The Most Comprehensive Brand Guide For 2023
What is branding? You’d be surprised at how diverse the answers to this question can be.
Did you know that there are around 1.15 million small businesses in Canada alone? If you look at all the small businesses around the world, that figure is going to get a whole lot bigger! In fact, one source puts the figure at a whopping 400 million. From a business perspective, that’s a wealth of competition that’s getting in the way of you and your success.
So, how do you give your business a leg up over all of the competition? The best place to start is with branding, and if you’re not actively working on a brand strategy for your company, now’s the time to start looking at what branding is and what you should be doing to better market your products and services.
In our day-to-day with business owners, we find there is often a misconception as to what branding actually is. To help clarify branding and serve as a foundational resource, we’ve put together the complete guide to branding in 2021. Read on to learn what branding is and the power it has over companies around the world.
What is a Brand?
To really understand branding, you first need to look at what exactly a brand is. That might seem obvious; it’s a business, right? But the ins and outs of what makes a brand is actually much more complex.
The basics of a brand are its name and logo design. Both of these brand elements play a huge part in the recognition of a business and most companies understand their importance by now. But this definition is outdated and, whilst you definitely still need a great name and logo design, there is much more to your company.
A brand in the modern world is a personification of a business. It’s a complex character that brings your ideas to life, creating a relatable personality that your target audience can latch onto and relate. Sometimes referred to as the brand voice. A brand is what truly makes your company unique, and using your brand consistently across all marketing communications and business activities from customer service to product sales is vital if you want to succeed.
Think of your brand as a person, and your target customers are all of its potential friends. The aim is to gain as many friends as you can and, to do so, you need to build a person who’s likeable and that other people understand. A blank person isn’t going to be so great to hang out with, and an empty brand isn’t going to be as fun to shop with.
So, ditch the idea that a brand is nothing more than a label on your products and services. Once that’s out of mind, you can move onto what exactly branding is and begin building a brand.
What is Branding?
Branding is the process of applying features and characteristics to your brand. It’s essentially creating a unique identity that goes beyond your products or services with the aim of making your company more appealing to consumers than a competitor’s. It involves getting to the core of your business and looking at who you are, what you stand for, and what makes you and your company stand out.
It also involves digging deep into the mind and hearts of your consumers. You need to really understand what they’re looking for, what will resonate with them, and what they’ll remember. You want to become a recognizable brand to your target market and one that inspires them to become one of your long-term customers.
Over time as you grow your brand through research, refinement and implementing different branded components you build brand equity.
In a worldwide study conducted by Nielsen, it was discovered that 60% of shoppers will actively buy from a business they know. If you don’t have a brand that people can easily recognize, you’re going to miss out on that 60%.
Branding Terms to Be Aware Of
To understand the world of branding, it’s a good idea to get used to the lingo.
Your brand identity is the personality of your brand, as discussed above. It refers to the way that consumers perceive you, their experiences with you, and how you show yourself to the world. Your identity will likely be made up of your values, how you communicate with your audience, and the feelings you want your brand to evoke. Word of mouth plays a key role in establishing and maintaining your brand identity.
Brand awareness is simply how well the public knows your brand. You could measure yours locally, nationally, or globally depending on what your business goals are. If your brand awareness is increasing, your marketing is working!
Companies with great global brand awareness are those that are household names in many parts of the world. Some examples include Coca-Cola, Nike, and Apple.
Brand equity is the commercial value acquired from the perception of customers of the brand name of a company, product or service, rather than the physical product or service itself.
The brand voice is the personality and emotion infused into a company’s marketing communications. The brand voice includes everything from the words and language a company uses to the personality and public image created by marketing materials and social media accounts.
Brand guidelines are a set of rules and regulations governing the use of the brand. Most companies have a Brand Guidelines Manual or Corporate ID Manual that is shared with different vendors that work with or interact with their brand. Brand guidelines ensure that the brand is used correctly and consistently across all applications and media.
Your brand identity needs to be managed, just like every other part of your business. This is called brand management, and it refers to controlling the elements of your company that create its identity. This can include physical elements like your logo and packaging, as well as non-physical elements such as your awareness amongst your target audience.
Brand management can be run by a single person or by a whole team, depending on the size of your company. Someone who’s self-employed with no employees will manage their brand on their own at a smaller scale, whilst a household name brand will have hundreds or thousands of people managing their brand.
Brand extension or brand building occurs when a brand expands itself into a new industry or market. Google is a brilliant example of a successful brand extension. They originally began in 1998 as a search engine, but have since expanded into one of the most popular email service providers, a business suite provider, and a pioneer in the use of AI.
