How to Build a Brand

Know Your Competition

Context is crucial, and you can’t define your place and point of difference in your industry if you’re not aware of the overall size, health, players, and trends in the marketplace. These are companies that carve out a new business model or way of communicating within an existing market model. Where is the market right now and where do you fit? The Ansoff Matrix helps you define where you sit in the market structure and your potential for growth, which would impact how your brand is positioned and messaged. Is your industry prone to innovation or is it stagnant?

Know Your Company

The hardest part of building a brand is being honest about your business. But in business, that kind of love could be your ruin. Remember that time when you sat in your manager’s office and they proceeded to review your annual highlight reel—the good, the bad, and the areas that could use a little improvement? You learned about the tools you needed in your professional toolkit to be competitive and grow. And we all know how businesses see expenses. They are an orderly way for you to evaluate your business, customer, products, competitors, and market position—all of which are powerful when building brand fundamentals.

Brand Exercise #1: Brand Evaluation and Assessment

I. The Essential

How do you do it differently/better than your competitors? [pain point solving/solution providing] Goals and objectives: What is success to you? Please describe your short- and long-term goals. Goals should be SMART goals and straddle qualitative and quantitative: Business objectives and goals, Brand objectives and marketing goals, What metrics have you used to benchmark and measure brand health and growth? What metrics do you feel are important for the long-term health and viability of your business? Revenue, number of sales, average order value, site traffic, conversion rates, social media engagement, press/influencer coverage.

II. Brand Questions

What are your vision, mission, and brand values?

For example, Patagonia’s mission statement is “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Vision: An aspirational statement that outlines your long-term objectives and goals over time. Do you have any demographic information? (For example age, gender, geography, education, HH1, marital status, homeownership, device ownership/usage, etc.) What about buyer behavior? 8) How do your customers perceive your brand or business? Include direct competitors and perhaps companies in adjacent industries.

III. Product/Services – Outline your products/services:

What do they do?

What are their functional and emotional benefits?

Do you have a hero product/service?

Do you have a competitive edge (i.e., patents, research, distribution, supplier advantage, IP, resources, experience, product innovation, etc.)? What results are you promising? What makes you an authority on the products/services you sell? Why should consumers trust you versus the guy down the street?

Brand Exercise #2: Brand Reflection

Taking the time to answer the following questions will be critical when formulating the remaining components of your brand platform: What are you most passionate about when it comes to your brand and business? What’s your brand’s core genius? What makes you different from the pack? Do you have any advantages that make you stand out? Specific methodologies, i.e., ways of doing things that differ from your competition? What do you want to be known for? What are you offering in your business? Write this as if a client has contacted you and asked what you offer. What services do you not want to provide? What services do you plan to offer in the future? Why did you start your business?

Step 2: The Elevator Statement

The elevator statement is the “cocktail party conversation” part of your brand. It’s the answer to the question: “What does your company do?” The elevator statement doesn’t need to be sexy; in fact, a fluffy copy can distract from your offering. The elevator statement and the signature story you’ll get to in the third step lay the foundation for your positioning and clear direction for your creative copy and visuals. Having: This is the outcome your client will experience as a result of working with you. For example, a millennial legacy planning and coaching company created this elevator: Be: As socially conscious female millennial wealth recipients, we’ve experienced familial mortality moments, premature loss, and tough transfer conversations — all while trying to define our identity, how we fit in the world, and how we can evolve corporate and financial success to service and significance. Have: Our method transforms women of multigenerational wealth families from asset recipients to confident, compassionate leaders.

Step 3: The Signature Story

The signature story tackles both the big questions and the minor ones. Is there a glaring gap in the market that you can fill? What bolts you out of bed and keeps you up at night? What struggles are you discovering along the way? You tell this story in your own words and voice; it’s unique because it’s from you. You might speak super fast and become animated when you get excited, or maybe you’re thoughtful, measured, and speak from a place of experience and perspective.

