Every entrepreneur at one point asks, “How do we build the brand?” And contrary to popular belief, before being a question of communication, brand building is above all a question of marketing that accounts for a company’s product, convictions, vision, ambition and intelligence. A brand should communicate all these things.
The brand as a concept is fascinating. And every company tries to create one, with more or less success and sometimes without even being aware of it. We have all been influenced by brands, often from our earliest years. Everything from toy brands to clothing, people often use brands to build identity. Brands follow us though life: our vehicles, our high-tech equipment, food, … some win our preference on reasons we can’t even define.
Building a strong brand that lasts!
Fortunately, brands alone aren’t enough to define and build a person! Culture (or the absence of culture) is still the major element that shapes our way of thinking, our intelligence and our society. This is certainly one of the reasons that drive brands to invest in the world of cinema and short film (Lego for example); some form of graphic art through advertising and sometimes even societal topics.
The Holy Grail of any brand is to enter the family unit, in the mind of the consumer and make a comfortable and cozy place. Brands are born and die each year without ever achieving this goal. What is missing? What are the essential qualities of a strong brand? What should they do to exist and persist in the consumer’s mind? Here’s a short list of strengths that a brand should cultivate.
Have a professional visual identity
Sometimes so influenced by their product, some brands neglect this important piece. Each company should devote time to defining its DNA, its identity, and the logo that tells a story in a single graphic connection. Throughout the life of the brand, this reflection should happen frequently. It isn’t a question of reinventing the brand every four days, but rather of making sure it stays in the groove that made its success.
The visual identity is, in a way, the business card of your company, the first thing consumers will see. A well-designed logo, expertly chosen fonts and an established color code contribute to the brand recognition. In this area, simplicity is key. A logo with simple shapes and one that many groups will understand is more likely to go the distance. Nike, Apple, Ford, Johnson & Johnson have all stood the test of time.
Your colors should reflect the values of your brand. It’s not just about choosing a color you like! Colors send a message. They can communicate your brand’s strengths or weaknesses. Select them carefully to establish your reputation.
Remember, you’re visual identity is the business card of your brand!
Have a personality
Your personality comes through in all your communication, from the tone used on your site and your blog to your advertising campaigns. Cool, bold, dynamic, environmentally friendly, innovative, set in tradition, sweet, bitter, childish, naughty, etc. Choose the personality you want your brand to have.
Adopting a personality will have several outcomes. First, internally, it’ll give your brand a “spirit”. It’ll also make it easier to reach the heart of your target audience as long as your personality is in tune with them. This isn’t by chance, it’s marketing and it’s a reflection of your brand’s essence. The brand personality is often built over time, but the foundation to let it develop should be there in the beginning.
A strong and shared brand DNA
The initial vision of the founders should be an integral part of the brand, but above all should be shared by all: customers and employees. Ask yourself: What is the strategic vision of the brand? What is the mission of the brand? Where do you want to take your brand?
There’s no magic formula. And the brand’s message should be repeated again and again in various forms. For example, Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, takes part in weekly calls during which all employees can intervene and ask any questions they wish. The sharing culture is an integral part of Uber’s DNA.
Know your target
I say this ALL THE TIME: Know your Target Audience. Consumer insight should be the basis of all communication: Where is your product or service mentioned? What platforms does your audience use?
Tailor your messages according to the insights and benefits of each of your targets. In the marketplace it’s imperative to have a clear message that is important to the target customer. With Uber, the messages put out to drivers are about access to employment and flexibility, while messages about simplicity, accessibility and low prices are put out for passengers. Like messages, the communication channels used should be tailored to the target audience. Different audiences have different preferences: adapt to your audience! At Uber, communication with the drivers is done by SMS while passengers prefer social networks.
Also, be sure to follow the conduct codes of each platform, especially when it comes to social networks and post only unique content. The algorithm of Facebook encourages your posts to be impactful and varied to generate the interest of the users and thus gain visibility. Don’t hesitate to publish several times on Facebook if your content is interesting and the images are authorized. Instagram is a powerful channel for the image of your brand but involves publishing only very qualitative content. It’s also an excellent way to touch the influencers. Going back to the Uber example: Solicit influencers on social media and turn them into brand ambassadors.
Finally, Twitter is popular for so-called “hot” information relayed in real time. It’s also an excellent way to reach journalists and politicians.
When it was created, Uber had a very premium image. Today, 8+ years after its creation, Uber users have evolved. The recent design changes were aimed at giving Uber an image that’s more accessible, closer to the people and less “snobby”, while maintaining the same level of quality of service.
