Branding plays a key role in the development of every successful business.
New businesses have the advantage that they are starting with a clean slate with no ‘baggage’ to contend with. This is not only the most critical time to get it right, it is also your best opportunity to create a strong brand. Why? Because when working on starting a new business, you are effectively creating the foundations of your brand. The problem is that many new business owners do not realise that they are missing a great opportunity to start building their brand
Make the most of the work you are already doing by considering the following examples:
You are already doing much of the groundwork required to create a brand so don’t throw it away – use it to create a strong brand that will support your business for many years to come.
To help you understand the basics of branding your new business, we have created a set of questions designed to help you think about the foundations of your new business and, therefore, your brand.
We recommend that you take time to consider these questions carefully. If you have difficulty answering any of the questions, that may be highlighting an area that you may not have considered – don’t ignore it – spending time working through it now will help you to reap the benefits in the future.
Your brand should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you from your competitors in your market. In order to achieve this, you need to have a very clear understanding of what value your products/services add to your customers.
Consequently, the stock answers like “we make widgets” or “we sell widgets” won’t cut it. You need to define what you do in such a way that prospective customers understand exactly what you do and, more importantly, how what you do will benefit them. In order words, what needs of your prospective customers are satisfied by the products/services you offer?
If you can’t answer this question, research your target market in order to understand the needs and concerns of your customers (both emotional and rational). Next, review your products/services in order to understand how they can best meet the needs of your target market.
If your products/services do not meet the needs of the customers in your target market you should either modify them to meet these needs or modify your business model to target a more appropriate market.
When people in your organisation have a clear understanding of its overarching purpose they will be more motivated, make better decisions and, therefore, be more productive. It is, therefore, important for you to understand the purpose of your business and also to communicate that purpose clearly to all of the people involved with your business.
Do not confuse the purpose of your business with the question ‘what is it that you do?’ They are very different things. One way to understand what your purpose is, is to ask “in order to” to your answer to the ‘what do you do?’ question. Keep asking the “in order to” question until you get a statement that is clear and is inspirational to you, your employees, your customers and prospective customers.
Your purpose can often be used in its original form, or in a condensed form, as a tag line that can form part of your brand identity. For example, at BlueIce Brands, our tag line is “Creating Brands That Work” as this describes our purpose of creating brands that will work in the way that our clients want. It is for this reason that we put a great deal of effort into understanding our client’s business as well as their aims and objectives before creating their brand.
When starting your new business it is important set out your goals and objectives for the business. This effectively sets the destination for where you want your business to be at some point in the future.
This is an important building block for both your new business and for your brand because unless you know where you are going, you will not be able to make plans for the direction and growth of your business. Remember the old adage – fail to plan, plan to fail!
Think carefully about the short, medium and long-term aspirations that you have for your business and categorise them as follows:
Objectives – short-term, usually 1-3 years in the future
Goals – medium term, usually 3-5 years in the future
Vision – long-term, usually over 5 years in the future
Please note that these three categories do not stand alone – they should to be linked to each other so that attaining your objectives leads to achieving your goals which, in turn, helps to attain your vision.
Once you have set and committed to these targets you should put plans in place to take action to achieve them.
A business and, therefore, its brand is like a person in so much as it is made up of beliefs and values which determines how it behaves in different situations. When building a brand it is, therefore, crucial to have a clear understanding of the values and ethos that will guide your business.
Consequently, it is important to establish a set of values that make up the ethos that act as the moral compass that guides your new business as it grows, creating a stronger business with clear direction, as well as helping to define your corporate identity.
The culture of your organisation (which is driven by its values and ethos) plays a critical role, not only in shaping your new brand identity, but in building the reputation of the brand over time. When you are starting a new business it is important to create the culture that supports the values of your new business.
As new people are employed and others leave there is a risk that the values and ethos of the business are diluted or even changed over time. These changes can result in a disconnect between your brand promise and the product/service delivery which can have an adverse effect on your brand’s reputation. It is, therefore, important to takes steps to ensure that your culture remains consistent as your business grows.
Remember, clear values supported by a strong culture will create a strong brand.
Your target market is the group of customers that you aim your marketing efforts towards. The more clearly you understand your target, the more your marketing materials will be suited to the people in your target market and will, therefore, generate a better response rate. Consequently, a well-defined target market is not only a critical element of your marketing strategy but also plays a significant role in developing your brand and in the success of your business in your marketplace.
Target markets tend to be defined by market segmentation including geographic, demographic, psychographic (attitudes, values, and lifestyles), product-related, etc. The nature of your product/service will determine your target market.
Having identified and defined your target market the next phase in your brand and marketing strategy is to determine how your brand and marketing strategies can be used to differentiate your business from your competitors in your target market(s).
