Make no mistake about it: a recognizable and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets a company owns. According to a Nielson survey, 59% of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them. As a small business, you may be competing against big brands with devoted customers and unlimited marketing budgets. That’s why you have to find ways to differentiate—with a solid brand building process of your own.
Branding is much more than just a cool logo, it is much more and is defined by a customer’s overall perception of your business.
Your brand is your reputation, your voice and if we pick one and only one word to describe what a brand needs it’s: CONSISTENCY
Branding doesn’t happen overnight…or even in a few months.
Building a brand is definitely a process. However, the ongoing effort will result in establishing long-term relationships with your customers.
This can lead to a steady increase in sales, more projects, word-of-mouth referrals, and advocacy for your products or services.
What is brand building?
The definition of brand building is to generate awareness about your business using marketing strategies and campaigns with the goal of creating a unique and lasting image in the marketplace.
Positive impression + standing out = brand success.
In 2020, the amplification of your brand image can be done effectively through various digital marketing activities:
Together, these channels are fundamental to gaining brand awareness and growth. We’ll dive into each of these elements in detail, later!
I simplified the path for a brand building process below, to help your business brand or personal brand gain a more loyal following.
Are you wondering where to start?
Every successful brand has a powerful purpose behind it.
And so should you.
It’s what you wake up every day loving to do for other people (and the world) through your product or service.
There are four questions you should ask yourself when defining a brand purpose:
You’ll use these ideas to inform the foundation of your branding, through a tagline, slogans, voice, messaging, stories, visuals and more.
So dig deep and find those nuggets of truth which can distinguish your brand from others.
This concept can help in identifying the purpose behind anything in business or life, really.
The 3 Parts to The Golden Circle:
In fact, in the video you’ll see below, Sinek explains how to truly differentiate a brand when most of them fail.
I’ve probably watched this presentation over a hundred times, and still get chills when I do. It’s one that I send to all clients prior to our kick-off meeting for the brand discovery phase.
Some people in the marketing industry think it’s overrated, but I disagree. It’s inspiring, certainly if you are new to branding a business or idea. And, there’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular TED talks of all time.
Sit back and take a look:
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody that needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” – Simon Sinek
You too can use The Golden Circle as a starting point to identify your unique brand purpose.
Every successful brand has a powerful purpose behind it. And so should you. Dig deep and find those nuggets of truth which can distinguish your brand from others.
You should never imitate exactly what the big brands are doing in your industry.
But, you should be aware of what they do well (or where they fail).
The goal is to differentiate from the competition. Convince a customer to purchase from you over them!
We’re always thinking about how to make a brand stand out from what’s out there already. Don’t skip this step in the brand building process.
Research your main competitors or benchmark brands. For instance, study how well they have gone about building a brand name.
For a brand name to be effective, it needs to be easy for consumers to recognize and remember.
Competitor research is a key element of your own brand development. Start by creating a brand competitor spreadsheet for comparison. You can use Google Sheets, Excel, or even just a notebook.
Then, answer these fundamental questions.
Choose a few competitors, two to four (2-4) is a good number for your comparison chart. You might want to take a look at other local businesses, or even aim to benchmark against name brands.
One of the biggest brand building goals is to differentiate from the competition. Convince a customer to purchase from you over them!
The foundation for building your brand is to determine the target audience that you’ll be focusing on.
You can’t be everything to everyone, right?
When brand building, keep in mind who exactly you are trying to reach. You’ll tailor your mission and message to meet their exact needs.
The key is to get specific. Figure out detailed behaviors and lifestyle of your consumers.
I’ll explain with a few brief examples.
As you can see, targeting a niche requires committing to something very focused to start.
You’ll come to realize that the competitive advantage when branding your business is to narrow your target audience focus. This can help ensure that your brand message comes across crystal clear to the intended recipient.
Solidify a picture of your consumers, then learn how to create a brand identity that they can understand and relate to.
Brand creation relies on truly understanding the buyer persona. Here are a few of the things to document when describing your ideal customer:
To get even more definition for your brand’s buyer persona, dive into these details:
Identifying the target audience for your services or products is an exercise that will affect and benefit all areas of your brand building process, particularly marketing efforts. You want the right person consuming your content, clicking on your ads, opting in to your email list, etc.
As a result, determining the ideal audience for your business will support your overall digital brand building strategies. It’s definitely an important first step!
