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With the rise of social media, our increasingly digital world has completely changed the landscape of how we think about branding today.
The concept of branding has almost always referred to a business name and logo. But times have changed, as we all know, in this digital era with lots of noise.
Consumers today are always connected, meaning brands have had to find deeper ways of connecting with them. Social media has given the world access to every success and shortcoming, with users openly promoting or denouncing brands to their followers. Wendy’s social media branding strategy has famously caught the attention and adornment of millennials and Gen Z with their quick-witted roasts of customers and brands on Twitter. Many companies have tried to accomplish brand recognition with similar strategies, only to miss the mark and have their brand trend for all the wrong reasons.
Branding strategies have had to grow and adapt to the digital age, so here is a ten-day crash course.
Related: 7 Stupid Branding Mistakes Your Small Business is Making
To effectively perform in your industry, you need to know your industry. Researching the brands of other key players in your sector is a great first step in your branding journey. Compare the offerings and branding of your competitors, accounting for everything from their visual aesthetic and marketing efforts to their customer feedback channels. Looking at local brands can help you define yourself in your current market, while large name brands can give you a benchmark to aspire to. Market research is an integral part of the branding process and will considerably affect the direction you decide to take once you’ve produced a tangible concept.
However, don’t just pay attention to the success stories. Consider cases where brands have failed. Compare the changes made when companies have launched a rebrand. Seeing where others made mistakes may prevent you from making similar ones in the future.
It sounds simple, but to be a successful brand, you need to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition. The way to do that is through defining yourself and your brand. What makes you different from your competitors? What services do you provide that other companies do not? How do your mission and values compare to other businesses in your industry? Answering these questions is key to carving out a spot for yourself among your competition.
Bernadette Jiwa, a brand strategist and blogger at The Story of Telling, says, “The difference between a good idea and a commercial success is context—The understanding about who the product or service is for, what they really want deep down and why they will care about this, more than that.”
Related: Don’t Copy. Be Different. And Your Marketing Will Win.
Write down the detailed demographics of your target audience and other questions you want to consider when developing a brand for that audience.
How old are they? What gender? Are they wealthy corporate types or middle-class and family-focused? Where do they live and shop? What is it that they need? Is another company currently filling that need?
The more specifically you can identify your audience, the easier it will be to create a brand they will relate to. Karena Dawn and Katrina Hodgson of Tone It Up started by creating a YouTube channel to share their love of fitness, and today, they share over a million followers. Their ability to connect with their community was pivotal to their success, recognizing that they provided a service for consumers like themselves. Those customers recognized this connection and have now become the brand themselves, conducting worldwide meetups and creating trending hashtags on social media.
Once you’ve found your audience, you need to develop the voice that you will be speaking to that audience.
What channels do you want your brand to speak to customers through, and how do you wish to communicate to those customers? Perhaps the wealthy, corporate types prefer a more professional or service-oriented voice, whereas young, recent graduates may engage more with a conversational or friendly voice. It’s essential that your brand voice can communicate effectively with your target demographic and entice them to keep the conversation going.
Related: 9 Tips for Creating an Awesome Brand
Your brand represents you, so show your personality through your brand. Consumers today don’t just want the same old service from a company presented the same way as every other company. They expect their needs to be met but want those needs to be tailored to them through relatability and personal interactions.
Try looking at various personality spectrums and think about which end you want your brand to fall on. Do you want your brand to give off fun energy or stay stoic and serious? Are you looking to be modern and cutting-edge, or classic and traditional? Are you interested in accessibility for all, or is exclusivity a part of your brand’s desirability?
Consumers are real people and want to be able to relate to real people, which is challenging to do when a brand is anonymous. Melissa Cassera, a marketing, communications and PR expert, advises, “Don’t edit yourself out of your brand. This is one of the most common mistakes I notice with entrepreneurs, especially in copy and content. If you tend to edit your voice and personality, then dictate what you want to say, record it, and transcribe it. It works wonders!” If your audience can connect with you or your story, they will likely join your brand.
Receiving feedback from a trusted circle that can relate to your target demographic can provide valuable insights into aspects of branding you may have missed. Writers often say they cannot edit their own work, as it becomes harder to recognize errors in a piece the more you’ve read over it. The same can be said when developing your brand. Perhaps you missed an essential aspect of your brand story while focusing on a different aspect. It is better to catch missed opportunities and ensure you successfully serve your audience before an entire release. “Don’t just put something out there to put something out there. Make it right the first time!” designer and stylist Megan Bailey says.
When making the official assets for your brand, make sure those assets are professional. Whether they are in-house or contracted, hire a graphic designer to create your logo, website, business cards, etc. Hire a marketing expert to execute your strategy effectively. Research internal and external systems that will keep your communications with stakeholders organized and professional, and integrate your assets into those systems. Every asset you put out to consumers should represent your brand, whether digital or static. Those assets should be replicated, promoted and shared regularly in the area where you have found your niche.
Arguably, the most critical aspect of successful branding is ensuring your brand is consistent. Meghan Bailey also advises, “Right from the start — every single piece of material from a logo to photography to social media posts need to be consistent and professionally organized. The ultimate goal is to have people gravitate and recognize your work instantly”. The more recognizable your brand is, the more recognizable your product or service will be, and the closer you’ll become to solidifying your brand as a household name.
Related: 3 Proven Ways to Stay Consistent, Meet your Goals and Realize Your Dreams
You’ve made it through our ten-day crash course and have hopefully developed a successful brand concept in that time. Give yourself a quick break to take pride in your work, then get out there and promote!
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