As a small business, establishing a powerful brand is non-negotiable. Nearly 60% of customers prefer buying new products from familiar brands, meaning that you already face an uphill battle if you are not already a known brand in your industry.
When you are building a brand that speaks directly to your target market’s needs, your marketing amplifies, allowing you to compete with much larger companies at a fraction of the advertising cost. This article (updated for 2021) is essentially your crash course on how to build a brand that powers you past your competition. We will discuss everything you need to know so that your branding is supreme, starting with the foundational steps every business should take to develop a magnetizing brand presence that yields long-term rewards.
What is a Brand?
Before we discuss the intricate details of how to build a brand, it is essential to identify what a brand is at its core. And to best determine what a brand is, it is helpful to consider what a brand is not.
First, a brand is not a logo, a product, or a service.
The thinking of branding being a symbol originated from cattle ranchers who would brand their cattle to identify ownership.
While these things are essential, they are only part of building your brand.
A brand is who you are. A brand communicates who you are through your:
- marketing message
- sales funnel
- product (or service)
- customer service
To succeed, a brand needs to have a deep understanding of the people it represents, a purpose fueled by creativity, and a well-crafted experience across different touch points.
Your brand is how your product or service makes your customers feel. It is essentially your reputation.
When building your brand, your brand strategy should be rooted in conveying who you are to your customers.
As a founder of one of the world’s most beloved brands, Jeff Bezos once epically said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”
It takes a lot of effort to build a successful brand that stays relevant and stands the test of time.
As a small business owner, founder, or integral part of your company, you must focus on creating and maintaining the image you want your company to have.
Strong branding stems from three components that need to be leveraged and balanced out; these three elements are:
- Science (data/insight) – Effective branding relies on qualitative research. Companies must focus on consumer behavior and use survey data from feedback to cultivate stronger relationships with their customers.
- Art (creativity) – People love stories. Brand leaders that use compelling narratives coupled with an ethical customer acquisition campaign will win the game.
- Craft (management) – A brand is only as strong as the team that propels it. Top teams that work closely together to bring the brand vision and brand story to life have the best results.
It is a fact that powerful brands consistently outperform the rest of the market. A study measuring brand performance discovered that the world’s 40 strongest brands generate a 96% higher return for shareholders.
An analysis of winning brands at the Cannes Lions Advertising award shows that branding positively affects business growth and bottom line. Sixty-seven percent and 70 percent of successful brands, respectively, see above-average organic growth and net enterprise value.
There are several things that businesses need to consider to build a brand that stays relevant. Some of them are:
Reinventing Brand Purpose
Learning how to build a brand that attracts a loyal group of followers begins with communicating your brand purpose. The brand purpose is what the brand stands for and how it fits with the core values and beliefs of the company. The goal is larger than a mere product statement or functional benefit, as it tests brands’ response to social issues surrounding the brand’s customers. The purpose is the essence that connects a brand with its customers in brand building activities.
A study shows that 43 percent of consumers will choose to walk away from a brand if they are disappointed by their social issue views. Health consciousness and sustainability are among the emerging themes that people regard highly. Over 50 percent of people have changed their shopping habits to incorporate more sustainable and healthier products. Reinventing brand purpose to align with customer values becomes mandatory to stay relevant in the ever-changing world.
Maintaining Brand Trust
Economic hardship pushes people to tighten their budgets. A survey shows that 33 percent of American consumers look for trusted brands when they struggle financially and cannot afford to waste money on the wrong purchase decision. Consistency in delivering quality products and services is paramount to maintain trust. In a time like this, brands need to prove that it well justifies every penny spent by customers on their product.
Leveraging Customer Data
When data is abundant, the ability to digest a myriad of data and turn them into actionable insights is critical for brand building. Connection with fans at the right channels can generate data for brands to spot purchase intent; a leading telecom company in SE Asia uses consumer data analytics to identify next-to-buy products that increase upsell revenue from existing customers by 30 percent.
Beyond spotting potential acquisition, brands can use data to analyze marketing budget efficiency. With various channels in the mix, data enables marketers to assess each channel’s marketing effectiveness and cut any assets that do not yield satisfying results. A study found that the use of data can help to free up 15-20 percent of marketing spending. When needed, the savings can be reallocated for other marketing campaigns or sales incentives that will affect the bottom line.
Strengthening Customers Experience
Brands must have a consumer-centric mentality that translates into a superior customer experience. Customer experience is the output of interaction between a brand and its customers throughout their relationship.
A study shows that customer experience drives acquisition and advertising performance; experience-driven brands generate 1.9 times higher customer acquisition and return on ad spend.
Stellar customer experience also starts brand advocacy, as happy customers will act as brand advocates. A study finds that satisfied customer word-of-mouth drives four times better results than a paid advertisement.
Developing Your Brand Identity
A company’s brand identity is the visual element of the brand. A strong brand identity conveys who you are to the public through your messaging, content delivery, and the overall customer experience.