Brand recognition is similar to brand awareness. But, rather than recognizing your name, it’s how well consumers can name your brand without seeing it. For example, if they see just a logo and can tell who you are right away, you have excellent brand recognition.
It’s a technique that’s similar to brand recall, which is the ability of a consumer to remember a brand without any visual hints.
If your audience believes in your brand, you have built brand trust. If you deliver on your marketing promises, have excellent customer service, and deliver quality products or services, your brand trust will increase. This is a vital factor in how well your business does in the world and can be a key factor in how consumers choose between you and a competitor, so pay attention to it.
Your brand value, or brand valuation, is the value of your company based on your relationship with consumers. This involves their perception of you along with their recognition of your brand and trust. If you have a great relationship with consumers, your brand will become more valuable to potential buyers, investors, and shareholders.
Why Does Branding Matter?
With a more thorough understanding of what branding is, let’s look at some of the reasons your company should be investing in the identity of your business and focussing on better brand-building in 2021.
Set Yourself Apart
In a world of competition, it’s vital you stand out. Whether you want to become the go-to Italian restaurant in your town or the next-big-thing in global fashion, you have to beat your competitors in the same race and show the world why you’re different. Branding is the best way to do this, and a good brand can be the difference between a lasting success or a quick failure.
Tell Your Story
Every business has a story and your audience wants to hear it. With clever branding, you can tell the world who you are and create a unique impression and experience. From your logo to your tweets, everything you put out into the world should tell your consumers more about the identity behind the business. Remember branding is the process of assigning personality and characteristics to your company, products or services. Your story is a fundamental part of your brand.
Attract the Right Consumers
By identifying the right target market and making sure you create a brand with them in mind, you can attract the people interested in your products and services. For example, if you’re selling high-end glasses, you don’t want a lot of teenagers in your shop or on your online store because they’re not likely to need glasses or have the budget to invest in your high-end product. Your target customers would most likely be older people with vision challenges and a little more cash in their wallets.
With well-executed branding, you can make sure that the vast majority of people interacting with your brand are potential customers. You can create a high-quality audience and increase your chances of converting visitors into customers.
Channel Your Focus
When you run a business, it can be hard not to jump around from one plan to another without much focus. This can become overwhelming for you, your staff, and limit your ability to meet customer expectations. But, with a brand strategy that’s clear and well-developed, you have a plan to guide you.
Your brand strategy should be the vision of your company and where it’s headed. Everything you do should tie back to it creating cohesion across your business.
Create Long-Lasting Connections
It’s all well and good making one-off sales, but it’s not how you grow a successful company. To create a thriving business, you need to create long-lasting relationships with customers, retaining them so that they come back time and time again because they look for your brand name.
You can help your customers create an emotional connection with your business through branding. Whether they believe in your eco-friendly brand message, products and services or trust the people they interact with, by creating something in your identity that your customers value, they’ll keep coming back. This is key to improving customer retention under your brand name and stopping your customers from shopping at competitors’ stores.
Maintaining lasting relationships is also more profitable for your brand. On average, it’s between 5 to 25 times more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to keep an old one! So, if profits are your focus, branding should be too.
Motivate and Direct Your Employees
The core of your business is your employees – the people that work to make your business run. Without them, you wouldn’t have a business so it’s vital you provide a great place for them to work, and branding can also help with establishing the employee experience within many businesses.
If you’re a strong brand, your staff are likely to be more loyal and less likely to move on to a competitor. They’ll also be better at contributing to your brand identity and can become brand ambassadors without even knowing it. A clear focus can increase motivation and drive, too, making sure your whole team is working towards what’s best for your business.
If someone loves your brand, they’re going to be far more likely to talk about you to someone else. Word of mouth is one of the most valuable ways brands can grow their brand image. If people love what you stand for or the way you talk to your audience or even the marketing of your ads, they’re going to want to talk about why. When others hear of your brand and can relate to you, they’ll be more likely to show interest in your products or services. Over time, as you generate referrals from more customers or businesses you will earn the status and benefits of a more established brand.
Help Your Marketing
Marketing strategy and branding go hand in hand. Without a clear idea of your brand, you won’t be able to market yourself effectively to your audience. Marketing is at the heart of business growth, making branding one of the most vital parts of your whole company.
With branding, you can create incredible marketing campaigns that are directed at your target customers, speak to your audience, and help you become recognized as a leader within your industry. Never forget to carry out branding for marketing if you want your business to flourish and lead by example.
How to Create a Brand
Branding is absolutely essential for the success of your business. Whether you only sell one product or offer a broad set of services, branding must be the foundation of all your marketing. Within your name, logo, website design and product packaging all decisions should tie back to your brand strategy.
