Begin with brand

Brand/branding is a sexy term. All the cool kids (Apple, Google, Nike etc.) are seen as brands, rather than businesses per se. Brands are what teenagers covet and trendsetters worship. But ultimately branding is what sets the brilliant apart from the bla.

Considered more severely, good branding can elevate an average product into something awesome and, similarly, a lack of branding or inappropriate branding can significantly devalue or diminish an amazing product.

So build your brand early. Do it in the prototyping phase so that the brand develops and evolves alongside your product or service. This will also help to ensure that the brand encapsulates the essence of the offering.

There are many facets to branding, but if you’re just starting out here’s the branding work that we recommend you do.

DEFINE YOUR BRAND… and get a decent logo!

The easiest way to define your brand is to give it a personality. Imagine it were a person; what would it be like, what would it dress and talk like, where would it hang out, who would it be friends with, what would some of it’s key features be?

Define your brand in this way by writing it down, drawing it or mind mapping it. Say what it is and what it is not. Decide on a persona, test it on friends and family, revise until it feels right. Trust your intuition.

A logo is a good place to start with branding as it tends to help inform the other visual elements. Logo options and styles are endless, as I wrote here, but make sure to choose something that is iconic and versatile. And have it professionally designed. There are many branding elements that can be done yourself, or using free online tools, but a logo is not one of them. Unless you are a trained and experienced graphic designer (and even then, think twice), do not consider designing our own logo.

Define your brand further by identifying what its key features and attributes are.

Features refer to the things that make up the product or service, while attributes refer to the functional, economic and emotional benefits of the brand. It may also be useful to list the tangible and intangible benefits of the brand. The tangible will be the fact that your organic handmade glycerine soap helps people to get clean, while the intangible is emotional stuff. In the case of this special soap it may be that it helps people feel that they are making an environmentally sound selection when it comes to scented soap. Never underestimate the power of intangible brand benefits.

Brands thrive on intangibles, or untouchable promises that speak to some part of the human psyche.

POSITION YOUR BRAND

While there are some interesting opinions around the redundancy of market segmentation in a connected world, it is still important to know who your clients and audience are – or who you would like them to be, especially to help you understand where in the market to place your brand.

A rudimentary competitor analysis may also be useful in helping to define and position your brand more strategically. To outsmart (or out-brand) your opponents it is is necessary to know who they and what they offer. This process doesn’t necessarily need to be an expensive or time consuming exercise. The first five results on a “organic handmade glycerine soap” Google search will already give you a fairly good indication of who and what you’re up against.

Make sure you position your brand slightly differently to your competitors, be it a price difference, a remarkable difference in features, an experience difference or   just way better branding, make sure it is noticeably different.

KEEP IT CLEAR… and consistent

Creativity in branding is cool but eventually no measure of creativity will trump the long-term benefits and rewards of consistency. Find what works (it may take multiple iterations initially, and certainly lots of tweaks and revisions along the way) but keep at it and stay true to the core offering. Review and edit as you need to but make sure it doesn’t detract so far from the essence of the brand that it causes confusion.

When brands gets confused customers get confused, and confused customers tend to seek solace in the comfortable confines of another brand.

This is why consistency is key and king. More than that, it is supreme ruler of the branding universe! Over time the reward for consistency is instant brand recognition. Consistency applies to visual and verbal style, as well as the behaviour of the brand.

A quick case study in consistency. Consider the brand as a person; today John Brand is a vegan who enjoys the outdoors, seldom raises his voice and can be found enjoying intimate (vegan) dinners with a small group of close friends on the weekend. If, tomorrow, John Brand is a self-indulgent carnivore who loves clubbing with his large group of mates, never wakes before noon and is the kind of guy you hear before you see him, then one might be forgiven for thinking John Brand is a bit wayward, or confused about his true identity. It will probably be difficult to be friends with him because of an uncertainty around how exactly to connect with him.

In the same way, brands need to behave uniformly. This doesn’t mean that the brand can never do anything out of character, or interesting, but it does mean that new things (advertising campaign, product extensions etc.) should be strategically considered, while paying heed to the essence and integrity of the brand.

Ultimately your brand is more important than your content, it is more important than your product and service. The brand is bigger than the business itself. Invest in the brand. Develop it. Grow it. Love it.

Your brand is your greatest differentiator, and thus your greatest asset.

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