The goal of the branding process is to build brand equity for the company. Brand equity is the set of assets linked to our brand’s name, and the symbols that add to the value of services. Brand equity is an intangible asset that creates a true company equity value many multiples greater than tangible assets or revenue streams. For successful companies, brand equity is the most valuable asset they own and yet it does not live on our balance sheet. This it is important to have a brand development strategy in place to guide you through your brand creation process.
Developing a brand strategy can be one of the most difficult steps in the marketing plan process. It’s often the element that causes most businesses the biggest challenge, but it’s a vital step in creating the company identity. Brand development initiatives do not have to be multi-million dollar investments, nor do they have to be on the grand scale that you would find with companies that advertise during the Super Bowl.
Here are some simple steps to follow in formulating your brand creation / brand development strategy.
1. Understand what is branding – Your brand is so much more than a logo or catchy tag line. It is your organization’s reputation and it’s visibility in the marketplace. The first definition of “brand” is the name given to a product or service from a specific source. Used in this sense, “brand” is similar to the current meaning of the word “trademark.” Today brand means more than this. Your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual and emotional.
2. Understand the process of brand creation – As part of your brand creation strategy, include brand positioning, your brand promise, understanding who you are (brand traits), your brand story, and finally your brand elements and styles.
3. Identify and know your target buyers – Who are your target clients? If you say “everybody” you are making a very big mistake. The narrower the focus, the faster the growth. The more diverse the target audience, the more diluted your marketing efforts will be. Research helps you understand your target client’s perspective and priorities, anticipate their needs and put your message in language that resonates with them. It also tells you how they view your firm’s strengths and your current brand.
You should develop buyer personas. Buyer personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence in strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the status quo.
4. Develop your brand position – This is known as your positioning statement or your North Star statement. As the North Star would help early mariners navigate, your positioning statements helps you navigate your brand development. The Brand Position is the part of the brand identity and value proposition that is to be actively communicated to the target audience and that demonstrates an advantage over competing brands. It describes what your organization does and for whom. It also includes the unique value proposition, and promotes aspects of your company/product that lend credibility.
Your positioning statement should be used in EVERY communication where your organization is described. Choose the version that best meets your size and space needs, but ALWAYS use the exact language here.
5. Create Your Brand Promise – The Brand Promise is the single most important thing that your company promises to deliver to your clients—EVERY time. Your brand promise reflects what clients, employees, and other stakeholders should expect from every interaction with your organization. Every business decision should be weighed against this promise to be sure that a) it fully reflects the promise, or b) at the very least it does not contradict the promise.
The Brand Promise is a one-sentence description of the value that your company or organization promises to deliver to our customers/clients.
6. Emotional branding: the new paradigm for connecting brands to people – An important aspect of your brand development strategy is to create a positive emotional attachment to the brand which creates a response in its audience without the audience seeing the product or directly experiencing the service. This may be the most difficult and often overlooked aspect of a successful brand creation strategy. This is also where a lack of comprehensive research into identifying the target audience’s needs and desires (personas) can either make or break an attempt at developing a positive emotional attachment between the brand and its audience. If not done effectively, a communication gap will develop between the internal brand perception and the buyer’s actual perception.
- List the features and benefits of your product / service. A feature is an attribute – a color, a configuration; a benefit is what that feature does for the customer.
- Determine which benefits are most important to each of your customer segments.
- Identify which benefits are emotional – the most powerful brand strategies tap into emotions, even among business buyers.
- Look at the emotional benefits and boil them down to one thing that your customers should think of when they think of you. That’s what your brand should represent.
7. Develop your website – Your website becomes extremely important. In many cases, if not most, it will be your major branding vehicle. It is the place where all your audiences turn to learn what you do, how you do it and who your clients are. Prospective clients are not likely to choose your firm solely based on your website. But they may well rule you out if your site sends the wrong message. Further, your website will be home to your valuable content. Online content is central to any modern brand development strategy.
8. Develop your brand personality (traits) and story – Brand traits and values list what the company wants its brand to stand for—its core values and beliefs. Brand Traits illustrate what you wants your brand to stand for – your core values and beliefs. Think about brands you love. Those brands commonly stand for something (or against something) and connect with their customers emotionally.
Storytelling is not something that modern day marketers developed. It has been a part of human communications as far back to the time our ancestors lived in caves. Storytelling is not just for kids. Corporate storytelling produces strong benefits and results for the adult business. Storytelling is a pivotal part of marketing, communications, and business. Without it, consumers find it difficult to connect and advocate for something. Storytelling can and should be used in any business because it can drive loyalty, advocacy, and trust.