A strong brand identity also distinguishes the brand and is typically the image that comes to a consumer’s mind when thinking about it. This can come in the form of:
- Brand logo
- Color palette
- Data visualization
- Web Design elements (UI)
Your brand design elements should be consistent across all digital (your website, social media, etc.) and physical (brick-and-mortar) platforms.
How to design your brand identity
A strong brand identity is consistent and widely recognized and embraced among every person that interacts with the brand; this includes internal stakeholders ( company founders, executives, team members, content creators, brand ambassadors) and those your brand serves (your customers).
When building a brand, ensure that your brand identity is:
Unique: the brand stands out from competitors and offers a distinct difference in the eyes of customers.
Unforgettable: the brand is recognizable to your audience ( and even people who don’t actively use the company’s services or products). Think about Apple and Pepsi. These brands are recognized globally by people that use these brand products and even those that don’t.
Unrestricted: the brand embraces unconventional marketing and out-of-the-box branding methods. It evolves to meet the needs of consumer demand over time.
Uniform: the brand is consistent from the color palette used in the company logo to the social media posts on the brand Facebook page. We drive inspiration for uniformity from the brand story and each person on the team serves as a brand advocate to ensure that the messaging is consistent.
Understandable: the brand may be complex and intricate but the branding and messaging should be simple and easy-to-understand. Each component of the brand should be intuitive to consumers.
While many people will run to create a logo and banners when art creating a brand identity, more in-depth analysis is required before moving to these steps, so make sure you’ve acknowledged each of the above items before you start building your identity.
How to Build a Brand from Scratch
To build your brand, you need to know who you are and who you want to serve by identifying these elements.
- What is your industry?
- What is your niche?
- Who are your customers?
- What are your core values?
- What is your mission?
- What is your brand voice and personality?
- What is your unique positioning?
Identify Your Industry
The easiest thing to do when developing your brand is selecting an industry. Most people know what industry they are in without giving it much thought because sectors are broad and general enough to identify by acknowledging what you do. Examples of sectors are:
- Health and Wellness
- Personal Finance
- Web Development
- Online Marketing
- Personal Development
Selecting an industry is foundational, but the magic happens when you choose a niche within your industry and get to know your customers.
Identify Your Niche
You have probably heard the saying “the riches are in the niches,” and it is true! While an industry identifies what topic your brand explores, a niche determines who you serve. A niche is a segment of an industry defined by its unique set of needs and preferences. You can think of niches as subsets (or smaller communities) of an industry.
Here are a few ways to differentiate your brand and define what niche you are in:
- Price (luxury, competitive, discount)
- Quality (premium, standard, handmade, thrifty)
- Demographics (age, gender, education, income)
- Sociographics (values, interests, feelings)
- Geographics (location by country, state, city, neighborhood)
Understanding each of these components will help you get laser-specific about the people your brand provides products or services to. Also, every niche can be further specified and refined to meet the particular needs of the people it serves when defining your niche, the more specific, the better!
Examples of niches are:
- Health and Wellness (Industry) à At-home workout tips (Niche) à At-home workout tips for busy moms (Specific Niche)Consulting (Industry) à Consulting for Entrepreneurs (Niche) à Consulting for Entrepreneurs who want to publish their first book (Specific Niche)
- Personal Finance (Industry) à Investing (Niche) à Investing through the stock market (Specific Niche)
- Web Development (Industry) à Creating responsive WordPress websites (Niche) à Creating responsive membership websites in WordPress (Specific Niche)
- Online marketing (Industry) à Social media marketing for small businesses (Niche) à Instagram marketing for fitness clubs (Specific Niche)
- Personal Development (industry) à Improving Productivity (Niche) à Improving productivity for busy entrepreneurs (Specific Niche)
Identify Who You Will Serve
Your target market is the group of people you will serve and who will buy your products or services. Think of your customer base as a community. The people you sell products or services to aren’t transactions; they are a collective community of people who you are entrusted to serve. Considering the fierce competitiveness or business today, having a defined target market is more critical than ever. When you identify your target audience, you can compete with much larger businesses with much bigger budgets because you are exactly who your brand serves.
Companies that target the general population are doomed for failure because their marketing message speaks to everyone and resonates with no one.
To have a successful brand, you need to laser-focus on a specific niche that serves a specific audience. A great brand building exercise is finding your target audience.
Examples of brands that have identified their target audiences are:
- Millennials between the ages of 21-32 years old who want more freedom from their 9-5 jobs and want to build their 6-figure digital business from their laptops
- Consulting for entrepreneurs doing at least $1MM in annual revenue who want to be first-time authors
- Health and Wellness coaching for first-time moms who want to get in better shape
When you are identifying your target audience: the more specific, the better.
For example, a mobile auto detailing company can market their services to car owners between 35 and 65 with incomes of $125,000-plus in Palm Beach, Florida. While they may attract new customers who need auto detailing, they could be much more successful by getting more specific on the customers they want to serve. What could be more effective is to market their services to exotic and vintage luxury car owners between 35 and 65 with incomes of $125,000-plus in Palm Beach, Florida.
