One of the most common problems for Umbrella Marketing Team’s small business clients – particularly start-ups – is that many of them haven’t been able to get effective support and advice around constructing their brand before they start to work with us.
This is usually not the fault of the people in the business (perhaps the resources or time have been limited), but we know it’s important for small businesses to be able to create, use and scale their brand in a way that engages their audience and portrays their values and promises.
So what does it take to build an effective brand for your company? Here’s our list of brand ‘must-haves’ (be sure to comment at the bottom of the page if you want to add any of your own!)
- Your Brand’s Identity
Understanding what a brand actually is and what it does is absolutely key to developing it. Your brand is the culmination of everything your company stands for, the values you possess, the people that work for you, the products and services you sell…the list goes on. In fact, my favourite way of understanding branding is thinking of a business as a person: a brand could be considered to be the person’s body language and attitude.
Your audience needs to understand what your brand is all about and its identity is formed by your promises, values, communications, service and delivery.
Quick Tip: your brand identity is WHO your company is, not just what it is.
- Brand Positioning
How you pitch your business against your competitors is a key factor in brand positioning. Sure, there might be another 30, 50, even 100 businesses doing something similar to yours, but how do you differ? The way you market your products and services is dictated by the part of the market you serve (‘segment’) and the way you meet the needs and desires of your target customers in a way that your competitors don’t or can’t.
Positioning is a psychological concept and it’s through your marketing communications that you place yourself within a marketplace. Understanding how and why your product or service is relevant to your target audience, in what ways it differs from competitor offerings and using opportunities to communicate your proposition, with this information, will position your brand effectively.
Quick Tip: positioning is about where you want to be (and where you are) in your customer’s mind – aim to be at the front!
- The Brand Personality
Let’s carry on the person metaphor we used earlier. People don’t just like other people for the way they appear on the surface (although there’s nothing wrong with someone who’s easy on the eye!), it’s the personality that people really gel with.
A brand’s personality is no different to a human personality. When we talk about brand personality, we’re talking about the way a brand speaks to its customers – the ‘tone of voice’ used in communications, whether it portrays itself as modern, traditional, fun, serious, etc. The personality is a neat package of the qualities of your brand and your communications. But don’t forget – your people and their personalities are also key to how your brand is perceived.
Quick Tip: Present yourself appropriately to your target audience – don’t mix your messages!
- The Customer Experience
This is a big one. It’s increasingly recognised that customer experience is a huge deal for marketers – after all, bad experiences are bad news for brands!
Humans are experiential beings – our psychological and emotional perceptions of things are formed by our experiences of them. As a child, we learn that being naughty results in being shouted at by our parents; that’s not a nice experience, so we associate naughtiness with bad experiences and we start to behave (parents will hate is for making it sound so easy…). Brands form an emotional bridge between our minds and a company, so it is unsurprising that poor experiences lead to poor perceptions.
Quick Tip: get your experience right every time (and deal with any issues quickly and effectively!) or watch your brand flounder.
Perception, engagement and action are all the results of effective communication.
How you communicate with your audiences defines how they understand you and your brand. Does that line sound familiar? It should do – I’ve just communicated a point to you that I used earlier (see the last line of point 3, just before the quick tip) and by doing so, I’ve subtly reinforced a key message of this blog, at the same time providing a positive impression of consistency across our brand. Without wanting to dispel the ‘marketing magic’ too much, by communicating key messages in such a way, you will start now to see the Umbrella Marketing Team brand as trustworthy.
Understanding your audience, their needs and desires will help you work out the messages you need to send to them. Surround these messages with elements of your brand identity and personality and you’ve started to define the position of the brand and how it is experienced. Excellent work!
Quick Tip: communicate your proposition clearly and simply.
- Logos, Marks and Devices
The single biggest problem with branding is that people associate the concept of a ‘brand’ with what they can see and they miss the bigger picture. Even seasoned marketers fall foul of this! It comes down to an inherent psychological laziness – what you see (logos, colours, etc) is easier to describe and understand than what you feel (personality, positioning, etc).
Whilst it can be frustrating for the best marketers to have to articulate this to people repeatedly, it is a testament to the power of your visuals.
Make sure you have a logo which represents your purpose as a business in a way that also portrays your desired personality and identity. Use straplines, slogans, supporting imagery and other brand marks to give your brand a versatile set of visual communication tools. And make sure you get your visual elements in a range of formats or its use will be limited!
Quick Tip: create a powerful image which sums up your business neatly – keep it simple for maximum effect.
- Visual Style
Carrying on with the visual theme, the next thing to consider is a consistent visual style for all of your communications. This is a huge area for consideration and covers everything from the design of your business cards and email signatures all the way through to your social media graphics or billboard advertisements. A consistent visual style is important in promoting a unified image of your company to your audience. One of the best things you can do is to create a visual style guide for your brand.
Quick Tip: create a visual style guide to maintain consistency in your branding.
- Brand Assets
Your logo, brand marks and other elements are extremely important assets for you to own. Having quick access to and control over these assets is the key to being able to create consistent, branded communications in an efficient manner.
Your brand assets include all of the artwork for your logo, brand marks and devices as well as your colour palette, typography and any photography, illustrations, mascots, icons or avatars that are created for your company. Keep these in one place and give the responsibility of maintaining your ‘brand catalogue’ to a single person within your organisation who knows what they’re doing (usually the marketing director or equivalent) – if you’re not sure of the best way to control these assets, then ask for advice before it’s too late!
Quick Tip: make sure any designers you use provide you with original artwork files; and that your contracts with any designers give you the intellectual property rights and ownership of these assets!
In our last point, we said you should give the responsibility of managing your brand catalogue to one person in your company. Well, there’s a very important reason for that – control.
No, we’re not suggesting for a minute that you become a total dictatorship when it comes to branding and marketing, but it’s essential that there are guidelines for you and your team to follow when they use your brand. Without such guidelines, there is no control over your brand and its value becomes seriously diluted.
Every single communication that leaves your business impacts your brand – whether it’s a simple email from an employee to a supplier or a nationwide advertising campaign – so you should set up a hierarchy of control within the organisation to make sure that your brand isn’t misused by your team.
You might also want to consider using trademarks and other intellectual property protections to ensure that your brand isn’t used outside of your organisation without appropriate permission – after all, I doubt you’d be very happy if widely-condemned religious extremists became widely associated with your popular vehicle brand!
Quick Tip: take ownership of your brand and make sure you take action against those who misuse it.