A Recipe For a Successful Brand
A strong brand is what will lead to the ultimate success of your business. A subpar brand will be your entrepreneurial demise.
If you want to:
Set Yourself Apart From the Competition.
Be Banana Bread Betty at the Bake Fest winning first place for the sweetest baked good, then you’ll want to read our guide on why your brand and branding techniques matters.
Let’s preheat the oven and grab those ingredients.
A Dash of Semantics
More Than Just A Logo
A brand is more than just a concept. It’s an entity. It’s an emotional connection. Essentially, it’s a combination of tangible and intangible assets. A brand is a promise.
In a way, a brand is not yours; your true brand is in the experience and interpretation of the people who interact with your organization.
Sure you can say that your banana bread is killer, but if that’s not what the judges say—and your family, friends, and colleagues—then what are we really talking about here?
Branding is a series of actions you take to cultivate your brand. Visuals, messaging, your mission, your story – all of these establish your specific flavor.
These essential ingredients tell your story and form the reputation of your business. Otherwise, you just have a flavorless loaf of stale banana bread.
Your brand will continue to grow, and as it does you’ll want to keep up
Your brand is
The TL;DR is
a brand is the whole package of your business, and branding is the process of putting all the essential elements of that package together. It’s an emotion (brand) versus a tool (branding).
A Liberal Pinch of Understanding
You MUST Know Your Brand’s Ingredients.
Your hungry taste-testers don’t need to understand the science of banana bread to enjoy it. That’s your job.
You need to memorize it. Know it like the back of your hand. Chant it in your sleep.
The Pillars of Branding
Click on Customers, Goal, or Resources below to learn more
Must be well defined
Value is alignment between Customers & Goals
Need revenue? Either add MORE customers, or NEW customers
What are you trying to get Customers to do?
(buy, sign up, join?) Made Valuable by aligning with Customer’s needs Goal must be Executable by Resources
• People, processes, and systems
• Determines ability to Execute Goal
• Provide a great Experience to Customers
Efficient Resources and Execution is how you keep PROFIT in your business.
Which brings us to the next, and arguably most important and universal ingredient.
You’ll probably need more than just half a teaspoon of this.
Flour does more than just add flavor – it is multidimensional. It’s the reason your bread rises. It plays an immensely crucial role in the chemistry of your baking.
Just like flour is the single most important ingredient in all of your baking recipes, customers are the most important component to your business.
It’s just as important to understand your brand as it is to understand your customers.
Who are your customers? What are their experiences? What are their values?
You need to be able to carve out these elements as well as Michelangelo sculpted Pieta. Except you need to be able to do it in your sleep.
When discussing values, keep in mind that it is the alignment between customers and goals.
Your goal is what you want your customers to do. Buy your product? Sign up for your e-newsletter? Sign up for a subscription?
Why is buying your product or signing up for your e-newsletter valuable to your customer? This question is answered by knowing what your customers need.
One of the first steps in your journey of branding is to create an ideal customer persona (ICP). This is a representation of your ideal customer, defined as actual individuals. We’ll get to that soon.
You’ll also need to utilize your resources, which are the people, processes, and systems in place that determine your ability to execute your goal.
Efficient resources and execution is how you keep profit in your business. Afterall, isn’t the goal to provide your customers with an excellent experience? And by providing them with an excellent experience, in turn, you proft.
Let’s Recap This Section:
Your customers must be well defined. This goes way beyond age and gender, and it’s where the ICP comes in.
Value is alignment between customer and goals.
Logo & Identity Development
Your goal (what you want your customers to do) must be executable.
Your goal must be valuable to your customers. Your goal must align with their needs.
Rewind. Let’s go back to semantics.
Brand Building vs. Sales Activation
Lets Talk About Brand Building
Specifically let’s talk about the differences—and relationship—between brand building and sales activation efforts.
While sales activation and branding building ultimately have the same end goal—generating revenue and growing your business—they are completely distinct (but related) strategies, and you don’t want to confuse them.