So, how exactly do we create a brand?
Identify Your Target Audience
Branding can help develop awareness, trust, and profits; all of which come from customers. Not just any customers though; your target audience. If your branding doesn’t appeal to the customers you’re catering to, it’s not going to be successful.
It’s important to carry out target market research, and it should be the very first step in building your brand. You need to have a clear idea of who you’re trying to attract and who your brand is talking to before you can design a logo or create a website to begin marketing your business. Consider some of these questions or topics to help you figure out your target market:
- What age and gender are your target consumers?
- Where do they live?
- What industries do they work in and how much do they make?
- What are their hobbies and interests outside of work?
- Where do they get their information?
- How do they communicate with their friends and family?
- What values are important to them?
- What challenges do they face and how can you help?
- How can you best reach them?
It’s often useful to build up a single customer profile. This generates one detailed person answering all the questions above who you can use to start building your brand. Whenever making any decisions, consider how this person would respond to them.
Create a Mission Statement
This is the point where you really look at why you started your business. Go back to the roots and remind yourself of what inspired you to begin this journey. Looking into this will help you to create your mission statement. If it helps, look around the web at other businesses for an example of a mission statement. Many brands publish this information for customers to see.
Your mission statement identifies the purpose of your business and helps build a persona that your audience will recognize and trust. This purpose will be injected into every part of your brand, from the images you use to your brand voice, and it should express your vision. So, if you developed trainers made from recycled materials, your brand’s passion will probably be saving the environment and creating a healthier planet.
Your mission statement is essential to helping you and your product or service stand out from the crowd. Without one, all your selling is a simple product. With a mission statement, you’re also selling an idea, one your ideal customer will soak that up like a sponge.
What’s Unique About You?
There’s no doubt that there are going to be other competitors in your industry. This means that there are plenty of other businesses your target market could spend their money with, but the unique traits about your brand are what will make people choose you. No other company can legally copy your brand, so make sure you own it!
Consider any aspects of your business, product or service that stand out from competitors. Maybe you source ingredients or parts locally, or you hire reformed prisoners to make your products, or you’re completely zero-waste with product packaging. Write down a list of everything that you think makes you stand out as a brand.
These are going to be the big points that you can market to your audience to differentiate your product or service from other companies. It’s why they’ll choose you over a competitor and why they’ll stay loyal to your brand even if competitors offer cheaper options. It’s your unique selling point and it’s crucial to growing profitable brands.
Create Your Visuals
There’s no doubt that consumers love visuals. Just think of all the brands that have logos you know and love, or the posters that make you take a second glance. The fact that people can recognize a strip-backed logo without any writing is a testament to the power of visuals for a brand.
You need to create a multitude of visual elements that will remain consistent across your marketing design and strategy and help build out your brand identity. These elements include:
- Logo or symbol
- Colour palette
If you think any other visual components will be important for your brand, include an example of these in your brand guidelines as well.
As you start to create the visuals for your brand, it’s important you create a set of rules or guidelines. These will be used in the future for any new visuals to make sure they’re consistent and stick with your branding. For example, details of which colours you can use where, and how your logo will change across different channels.
Remember that visual design can be a daunting challenge and it’s vital that you get it right. If your visuals don’t catch the attention and speak to your target market, your whole brand will flop. If you’re not sure you’re up to the challenge, bring in professional designers to help you.
Pinpoint Your Brand Voice
Every brand should have a unique voice and you’ll need to develop yours. This will be based on two things; your target audience and your brand identity.
Consider what your branding would sound like if you had a chat with it based on the identity you’re forming. Would it be young, fun, and casual, or maybe your brand would be a little more informative?
You also need to think of voices that your audience will respond to. A young market looking for toys isn’t going to be captured by a scientific voice, but more mature people worried about medical products will be. Your voice is going to depend on what your audience is looking for and what they need from you.
If you’re not sure about this, it could be a good time to go back to your target market research and get a little more detailed.
A good example of a brands’ tone of voice is MailChimp. They’re usually fairly straightforward and informal, but without sounding inappropriate. They avoid using jargon and value clear, concise messages that are written in a warm and friendly way.
Marketing Your Brand
It’s all well and good having a clear idea of your branding, but it won’t work unless you put it out there for customers and other businesses to see. So, once you’ve finalized all the different aspects of your brand, it’s time to get to work. Here’s how you can start incorporating your branding in the real world.
Your website is the base for all of your online activity and it should be a reflection of your brand identity. Your consumers should be able to work through your site and leave with a clear idea of who you are and why they should connect with you instead of other brands. This can be done in a variety of ways, including your colour palette, logo design, and visuals.