Your differentiation strategy will be an important factor in developing your new brand. When done well your brand can become the key differentiator in your marketplace. Think about famous brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Microsoft, Apple, etc. It can be argued that their brand name, image and reputation have become a key differentiator for them. These brands did not become famous overnight – they all started as new businesses that nobody knew and have done a great job in building their brand.
You may think that this is an obvious question or even not relevant to your business. Why does it matter what makes an ideal customer so long as you have customers buying your products/services? The fact is that this is probably one of the most important questions you can ask as not every customer is the same and you need to know what makes the ideal customer for your business. For example, some customers will be easier to deal with, some will spend more money with you, some will always look for the cheapest price etc.
Before you can describe your ideal customer you first have to have a clear understanding of what makes an ideal customer for your business. This will vary from business to business and will depend on many factors so there is no ‘one answer fits all’ solution.
If you already have customers, look carefully at your current customers and identify the ones that are ideally suited for your business, both now and in the future. You may, for example, look at how much they spend, how profitable their business is to you, are they repeat customers or one-off buyers, can they provide introductions to more customers, what are their ethical standards, etc.
If you do not have any (or many) customers then think carefully about what sort of people you want to attract as customers and apply the criteria discussed above to them.
Remember the elements and factors that make your ideal customer will be unique to your business so the information that you consider will be specific to your business.
Once you have a clear understanding of what makes an ideal customer for your business, the next step is to describe what the ‘look like’. Giving your ideal customers ‘personas’ will help you to gain a clear picture of your target audience and will enable you to better understand the needs, wants and concerns of your prospective customers.
This in turn will help you to develop a brand with associated visual elements that are designed to appeal to your target audience. It will also help when developing marketing materials as you will be able to write copy and create designs aimed specifically at your ideal customer.
To create these personas, look at the information you have gathered about who your ideal customers are and then describe them in as much detail as you can. This will, for example, include things like age, sex, marital status, job title, etc. The exact nature of the information you need to consider will depend on who your ideal customer is. For example, clients of a large professional services firm will have a totally different persona to those of a local hairdresser.
Remember that your ideal customer may well be a company rather than an individual. In this case you can consider what it would be like if it was a person and thereby give the company a persona.
All of the work you have done to this point has been laying the foundations of your brand. The information gathered will be used to create a strong visual identity for your business that is aligned with your business goals and values and is focused on your target market(s) and ideal customers.
Your visual identity generally comprises your business name, a logo and a colour scheme. These are the visual elements if your brand and are what people see and, therefore, most associate with your business. It is, therefore, important to get this right by creating a visual identity for your new business that is in keeping with your goals and ideals and is supported by your brand foundations.
When creating the visual elements of your brand there are a number of issues/questions that you should consider: Do you want a logo to represent your brand or simply the business/brand name? What colours best represent your brand? If you want a logo, what shapes best represent your brand? It can also be useful to consider which brands you like and which you dislike – either within or out with your industry. Note that this is not to copy the ones you like but to give the brand designer an idea of the route to take when developing your brand.
When working with a brand designer you should give them a very clear design brief that sets out all of the information that you have collated to this point.
At BlueIce Brands, we work with you throughout the process so we have a clear understanding of your business before creating your brands visual identity.
The Brand Voice of your business is how the character of your brand is communicated through the words you use and the text you write. You can think of it as your visual identity in words rather than pictures.
Speaking to your customers (either verbally or in writing) with a consistent tone of voice will help reinforce your business’ character and clarify its offering.
Managing the written tone of voice is a key part of achieving a unified character across all your communications, both internal and external, so that it feels like it is coming from a single source. Please note that these written communications include your website, e-mail and social media.
The easiest way to create your brands tone of voice is to consider it in relation to the personality of your brand. If your business or brand was a person, what would they be like? how would they speak? what style of language would they use? etc.
A believable tone of voice has to be grounded in reality. It is, for example, far easier to stick to a tone of voice if it is similar to they way you habitually write or speak. For example, if your business is no-nonsense and ‘all business’, your tone of voice is likely to be more formal and business-like. Conversely, if your business is dynamic and ‘fun loving’ then your tone of voice will be less formal.
Developing a brand for your business is an expensive process, whether that be in monetary value, time invested or, most likely, both. Consequently, it makes sense to protect your investment.
We have written a number of FAQ’s about protecting your brand that will give you an idea of some of the options that are available to you. The cost of these options can vary from being free to being relatively expensive.
The basic rule of thumb is to take as many steps and precautions as to you to protect your brand while it is being created and can be changes, rather than waiting until after it has been launched when it is more difficult and costly to make amendments.