Sales activation, aka direct marketing, conversion marketing, etc. is geared towards generating immediate sales and based largely on timing: it’s intended to reach your customer when they’re considering their options, and on the verge of making a decision.
Any messaging attempting to get your audience to buy, or set up a demo, or interact with you in any other way right now is sales activation—like promoting a discount on your service “for a limited time only”, for example.
Brand building is the work and efforts you put into generating awareness of, respect for, and trust in, your brand. Great branding will attract the right people, make you visible and appealing when they do have a need arise, and keep customers coming back for more.
But hold up, let’s be clear,
this is not about brand-building being “better than” sales activation. When you’re first starting out, and at many points later on, you will definitely need sales activation; sometimes you can’t wait for inbound to kick in—you’ve gotta go outbound and you’ve gotta go direct.
This is about how you want to be doing both, so that sales activation becomes less necessary—and also more effective and more efficient—over time.
(just think about making a cold call as an unknown startup, vs making that same call, and the recipient has already seen—and relates to—your content and heard good things from colleagues)
If you want to see how brand building and sales activation work in different ways, check out the diagram below. This chart, developed by Les Binet and Peter Field in “The Long And Short of It” shows the relationship between the two, and how a successful brand needs the right balance.
The Long and Short of It
Creating Your Ideal Customer Persona
Knowing Who You Serve
Wasting money advertising to the wrong audience is fruitless, and you wouldn’t want to waste the time or effort it takes either. Creating a semi-fictional representation of your target, ideal customer will help you avoid making that mistake.
When developing your ICP, consider the following:
This should be a quick summary of your idealized customers. Names and alliterations go a long way: Frugal Frank, Sales Manager Sally, Marketing Manager Marek.
What are the goals for your ideal customer? Let’s go with Marketing Manager Marek. Maybe they works for a successful nonprofit agency. Are they trying to find more volunteers? What about Marek’s personal goals? What are they trying to achieve? Are they trying to impress his boss by showing his worth?
What is getting in their way? Time constraints? Limitations on marketing strategies?
What are Marek’s responsibilities? Raising awareness? Organizing fundraisers? What are they in charge of doing? What is part of their job description?
What is Marek good at? Are they an expert at making Excel Spreadsheets? Are they tech savvy? Are they personable?
Maybe Marek has been in this role before. Do they have a background in communications? How many years of experience do they have in the nonprofit sector?
Did Marek go to a university? Do they have a degree in marketing? What does their educational background consist of?
Is Marketing Manager Marek a blunt and straightforward, let’s-get-to-the-point kind of person, or do they like small talk? How do they prefer to communicate?
Trusted Information Sources
Where does Marek go for advice and input? If Marek has a problem and is looking for a solution, where are they going for marketing advice and tips?
What is going to put pressure on Marek’s decision making process? Do they have to report to a board? What will influence the process to move forward?
This part is important because a trigger event is what may prompt Marek to seek help. The best kind of trigger event is external. An example would be: if the nonprofit Marek works for has reached a milestone, or maybe they are preparing for their annual gala, or they are about to reach their fiscal year. What happens that prompts them to seek advice and services?
More Core Brand Strategy Components
Essential Elements of Effective Messaging
One key way to improve and streamline your marketing is creating a messaging hierarchy. A messaging hierarchy gives your brand strategy the structure it needs to accomplish your goals.
Think of it as a pyramid:
The foundation of your messaging is your positioning statement. Your positioning statement is a brief description of the main benefit you provide for your target market and how you stand out from the competition. This statement is intended for internal purposes only, to remind you where you want to be positioned in the mind of your prospective customers, and serve as a guide for your messaging. Use evidence and unique features to describe how your brand provides what you claim it does.
It’s not rocket science, but the more science the better, and this formula can help you get started:
How does this look in action?
Let’s take a look at HubSpot’s positioning statement
“Since 2006, HubSpot has been on a mission to make the world more inbound. Today, over 100,000 total customers in more than 100 countries use HubSpot’s award-winning software, services, and support to transform the way they attract, engage, and delight customers. Comprised of HubSpot’s CRM, Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub, HubSpot gives companies the tools they need to Grow Better.”
