There are a number of steps towards branding your business. What’s important to remember as you go through them is consistency. Business branding is about consistently conveying the same message and personality across every channel.
How to establish your business brand
Having a well-branded business is invaluable to building a reputation. Your brand helps customers understand what your business stands for. Successful business branding makes you easy to recognise and helps you resonate with customers. So what exactly is branding in business?
Your brand is present in everything your customer sees, from your website design, colour scheme, and logo to the way you advertise your product. What you decide to emphasise and the tone you use to talk to customers are key elements of your business branding. It’s how you define your personality and values.
Brands are often mistaken for logos or slogans, but a brand isn’t a single thing. Your logo, slogan, and other trademarks are part of your brand, but are not the brand itself. They’re marketing tools that are used to help you communicate your brand.
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2. Establish your mission statement.
Let’s return to a question I asked in the previous step: Why did you create your business? Answering this will help you build your mission statement, which defines your purpose and passion as an organization.
Before you can craft a brand that your audience recognizes, values, and trusts, you must be able to communicate the purpose that your business provides. Then, every part of your brand (logo, tagline, imagery, voice, and personality) can reflect that mission and vision.
3. Define your unique values, qualities, and benefits.
Take a moment to jot down a list of what sets your business apart from others. I’m not talking about product features (like appearance, components, or capabilities); I’m referring to how your products or services improve lives and contribute to success.
You’ve probably never heard of Alani Nu; they’re a nutrition company based in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. I order their vitamins because 1) they’re proven to work, and 2) I trust and respect the brand (and it’s gorgeous!). On their website, they’ve clearly and simply outlined their unique values and benefits as part of their overall brand. Highlighting these makes it easy for customers like me to trust their products and choose them over competitors.
4. Create your visual assets.
If you can say with confidence that you’ve mastered these steps, it’s time to move on to one of the more exciting parts of branding — the visual design. We’re talking about your logo, color palette, typography (fonts), iconography, and other visual components.
As you create these elements, build a set of brand guidelines (or a brand style guide) to govern the composition and use of your visual assets. This will ensure that whoever uses your new branding does so accurately and consistently. Check out HubSpot’s brand guidelines for reference.
5. Find your brand voice.
How you communicate with your target market is also considered part of your branding. You want to define a brand voice that connects and resonates with your audience — otherwise, they probably won’t pay attention. Because of that, don’t hesitate to return to step one to get familiar with to whom you’re speaking.
From your advertising campaigns and social media captions to your blog posts and brand story, ensure your tone is consistent throughout all of your written content. Give your audience a chance to get familiar with your brand and learn to recognize the sound of your voice. Better yet, master a fun, entertaining voice, and your customers will look forward to your social media and email updates.
MailChimp is a great example of a brand that speaks with a clear, consistent tone. When I used their free plan for my small business, I always chuckled when receiving their emails and working in their interface. From its web copy to its email blasts and social media captions, MailChimp has established a brand voice and personality that is personable, fun, and accessible — it can be hard to explain the technical parts of a software product (like A/B testing), but MailChimp has mastered that, too.
6. Put your branding to work
Your brand only works if you do. Once you finish designing and creating your new brand (or rebrand) integrate it throughout every inch of your business. Pay extra attention to ensure it’s displayed anywhere your business touches customers. Here are a handful of tips for applying your brand across your organization.
Splash your logo, color palette, and typography across your website. Don’t use anything but your predefined assets in your brand guidelines. Your website is a major part of your company identity — if it doesn’t reflect your brand, it will only provide a jarring customer experience. Also, be sure that all web copy, calls-to-action, and product descriptions reflect your brand voice.
All profile photos, cover art, and branded imagery should reflect your brand. Consider putting your logo as your profile photo — this will make it easier for customers to recognize your business. As with your website, be sure all profile information, posts, and captions reflect your brand voice.
If you have a physical products business, your product is probably the most tangible way that customers interact with your brand. For that reason, your packaging should reflect your new branding — in its design, colors, size, and feel.
I love Chobani yogurt (confession: I’m eating it right now). Their new branding immediately tells me that they produce authentic, healthy Greek yogurt. That’s one of the main reasons I buy Chobani. Recently, I realized that their yogurt packages are made with a very earthy, textured material — an intentional decision that supports the overall experience they’ve paired with purchasing and eating the Chobani brand.
Branding Tips for Small Businesses
1. Treat your brand as a person.
Whiskey Riff is another brand you’re probably not familiar with. It’s a two-man media company based here in Chicago that’s dubbed themselves “the most entertaining country music site ever”. I’m a fan because I love country music, enjoy their written and podcast content, and proudly wear some of its awesome apparel.
- “Hey, I’m Whiskey Riff. I love country music and, you guessed it, Whiskey. My logo was inspired by the Y in the circle on the Chicago Theater marquee, and I’m adorned with horizontal red stripes and stars — which represent the American and Chicago flags.”
- “I publish in-your-face content about what’s going on in country music today. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. My podcast featured my founders interviewing country music artists and telling hilarious stories. Check out my apparel line; my t-shirts, tanks, hats, and accessories can be seen at country music festivals (and on stages) nationwide.”
- “Whiskey Riff is like that first shot of Jack Daniels — that much-needed, refreshing drink after a long day. It’s a break from that cookie-cutter way of life, and you immediately appreciate — and trust — its candidness. There’s absolutely nothing like it in the industry.”
2. Prioritize consistency.
Inconsistency is the number one branding mistake that companies make. Inconsistency undermines your brand and confuses your customers. Recognizable, valuable brands prioritize consistency — and they reap the benefits. When your brand is a unified presence across mediums and platforms, customers can easily get familiar with, recognize, and come to prefer your brand over time. Brand guidelines can help with this initiative.
3. Build and follow a brand strategy.
A brand strategy is more than your brand guidelines; it’s a plan with specific, long-term goals that can be achieved as your brand evolves. These goals typically revolve around your brand’s purpose, emotion, flexibility, competitive awareness, and employee involvement.
Remember how I said that branding is a continuous process? There’s a lot that goes into it. A brand strategy can help you turn that process into a well-oiled practice that keeps your brand moving toward success and recognition.
4. Don’t let inspiration turn into imitation.
Competitive analysis is important. Not only does it educate you on where your competition stands and how they are excelling, but it can also give you ideas on how you can improve or further set apart your brand.
However, be conscious to not fall into an imitation trap. Keep your competitive research limited and focus on what your organization brings to the table. Just because a competitor (or two) has branded their company in a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to follow suit. New, unique, provocative brands are memorable brands.
5. Use branding to hire.
Strong branding makes your employees proud. I know I’m proud to be associated with HubSpot, much less work there. Leverage your branding to attract talented people. If hiring is a strong initiative for your organization, dedicate some of your resources to employer branding. Employer branding is how you market your company to job seekers and current employees. If you’re publically proud of your organization, others will be, too.