When you think of branding, what do you picture? While you can probably name a few big companies or recall some familiar logos, a brand is more than that mental snapshot. It’s an experience made up of different elements working together.
While you can’t create a brand with as much value as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola overnight, everyone has to start somewhere! These basic branding elements are the foundation of creating a solid, valuable brand that serves to enhance your business.
Internal strategy overview
Start here. Your internal strategy is where you decide the basics of your business. Who are you? What do you do? What kind of experience do you want to deliver with your brand? After answering these questions and thinking through your strategy, you can create the following:
Once you have a coherent, well thought-out strategy, you can move on to shaping the remaining elements. But remember, every great brand starts here.
Positioning is the distinctive place a brand adopts in its competitive environment to ensure its audience can tell the brand apart from others.
You want to position your brand successfully in the eyes of your target market, or the group of customers your company has decided to serve and at which it consequently aims its marketing activities. Asking why these people will care about your product and what their motivation to purchase is will help you create a more accurate position.
Your positioning statement should specify what makes your product different from the competition and why. The “why” is considered your reasons to believe. These reasons are designed to provide proof that the brand delivers the benefits that it promises to deliver, and that the benefits are true and credible.
Your messaging is the collection of statements about your business’s belief about itself. These statements are strong and will be front-facing your target audience. Your messaging is leveraged across all marketing activities, including press releases, articles, direct marketing, advertising, website, and presentations.
To create your messaging, try using a message map. A message map is a frame work used to create compelling, relevant messages for various audience segments and for organizational alignment.
Your messaging should clearly communicate to your audience what your company does, why you do it, and what makes you different. For more information on creating a message map, check out this video tutorial we love.
Your voice is how your brand speaks to your audience when delivering its message. It’s important to know your brand voice and how to execute the voice when communicating.
It often helps to personify your voice when creating it. Does your brand sound more like Barack Obama on the 2008 campaign trail? Or Mike Rowe speaking to the camera on The Discovery Channel? Once you have a basic idea of your brand’s voice, practice executing it and use it for all communications.
Your brand’s identity is your visual strategy. How do all the elements you’ve identified come to life visually for your customers and stakeholders to see?
Your identity includes your logo, colors, monograms, and typefaces. It’s best to hire a graphic designer with knowledge and experience in logo and brand construction for this portion of the branding process. Working as a team can be extremely helpful in creating an identity.
All of these branding elements come together to form an experience, or the means by which a brand is created in the mind of a stakeholder. Some experiences, like retail environments, advertising, and websites, are controlled. Some are uncontrolled like journalistic comments and word of mouth.
Remember, strong brands arise when the above elements work together to form consistent experiences that make for a clear, differentiated, and positive overall brand experience.