Consistency matters.Your brand promise is what you will achieve for the client every time they purchase your products or services.
This goes beyond your tagline. Your brand promise will live in the minds of your customers and clients, and is the experience you promise them every time they interact with your company.
Ingram Micro promised to “deliver a broad and deep spectrum of technology and supply chain services to businesses around the world.”
Geico’s brand promise is “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance.”
And it can serve as a context for evaluating different aspects of your UI, services, or company: “Is _____ fulfilling on, or violating, our brand promise?”
The more you can deliver your promise, the stronger your brand lives within your customers.
And when you violate your brand promise, the consequences can be disastrous—just ask Netflix. Their brand promise for years was “Movie Enjoyment Made Easy”. But in 2011, they announced their intention to split their service into two—Netflix for streaming and Quikster for DVDs by mail—and promptly lost 800,000+ subscribers, basically overnight.
To make your brand unique, you need to personify it. After all, without a compelling character, why will people care about your story? Brand persona is how you want your brand to come across to people.
If your brand was an individual, what would their personality be? Would they be insightful? Logical? Or rowdy and sarcastic?
Think of your brand as a character with its own personality, core values, and tone of voice that makes it unique.
This is the repository for the points we want to be making clearly and often across your different campaigns and content.
Key ideas include important phrases, concepts, stories, and pain points. Paint points are problems your customers may face that they’re likely acutely aware of due to the consequences. Given that it’s just the human condition that we’re more motivated to avoid (or alleviate) pain than we are to seek pleasure, it makes sense to speak to those needs that your prospective customers are looking to address immediately.
You don’t want to frame your company as a solution to only one problem. Your ICP’s pain points are layered and often complex, and your offering should ideally be a solution to multiple problems.
And of course, Key Ideas is where you capture your best “us vs them” comparisons, other value propositions, benefits, key features, concepts you’re looking to educate your base on, and so on.
Often, this list gets started with the things that didn’t quite make the cut while you were sorting out your positioning statement and brand promise.
Make It Look Good
Visual Brand Identity
Aesthetics are everything. If your bread tastes good, but it doesn’t look good, well, no one is going to eat it.
Your brand identity is made up of tangible, recognizable brand elements that work as a cohesive whole. Anyone with a recipe can make banana bread, it’s those different and distinct ingredients you add that set the look, feel, smell, taste, and overall experience apart from the rest. That is the main objective of every brand identity; to create something distinct and recognizable by customers. Looks matter. Your visual brand identity is what will catch people’s eyes, and you want to make sure it leaves an aesthetically pleasing, memorable impression.
Like ingredients in a recipe, the identity brings your brand to life and turns it into an experience, something anyone can interact with. Your brand identity comprises distinguishing verbal and visual features, as well as an overall personality. Developing an identity element such as the logo is potentially the most creative part of the branding process.
A common misconception is that a logo is a brand but it is only one stage in the process of branding. However, it would be wrong to underestimate the role of logo design. It is the main ingredient of your brand identity, the most prominent symbol of brand image and the foundation of effective marketing strategy enabling its connection with the target audience. But you need more than one ingredient to bring your brand to life and turn it into an experience, something anyone can interact with.
Your brand identity comprises these distinguishing verbal and visual features:
Your logo design is that main ingredient that sets your brand identity apart from competitors. As the main representative of a brand, your logo practically drives the rest of the brand design.
When working with a logo designer or branding agency, you want to make sure you are checking these important points off the list to make sure your logo:
- Clearly communicates who you are and aligns with your brand values and message;
- Is classic and timeless, not trendy. You don’t want your logo to be redesigned 6 months later after following a trend;
- Is visually appealing: simple, clean and easily recognizable;
- Makes a lasting impression on your audience.
