Branding is one of the most important aspects for any business to understand and implement. That’s because branding helps you connect with your audience in a way that makes them want to buy from you over someone else. But what does it mean? Branding is the process of crafting an image via visual, verbal, and experiential elements that represent your company or organization. It can help build customer loyalty, increase customer quality, and make a business stand out in a crowded market.
In this blog post I will discuss why branding is so important for both service providers and product-based businesses; how brands are built through visual design; what sets successful brands apart from unsuccessful ones; and the top questions I get as a professional brand designer.
One of the benefits that come with strategic branding is that it helps your marketing efforts be impactful and it actually gets you better ROI.
When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense: if your vision for the future includes company growth and expansion into new markets, then having an overarching approach that ties together all aspects of your business helps give it shape and definition in the marketplace.
As a business owner, you want to control that as much as possible. Branding is your reputation, you control some of it, but some of it is purely defined by your clients and customers. So by wisely branding your business, you can be sure that the reputation of your company in the market is a positive one.
A successful brand has its own identity and allures those who share similar values or interests with it. The most important aspect for successfully building any brand is consistency.
You want to develop a “personality” for your company that is easy to identify and remember.
If you’re not sure how to “craft” your voice, there are plenty of examples out in the world from which to borrow elements or inspiration: The Discovery Channel has an adventurous tone about it; Target’s slogan is ‘Expect More, Pay Less’ (I don’t know about you but my Target runs make me believe there is always something more to bring home…). But see the pattern?
A brand voice is directly related to the message behind your brand. In most cases, your brand’s voice will be heavily influenced by you, which will make it unique. Just make sure that your brand’s voice speaks to your audience in the way they need to hear it. This ensures they relate to your content, products, and services. They literally will “listen” because it’s like you’re speaking to them.
As you grow, your brand voice might also change. For example: when I first started my business, it came from a place of being just very excited to be an entrepreneur and in control of the career path for myself. My customers are going to relate to that. But as I’ve grown my company now has a deeper understanding of what a business needs to be successful, get repeatable results, and serve others in a way that produces successful outcomes consistently.
Although I will say, even with the brand evolving through the years, one thing that you should keep top of mind:
Being consistent with your brand is not only important while you are growing a business, but also in the long-term.
Embrace what makes you different and special so that it becomes part of your branding message, and stick with it. This will help to differentiate yourself from competitors in the marketplace.
A consistent brand creates trust and increases value.
As a business owner, you can create trust by delivering consistency in your brand across all channels. This includes things like how the logo is used and ensuring that every web page of content has the same design style. It’s also important to be consistent because it builds familiarity with customers. They will know what they are getting when they see your company name.
Without sounding clickbait-y, do you want to increase your customers? Then look at your branding. Do you want to increase your revenue? Branding. Want to create a better customer experience? Branding.
Creating a strategic brand is important for both service and product-based businesses, but I will say, e-commerce is a rodeo where you absolutely must pay attention to your brand because unlike a service-based business, your customers are experiencing your brand through your actual products, stores (online or in-person), and the little details… all before they even get to know you and what you stand for.
The idea is, when your customers are getting what they’re expecting to see from you – like your logo or packaging style or the way you present yourself online – it increases their perceived expectations of quality. They’ll feel more comfortable with investing in this company and coming back for future purchases because they know that these products live up to a certain standard.
For shops, branding starts defining the customer experience.
When a potential customer lands on your website, they already made up their mind about how much your products “should cost” because of the perceived quality. Think about it, if you step inside a dingy old restaurant that smells, you would not dare to think the food is going to taste amazing. If they actually have a really nice place, decorated with care and full of smiling staff, you will not even think to question if your plate will be good.
Well, online shoppers often search for the mission and purpose of a business online to determine whether they share a company’s values. (Shopify did a research on this!). So your branding actually can be the first to tell your customers what kind of values you stand for or the kind of mission you’re behind.
Think about it, if you receive a package with mostly cardboard and glass vs plastic then you know the brand is eco-conscious. It’s the little details.
Branding actually influences your visuals all the way down to your product and packaging design!
This is why it’s important for your company to have a strong brand. Your branding should be able to communicate what sets you apart in the market and make people want to buy from you!
And if I could give one last tip for your shop: don’t forget about social media. Make sure that all of your visuals are consistent across all channels, not just your website. And consistency also applies to how you share about your products, but that is a marketing lesson for another time.
