As an entrepreneur, the idea of standing out from the endless stream of brands online can be overwhelming. Even if you know that your business genuinely helps solve problems for your customers, it can be difficult to express your company’s unique traits and capture attention in the noisy online space.
Here are five actions you can take to ensure that your company’s brand stands out from the competition:
1. Conduct competitor research.
In order to position your brand apart from your competitors, you need to know who your competitors are and what they’re doing with their branding. A competitor analysis will help your business know what you’re up against, identify what others in your industry are doing well, and leverage the gaps where your company can stand out.
When evaluating a competitor’s brand, take note of branding elements such as their logo, color usage, fonts, website layout, content strategy, and brand voice. Look carefully at each element through the lens of a brand strategist: why do you think they used that circular shape in their logo? Why did they choose yellow as their primary brand color?
Audit their social media feeds and take note of what types of imagery and content they use. Many companies find it beneficial to have a third-party expert complete their competitor research.
2. Determine your brand attributes.
Too many businesses slap together a logo, website, tagline, and social media presence without putting any strategic thought into how these elements will affect the perceptions of their target market. Stay ahead of the curve by first determining the brand attributes of your company, and then communicating those attributes through a cohesive visual brand.
Brand attributes are the key characteristics that your customers associate with your brand. Everything your company creates, from an Instagram story to a press release to a TV commercial, needs to reflect these attributes in order to develop consistency and trust with your potential customers.
As an example: a mom-and-pop bed and breakfast will have completely different brand attributes (cozy, intimate, community, family, comfort) than a Four Seasons hotel (luxury, high-quality, elegant, well-designed). The bed and breakfast’s website should provide a simple, friendly, and down-to-earth experience for guests hoping to learn more or book a room, whereas the Four Seasons website will have a more corporate and globally-minded website design.
Once you have determined the brand attributes of your business (or worked with a brand strategist to do so), the next step is to find and execute creative ways to express those attributes.
3. Craft a memorable visual brand.
Your company’s visual brand is the first and most important thing that your audience notices.
Before your potential customers have had a chance to read your mission statement or learn how your products can help them, they are already making judgments of your business based on their subconscious impressions of the shapes, colors, fonts, images, and placements they see.
You can say that one of your brand attributes is “feminine,” and you can write articles from a feminine perspective on issues that matter to women. But if your business website has rectangular fonts, sharp lines, jarring imagery, and dark cool colors – your audience is simply not going to associate your brand with femininity because those visual elements don’t reflect it.
To translate these brand attributes into visuals, your company can engage in brainstorming exercises like the ones described here or work with a brand strategist who has experience aligning brand attributes with visual designs.
4. Tell stories.
Why did you originally create your product? What were the first few months of your business like? What do your customers say they love about your company?
Resist the urge to hide these important brand stories for the sake of looking professional. Even highly corporate brands use the power of storytelling to make an impact on their customers, and people are drawn to the human element that storytelling provides
Consider Apple: the story of how Steve Jobs co-founded, then was ousted from, and then returned to Apple has become a crucial piece of his iconic legacy and the Apple brand. The Steve Jobs story has been the inspiration for feature films, magazine articles, and graduation speeches, and the continuous positive exposure from that single story helps promote Apple’s brand.
If you’re unsure of what stories to tell, comb through your customer testimonials and reviews to identify what your customers find interesting about your brand. Behind-the-scenes content such as sneak peeks at new products or snapshots of what a regular day looks like for your team can generate interest among your target market, as they feel like they get to be a part of something real.
5. Focus and be consistent.
Successful brands that have stood the test of time and survived major societal and cultural changes share one main characteristic: consistency.
Think of McDonalds. McDonalds has had to make a few changes in their company’s history, such as tweaking their logo and adding healthier menu options, but overall McDonald’s is consistent. You don’t see them constantly switching their taglines, logo, menu, or marketing plan based on fads and trends:
At the end of the day, a McDonald’s is a McDonald’s, and customers know they will get a similar experience whether they visit a location in Las Vegas or Singapore or France or rural Ohio. Even though your business likely operates at a smaller scale than McDonalds, the same principle applies: once your company has established its brand attributes, focus on those attributes and stay the course.
An audience who is confused about what you offer or who sees that your business completely changes its target market every few months will not have the chance to develop trust with your company. Brand boards and brand guidelines are critical tools that will keep everyone on the same page about what colors, fonts, tone, images, and brand voice should be used at all times.
When you look at these five keys to standing out from the competition, which ones do you feel your company is already excelling at? Where do you see the biggest potential for improvement in your brand?
Our team of experts at Aventive Studio works with businesses who are ready to create a strategic, memorable, and scalable brand. Our services cover the strategic and visual design elements of business branding such as brand strategy, website design, logo design, brand boards and guidelines, and more.
Contact us to learn how Aventive Studio can help your company create a brand that stands out from the competition