When brand building, keep in mind who exactly you are trying to reach. Tailor your mission and message to meet their specific needs.
Have you thought about your brand mission? In essence, you’ll have to craft a clear expression of what your company is most passionate about.
This is your why; the reason you get up every day.
Before you can build a brand that your target audience trusts, you need to know what value your business provides.
The mission statement basically defines a purpose for existing. It will inform every other aspect of your brand building strategies.
Everything from your logo to your tagline, voice, message, and personality should reflect that mission.
When people ask you what you do: answer them with your brand mission statement.
You can use the information gathered from The Golden Circle exercise (see Step 1) to create a clear and impactful brand mission statement.
What’s your brand mission? Craft a clear expression of what your company is most passionate about.
Brand Building Examples: Nike
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“.
You can see the Nike mission everywhere. They focus on all types of athletes using Nike products to be their best selves.
Nike goes even further with its brand mission, by adding a footnote to the statement: “If you have a body, you are an athlete“. Think about how wide their target audience becomes with a disclaimer like that!
The company has built up such a reputation and brand following, that it’s able to increase the target to accommodate every “body”.
When branding your business, start small and remember to focus on your target niche audience first.
With time, your brand loyalty may grow enough to expand your reach.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. Before crafting your brand mission statement, gut check on whether you really committed to Step 3 of determining who your exact consumer is. It’s one of the most important branding process steps of them all.
Start small when branding your business, and remember to focus on your target niche audience first.
There will always be brands with bigger budgets and more resources to command their industry.
Your products, services, and benefits belong solely to you.
Starting a brand that is memorable means you dig deep to figure out what you offer, and no one else is offering.
Focus on the qualities and benefits that make your company branding unique.
Assuming you know exactly who your target audience is (see Step 3), give them a reason to choose your brand over another.
It’s important to note that this is not just a laundry list of the features your product or services offer to the customer or client. Think about how you provide value that improves consumers’ lives (outcomes or results that are experienced).
Here are a few examples:
Brand Building Example: Apple
Apple is obviously not just another computer company. One of their key qualities is a clean design, and a key benefit is ease of use.
From unique packaging to their announcement events, Apple always reminds customers that its products can be used right out of the box.
Do you remember Apple’s slogan back in 1997-2002? It was “Think Different“. This notion continues to exist, today.
We’re almost halfway through the steps of brand building. If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a high five.
Your voice is dependent on your company’s mission, audience, and industry.
It’s how you communicate with your customers, and how they respond to you.
A brand voice could be:
There are endless adjectives and possibilities that can build a brand voice behind your messaging.
Ultimately, you want to choose a brand voice that makes sense and resonates with your target customers. (Again, going back to Step 3!)
You’ll see that if you find and use the correct brand voice, you have the strongest chance of connecting with consumers.
This is particularly important when publishing blog articles or social media posts. Maintaining a consistent voice will help your brand image become recognized on multiple channels in the same way. A community of followers, readers or subscribers will come to expect a certain brand voice and brand personality when they consume your content (see the next step).
Brand Building Examples: Virgin America
Virgin America is known for its friendly and reliable customer service, and its voice constantly builds that brand.
On Twitter, notice their personable style—using location-based humor in this instance. They also reinforce the value that they bring to their customers—guaranteeing power outlets on every flight.
Fish sticks will fly at Pike Place before we ever offer a flight without power outlets. #FleetWide
— Virgin America (@VirginAmerica) August 4, 2015
Choose a brand voice that makes sense and resonates with your target customers.
Customers aren’t looking for another cookie-cutter company that offers the same thing as everyone else.
They are looking for an experience tailored to their needs, backed by genuine personal interaction.
Source: Straight Marketing
Wondering how to brand your business in a unique way? Make your personality stand out in every aspect of your brand building process.
Be consistent with this brand personality across all points of contact.
It can be as simple as:
Make your personality stand out in every aspect of your brand image building.
When building a brand, tell customers succinctly who you are.
Use the business voice you have chosen for your brand.
Your messaging should be intricately associated with your brand and conveyed consistently.
This part of the brand development process goes beyond your logo and tagline to define the key aspects of:
A brand story is an opportunity to communicate on a human level, making a direct emotional connection with your consumers.
What this means, is that the language you use should be understood immediately while striking an emotional chord.
Make it simple and clear.
