No matter what size your company is or what industry you’re in: if you want to scale your business and grow your long-term visibility, you will need to create a consistent brand that your customers can recognize, connect with, trust, and remember.
Branding is the process of displaying your business to the public through your content and visual identity. Logos, social media posts, advertisements, the colors on your website, the font you use on a business card… all these elements work together to form an overall brand that shapes the way potential customers see your company.
Building a brand for your business doesn’t have to be intimidating – in fact, businesses are often delighted to find that branding can be a fun, informative, and creative process.
Here are the 9 key steps to build a brand for your business, each of which is covered in more detail below:
- Identify your target audience.
- Conduct competitor research.
- Define your brand attributes.
- Create a visual identity (logo, colors, fonts).
- Develop a brand board and brand guidelines.
- Write compelling content.
- Maintain brand consistency.
- Communicate your brand to your audience.
- Adjust your approach as your business evolves.
1. Identify your target audience.
Not everyone is going to be the right fit for your product, and a key aspect of brand strategy involves focusing on the exact people who will love your product… and ignoring everyone else that is not your target audience. You can read my in-depth blog post on how to find your target here.
The two main elements to consider are the demographics and psychographics of your ideal customer.
Demographics describe who your target customer is and include details such as gender, age, location, income level, and occupation. Psychographics focus on why that target customer might make a purchase and include their hobbies, beliefs, and daily activities.
If you have already been in business for a while, you have real-world data to use when determining your target audience. Think about which past customers your business has helped the most. What were their pain points, and how did your product solve their problems?
Once you identify the demographics and psychographics of your target customers, you can brainstorm unique and highly-specific marketing perspectives that will appeal to their needs, desires, and lifestyle. For example, if your target is a mom in her mid-30s with two young children and too many things on her to-do list, your company’s brand can incorporate themes of motherhood and stress reduction.
2. Conduct competitor research.
In order to position your brand and set your business apart from the competition, you need to first observe what your competitors are doing and identify the gaps where your company can stand out. Be thoughtful about this step, as sometimes your real competitors are not who you initially thought.
If your business sells handmade soy candles at farmers markets across Chicago, is a giant brand like Yankee Candle really your competitor? Perhaps. But it’s possible that your true competitors are the other local artisan candles and scented products which are sold at markets, fairs, and gift shops across town.
A brand strategist can help you drill into detail and distinguish your true competitors. Once you have a strong grasp of who your competitors are, you can comb through their websites, social media accounts, colors, fonts, imagery, tone, and marketing materials and take note of any strengths, weaknesses, and trends you find.
Utilize their weaknesses to your advantage. If one of your competitors has a cluttered Instagram page that hasn’t been updated in three months, that reveals an opportunity for your business to position yourself as an industry leader on Instagram.
You can find more details about how to separate your business from the competition here.
3. Define your brand attributes.
Once you evaluate the landscape of your customers and competitors, it’s time to focus on what makes your company so unique.
Brand attributes are the characteristics that your audience sees as an inherent part of your brand. Some of your brand attributes will be associated with the initial impression customers have of your business – for example, at first glance nearly everyone perceives Uber as “innovative.” However, other attributes will be associated with deeper levels of your company like your values and culture.
“Consistent” is a brand attribute of Starbucks: no matter where you are in the world, you can trust that you will have a consistent experience at every Starbucks. But once customers interact with the Starbucks brand a few times, they notice additional brand attributes like “socially-conscious” due to Starbucks’s history of progressive internal policies and social impact initiatives.
Your brand attributes will weave together to build your company’s reputation with your target. By developing a memorable and consistent brand, you can influence the attributes that people associate with your business.
If you’re ready to identify the brand attributes for your business, I created this free branding workbook for you. The workbook includes the exercises I use to identify the brand attributes for Aventive Studio’s brand strategy clients, along with a full branding checklist to…
Download your copy of the branding workbook here:
4. Create a visual identity (logo, colors, fonts).
Most companies approach their visual identity backwards: they hire a designer to create a logo first, and later (once they understand the importance of brand strategy) they try to go back and identify their brand attributes, competitor analysis, and target profiles.
This usually results in a logo that doesn’t connect with their target, a confusing visual identity, or a complete rebrand in the future. To create a brand identity that attracts your ideal customer and motivates them to make a purchase, visual branding should only take place after the first three steps above have been completed.
The most important rule when creating a visual identity for your company is your entire brand, especially your visuals, must be created with your target customers in mind.
Not with your own preferences in mind. Not with your business mastermind group’s favorite colors in mind (unless they are brand strategists). Not with your mom’s font preferences in mind (unless she is your target customer).
Your target market is the only group whose opinion will ultimately result in revenue for your business, so it’s important that your business utilizes colors, typography, and imagery that attracts them.
