Creating a brand: a step-by-step guide

Creating a brand for your business is an essential component to business growth. Successful brands attract and create an emotional connection with customers, leading to repeat business. Best of all, brand advocates will spread the word about your business and that can help win new customers and build a loyal customer base.

A brand is what makes a business unique. It’s what helps it stand out against competitors and plays a vital role in why customers will buy from a business as opposed to a rival company.

A brand permeates everything a business does, how it communicates, and how customers view a company. From the obvious brand devices – such as logos and images through to your company culture and values – a brand is infused in the fabric of a business, staff, products, services and marketing.

Why is creating a brand important?

The best brands are memorable. Companies such as Apple, Amazon, McDonald’s and Starbucks all conjure up different images and feelings, depending on your values as a customer. Some customers will reject brands without knowing much about them, while others will buy a product they’ve never tried before simply on the strength of the brand.

According to Nielsen’s Global New Product Innovation Survey, 59% of customers buy products from brands that are familiar to them, and just over one fifth will buy a new product simply because it is available from a brand they like.

Your brand should define your business. It includes the values your business aspires to, its beliefs, workplace culture and its approach to customers. A brand defines the products and services that you sell – such as an environmental brand using only sustainable materials in manufacturing – and the types of customers you serve, such as environmentally aware consumers.

When developing a brand, it’s worth remembering that it’s a way for customers to identify with your business on more than a transactional level. There are plenty of reasons why every company, from SME to large enterprise, should create a brand:

  • Your brand is how your customer perceives you.
  • A brand is more than just logo or graphic.
  • Good branding can help promote recognition by customers.
  • Branding sets your business apart from the competition.
  • A robust brand strategy can grow a brand and its impact.
  • Branding is about values and that increase motivation and provides direction to employees.
  • Branding connects customers emotionally to a business.
  • A strong brand has business value. It is an asset.
  • A brand needs to permeate your entire organisation.

Creating a brand strategy

Brands aren’t created by accident. Many companies develop a brand strategy. This is a clear plan detailing what your brand is trying to achieve and how your business is going to develop its brand. A brand strategy should determine brand values, customers, differentiation, identity and brand marketing. It can also include success measures that unpin the brand, such as moving into a new market or increasing customer loyalty.

Creating a brand involves working through several stages – and below is a step-by-step guide to creating a brand:

Step 1: Determine your target audience

If you don’t know your target audience, creating a brand strategy will be difficult. Understanding your target audience can ensure your brand is relevant to their values, wants and needs as consumers.

  • Market research – Use customer forums, surveys and focus groups to learn more about your customers and to identify them in terms of demographic and psychographic data. You need to find out attributes such as where they live, how affluent they are, their level of education, their hobbies and interests, the types of media they consume and the social issues that they engage with. Some organisations including YouGov and the Office of National Statistics can provide statistics and data on different target audiences.
  • Customer personas – Distil customer research into personas or pen portraits of a typical customer. This can include images of what they look like, where they shop, the brands they buy, the media they watch or read, and demographic information such as average income and home ownership.
  • Tone of voice – Language and tone of voice can help shape your brand identity. Try to discover how your customers talk, the language they prefer and the visuals that work best for them. For example, a computer company with IT-literate customers might adopt a more technical tone to its language compared to a fitness brand selling a healthy lifestyle.

Step 2: Competitive analysis

Building a brand is about being different and standing out. This means it’s worth taking time to understand your competitors. Tackle each competitor in turn and examine the products or service they offer, their marketing such as company website, advertising and brochures, paying attention to the language and images they use. Examine elements such as pricing and how they talk about price – is it ‘great value’, ‘luxury living’ or ‘won’t be beaten on price’?

Draw up a matrix and make notes for each competitor against elements such as pricing, promotional activity, product range and customer information. Try to identify what the brand message is of each competitor and figure out how your brand can be different.

Step 3: Existing brand

If your business is a start up or has yet to launch, you can skip this step. If you’re looking at creating a brand strategy for an existing business, then it’s worth involving all the people that are influenced by your brand – staff, customers and other stakeholders such as suppliers.