Branding is basically your reputation. Remember I said you have control over some things (like colors, fonts, etc) and have no control over others? This is that thing. You can establish the kind of perception you want others to have, but at the end of the day, they are building their own perception of your brand based on the experiences they get with you.
Being intentional and planning ahead with the growth of the company in mind, your customers front and center, that’s how your brand should be built to be successful.
If you have a product-based business, branding is not optional. It’s a need to help your company stand out so that when people see it they know exactly what kind of values and quality are behind the products. There’s no confusion about who you are or how well your customers will be taken care of.
It’s what creates a foundation for the customer to have trust and confidence in your company.
If you are just starting out, take some time up front to get clear on who you want your customers to perceive as being behind it all. The more intentional decisions about branding that you make early on will only lead to creating a stronger brand later.
The more specific you are in describing who the people (or mission) behind your company are, the easier it will be for those people to identify themselves as part of that tribe through your branding and message. This can make all the difference when trying to build loyalty among consumers.
The power of branding is that it can influence people to buy confidently.
Customers have a sense of ownership when they buy from a brand that resonates with them.
Branding can be expressed in many different ways, such as colors and fonts, but it also includes how people talk about your company online or offline.
The power of branding is not to be taken lightly because the decisions you make early establish the place you hold in the market (and in your customers’ minds!)
I recently heard a great example of how branding can persuade people to shop. A friend was telling me about her sister who is afraid of flying, but she will fly if it’s an airline that she likes. Making someone overcome a fear? That is pretty powerful if you ask me.
For businesses like myself and other creatives or coaches, branding can be powerful in establishing your place in the market. For us service-based businesses, branding can help you establish what makes you different from competitors and why people should choose to work with you. There is no physical product to compare quality from, our clients are literally judging our competence and service before they have had a chance to experience it based exclusively on the way our brand communicates with them.
If you’re going to invest in branding, it needs to be done effectively. I have seen a number of folks who can’t seem to figure this out – what works for one business may not work for another, or they think that the most complicated logo is always the best when really on brand simple graphics communicate more clearly. It’s all down to the strategy that needs to happen before a single color is chosen. This is why the first step in this brand identity process should be to strategically identify your target customer so your brand can be created to speak to them, allowing your growth plans to guide the development.
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to try and be everything to everybody. That can be considered the exact opposite of successful branding.
The most successful brands are those that know who they’re trying to sell their products or services too, understand what’s important for them and then craft an identity based on this information. For example: Nike knows it has athletes (and those who want to feel like one) in mind when creating a new ad.
It is crucial for you to understand your market, which includes your potential customers and competitors. It will help you determine what your brand should focus on and how it can differentiate itself from its competition.
You should also consider your company’s core values, which can guide the way you craft a brand identity. These are core values that drive your business need to be reflected in everything from marketing materials to customer service interactions.
Your branding is your reputation, how customers associate your business with quality, and what you make them feel. It has multiple parts: your visual branding which encompasses your colors, fonts, logos, etc; and of course your messaging and tone of voice.
This is why it’s said that you start branding even before you have a logo because your audience and clients are already forming an idea of your business. The intangible side of branding that you can influence by being strategic with the tangibles.
Personal brands are part of business, too. With our features, no two people are alike, so we make different impressions on different people through our names, our faces, our personalities, and the way we communicate. As well, companies have details that affect what they are and how they are perceived.
Establishing your brand requires consistency over time as you grow it to new parts of your business. But it all comes down to setting the tone for that consistency and the vibe/feelings you wish to evoke.
Without a doubt: Branding. Why? Because if you market with the wrong brand you will be wasting your efforts bring in non-ideal clients. Your brand is your way to attract the right ones, so you want your marketing aligned to that.
The best marketing strategy is to learn what your target audience wants and then work on it. And of course, being consistent. Have very clear guides of what is in the brand’s tone and aesthetic and stick with it. Adding subtle variations or using a different combination of your own brand assets (like colors, fonts, graphics) can result in a completely different feeling being evoked.
Your brand identity is like the wrapper on a candy. We all want different flavors, but we usually pick one that has our favorite colors and shapes because they feel right to us. You should be applying this same logic while creating your design strategy for branding.
Branding is not just about understanding what you are as a business, it’s about what your audience needs to see and hear from you to understand that you are the best solution for them.
I'm Ingrid, welcome! I'm a branding designer + Showit Design Partner, doggy mamma, and tea drinker.
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