, and how you’re working toward them.
When people read your brand story, they should feel like they know you and trust you. In turn, they will want to support you.
Step 5: Create the Elements
Many companies skip the first four steps and jump right into creating logos and choosing colors then try to build their brand around the elements.
But skipping the big picture ideas, like your USP and your target market, leaves your brand unfocused and incohesive.
Instead, use the big ideas to inspire the other elements. You can lift part of your brand positioning statement to craft your tagline, base your logo around your brand story, and use the emotions you want your target audience to feel to dictate your brand colors.
It makes the decision-making process easier, and helps you create a cohesive, consistent brand that highlights who you are and what makes you special.
Step 6: Base Marketing on Your Brand
Your branding work isn’t done once you’ve established the elements of your brand. Once you move into marketing mode, branding is still relevant.
Use your brand strategy to create your marketing strategy. Every ad, every piece of content, every video you put out, needs to tie into the big ideas you established in the branding process.
Remember to stay authentic, but also stay flexible. You might realize a few years in that you’ve changed as a person and a company. Or you might find through marketing that you serve a different audience than you initially intended.
You want to stay strong in your brand and your values, but you also need to be open to change. Your brand is never set in stone. It’s always an ongoing process!
Looking for more branding tips? Check out our post, The Worst Rebrand in History: How to Avoid Tropicana’s Famous Failure for what NOT to do when you rebrand.