Brand identity isn't just for well-known products with huge budgets. Your brand is everything about you, from pricing, to typography to the way your chat function greets each enquiry.
And unless you get it right, you'll struggle to make a reputation. Here's a brief guide to creating a brand from the ground up.
The key to creating a recognisable brand is consistency. Your brand should be easily identifiable, wherever a consumer encounters it. This means ensuring that your audience experiences the same look and feel across all divisions – from your brand website, to online retail channels and social media feeds, right through to your products and services themselves.
Honesty and transparency are qualities that make us trust the people in our lives – building a strong, lasting brand relies on the same qualities. Expressing honest insights, opinions and news with your audience automatically makes your brand more trustworthy.
Building your brand: first steps
Figure out what you offer that no one else is offering. Take some time as a team to define your brand. Address why your product or service is important to your audience, rather than focusing on what it can do. Study your main competitors and analyse how effectively they communicate their brand messaging – aim to reach above and beyond existing benchmarks.
When building your brand, the goal is to stand out from the competition. No-one knows your brand better than you, so it’s up to you to spread the word.
Establish a ‘Tone of Voice’ to give your brand its own distinct and recognisable register. All the content you produce should have the same TOV – when your tone is consistent, your audience builds trusts in the sentiment of the words they read and, ultimately, rewards your brand with their loyalty.
A brand is much more than just a logo. Real attention to detail across every element that could touch the public is what makes a brand truly professional. Take a look at the 'brand books' other businesses have commissioned (a google search for 'brand guidelines' will yield thousands of hits), and evaluate everything that can constitute your brand – from your typeface to the way you answer the phone.
Building blocks of your brand
Open the door with a smile
Tell your e-commerce shoppers who you are immediately. It will help them connect with your brand and will shape their shopping experience. Your company name, logo, shopping experience and marketing strategy should follow from your core brand story.
Although big retailers dominate much of the online world, small business e-commerce sites have one big advantage: you can offer a highly personal customer experience. Look for ways to build a visual connection with your customers as soon as they hit the landing page.
Every brand should evolve in response to a changing market. Chances are, if your logo hasn’t been redesigned in years, it might not reflect the company’s current core vision, or what its services are at the time.
And, when hiring employees, make sure they are onboard with the mission, vision, and values of your brand. After all, if everyone in your organisation believes in what you're trying to achieve and they communicate those values to everyone they deal with, every day, your business will grow.
Align your online and offline branding
If your brand has a bricks-and-clicks approach to business, with an online and a physical presence, it's important to make sure both elements are given the same attention to detail. It can be easy for offline and digital assets to become disjointed, since they are often overseen by different marketing teams. Remember, your customers don't care if your shop and your website are looked after by different people – to them, your brand is one entity and failure by any part of it hurts the whole.
Your audience is looking for an experience tailored to their needs, backed by genuine personal interactions. Listening to your consumer is the easiest way to build brand trust. Whenever someone reaches out to your brand – whether by leaving a review on a product page, commenting on a blog post, or a direct tweet on social media – take the time to listen to them. Understand their point of view and respond to them personally, in a conversational tone – using 'I' and 'you'.
Reviews and testimonials – as long as they’re genuine – are a great way to win trust. Be sure to include some on your website landing pages and social media feeds. Give your loyal audience a voice – encourage them to post reviews, or share your content.
Nutella brand identity
Take a branding masterclass
Even if your business is just you, a lesson from the world's best brands can be very useful. You don't have to be in the sportswear business to appreciate how well Nike communicates its values and stays fresh, year after year. We all know the Nike tagline, ‘Just Do It’, but do you know their mission statement?
Nike’s mission is: 'To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.'
They also include a caveat from Nike co-founder, and legendary University of Oregon track and field coach, Bill Bowerman, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Nike’s mission statement guides everything they do. They focus on all types of athletes using Nike products to embody their very best self. It's worth investing in a little outside help, or taking yourself away from your day-to-day workload to distill what your business is really for, so that you stay focused on the right things in years to come.
The Nike advertising strategy focuses on endorsement from global top-tier athletes, and in 2017 they spent US$3.34bn on advertising and promotion. Nike is currently worth US$29.6bn, making it the 16th most valuable brand in the world. But they started small, with a clear focus and a compelling brand.
A change in direction can also be highly profitable if you get it right. Burberry demonstrated that brands can successfully be re-imagined by adapting current styles, while still celebrating its history. In the early 2000s, the signature brand became associated with a negative stereotype that undermined their aspirational aims.
The brand responded by reducing the visibility of their distinctive pattern. In 2002, it appeared on 20% of all products. By 2004, it featured on less than 5%. Today, the brand is one of the world’s most valuable luxury brands, worth US$4.34bn. Burberry proved that a brand refresh can be critical to maintaining relevance in the market.
How to look reputable: The basics of visual identity
- Make sure that everything that you do is consistent and high quality (logos, typography, photography etc.). In other words, look credible.
- Be visually relevant to your audience... Do you look too young? Too old? Too corporate? Not corporate enough?
- Does your copy have the correct tone of voice? Too serious? Too funny? Is this reflected in your choice of words or images?
- Is your identity relevant to your story? Are you ecologically sound? Is your persona quirky? Are your products better than the competition? Your branding should reflect your story, products and ethos.
- Be memorable. Communicate your passion for your business and give your audience clear 'reasons to buy'. Give them a rational position wrapped up in an emotional one.
- What are the visual cues for your sector? If you’re a baker you need to come across like a baker, with colors that are relevant to that sector.
- Look at your competitors and strike a balance between being relevant and standing out. Look for what gives you a Unique Selling Proposition.
- Be mindful of your marketplace and take into account global nuances such as type, language, layout and images that may be visually offensive.
- If your brand occupies the physical and virtual worlds, make sure that they are consistent and that logos etc. are of high enough resolution to work across all channels. What are your key brand beacons? They should directly extend your brand across all media.
- Present your products in a thoughtful way. Give them levels of information that allow viewers to understand both the functional and emotional aspects of your brand, products or services.
- Keep things really simple. People just don’t have time. Use enlarged type size to focus on key messages and to 'draw' the reader into the story.
- Demonstrate passion for and ownership of your brand, and convey this through words, images, sounds and film. Show your customers the 'whites of your eyes'.
- Visually demonstrate the levels of your service so far: publish endorsements, reviews and customer comments. Openly accept criticism and respond in a way that others can see.
- Give customers as much detail as they need. Show product photography from all angles. Offer insights about the products or services.
- Don't hide third-party endorsements. Show industry accreditations using recognisable industry-quality marques.
- Don’t forget theatre. All retail is about creating demand and engagement. Change your 'shop window' frequently. Keep your home page fresh, relevant and topical.