Most importantly: when creating a brand story, address not what your product can do…but why it is important to your customer.
Brand Building Example: TOMS Shoes
TOMS Shoes has built a huge social following and overwhelming positive brand perception.
They clearly define their message front and center on their website: “Improving lives. With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One.”
This story is carried out through every touchpoint a consumer has with the brand.
A brand message is an opportunity to communicate on a human level, making a direct emotional connection with your consumers.
When you think about how to build a brand, visuals probably come to mind first. We haven’t even talked about these until this deep into the branding process!
This step may be the one where you need help with creative execution.
The most exciting (and arguably the most important piece) of the brand building process, is to create a brand logo and tagline for your company.
This logo will appear on everything that relates to your business. It will become your identity, calling card, and the visual recognition of your promise.
So be willing to invest the time and money by creating something exceptional to reinforce the visual identity for your business.
Need help branding your business? Hire a professional designer or branding agency with logo and identity design experience, to help make your brand stand out.
Their expertise will ensure that you get a unique and timeless mark for your business.
A designer can also develop brand guidelines, to ensure consistency for any future application of the logo and associated brand color palette or fonts.
A strong brand style guide will include the following things:
Work with a professional designer or creative agency with branding and identity design experience, to help you build your brand.
The brand building process never stops.
Your brand should be visible and reflected in everything that your customer can see, read, and hear.
Let me explain.
If a client walks into your office, or a customer walks into your store—your brand image should be on display both in the environment and with personal interactions.
Anything tangible–from business cards to advertisements, to packaging and product–needs the stamp of your logo.
On any digital platform, ensure that your brand looks the same everywhere. Use your brand style guide to create consistency with visuals such as color and logo use, fonts, photography, etc.
Your website is the most important tool for marketing your brand. When you design your website: incorporate your voice, message, and personality into the content.
Profile pages for social media networks should be branded visually, and with your chosen voice for engagement.
And don’t forget about video! YouTube, Facebook Video and Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram Stories are all platforms that need to have content executed with your unique brand voice and personality.
For those venturing into podcast audio, adhere to a theme that supports your brand message, value, and voice.
Warby Parker has managed to quickly develop a brand that is unique and best in class. Their innovative product home try-on experience, retail environment, and digital content marketing efforts are perfectly tailored to the lifestyle of its target audience.
Your brand should be visible and reflected in everything that your customer sees (and doesn’t see).
Unless you decide to change your brand into something that is more effective based on measured consumer response, consistency is key.
Once you establish a brand voice, use it for every piece of content you create. (See above, Step 6 in the brand building process.)
Document all the brand guidelines you create and distribute internally for reference.
What is brand building worth, if it is not consistent? Don’t constantly change your branding. The inconsistency will confuse your customers, and make long-term brand building more difficult.
Brand Building Example: Starbucks
Starbucks is the world’s leading specialty coffee retailer, and their brand has always promised to bring people together.
The Starbucks mission?
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
That’s why at every store you’ll find free Wi-Fi, large tables, and soothing music to make chatting with others easy. They always write your name on your coffee for an extra personal touch.
Even despite a logo change in 2011 (removing the company name!), the Starbucks brand perception remains strong. When you see that simplified green mermaid logo, what do you feel? I guarantee it’s something.
Once you establish a brand voice, use it for every piece of content you create.
When you build a brand that works for your small business, you (and your employees) are the best advocates to market your brand.
No one knows your brand better than you, so it’s up to you to spread the word.
When hiring employees, ensure that they are a culture fit–aligning with the mission, vision, and values of your brand.
Encourage employees to establish a personal brand that aligns with your company branding process, further strengthening reach.
Give your loyal customers a voice. Encourage them to post reviews, or share your content.
No one knows your brand better than you, so it’s up to you to spread the word.
Building Brand Awareness in 2020
Now that you know the steps for creating a brand successfully, I want to quickly go over the components needed to really set up a good digital foundation to build upon.
These are the key areas my own brand agency executes on when we build brands for businesses just like yours. Let’s review the ways to build brand awareness through marketing, engagement and community building.
Your website is the most important marketing tool you have for business growth and brand building.
This is the place that your consumers will visit to learn more about your business, and take action when they are ready. Not only does the user experience have to be exceptional in order to convert, but your messaging needs to tell your brand story.
Your website has to load fast and be mobile-friendly (a responsive web design).
Your website is the most important marketing tool you have for business growth and brand building.