- Is responsive and versatile: works in black and white and in small and larger sizes;
We have psychological ties to different colors, and using branding colors and logo colors strategically can have a serious impact on how your brand is perceived by your audience. The colors used in all your brand visuals need to work harmoniously with your identity. Market research combined with the practical aspects of color psychology can help you find the perfect trade-off.
Typography refers to—you guessed it—the font (or type) you choose for your branding materials. It’s particularly important to choose logo fonts and brand fonts wisely. Having only a few main font types for your brand works well for consistency and recognition. With too many fonts, you lose that effect.
There are four basic types of fonts you can work with to give your logo a unique look; serif, san serif, script, and display fonts. When combining different logo fonts with each other, your typography can become really powerful.
With so many branding elements to pick and choose, you need to determine which serve your brand best. If your company sells a tangible product, imagery and visuals are most important; for a service-oriented brand, other forms of expression like testimonials or branded blog articles work better.
Brand Style Guide
Last but not least is the style guide. Brand style guides go a long way to ensuring the success of your branding process. The guidelines make up the set of rules of how your new identity should be used through all media. It’s a tool to help ensure consistent implementation of identity elements across all touchpoints.
THE IDENTITY GUIDELINES INCLUDE
Where and how to use your logo, including minimum sizes, spacing, monochrome usage, etc.
The rules and proportions of using the colors, what colors should and should not be combined, as well as the color breakdowns for print and screen.
The info on the specific fonts and details of the font family, as well as the functional font pair information and the usage/combination rules.
Image Style, Illustrations, Photography Usage
These guidelines are optional, depending on the chosen visual style.
Graphic Elements Usage
Graphic style and elements are what make up the whole identity system. We provide the guidelines and tutorials (if needed) to ensure that your marketing or design team can easily use the identity and keep it consistent.
All the branded items that were included in the package (e.g., app icon, business card, social media templates) are collected together with the assets for easy access.
As You Can See
Brand identity design can be a tricky, even intimidating process. That is the reason for plenty of companies including startups to trust this essential task to professional designers and creatives. Research shows that the brand identity process, a thought-out to the slightest details and tested path, is worth the time and monetary investment.
Here’s a guide to the flow that your designer—or you—should follow for best results.
- Research + Pen and Paper
- Moodboards / Styles-capes
By using mood boards (or collages, if you will), you’ll be able to set the visual direction. Think Pinterest.
- Idea Mapping
This technique is used to pour out all your ideas into an organized fashion. There are no good or bad ideas, all of the ideas are put down as soon as they pop into your head. Not all of them stick, but they need to be put out there.
- Sketching Concepts< br/>Take a lot of the ideas from the previous step and turn them into conceptual sketches. The goal here is to visualize those ideas in low fidelity form.
- Moodboards / Styles-capes
- Internal Review & Feedback
Review the concept sketches and generate feedback to be incorporated in the next step. Choose 4–6 concept directions that can go in the digitization phase.
- Logo Concepts Review & Narrowing of Options
Each chosen concept from Step 02 will be digitized. These will be primarily in black and white and the logos should be tested in both black on white background, and vice versa. A logo must work in black and white to be a responsive, versatile, and effective logo. After you’ve reviewed the logo concepts, it’s time to choose 1-2 concepts for further development/iterations.
- Final Iterations
Based on the concepts that you’ve decided on, start finalizing their orientation and layout. All concepts are still presented in black and white. Almost to the color stage, we promise.
- Client Approval
Rock on! You have chosen the final versions of all the iterations from the previous step.
- Color Palette
It’s color time, baby! Try out a variety of color palette options and variations, including some that are distinct from what you maybe had in mind originally. Then narrow it down to the palette that most (1) reflects your brand persona and (2) appeals to/resonates with your target market.
- Prepare Assets & Files
Create the final logos pack in ai, pdf, eps, svg, png file formats of every color variation, so that you’re prepared for any and all ways of using your assets.
Don’t Forget to Add the OKRs
Turning Strategy Into Action
OKRs is short for objectives and key results. It’s a framework for blending strategic and tactical planning to accomplish goals in a specific area of your business (like, idk, marketing for instance).