The Science Behind Effective Stories

According to Bluesumac, this is how parts of our brains respond to stories: Dopamine: The brain releases dopamine when it experiences an emotionally charged event, making it easier to remember and with greater accuracy. We forge connections with people who proudly wear their vulnerability. The signature story and elevator statement drive your brand story in the way you combine the emotional with the practical. My work has been featured in “Vogue, Town, and Country, Parenting, STFU Parents, etc.”, Consumers want to know that you’re thinking about them 24/7. The second story is a bio that centers on the person behind the business instead of the customer. Humans aren’t necessarily attracted to the allure of the new, as much as we like to see things we’re already familiar within a new way.— Google’s Engagement Project

Step 4: Positioning and Purpose

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is defined as the territory you occupy in your customer’s minds relative to your competitors and whether they believe that you’re the best option to meet their needs. It defines what you say, where you say it, how you say it, and to whom you say it. That is the (benefit): Define the promise you’re making to your audience. What support points, evidence, and claims can you use to back up the benefits? Your positioning is driven by your market, customer, and brand insights, and it speaks directly to your customer with clarity and confidence. Is this statement exclusive to you or could it be reflective of every shop on the block? Example: Amazon used this positioning statement back when it almost exclusively sold books: “For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books.

Brand Purpose

The purpose is the business’s reason for being, not selling. The most successful brands build their positioning into their purpose—shifting from, Where do I stand? What sustains it? Brand purpose is your brand’s philosophical heartbeat. Sometimes even big brands aren’t able to succinctly or articulate what makes them distinct. The next few exercises will help you when establishing your positioning and purpose. Example: Target does an excellent job at articulating its brand purpose, as does Patagonia.

Exercise 1: Fast on Your Feet

This exercise invites you to list the first three things that come to mind when thinking of your brand. They can be nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. But pick three things and don’t overthink it. Take two-three minutes to complete this exercise._____________________________________________

Exercise 2: First, Only, and Best

Fill in the blanks:We are the first to _____________We are the only who ___________We are the best at ______________

Exercise 3: Find Your Promise

A promise is a thing you are telling a customer you intend to do for them. It’s the reason they should buy from you. But getting at a great promise means understanding both the functional and emotional benefits you impart. Jot down as many as you can think of for both, knowing that ultimately you’ll need to be able to pick the top benefits that surpass the pack.

Step 5: Benefits and Reason to Believe

Brand benefits are the tangible and intangible value that your customer experiences as a result of using your product or service. There are two types of benefits: rational (or functional) and emotional. For example, a Dyson upright vacuum purports to offer superior suction compared to other vacuums on the market, with the lowest maintenance (i.e., no bags, no filters to clean). Emotional benefits relate to how your product or service makes customers feel. What makes your claims and promises credible and trustworthy? Your customer is skeptical because they’ve heard the promises before.

Step 6: Brand Personality and Tone of Voice

Remember that people buy from people, not brands, and the more you can bring your brand to life, the more abundant, meaningful connections you can cultivate. Our vibe is all about how we show up, behave, and engage. You’re making a deliberate act of personal expression and staking your claim on your verbal and visual style—effectively, stamping your signature. How do you want your customers to perceive you? What adjectives would they use to describe you?

Brand Personality

Personality in this case refers to the human characteristics, emotions, and attributes embodied by a brand. It’s a brand made human by the Dr. Frankenstein of marketing departments, although far less nefarious. Your personality is how you show up and act in front of your customers. Your personality is composed of your tone of voice—all the elements that make an individual unique and establish their identity.

Brand Tone of Voice

The tone of voice is the expression and embodiment of your personality, beliefs, and values — the person behind the brand. Think of the words you use and how you use them. What might work for a small business would be an epic fail for a multinational corporation. You could be you, a character, or the creation of the voice of your brand—it all depends on the size of your business, the industry you’re in, and what feels right and natural to you. For example, do you speak fast or with a drawl? Are you loud and bombastic or quiet and reserved?

Step 7: SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What do others (e.g., customers, partners, vendors, competition, etc.) A more affordable vendor or acquisition candidate?Threats: What are your competitors doing that could negatively affect your business? What’s shaky about your business that needs resolution? For example, do you have enough funding or cash flow?

Your content strategy brings all of the brand’s puzzle pieces together. Now that you have a fundamental understanding of your customer, landscape, company, and brand message architecture (i.e., story, positioning and purpose, brand benefits, and RTB), you can design a messaging strategy for each of your customer segments, media, and B2B (business-to-business) partners. Each step builds and expands upon itself. You started at a simple place of talking about your product and evolved into a sophisticated matrix that predicates what you say, where, how, and when you say it. Your message becomes expansive and specific, knowing that the messages you use in product copy will be different from an Instagram Story.

Influenced By Felicia C. Sullivan

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