If you’re interested in what exact colors and images you should use to attract your target, you can read my full article on color and shape psychology here. For more information on what elements are essential in a logo design, you can click here.
5. Develop a brand board and brand guidelines.
Once you have worked with a designer and translated your brand strategy into a memorable suite of visual designs, your business can utilize additional two tools to maintain brand consistency: brand boards and brand guidelines.
A brand board is a short document that includes all the visual elements of a brand. Think of a brand board as a visual tool that helps your internal and external stakeholders implement your branding elements correctly.
If your web designer, printing company, marketing consultant, or intern have questions about which shade of blue to use as a background color, they can quickly glance at your brand board and find their answer, including the exact hex codes, without having to ask every time (or even worse: make a guess, guess incorrectly, and create a design element that isn’t aligned with your brand!). You can explore visual examples of brand boards here.
Brand guidelines, on the other hand, are rules on how to use your brand. Brand guidelines are more complex than brand boards and include technical details about how much spacing your logo should have around it, whether or not you can stretch your logo, when to use different logo and design variations, and so on.
Not every business needs a full brand guideline document, but most larger companies choose to have them so they can guarantee consistency across departments.
6. Write compelling content.
Branding isn’t just about visuals: the written content that your business creates also needs to align with your unique brand voice and brand attributes.
Depending on your target, the content needs for your business may range from flyers and billboards to social media posts, YouTube video summaries, blog posts, podcast scripts, email newsletters, and more.
Before launching into writing, ask yourself why you are making this content in the first place. The ultimate goal of all branding activities is to increase your sales and scale your business, but when it comes to content specifically: what is your goal? To educate? To entertain? To build interest in advance of your product launch?
Storytelling is an effective way to speak directly to the needs, pain points, and desires of your target. If you can incorporate the story of why you originally created your product into your written content, along with positive reviews and testimonials from your satisfied customers, you will pique the interest of potential buyers who can relate to these stories and see themselves using your product.
You can read more on developing a comprehensive content strategy for your business here.
7. Maintain brand consistency.
If you drove by a McDonald’s that had a dark purple and neon orange sign in front, and the roof of its building was decorated with rainbow polka dots… it would probably take you a few moments to even realize it was a McDonald’s.
And after a lifetime of familiarity with the McDonald’s brand, you may not fully trust whether that building was a McDonald’s. You might keep driving until you found a Burger King nearby that looked how you would expect a Burger King to look.
Customers are going to do the same thing with your brand: inconsistency will confuse them and cause them to shy away from your company. If your audience associates your company with attributes like “family friendly,” but your social media account keeps retweeting comments from controversial politicians, that inconsistency will drive them away from making purchases from your business.
Once your brand elements are place, it crucial to evaluate all aspects of your business to make sure that everything reflects your brand attributes. While your brand board and brand guideline document are tools that will help with maintaining brand consistency, at the end of the day the commitment to your brand attributes is implemented through daily practice.
8. Communicate your brand to your audience.
You could have the most comprehensive and accurate brand strategy in the world, but if you don’t take action steps towards bringing it to life, it will always remain just a strategy on paper.
Once the visual aspects of your brand are in place and you have established a consistent voice for your written content, your business will need to find marketing strategies to strategically place your company in front of your target customers.
Although they are often confused for one another, branding and marketing are not the same thing. Depending on who your target market is and what types of media they prefer, examples of marketing activities could include:
- Posting in your company’s Facebook group and asking members to share their favorite experiences with your product
- Sending a coupon code to your email list subscribers
- Purchasing a billboard in the neighborhood where your target lives
- Handing out flyers at a music festival
- Running Google ads
Some of these activities serve to increase brand awareness, while others explicitly nudge your potential customers towards making a purchase. For a full breakdown of each type of brand goal you can set for your business, download the free “Brand Goals” chapter of my book BrandFix here:
9. Adjust your approach as your business evolves.
If you develop a memorable brand, and you express that brand strategically through your visuals, marketing, and content — your target market will find you and buy from you, and your business will ultimately grow.
As a business owner, it will become easier to tell at first glance whether something is “on brand” for your company. Additional ideas will pop into your mind on how you can serve your customers more effectively, and those ideas may lead to new product lines or ventures.
Over time, social media platforms will come and go, trends will cycle back and forth, and every step of the way you will need to ask yourself: How can we continue to express our brand attributes to our target in order to prompt them to buy?
The overall brand strategy for your business should not change very often, unless you pivot your offerings in a major way or start serving a new audience entirely. However, entrepreneurship is an ever-evolving adventure, and it’s important to adjust your approach as time goes on.
At Aventive Studio, we help health and wellness product companies grow their companies through powerful branding and design. From full branding packages to stunning website design to brand strategy consulting, we can help your company attract your target customers and position your products from the competition.
Contact us to learn more about how the Aventive Studio team can help you scale your business through powerful brand identity.