Have a distinctive sign, a differentiating factor
Nobody wants a copy, it’s the original that’s interesting. Find a way to stand out from your competitors, especially if your products are similar. One of the key factors of differentiation (and reinforced since the arrival of the internet), is the customer relationship. Internet and social networks are great tools to engage your community and build discussion around your brand. If Pepsi is only a copy of Coca-Cola, the brand will remain second. A strong brand stands out.
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), while it’s at the heart of the corporate culture and meaningful for a lot of consumers, can also have a beneficial effect on the brand, but it isn’t enough to just grab any cause you can find. This should be written into the company’s DNA. For example, respect for nature and humanity should be real values that customers can easily perceive. Too many brands have an ecological interest only to better sell their product. The consumer always ends up calling the bluff, with or without help from the media.
Have a clear and understandable offer
You run the risk of losing your potential customer’s attention with a complex offer. Don’t drown them in sub-brands or sub-offers. In the same way the inside of your car or your office can convey an organized or messy nature, your commercial offer reflects a part of the brand personality. A complex offer can also be felt as a desire to hide certain gaps. Pick a single offer and make sure it’s organized and clear.
A strong brand develops internally
In order for us to believe in your brand, your internal teams should also believe in it. A strong brand should develop a strong sense of belonging in-house. Coming from a mix of marketing, management and communication, the sense of belonging facilitates cohesion and teamwork and also creates internal evangelists who will express themselves externally.
Have a story
We’re all familiar with storytelling. Your brand should tell a story (and not stories!). This may be the story of your foundation if it’s interesting. Some brands have been built by unique character, with values of tenacity and they can reclaim the qualities of their founders.
It may be a totally new story which also works, but it should still be authentic and support the company’s values.
Other brands start with slogans that communicate a core value: Dove uses, “All women are beautiful” and all their communication is based on this observation. No more expensive advertising, expensive models, Photoshop retouching, just complete authenticity. The brand speaks less about itself and features real customers in the media. Despite some failures, this line of communication has been a real success.
It’s hard to become a strong brand if we don’t know you. So, put as much effort as possible into being known. It takes time and costs money, and it’s true that the more money you invest, the more you’ll have access to important media that can increase your notoriety quickly. But keep in mind lasting success is built most of the time over a steady grind.
A page of advertising in a prominent publication with a huge audience will bring immediate visibility, but is your brand ready for that? If you’re placed too early in the spotlight it’s rarely beneficial. Build the reputation and history of your brand step by step. On the other hand, the internet and social networks offer you an incredible launching pad. With a well-built strategy and a regular presence on social networks, you can give yourself the means to be visible to your target community very quickly. Finally, remember, a great reputation doesn’t always guarantee you have a beautiful image. Try to see your brand objectively and make changes where they’re needed.
The consumer should desire your brand, and it’s up to you to make yourself loved. Here’s where the identity function of the brand is at play. What we buy classifies us in a category (it’s sad, I know, but it’s true): if you drive a Honda, Mercedes or Ferrari, you obviously don’t give off the same image for all three. If you shop at Walmart or Neiman Marcus, those are also two different images. It’s important to understand the prospect, the aspirations, the identity, and the prospect’s community so you don’t miss your mark.
Another important tip is to pick a lane and proudly stick to that lane. Do not try to appease everyone. One of the stupidest product placements I’ve ever seen didn’t work because the brand tried to cater to opposite target images. In the 80s, Someone didn’t tell Bic, the ballpoint pen company, that this idea sucked! Luxury should remain luxury and should never be discounted to include opposing images.
Keeping the brand’s legacy
If Apple suddenly started selling technology products that were more affordable and less pleasant to handle, it would totally lose its current target consumer and would certainly collapse. The company’s DNA is to “Think different”, initiated by his guru Steve Jobs. The most serious mistake a brand can make is to break its fundamentals. We can update them, optimize them, but never give up what made you successful. This clarity of vision and direction helps to build the mythology of the brand and its value.
Take to heart the consistency of your entire business. Your brand image, your internal communication, your products, your customer relations, your history, your values, all this should represent a homogeneous and logical whole. If that’s happening, then your marketing will be viewed as logical and credible. If your brand were to disappear, would it be missed by your target audience? This is one of the indicators of a strong brand.
A lot of entrepreneurs are tempted to get off to a flying start, driven by a desire to fight and assert their brand. If this is you, don’t neglect the initial thinking. It’s essential to the success and sustainability of your project.
Building your brand is undeniably a long-term task: to make it last through time, share your vision and mission, seek to embody your brand and create emotion and closeness with your customers!