Branding is the attempt to inform public perception of your business. Successful branding effectively shapes your brand identity in a way that resonates with your target audience. Most businesses operate in overcrowded marketplaces in which numerous competitors all clamour for the attention of the same audience. For companies operating in these environments, effective branding can provide a decisive competitive edge.
Too many businesses however, especially the smaller and the less experienced, fail to appreciate that branding consists of a great deal more than simply a logo, a tagline and a business card. The practice of influencing the impression of a business’s image in the minds of those who matter is underpinned by a solid understanding of what should be communicated, how it’s to be communicated, and to whom it’s intended to be communicated.
Continue reading to learn about the 5 key aspects of successful branding.
1- Knowledge of your target audience
If there are any businesses that sell products or provide services relevant to everyone, they’re only a tiny minority. Most are targeted toward specific, and often small demographics. Branding that attempts to appeal to all, then, if not chasing the impossible, is in almost every instance attempting to achieve an inappropriate objective. Your intention should always be to create branding that speaks directly to your target audience.
Efforts to properly identify and understand your target audience must always precede any attempt to communicate with it, and these efforts should be thorough. By building up a detailed knowledge of your target audience’s demographics, interests, tastes, common problems, styles of communication and so on, you’ll be much better positioned to begin crafting a brand that they can relate to.
Creating a brand that harmonises with your target audience will establish a natural connection between that audience and your business. This connection will foster feelings of trust and familiarity within your target audience when they encounter your company, ultimately increasing the likelihood that they’ll buy your products or services.
2- Brand identity
Branding is also underpinned by your business’ own identity. When formulating your business’ identity, there are two main considerations to bear in mind:
- What similar companies are doing, and
- What you do that marks you as different.
The biggest companies operating within any industry have gained their standings for a reason. Analyse these companies and take note of what they do well. Then, where possible, incorporate these strategies into your own modes of operation. There’s a caveat attached to this tip however – the idea here is to take inspiration from the bigger brands, but never to copy them outright. Successful branding is always dependent on a distinctive style and voice, and this will never be achieved through brazen imitation.
If possible, also look out for what the bigger brands are not doing so well. After spotting any weaknesses, think about how you’d rectify them and work your solutions into your own business strategies. In short, learn from the mistakes of others.
With branding, it’s crucial to distinguish your brand from its competitors. This is the only way that you’ll be able to convince people to buy from you as opposed to them. So concentrate on what makes you different. Think about what value and benefits your business provides to its customers that others do not. Focus on developing, maintaining and promoting these unique traits and over time they’ll earn your brand a reputation for what it does well.
Knowledge of your target audience and a strong brand identity are the foundations of effective branding. So make sure you put some time and effort into getting these right.
3- Brand message
A brand message refers to what a business’s branding intends to communicate. Once your business has clearly identified its target audience and developed an identity, you can start thinking about the message that you want its physical branding to convey. This message is the implicit impressions that you want your physical branding to communicate. Your message should be simple, clearly expressed, and say what you desire your target audience to think of your business.
An effective brand message tells people who your company is, and what benefits it provides. Consider Amazon’s logo as a good example of branding that contains subtle, well-communicated messages. The logo itself is simple; it consists of the company name in a sans serif font followed by a .com and features an arrow beneath pointing from the A to the z.
The .com serves as a clear reference that this logo represents an online business.
The arrow connecting the a to the z indicates that Amazon goes the distance and delivers, both physically and figuratively. It also subtly suggests that the company sells an expansive range of products. The contrast created by the yellow of the arrow against the black of the logo’s lettering ensures that the arrow is visually prominent, and the choice of yellow coupled with the arrow’s upward curve implicitly evokes the image of a smiley face – presumably that of a satisfied customer.
4- Look and tone (brand personality)
Your brand’s aesthetic style – this is how your company communicates its message. Brand personality refers to both your visual, and your verbal branding choices.
The visual aspects of your brand personality include your choice of:
- Website layout and design
- Colour pallet [link to The Importance of Branding and Colours]
- Imagery (including photography)
The verbal aspects of your brand personality refer to the tone of your copy. Examples of tone include, but are not limited to:
These choices should be made to best express your brand identity and your message in a way that best appeals to your target audience.
Once established, branding is not set in stone. All aspects of branding may change over time. Businesses adapt their branding to reflect technological advancements, changes that occur within their target audiences, and in response to any other influence that might affect how a company conducts its business. But at any given time, consistency is paramount.
All the constituent departments of your business and any collateral that they produce must adhere to your brand message and the aesthetic choices you’ve made in order to express that message consistently within your brand personality. Failure to do so risks sending out a confused message, which would undermine your branding efforts in their entirety.
Reputation underpins and validates your brand message, and in order to maintain a reputation, your company must be consistent in its practices and the delivery of its promises. Customers expect the same level and style of service each and every time that they interact with a business. They also expect at least the same level of quality each time they purchase or product or a service. Keep this in mind, and always attempt to satisfy these expectations in order to build and maintain your brand’s reputation.
It’s important to remember that branding success never occurs over night. Getting it right requires patience and a good deal of elbow grease. But put in the effort and you’ll find that effective branding pays excellent dividends.
You can also check out my post on 7 creative tips for compelling marketing collateral if you’d like to know more about designing and creating effective marketing collateral for your brand.