Branding is one of the most difficult aspects of marketing, but it’s also one that many businesses brush off as “simple” or “natural.” There’s nothing natural about building a powerful brand – doing so requires a blend of analysis, creativity, and hard work.
In this guide, we’ll cover nine brand development tactics that you can use to turn your company into the next Nike, Apple, or Coca-Cola. From practical to strategic, read on to learn simple but effective tips to help you develop a powerful brand for your business.
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Understand what you want your business to be
Not every business can be an Apple or Nike. Becoming a trusted, authoritative brand that everyone can remember takes a huge amount of time and resources, as well as a certain degree of luck and timing.
Don’t let this fact put you off. In fact, let it encourage you. Not every brand should be big and memorable. Sometimes it’s far better to be well known within a small crowd of passionate users than to be remembered by everyone in the market.
The first step of effective branding is knowing what you want your business to be. Ask yourself: Who is your audience? Then design your brand to appeal to the people that will be passionate about your business, its product, and its identity.
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Make great design an integral part of your business
Great design is the foundation of any memorable brand. Would you remember Nike without its famous swoosh logo, or Apple without its famous bitten apple? Design is key to a great brand, and neglecting it could doom your brand to mediocrity.
From Coca-Cola to Mercedes Benz, all of the world’s most famous and memorable brands share one thing in common: they’re simple. Keep your design as simple as possible and you’ll build a memorable, compelling logo and corporate identity.
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Remember your ABCs: Always Be Consistent
If a company like Apple, which is known for its high-end products, released an ultra-budget laptop tomorrow, would it strengthen or damage its brand? If Porsche made a compact, low-performance car, what effect would it have on its reputation?
Consistency is the key to developing a powerful brand, and even a single moment of inconsistency can damage years of effort. If you position yourself as a luxury brand, it’s essential that you remain consistent and focused on your target market.
This makes branding and positioning a fundamental aspect of your business, with a role in everything from research and development to marketing. Before you release a new product or service, think about the effect it could have on your brand.
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Project the image you want your business to have
“It is often the case not what the brand stands for, but what consumers perceive the brand stands for.” – Sudio Sudarsan
Is your business small? If you want to attract customers and clients that deal with big businesses, project an image of being big and reliable. Many of the world’s top companies grew from bedrooms, garages, and basements.
During the course of their growth, their branding often remained largely the same as it originally was. Why? Because right from the beginning, they created an image of importance and influence that made overhauling the brand unnecessary.
Never be dishonest with your branding, but be prepared to project an image that’s more in line with what you’d like your company to be than what it currently is. You will be surprised by how rapidly your company achieves its branding ideals.
Projecting a great image is one of the most integral aspects of success. Learn how to take your business ideas from concept to reality by enrolling in our course, How To Start a Business: From Business Idea to Business.
Update your branding, but try not to overhaul it
From time to time, you may need to update your branding to reflect changes in your market or new features of your business. When you update your branding, try to be as subtle as possible to avoid upsetting your passionate, loyal customer base.
In the early 1990s, Coca-Cola experimented with a new formula and a new product: the infamous New Coke. Because the change was so radical, Coca-Cola’s customers – which numbered in the hundreds of millions – largely rejected the new product.
When you change your brand, do so gradually. Take several small steps instead of one big one, updating your logo, product line-up, or image piece by piece. This way, you’ll retain your existing customers while you start to target new audiences.
Use your brand to stand out from your competitors
In The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Ries gives a fantastic example of how you can use your brand to stand out from the competition. Rent-a-car company Avis had for years tried to increase its sales and become the biggest company in its industry.
Its campaigns had been failures, largely due to its lack of brand authority. To stand out, it changed its marketing message to “Avis is only No. 2 in rent-a-cars. So why go with us? We try harder.”
Avis used what most brands would think of as a disadvantage – a smaller market share than a competitor – to distinguish itself and stand out. Its brand wasn’t just about its quality, but about its interest in helping out its customers.
If you’re a small business in a market dominated by bigger competitors, emphasize your smallness to strengthen your brand. Sometimes standing out, even if it means positioning yourself as a smaller, less powerful brand, is the best strategy.
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Make social media an integral part of your marketing
Social media gives businesses an incredible opportunity to connect directly with their customers. The thousands of dollars spent on market research prior to the social networking revolution should be a statement to the value of this access.
Today, it’s almost impossible to have a powerful brand without a presence on the top social networks. From Twitter to Facebook, developing your brand via social media is a powerful opportunity that no business –big or small – can ignore.
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Know your target market, and ignore everyone else
Whether you sell shoes or supercars, some people won’t like you. They won’t find your advertisements persuasive, they won’t find your brand relatable, and they’ll never find your products useful or intriguing.
On the other hand, some people will love your brand. If you produce high quality products, they’ll even recommend your brand to their friends. They’ll talk about your qualities and rush to defend you in conversations with their peers.
All of your marketing materials, from your display advertisements to your emails, should target the second type of person. Know your target market and don’t think about pleasing anyone other than the people you know will love your products.
Wired founding editor Kevin Kelly says every business needs 1,000 true fans. This is a great mentality to have when building your brand: focus on developing something that your 1,000 most passionate, loyal, and interested customers want to use.
The rest, in many ways, will come naturally. By honing in on your target market and laser targeting your branding to appeal to them, you’ll eventually end up attracting people who you never thought would be interested in your business.
Remember that people need a reason to care about you
Every brand needs something special. Red Bull sells energy drinks, but it positions itself as a supporter of everything extreme. Nike sells shoes – a product that can be purchased at far lower prices – but succeeds by selling an image of excellence.
Whatever your brand stands for, it won’t be remembered unless you give people a reason to care about you. What are your values? What do you support? What can a customer gain from interacting with your brand and buying your product?
Give your target market a reason to care about you, whether it’s a commitment to quality or an assurance of great prices. What is your unique selling proposition – your USP – and how can you make sure your market remembers you for it?
This is the foundation of marketing and perception, and it’s one of the most vital concepts for any brand. Learn more about how to create a memorable brand that people care about in our Marketing Strategy course.
Would you like to learn more about branding?
Branding is one of the most difficult aspects of marketing, since it isn’t quantitative like direct response advertising or direct sales. Learn more about how to develop a powerful brand in our blog post on the four best ways to stand out as a brand.