There’s nothing like the thrill and excitement of discovering a new idea—a fresh concept, a cool product or a new line of business—that thing that’s going to take it to the next level. But wait…let’s not pop the champagne cork just yet.
Defining a brand is the first and most critical step to building a marketable business. Before we can effectively engage and retain customers, we must pause to evaluate who and what exactly our business stands for and what our customer experience should be. These essential components will help shape a solid brand that will be the muse of our marketing strategy.
The process isn’t always easy. There are five key steps to make before we can enjoy that crisp, sparkling glass of bubbly success.
Step 1: Establish the vision.
Ask yourself ‘What’s the end-game?’ What is the dream for your brand? What do you want the legacy of your business to be? You must take time to weigh out how your product or service fits into that legacy and whether the two are aligned. Once you’ve made a full assessment, then you can make clear and concise statement of the long-term goal. The shorter and more precise the statement of your vision, the more clearly defined your brand will be.
Step 2 : Know the purpose and the promise.
Often times, the road to our vision is paved with purpose. The process of tapering your vision to a clear statement should have presented questions that may lead to answers about why your business really matters. Think about why you’ve created your business, the need it fulfills, and the impact your product or service can make. Your answers outline your business purpose.
Understand that a brand is, very simply put–a promise. It is also, how and whether or not you deliver on that promise to your audience. Once you’ve outlined your brand purpose, you must identify the values that uphold that purpose. Between those values and your product, stands a commitment you make to consumers. Add that commitment to your outline and lay out a strategy for how you plan to deliver.
Step 3: Identify your market.
Most of the time we think we already know who our audience is. Our business may seem to serve a specific group or we may feel that our brand will appeal to everyone. However, once you have a clearer picture of your vision, purpose and promise, you may want to reevaluate who actually benefits from your concept.
So, let’s take the time to analyze your audience. Who are they? Where are they? What are their day-to-day behaviors? How much time do they spend online? What other brands do they like? These questions can go on and on, but the more you familiarize yourself with your market (and not just what you think you know) the better you can accurately tailor your brand to their needs.
Step 4: Connect through your story.
Consumers are people—heck, businesses are people too. The way to connect with people is through people and relatable life experiences. This step presents yet another opportunity to examine the alignment of our vision, purpose, promise and now, our market.
Think about what led you to the realization of your business purpose. What are the personal experiences that led you to your business concept? Maybe it’s the similarities in the experience of others that prompted you to launch your brand.
Tell the story behind your brand and think of the voice of your business or product as you tell it. What does it sound like? Does it appeal to and connect with your market? Compose the brand story and fine-tune its voice until it rings true and is relatable to your target market.
Step 5: Set your brand apart from the pack.
It is key to the success of any business, that its brand is distinguishable amongst others. That goes for the idea behind the concept as well as the look, feel and voice of the brand. We must work to stay ahead of trends and find creative ways to blend innovative traits into our brand. That doesn’t mean that your brand has to be complicated—often, simplicity stands out amongst the crowd—but it does mean your brand should be a breath of fresh air to your market.
Imitation is best form of flattery, but it can be deadly if you are the imitator. If you want any hope of competing at a legitimate level, stay away from logos, business names and packaging that looks similar to potential competitors. Instead, establish a visual identity that sets your brand apart and speaks to the brand you’ve developed throughout this process.
Specifying your area of business supports your effort to separate from the pack. This comes in handy when incorporating and trademarking as well. However, if I could add an honorary step to this process, it would be to allow room for expansion and growth in your brand. When you are distinguishing your brand from the rest, it is important to be clear and specific, but not so specific that you box yourself into a tight and limiting corner. If you’ve evaluated your current market, always consider the possibilities of opening your market at a later time, especially if it fits into your vision.
Building a successful brand is a beautiful art. I would venture to say it is a balancing act for the likes of a trapeze artist, but when carefully considering these key steps, you are certainly on your way. I can already feel the champagne bubbles tickling my nose.
What do you think are the defining components of a successful brand? Share your comments below. If you find this article helpful, share with your business-minded friends or colleagues.