The majority of your brand marketing activities will drive traffic back to your website. Aside from a professional and beautifully designed interface, your content has to be compelling.
This brings us to the next element of a great digital brand strategy: SEO and content marketing.
SEO and Content Marketing
One of the most effective long-term ways to increase brand awareness and generate relevant organic traffic to your website is search engine optimization (SEO) and the right content.
There are many ways to achieve positioning in search engine results. Aim to develop a comprehensive strategy addressing the major search engine ranking factors, as well as creating highly valuable content that satisfies user intent.
Here’s the deal:
A defined content marketing strategy will help you better connect with your target audience and support them through their customer journey—building brand trust to ultimately result in conversions.
Most importantly, the foundation piece for your SEO and content publishing efforts will always be your website’s blog.
When building a blog for your brand, you’ll want to consider:
Don’t just stop at a blog though! Brand content can also exist as infographics, video, podcasting, case studies, whitepapers, lead magnets and more.
One of the most effective long-term ways to increase brand awareness to your website is SEO and content.
Savvy consumers frequently use social networks to make the decision to purchase from a brand—over 74% of them!
How can your brand best educate, communicate and engage with customers and clients through social media?
Social media marketing best practices include the following activities:
A well-defined social media strategy will help determine what to achieve in order to better connect with your community.
Every brand should be represented consistently across all social media networks via the posting of relevant, high-quality content. With social media, your aim for consumers is first to gain trust. Then become loyal. And then, advocate for your brand’s products and services.
Savvy consumers frequently use social networks to make the decision to purchase from a brand—over 74% of them!
Did you know your highest click-through rate will come from the emails you send to your list? Don’t underestimate the power of list building early on in your brand building process.
Think of your email marketing list as your most close-knit community, and treat your subscribers as such.
You can build a brand subscriber list through various opt-in forms on your website, such as:
The right content, at the right time, to the right person is critical for driving traffic to your website and increasing conversions from email. What’s more, not all email messages need to be sales-driven, as consumers are in different points of the buyer journey.
Use the following types of email campaigns when targeting specific audiences within your marketing funnel.
Email is king when data proves that email marketing efforts have an average ROI of $44 for each $1 spent!
Your highest click-through rate will come from the emails you send to your list! Don’t underestimate the power of list building early on.
Building a successful paid advertising campaign for your brand comes with a unique set of challenges. There are multiple elements that contribute to the overall effectiveness of your pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
A strong paid ads campaign on platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook relies heavily on:
Paid advertising alone can drain your budget…once the ads stop, so can the leads and sales.
The allure of paid advertising is that it can yield quick short-term results. It is certainly effective, however, you’ll want to do PPC in conjunction with all of the above inbound marketing channels for long-term ROI.
Analytics & Reporting
Ongoing, you’ll want to monitor progress in key areas month-over-month and year-over-year. From this data, tweaks to your brand building and marketing activity can be made to leverage those tactics which show the most opportunity.
Analytics reporting should always support the strategic goals and KPIs for your business.
It always comes as a huge surprise that 75% of small business sites do not use analytics tools to track performance!
Your first step is ensuring that your website has Google Analytics installed. This tool is free and will give you loads of valuable information about user behaviors. It also allows you to set up goals to track conversion.
Analytics reporting should always support the strategic brand building goals and KPIs for your business.
Now you have a great overview of the tactics behind building brand awareness through marketing, engagement and community building.
Putting all these components together with a strategy and consistent execution packs the punch that any new or existing business needs for successful brand building in the digital age.
Tools For Building A Business Brand
Branding can be a fuzzy concept. It seems touchy-feely, and it revolves around perception, purpose, and promises.
Can it even be tracked? Is there ROI?
In the long-term, heck yes! Because a strong brand will automatically increase your know, like and trust factor. In turn, resulting in easier sales, consumer loyalty and brand advocacy.
I believe what Gary Vaynerchuck says about it:
“Funny thing about brand. If you actually build a brand, you outsell any salesman any day of the week.”
If you have a business, you already have a brand.
But building an extraordinary business brand requires organization, planning, and process.
You’ve learned the fundamental brand building process here. The next thing to cover are tools, resources, and services that can elevate the growth of your business as a brand.
This list is by no means comprehensive but will help you take things to the next level of brand development.
