Think of any brand. Nike. Amazon. Facebook. Disney. Apple. Uber. Airbnb. Do you know these brands? Of course, you do, these companies have mastered the key to a successful business: their branding. Consumers love a good story; they jump at the chance to ride the rollercoaster of entertainment that has a different adventure with every twist and turn. According to Website Builder, it takes a customer an average of 10 seconds to form an opinion about a company. Having a strong brand identity is crucial to differentiate your business from your competitors.
Before we get started do you know what branding is?
What is branding?
A brand is a name, symbol, or experience that distinguishes one business from that of its competitors. Your brand is your business; it is your company’s most valuable asset. Businesses are only as successful as their brand.
Branding is the act of researching and developing features that can give your product meaning in the minds of consumers.
Let’s revisit one of the brands above. What is Disney’s brand? We know Disney when we see their famous castle logo. You know Disney when we hear about their magical theme parks. We know Disney when we see Mickey or other iconic animated characters. These are visible aspects of their brand, but where does the success of Disney’s brand lie? The magic of their brand is in storytelling.
Disney has used storytelling and emotional intelligence to captivate users since 1923. The ability to inspire, educate, and entertain through stories is a strategy best mastered by none other than Disney. No other brand comes close. When thinking about your branding strategy, think of your favorite brands and what sets them apart from their competitors in your mind. Use these differentiators as a foundation for your brand.
A powerful brand keeps customers coming back for more. So, how do you differentiate your branding?
Here are five strategies to use branding to supercharge your business.
Discover the Purpose of Your Brand.
The first thing you need to do before building your brand is to discover its purpose. What do you hope to stand for? If it is a personal brand, discover what motivates you to get out of bed every day and do the things that you do. If it is a professional brand, discover what inspires and motivates your customers to get out of bed and do something purposeful. Your brand is fueled by passions.; Take some time to find out what your company believes in and center your brand around it.
I recently read an article by Fresh Sparks, in which they discuss Simon Sinek’s model called The Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a framework that discusses what differentiates organizations.
This model helps you determine your WHY by starting with the WHAT and honing in on the HOW. Use this circle as a tool to determine what the benefits of your brand are, the process you take to achieve these results, and most importantly, why you do what you do.
Your WHY is the reason your business exists, once you figure out that piece, you are on your way to a powerful brand.
TIP: Whether you are a brick-and-mortar business or an online business, have your WHY posted somewhere for you and all your employees can see. This is the framework for your business, so it should be visible to everyone who has a part in its success.
2. Research Your Competitors.
You should have an idea of what your competitors are doing. If I wanted to start a footwear manufacturing business, I would do a thorough analysis of Nike, Adidas, Puma, and other shoe brands. This research will allow me to have a better understanding of what my customers already like/dislike and where I may fall short in my business model. Researching competitors helps you to get a clearer picture of who your audience is and how your business can benefit them.
If your website is not converting and you are unsure why take a look at your competitors. Their sites may have features that you could be using to close leads. Look at brands that aren’t performing well and take notes of what NOT to do. Then look at the dominators in your industry and notate some of their best features.
When doing a competitor analysis, ask these questions:
- Where are your competitors in relation to your business when you do a competitive analysis?
- What are its products or services?
- Do you know what value they provide to their customers?
- What do they offer to their customers that your business does not offer?
- How do your competitors encourage customers to buy from them?
Tip: Put yourself in the shoes of your consumer. If you were searching for that product or service, what would set one seller apart from the next?
3. Identify Your Unique Brand Voice.
Brand voice is the personality your company displays throughout its communication. It helps your company make a lasting impression in the minds of your customers.
Can you identify the brand voice in some of your favorite companies? Let’s look at Amazon.
From this, we can see that Amazon’s brand voice is: Innovative. Exceptional. Customer-Centric. Inclusive.
Amazon has shown their brand voice through features such as Prime Air, Dash Button, Alexa, and many more. They are constantly innovating to make the shopping experience of consumers easier. When Amazon first launched in 1995, their goal was “ to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” At the time, they only sold books but had plans to expand into the Amazon we know today. Their commitment to innovation has helped them achieve this goal.
So, how would you do it for your company?
Now, review your company’s mission statement and ensure it reflects back to the voice of your company. Do an audit of your messaging platforms and ensure there is a consistent theme that aligns with your brand voice.
Tip: Complete a brand voice chart. Find 4 words that describe your brand and write a description of how your company exhibits this and also the do’s and don’t of that voice characteristic.
4. Tell Your Story.
Everyone has a story to tell. A brand story is a narrative that details feelings conveyed by your brand.
Are you familiar with Ben and Jerry’s? Then you may know the classic story of how Ben and Jerry originally wanted to open a bagel shop, but due to expensive equipment, they opted for an ice cream shop instead. The story continues by detailing how they include big chunks in their ice cream because of Ben’s struggle with anosmia (a rare sinus condition that makes it difficult to perceive most smells and tastes). This became a differentiating factor in their brand.
This differentiator partnered with their innate ability to pivot and innovate has allowed them to go head to head with Häagen-Dazs and other popular ice cream brands. Ben and Jerry’s continues to demonstrate this principle even as they name flavors after popular people or events. They have a graveyard filled with terrible flavors, but they have a roster full of brilliant flavors as well! In doing so, they continue to warm the hearts of ice cream lovers worldwide. Ben and Jerry’s story has grown with them for over 40 years. How do you create a story that lasts for the life of your brand?
Know your purpose, find your narrative, and most importantly be human. Think of your brand as a person, how would you describe it?
Tip: Use strategies from Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller, which is a great book to help you build your brand and tell your story in a captivating way.
5. Integrate Your Branding into Your Business.
Now, you are ready to integrate your brand into all aspects of your business. Let your creativity fly. Great brands are identified by their logo. Disney’s castle, Nike’s swoop check, and McDonald’s golden arch join the long list of recognizable brands. Your logo should be on anything that relates to your business. It is the visual for your business, invest time and money into making sure your logo is a perfect representation of your business.
Tip: If you need help, have a designer develop brand guidelines for your business or outsource your marketing.
Next, your website and social media are your online business cards. They should be consistent with your brand guidelines. A customer or client should be able to easily identify your brand from looking at your website. Strive to be present on at least one social platform. Use social media strategically to build a community and strengthen your brand. Hootsuite reports that 84% of people who have internet access use social media. meaning when consumers are looking for products or services they typically do a social media search. If you are not on social media, you could potentially be missing out on leads.
Remember when we talked about brand voice?
Now is the time to identify your brand voice and ensure it is displayed throughout your business model. Make sure that your employees present themselves and behave in a way that mirrors your brand. Apple’s employees are highly skilled in technology. McDonald’s has Hamburger University to ensure their employees know the art of McDonald’s. Write your mission statement, your commitment to your customers and ensure your employees are aware of it. Write your purpose and your plan down; this will define how your business grows.