I know, I know, there are tons of business planning frameworks out there, laden with their own jargon, and seemingly a new one is concocted every day. So what makes this the one to use?
First of all, it isn’t the one. Use whatever framework that works for you, gives you the clarity and structure you need, and that you’re most likely to actually use and implement.
But it is a fairly easy framework to grasp, it doesn’t require learning any new jargon, and its flexibility allows you to produce plans that are as simple or complex as you need. Plus, it’s an approach used and endorsed by such heavy-hitters as Google, Amazon, and Spotify, so it can definitely be valuable for any size company.
Objectives should be your overall strategic aims, like “Build brand awareness in the government contractor market”, “Increase relevant web traffic”, “Successfully roll out new branding”, etc.
Key Results are the specific metrics you set out to reach in order to fulfill on your objective(s). Using the SMART goal approach works great for setting well-defined Key Results.
for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound
Making your goals specific means you thoroughly understand what you’re trying to achieve. Write down exactly what you want to accomplish. Don’t half-bake your bread, keep it cooking until it’s fully finished.
A bad example of a specific goal is:
“I’d like to generate more traffic to my blog.”
“I’d like to increase traffic by 50% in the next five months.”
How are you going to track and assess your success or failure? Monitoring the progress of your goals is vital so you can see what works and what doesn’t.
We know you want to set the bar high for your company, but make sure your goals are realistic. This means considering your team, their skills, and the capacity of your company.
At this point, you should already have communicated your company’ vision. Not only is it helpful for you, but also your team so they know the purpose of each goal. Your goals should be specific to the objectives of your company as a whole.
Deadlines are KEY. In order for your goals to be accomplished, you must set a projected deadline date.
Once you’ve established your OKRs, it’s time to identify your Initiatives.
These are the campaigns, projects, and new activities that you’ll take on to produce your Key Results and therefore accomplish your Objectives.
Do you need to build out any new webpages? Set up some Google Ad PPC campaigns? Put better tracking and analytics in place? Create and commit to a content calendar? Plan out an ABM campaign? Give your LinkedIn page a makeover?
This gives you the foundation of your marketing plan going forward.
Well, that was a lot to take in
A Complex Endeavor
Just reading about building out a great Brand Strategy takes some time… as you’ve noticed.
As you can imagine, actually building one out, if you’re going to do it well and completely, is quite an undertaking.
If you’re planning on going at it alone, I recommend you give yourself adequate time—in two ways:
- Give yourself a few weeks at least to do the research, brainstorming, collaboration, and other work necessary to get it all hashed out. After all, you’ve got (a whole bunch of) other things to do and handle already!
- Actually schedule blocks of time to work on it—even if it’s 30 minutes at a time. Given the pulls and problems and opportunities and “fires” there are to deal with on a daily basis, as well as the ongoing responsibilities you already have, strategic work like this has a way of working itself down the priority list.
That same thing happens with implementation, by the way. Crucial brand-building activities get sidelined for more urgent seeming sales activation activities, and the business suffers for it in the long term.
So, whether in the creation or the implementation of your strategy, make sure you prioritize it—and one of the keys to that is to dedicate time to it!
Hopefully, this guide gave you all the, uh, guidance you need to craft a Brand Strategy that will help elevate your marketing and grow your business.
Of Course, You Don’t Need To Do It Alone
If you have the sense that—even though you know this is important, and could really boost your growth—you just do not have the time, resources, or expertise to do this the way it deserves to be done on your own…
Or maybe you’re just a person who knows your strengths and is willing to invest in the ability to use the strengths of others to help your marketing and your business be everything that you envision it to be…
We’re Here To Help.
If you want expert support and accountability to help you create a Brand Strategy effectively and in a relatively short time-frame, consider applying to be part of our next B2B Brand Strategy Bootcamp.
If you prefer more direct, custom, hands-on help, let’s talk about working with the expert, full-service team here at [RE]noun Creative to create a killer Brand Strategy together.