Okay, so branding. As a graphic designer, I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about brands—so much that when I sat down to write this, I was overwhelmed by how much there is to say and how best to say it all. Have you ever read marketing or branding advice before and thought, “okay but what the hell do I DO?!” I have, and I didn’t want to write just another inactionable marketing how-to. So let’s break this down from the beginning.
What even is a brand?
The other day, I was having dinner with my sister when she said “what do you mean you made a brand? What did you make? A logo?” She was thinking of “brand” in the sense that Simply Balanced is a Target brand or Jordan is a Nike brand: it’s a name and a product. But just those two components don’t really capture what building a brand is all about.
A brand is not just a name or a logo, it’s more like a personality — an experience. How does a consumer encounter your product, purchase it, receive it, or use it? Everything you put out into the world should contribute to the story you’re telling your consumers about who you are. Consider the difference between Taco Bell and Chipotle: they both sell Mexican food, but I’ll bet the way you think of them and your experiences with them are quite different. A big part of that is their branding! They’ve each created different stories about who they are — and it works.
Why is this so important?
Think about your feelings towards Android vs. Apple, Target vs. Walmart, etc. Your brand is who you are to your customers! It’s how you communicate what you’re all about, and it gives them something visual to make a connection with. It also builds credibility and professionalism.
Defining your brand
Ah, the all-important audience. No doubt you’ve heard about it before, but I’m going to talk about it again because it is truly a big deal. Your audience dictates so much about your brand and marketing, and you want to be sure you’re targeting the right people!
If you’re just starting out, you might decide who you want your audience to be based on what makes the most sense for your product. Find out what kinds of people are consuming products that are similar to yours. Also think about how your product, and therefore audience, might be different from those! If you already have a customers/users/appropriate noun here, find out exactly who they are. Do some research, and even interview people to compile a list of information about your target audience.
You should find out:
- What is the demographic profile, such as gender, age, location, and lifestyle?
- What are their values?
- What is important to them in a product or an experience?
- What are their pain points or dislikes?
You can then use this information to build 2-3 “personas” or characters that encompass these traits. For example, one of our personas at Whatify is Sandra. Sandra is a 37-year-old, middle-class female. She is married, has kids, and lives in rural US. She’s a college graduate, an artist, and a business owner. Sandra wants to grow her business but still be able to manage it herself. She feels strongly about products that are sustainable and responsible. She’s turned off by products that are hard to figure out or require a lot of time to use.
Personas are great because whenever you are trying to answer a question or solve a problem for your business, you can “ask” your persona and see how your solution stacks up against their wants and needs. From deciding how to package your product, to writing blog content, to curating your Instagram feed, you can fall back on your personas to make sure your efforts align with your target audience.
Once you’ve honed in on your target audience, it’s time to figure out how to position your brand amongst the competition! Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and figure out your angle for approaching your consumers and selling to them. For example, Whatify isn’t just another impersonal tech company—we care about small businesses and their products, as well as the amount of effort that goes into creating a product and a successful business—and our language and imagery reflect that.
Values: It’s a good idea to have some values behind your brand to make you more attractive to customers and allow you to connect with them on an emotional level.
Goals: What are the goals of your business? You should define both broad and short-term goals. Broad goals could be your mission and what you want to provide to your consumers in terms of a product, quality, experience, and value. Short-term goals might be what your company is trying to accomplish at the moment, such as selling an item, increasing followers, etc.
How do you want the personality of your brand to come across? How do you want to communicate with and interact with your consumers? These are questions to consider when nailing down the kind of language and tone your business will use. Are you very professional and formal? Personal and casual? Warm and bubbly? Tongue-in-cheek? What are some phrases you might use? Look back at your “broad” goals for guidance. Your brand voice should correspond with your product, appeal to your target audience, and be true to who you are! One strategy is to come up with a list of several words that embody your brand. For example, Whatify is analytical, accessible, cutting-edge, and artisan. Use these as a starting point for building your voice!
Be sure to take into account your different communication outlets when thinking about voice and tone. Your style might vary a bit from your website or shop, to facebook, to instagram or your blog in order to align with the platform.
Your audience, positioning, and voice form the skeleton of your brand. Once you work out all of these details, everything else follows and is guided by the underlying structure that you’ve created! Take the time to talk to people, research, and hammer out exactly what you want your brand to be, how you want it to feel and sound, and what it’s goals are. Next, we’ll dive into translating those goals into visual elements! Look out next week for Building your Brand Part 2: Creating Your Brand Aesthetic.
Questions, comments? Send ‘em my way! I’d love to hear from you.