An often overlooked part of website branding (particularly for small businesses) is your copy. This is the written content on your website, and it’s a brilliant way to really define the user experience get across who your company is, both in what you’re saying and how you’re saying it throughout your marketing. Make sure yours captures your tone of voice consistently.
For a professional, branded website, be sure to hire web professionals. It’s always easy to tell the difference between a “do-it-yourself” website design and one that’s been made by a skilled website developer. It’s guaranteed to be a worthwhile investment now that will pay off down the line.
Social media is a great spot to show the world who you are and why you stand out from the crowd. But, you need to make sure every aspect is branded. Make sure your imagery, profile photos, and any written content is consistent with your brand identity and appeals to your audience.
A good way to do this is by developing a social media marketing strategy. Plan the sort of content you’re going to share in advance and make sure it fits in with your image.
It’s easy to get caught up in all things digital these days, but don’t forget your physical products! If you have a tangible item that you’re selling, the packaging it comes in has to be on-brand. The shape, size, feel, and colours used should all be unmistakably you.
If you’re an eco-friendly company, make sure you use packaging that’s good for the planet. If you’re advertising to kids, don’t skimp on the bright colours and bold fonts. If you’re one of the high-end brands, be innovative in how you package your product and try to do something unique and exciting to tempt your consumers.
Your digital and print advertising should be focused on building brand awareness. Their purpose is to introduce customers to your brand, so you need to be very clear about who you are. Use your brand style guide to stay consistent across your advertising, with notes on colours, filming style for videos, and tone of voice for both written and spoken content.
It’s not the most obvious use of branding, but the way your staff interact with your customers is actually crucial to building your identity. This is because they’re at the forefront of customer experience, which shapes how your consumers feel about you. So, make sure all of your staff are aware of who your brand is and how they should represent it.
A great example of a store that’s nailed its branding is Apple. If you walk into an Apple store, you know that you’re going to be greeted by friendly, knowledgeable staff who are eager to help and demonstrate how amazing Apple’s products are. Their enthusiastic attitude toward the product adds to the presence in the store, guides the customer’s experience, and helps build the brand’s identity.
Things to Avoid When Creating Your Brand
We’ve spoken a lot about things you should do when creating your brand, but what about what not to do with your branding? There are a lot of branding mistakes out there that companies have fallen for. To make sure you don’t do the same, let’s cover some of the most common.
Imitating a Competitor
Analyzing your competitors is important. You can learn a lot from what they’re doing well and what’s landed them in hot water in the past. But, there’s a fine line between taking inspiration and downright imitation.
Make sure you never just copy what a competitor is doing. Remember, the branding definition is all about creating a unique identity and, while using other brands as examples is fine, creating a direct copy of their work is a definite no-no. Try to be innovative and bring something completely new to the market that offers a different experience with your product compared to other businesses.
Jumping on a Trend
Trends can be great for certain aspects of your marketing, but avoid them when it comes to your branding. Trends come and go, and hitching your brand to their bandwagon means that your business might become irrelevant once the trend has passed. In the end, you might have to do a complete rebrand, which is a big waste of time and money.
Not Being Inclusive
Inclusivity is definitely a buzzword that’s here to stay for all brands. In the modern world, it’s vital you create a brand that celebrates diversity and is inclusive of a range of people. Welcome staff, clients, and models from all backgrounds and make sure that your imagery and language are inclusive and sensitive to all cultures.
If you’re not inclusive, you run the risk of appearing outdated to your audience. You could also face a lot of backlash for not representing more communities and backgrounds in your branding.
Putting Cost Before Quality
It can be tempting to put your budget before anything else when you’re branding, but this is going to be a big mistake in the long-term. Consumers can spot a cheap brand from a mile away, and it isn’t a big selling point.
Paying more for quality branding is going to help you build a professional brand that your audience will trust and want to stay loyal to. By bringing in skilled professionals to help design your logo, build your website, and manage your social media marketing, you’ll be able to create a brand that you can be proud of. High-quality branding is the foundation of every successful brand, so get yours right from the start by investing in it.
Bring in the Professionals
What is branding? It’s the heart of your business, the passion behind it, and the key to gaining a loyal customer base. This comprehensive branding guide is a great starting point to building your own brand, but remember to hire branding professionals if you want to create a business that your audience will connect with for the long haul.
At Parachute Design, we’re experts in all things branding – especially when it comes to logo design and custom WordPress websites. As the heart of your online presence, we can help you build a brand that resonates with your audience and continues to drives sales long term. Learn more about how we work or contact us to kickstart your branding.