These are some of the same things we use for client work, and our own branding agency. (Some of them may be affiliate links, for which we receive a small commission at no cost to you.)
If you’re a bookworm like me and want to dive deeper into an understanding of branding, read these books.
There are SO many other books related to brand building and brand marketing, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. So I’ll leave it for another roundup article!
Training- Branding Masterclass
I created a special training to teach you the fundamentals of how to create an extraordinary brand and earn a heroic reputation. The Building Your Brand Strategy Masterclass will change the way you look at your business, giving you clarity and more confidence for why your brand exists and how it can best serve people. Enroll today!
Business Legal – LegalZoom
Trying to figure out all the legal paperwork needed to start and setup a business takes all the wind out of your sails for the fun brand building. Luckily, using a service like LegalZoom will save you time and frustration, not to mention protect your brand assets. (U.S. only)
Accounting – FreshBooks
Try FreshBooks for your accounting software to reduce paperwork and get paid faster. It’s so simple to use—you’ll be able to generate invoices, organize expenses and track time. They offer a free trial and affordable pricing models.
Office Supplies & Equipment – Amazon Business
You may shop on Amazon already or have a Prime account. But did you know you can shop for your brand through Amazon Business? I like keeping all business purchases together in this account area. They also offer big discounts, free shipping and a tax exemption program.
Print Materials – Moo
This online printing company offers beautiful business cards, stationary and promotional collateral for reasonable prices. And, Moo products look very high-end. You want the first impression for your brand to be spectacular, so order your printed materials here. You can even order sample packs delivered to you for free.
Free Design Tool – Canva
Thousands of design templates, millions of photos. Oh, and did I mention it is free? (Even the paid version is well worth the cost for under ten bucks a month.) Whether you have design skills or not, Canva is our choice for asset creation and management for brand graphics. This tool is especially great for creating social media graphics.
Stock Photography – Shutterstock
If you really want your branding to stand out, it’s better to dig through a paid stock photo site to find visual assets. You’ll have less of a chance of looking like someone else who used photos from a free site. Shutterstock offers millions of good quality photos, illustrations, videos, and music, without paying a ton.
Writing Assistant – Grammarly
The impression of your brand through copy and messaging is ultra-important for a strong identity. And boy will you have to be pumping out content consistently for your brand. Grammarly has been a game-changer for producing the best quality written content. It not only checks spelling as you write, but also major grammar issues. Don’t compromise your reputation with bad writing. Get this free tool!
Domain Registration – GoDaddy
The first step in creating a website for your brand is registering the domain (the .com, .net etc.). You can search available domains to find the best match for your brand name, and then secure it with the GoDaddy domain registration service. Even if you are in the early stages of planning your brand, invest in this if you have a brand name. Domain names are getting snatched up by the minute.
WordPress Web Hosting – WPEngine
We build the majority of all client brand websites on WordPress. When you have a content management system with databases and plugins, it’s best to have web hosting that specifically caters to the platform. WPEngine specifically provides managed WordPress hosting, with amazing customer support. Do not skimp out on hosting, friends. It’s worth the investment for a top-notch provider in this department. Their Startup plan comes free with tons of quality design themes to get up and running quickly.
WordPress Design Themes – StudioPress
If you want an awesome-looking WordPress website design theme that is great for SEO, mobile-friendly and loads fast, get one from StudioPress. All themes look great out-of-the-box but can also be highly customized if needed.
Search Engine Optimization – SEMRush
This is one of the best SEM and SEO tools out there. If you are looking to ramp up your brand awareness through carefully crafted content on your website (specifically your blog), use SEMRush for research on competitors, trending content, and keywords. Try the free 7-day trial and you’ll be hooked on how powerful this is for brand marketing.
Branding can be one of the most significant things you can do for your new or existing business.
A solid brand building process can transform your business from a small player into a successful competitor.
You’ll discover that your customers will develop a deeper level of trust for your brand, and be more likely to purchase what you are selling.
Therefore, always develop a consistent message and visual identity to reinforce your mission.
Integrate your brand into every aspect of customer experience: from your storefront to your website, to your personal interactions!
Think you are well informed about how to build a brand? Let’s recap the steps of brand building:
Bonus: Be your brand’s biggest advocate.
I’ll leave you with another one of my favorite quotes about building brands:
Former Nike and Starbucks executive Scott Bedbury once said: ‘A brand is a story always being told’.
Go build an effective brand, and tell your story.