Use free survey tools such as SurveyMonkey to ask customers and staff what they feel and think about your brand to get both an emotional (feel) and logical (think) response. Provide stimulus such as marketing materials and logos and ask both current and potential customers what they like and what they dislike about your brand. If possible, follow up with a telephone or face-to-face conversation to understand why customers and staff feel or think the way they do.

Step 4: Creating a brand – definition

With brand analysis under your belt, you can move on to defining your brand. This involves assessing everything about your brand – from the products and services you sell to the marketing messages you create. From this, and using the information you’ve gathered in the previous steps you’ll need to define your brand elements:

  • Business values and beliefs – This is what your business stands for. It can be about improving the lives of your customers, or a mission to solve a problem that your products and services can tackle. Write down a series of values, such as ‘we are always positive’ around a core mission, such as ‘we help our customers be fitter and healthier without it costing them the earth’ for a health and fitness business.
  • Tone of voice – This is how you communicate. It should inform any marketing and even how staff talk to customers. Try to identify 4-5 words that best describe your brand as if it was a person, such as ‘positive’, ‘upbeat’, ‘friendly’, ‘helpful’ and ‘encouraging’. You’ll be able to use these as a filter to make sure all your brand marketing actively communicates these brand attributes.
  • The ‘why’ of brand development – Finally, create a statement that captures the core, central belief of your brand – the ‘why’ your brand even exists. For example, you could start with ‘We exist to…’ and then complete the sentence.

Step 5: Define your unique selling point

Your business will be competing with larger brands that may have far more marketing budget. In a crowded market, you must ensure your brand is clearly differentiated from competitors so it stands out.

Examine the products and services your business offers. What differentiates these from your competitors? What unique benefits do you bring to customers? Don’t confuse these with the features of your product or service – it’s not about how fast a product is but how your business helps improve the lives of your customers.

For example, an online blinds and curtains company might define their unique selling point as: ‘We provide outstanding service every time with a no quibble price guarantee. We help our customers measure and order blinds and curtains with our easy-to-use online tools to save them time and money.’

From this you can further refine your differentiator into a mission statement, that clearly articulates what your brand stands for, using this template:

We sell [PRODUCT] for [CUSTOMERS] that does [EFFECT]. Compared to [COMPETITORS] we are [KEY DIFFERENCE].

For example: We sell back support cushions for home and office suffers to help alleviate avoidable back pain. Unlike other orthopaedic brands, we provide free online videos and access to trained staff to help educate customers on their posture as a thank you for every purchase.

Step 6: How to create a brand name

Choosing a brand name is an essential part of brand building. Your brand must be distinctive, original and not easily confused with other brands. There are several approaches to choosing the perfect business name. Ideally, choose one that embody the values of your company and the uniqueness of your service or products. Alternatively, try making up a unique name for your company.

  • Use literal names such as The Easy Back Support Company.
  • Combine words to make new ones such as Microsoft (Micro and Software).
  • Make up a unique name such as Skype or Snapple.
  • Remove letters from words to create new ones such as Flickr or Scribd.
  • Use a completely unrelated word such as Amazon used for book sales.
  • Create an acronym such as International Business Machines (IBM).

While many successful brands use made-up names such as Google or Skype, they work best for certain industries and require heavy marketing to resonate with customers. Smaller companies may struggle with a quirky moniker depending on the business.

Once you’ve a shortlist of names, check to see if any other companies are registered with that name or have trademarked that name. Also check to see if you can get a website with any of those names using one of the many domain name registrars in the UK, such as 123 Reg, Go Daddy, Names.co.uk and Nominet – the official registry for .uk domain names. If a name is already taken, the domain register website you’re using may suggest variants.

Step 7: Create a visual brand identity

Now bring your brand to life using colours, images and typography. Colours have meaning such as red being the colour of passion compared to green representing growth and health. Classical serif typefaces can communicate heritage and professionalism, while modern sans serif faces can communicate modern, technical and innovative brands.

Make sure that your brand logo and colours can be used online, in marketing and are distinct from competitors. Write brand rules so staff are clear on how your brand visual identity should be used.

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