One of the most important assets you can develop for your business is a powerful brand. Brands are not just logos or tag lines. Brands are the culmination of who you are, how you’re different from your competition, and why a buyer should do business with you.
Whether you’re an established company or small start-up, a brand has tremendous impact. A brand instills confidence, creates loyalty, and many times can command a premium price. But most of all a great brand reduces a buyer’s perception of risk and makes the purchase choice easy.
Developing a brand is much more than just deciding on a name or picking some colors. A brand is the sum of all you do. It’s derived from all your touch points with your customers and prospects. Developing a brand requires having a plan that consistently communicates what your company is and does, along with your distinct attributes, image, and personality.
In StartupNation: Open for Business, we introduce the concept of a “marching brand”—a consistent, immediately recognizable mental imprint that delivers a clear and compelling message.
Branding consultant and author Karen Post, compares this notion to a “brain tattoo”—put there by choice, but which certainly can be removed at any time. That, by the way, is the name of her latest book, Brain Tattoos, Creating Unique Brands that Stick to your Customers’ Minds. Her book delves into many creative ways companies and people can build and leverage their brand.
In this step we look at some of Karen Post's recommendations and action items for establishing a super brand:
- Draft your brand DNA or essence
- Define and relate to your target audience
- Choose a brand name
- Create a logo
- Make a list of all your other touch points
- Create a demand for your brand
Recommendations and action items
Draft your Brand DNA or Essence—Purpose, Points of Difference, Personality, Promise
This is the foundation for everything you do and should guide your business, marketing, and communication decisions. These are your draft brand drivers. As you move through the following process, you may tweak those drivers or add something completely new. But at the end of the day, you should clearly define:
- Your brand purpose: a logical snapshot of what you provide the market.
- Your brand points of difference: things that are truly distinct that your competitors can’t copy. While great customer service is important, it’s not a point of difference; many of your competitors will claim the same thing. A point of difference can include a visual symbol, story, color scheme, proprietary process or product, historic milestone, physical characteristic, or combination of several of these.
- Your brand personality: a collection of human-like traits and adjectives that best describe your brand.
- Your brand promise: the emotional side of your purpose. If you were a tailor, your purpose would be to make and alter clothes and your promise would be to give people confidence when their clothing fits just right.
Define and Relate to your Target Audience
This means understanding your audience’s age, sex, ethnicity, income, education level and locale. What motivates them to buy? How do they think? What are their hot buttons? Set up customer profiles, even if it’s just in a simple spreadsheet. If you've done your homework in Step 3 and created your business plan, chances are you already have your target audience defined.
Choose a Brand Name
While your name is certainly not everything, it is an important piece to building a lasting brand.
Great brand names:
- Are emotional
- Stick on the brain
- Have personalities
- Have depth to tell stories and communicate with
As soon as you pick a name for your company, secure a domain name that is consistent with your brand name. You should also research trademark availability.
Should a name be literal and descriptive or obscure and emotional? There are strong arguments on both sides. Leaning toward the obscure and emotional can lead to very distinctive brands, which the literal and descriptive can speed up the process of communicating your message to your audience. Each case is unique and sometimes brand names get passed down and changing them would take an act of Congress.
Generic names like Computer Solutions, Performance Printing, or Innovative Technologies will just make you spend more and work harder at building a brand. They don’t have legs and will likely drown in the sea of sameness. Being descriptive - as opposed to being generic - is not a bad thing for names. Given your limited budget, it can actually be a great way to go. Try to be original so your name stands out, so it means something, so you can own it, and so it will be much harder to copy.
Avoid names that are hard to spell or pronounce
Name availability tools
BizFilings provides inexpensive solutions to check for and reserve your business name.
Ask yourself, how will the market receive the name? With supporting context, will the market get it? Will it jive with your strategic positioning of the brand? Are there negative connotations or associations with the name?
Is there a magic, fool-proof method for testing names?
No. In fact, sometimes too much analysis just delays decisions and defeats the whole mission of naming your brand before the next decade. I recommend that you test a little, listen a little to people you respect, listen to your gut feelings, and proceed with a choice.
While the brand name is very important, a brand cannot survive on name alone. The brand name and how the brand is executed are equally vital for a successful and sustained brand life. A great brand name can serve as the anchor to your cause, a symbol to your story, a point of difference in your marketplace, a memory trigger, or just one important part of your branding arsenal.
Create a Logo
A logo is the visual image of your company that will be used in a variety of applications. When you are considering a design, think simple. Some of the best logos are one color and for a start-up, this can save you printing expenses.
Test how it photo copies and works in a digital environment. Sample other venues that you may grow into like an outdoor sign, moving vehicle, or promotional items like t-shirts and golf hats.
Make a List of all your Other Touch Points
Every time you touch a customer or prospect, you should feel your brand breathing. This can include your environment, other promotional activities, and even how your phone is answered. Remember the brand is the sum of you; infuse as many contact areas as possible with your brand essence or DNA .
Create a Demand for your Brand
Your product’s performance, your customer service, follow-through, and your communication add up to a brand experience. Great experiences turn your brand into a magnet for new and repeat business. Buyers will seek you out, tell their friends, and remain loyal. Your brand can make the buyer’s choice easy. That is the power of the brand.