By adding this simple modifier, they can speak the language of individuals who own exotic, vintage, and luxury cars. There may be specific products that are much less abrasive on these vehicles’ paint and a particular detailing method, different from the competition.
You could get more specific in this same arena by focusing on car owners who have pets between the ages of 35 and 65 with incomes of $125,000-plus in Palm Beach, Florida.
You could speak to these individuals by integrating cleaning products that are natural, organic, and safe for pets. The options are virtually limitless!
Who do you want to serve?
Establish your Brand Voice
Once you know who you are committed to serving, the next step is developing a brand voice. A brand voice is part of your brand identity and is an integral part of how you communicate with your followers.
Think of your brand voice being a person. How does he/she sound?
What opinions does it have?
What knowledge is it dying to share?
What truth does it seek to share with the world?
Is your brand professional or laid-back? Do you speak to your audience in a sarcastic tone or are you more reserved and formal?
One of the ways to achieve consistency in your branding is to ensure alignment in your brand voice across all platforms so that each member of your audience gets the same brand experience.
Tell your Brand Story
A critical part of your brand strategy should be nailing your story. A powerful brand story is an extension of your “Why” and conveys your mission statement in a way that is easy for your audience to understand. Your brand story should appeal to your target audience and make them excited to interact with your brand.
Develop Your Core Values
Core values are essential when companies build a brand, and they make each brand intrinsically different. While your products and services are what you produce and deliver your core values are who you are.
Have you ever felt so aligned with a brand that their products become a part of your lifestyle?
That is the feeling customers get when the brand’s core values align symmetrically with their own.
To develop your brand’s core values, you must be able to answer the following questions:
- What values do you stand for?
- How do you want to be perceived by your customers and competitors?
- What is the unique brand story of why your business exists?
Answering these questions should help you differentiate your brand from every competitor in your industry.
How to create your brand mission statement
In 1903, Henry Ford and 12 partners invested $28,000 to create the Ford Motor Company. The mission was to develop cars that ordinary Americans could afford. This branding was instrumental as it made a quality product available to all people.
Your brand’s mission statement summarizes who you are and what you do. This is the foundation of your brand and helps your audience understand why your brand exists. A mission statement declares the purpose that the brand serves to its audience.
Most mission states are between 1-3 sentences and should be clear and concise. Mission statements can be developed by answering these questions:
- Who are you?
- Why did you start your business?
- What are the most important things for your brand?
- What differentiates what you do from the competition in your industry?
- How do you make an impact in the world?
Once you have identified answered to these questions, you can proceed to the next step.
1.) The purpose of your brand.
2.) Who you seek to serve.
3.) How you differ from your competitors.
Once you have written answers for each of these categories, finalize by reviewing your key points and creating a concise, outcome-oriented action statement. There you have it; you’re done!
(Note: as a brand grows, the mission should continue to be revised to reflect its current outlook.)
Here are examples of a few excellent brand mission statements:
Mission: “Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
What makes it impactful: While many people will think of Tesla as an automaker, this part of their business is only a cog in their system of creating products that help the world move from fossil fuel to sustainable energy.
Mission: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. **If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
What makes it impactful: Nike aims to be inclusive and serve everyone across the globe. Their mission is inspirational and highlights the fact that anyone can benefit from using their products. The mission should inspire both the brand and consumers alike; Nike does an outstanding job at doing just that.
Mission: “Spread ideas.”
What makes it impactful: The mission here is as simple as it gets, and the branding drives home the brand’s objective perfectly: TED exists to share ideas globally at no-cost. This is an excellent example of why a simple is often better.
Mission: “To build the web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.”
What makes it impactful: PayPal desires to be the number one solution in Fintech and simplify financial services for their audience. In this statement, they briefly tell you why they exist and what they set out to do in a single sentence.
Mission: “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”
What makes it impactful: Twitter’s mission statement makes a huge declaration. In one powerful sentence, they share that they will give everyone a platform to voice their opinion without (or with very little) intervention or censorship.
How to create your brand vision statement
Like a brand’s mission statement, a vision statement will provide a straightforward way for everyone to understand the purpose of the business. What is different about a vision statement is that it outlines the long-term results that the brand desires.
Your brand vision is what you aspire to achieve with your brand. This statement will typically start with “To be” or “We desire to become”, as it reflects the brand’s aspirations for the future.
The vision statement is essentially a strategic plan.
To create your brand vision statement, you must be able to answer these questions.
- What is the ultimate impact you want your brand to have on the world?
- How will your brand change the lives of your customers?
- How will people feel when they think about your branding?
Here are a few examples of powerful vision statements:
Vision: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Company: Southwest Airlines
Vision: “To become the world’s most loved, most flown and most profitable airline.”
Vision: “To be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty company.”
Vision: “We will radically shift the global economy toward small business by empowering people to start, confidently grow and successfully run their ventures easily.”
Company: Toyota USA
Vision: “To be the most successful and respected car company in America.”
Vision: “Become the world’s number-one destination for fashion-loving 20-somethings.”