How do you develop your brand?
A ‘brand’ is a bit of a sliding scale and depending on who you ask, you’ll most likely get a variety of answers. To a lot of people, a brand is just a recognisable logo. Everyone can recognise Coca-Cola, Boots, MacDonald’s, M&S, and for those of us who live in the North West, we can recognise the blue and yellow brand colours on the M62 from miles away even before we can read the word ‘IKEA’ (other reputable motorways are available).
Who are you talking to?
But there’s a little more to a brand than a logo and some nice colours. Your brand is your guarantee to your client or customer, it tells them your philosophies to the services you provide, what they can expect, and why you’re a better choice than competitors (AKA, USP or ‘differentiator’). These brand messages should stem from who, or what, you want to be and what you want people to think of you. This is important and extends further than a pretty logo and a snappy strapline.
The truth is, not everyone who is a potential client will want your services. As a company you should know who your target customer is and develop your brand messages and promises to appeal to these people. That involves understanding who you are as a company and what you can offer, and also understanding what your target market is looking for. It’s about building resonance, mutual understanding, and importantly, trust. Considering this and delivering on promises means, more often than not, you will actually like each other and develop good relationships with people you want to work with.
How are you talking to customers?
Once you’ve decided who you want to communicate with you need to figure out how, where and when you do this to develop your brand strategy. How are you going to deliver your brand messages verbally and visually? Obviously your logo is key to this and having it applied consistently to any marketing is important. Developing brand guideline documents is a useful resource to ensure your logo is used correctly in all applications both online and offline. This is why most big corporations and global companies can get quite sniffy about how their logo is used and whether it’s used without authorisation.
This consistency of application brings prestige to your brand identity as it communicates ‘standards’ which results in respect and value. Clients and customers then recognise this value which is why they are prepared to pay for a can of Coca-Cola at a higher price than a can of Panda Pops. This also leads onto ‘perceived value’ and is why sponsorship deals with notable sportspeople results in people being willing to buy Nike and Adidas products in Sports Direct rather than the cheaper Lonsdale or Karrimor alternatives.
Developing a brand identity
This is tricky and it’s important to get right. A good starting point is being able to answer these questions.
- What is your company trying to achieve fir itself, and for customers?
- What sets you apart from other companies delivering the same services?
- What do your existing customers already think about your company?
- What would you like them to think? What qualities do you have or want people to know?
The last two rely on finding out what your customers feel about your company. Don’t rely on guesswork. Ask them.
Actions to take
Once you developed your brand identity, there are some things you’ll need to do to develop a strategy.
- Design an eye-catching and distinctive logo. Protect it with your life!
- Develop a brand strapline, message or philosophy. Make sure customers and team members know it, and what it means.
- Apply you brand identity in all aspects of your business both visually and verbally. Depending on the size of your business this could be something as simple as business cards and elevator pitch or extend to how the phone is answered and staff uniforms.
- Define a ‘voice’. Is you company fun, serious, corporate, friendly, formal, approachable? Make sure this voice is communicated in visuals and the way you deal with customers.
- Develop a brand guidelines document which lays out the rules and standards for the visual side of your branding, e.g. how your logo is used, which fonts must be used on websites and literature, etc. This must be consistent and can be something quite simple. In fact, simple is best.
- Deliver on what you promise otherwise your customers will figure it out quickly. It’s no use developing a respected brand just to not live up to your guarantees – just ask Gerald Ratner.
How do you develop your brand?
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