Building a strong brand from the ground up doesn’t happen brick by brick unless you have a clear vision of what you want your brand to look like when you’re done. Here are five key areas your branding blueprint must account for if you want to build a strong brand over time.
If you have ever watched a building under construction it might look like the process starts with a strong foundation and builds upward from there; however, in reality the building process begins before the first bit of ground is ever turned. Building doesn’t start with ground-breaking or even blue prints; its creation begins first with a clear vision of what the structure should look like in the end, inside and out.
Strong brands aren’t built from the ground up, either. They don’t start with a great logo, clever tagline or even with an inspiring mission and vision statement. These brand identity elements are important, but they are not the beginning point, they are building blocks that must relate back to the clear vision the brand architect – or business owner – envisions it will look like in the end. Here are five questions that can help you determine what you want your brand to look like in the end, so that you can begin to build it today.
Branding 101: 5 Building Blocks of a Strong Brand
- What Words Do You Want Customers to Use to Describe Your Brand?
Your brand’s true identity ultimately resides in the perceptions of your customers and what they believe to be true about your business. Building a strong brand means leaving distinct, positive impressions in the customer’s mind every time they do business with you, so that over time they will see and describe your business with words you want your brand to be known for.
- Why Will Employees Buy In to Your Brand Vision?
Organizational culture has been in the business headlines lately, for good reason. While loyal customers might become brand advocates, your employees are brand ambassadors. They represent your brand online and in-store when interacting with customers and vendors, and they represent your brand wherever else they go once it’s known who they work for. Getting employee buy-in to support and actively participate in helping you build the strong brand you envision is critical.
- How Will You Use Brand Identity to Communicate Your Brand Vision?
No matter how artistic a logo design or how clever a marketing tagline, visual and verbal images and words that do not support the end-vision you have for your brand could detract from your efforts, instead of support them. Resist the urge to choose the artwork, business name and taglines before you have a clear vision of the brand you want to build.
Coming up with a unique logo design is key to creating a brand identity for your business. Choosing the wrong logo or running the wrong marketing campaign can be very costly. Before you finalize your decision and order signs, supplies, stationery and launch ad campaigns, get feedback from staff, mentors and friends who understand the type of brand you want to build.
- How Will Your Brand Be Different from Competitors?
Businesses whose goods and services cannot be distinguished from their competitors are said to be commodities; in other words, what they sell is interchangeable with those of other brands. In that case, price is nearly always the main reason that buyers choose one over another. Strong brands aren’t commodities, and they don’t have to compete on price because they have found one or more meaningful ways to differentiate their brands from competitors in the minds of their customers.
Competitive analysis, secret shopping and conducting research into what your target audiences want that they cannot get from other businesses can help you identify areas where your brand can carve out competitive advantages. Competitive advantages are the reasons that customers should choose to do business with you over anyone else; they are critical for brands that want to be distinctive!
- How Will Your Brand Make the World a Better Place?
Beyond the products or services you sell and even beyond the words you want customers to use to describe your business, what is the universal greater good, value or principal that you want people to think of when they hear the name of your brand? Building core values into the foundation of your brand is a very practical thing to do. These values become the measuring stick used to determine how customer care will be delivered, how employees will be treated, what type of marketing and advertising is appropriate and how your business will be unique from all others.
Without a blueprint for building, it’s easy for the plan to go astray. Even if you have an idea of how to answer these five questions, putting them on paper can help cement them in concrete, enabling you to lay the foundation for a strong brand and continue to build it over the life of your business.