“There’s a difference between a business and a brand”
As a business owner, or perhaps somebody who is interested in starting a business, you probably heard that quote already. Before you get the business off the ground, everybody is telling you how important it is to build a ‘brand’ and have an ‘identity’… but what does this all mean? Is there a difference between brand and brand identity?
If you’ve tried researching these topics only to find yourself even more confused than before, you’re in the right place. Today, we want to introduce you to the idea of brand, branding, identity, and how you can set your business up for success in all these areas.
Later, we’re going to provide you with some tips for creating your own brand. Before this, however, we should discuss the meanings of three key terms:
When hearing this word, people often think of a specific logo — perhaps you’ve got visions of the Starbucks logo or the McDonald’s ‘M’? In truth, a brand is more than just a logo because the word also covers things like customer service and how customers feel towards a certain company. Sometimes, it can be a gut feeling — good or bad — that we have towards businesses.
With this in mind, we could define ‘brand’ as the intangible assets of a company. Rather than a product that customers can feel, touch, and use, it’s completely intangible. For many experts, they describe it as the emotional relationship that a business has with a customer.
More than just a product or a service, consumers look to develop a connection with companies. Have you ever heard somebody speak so defensively about a brand or product? Try telling Starbucks drinkers that there’s a better option just across the street. The very best companies can convince consumers to believe in their company just as much as the owners and managers.
If we look at the battle between Apple and Android as another example, the consumers of each are extremely passionate about which device is better. From a technological point of view, both devices are similar — they both have high quality cameras, they both allow phone calls, texting, and apps. Yet, users of each will defend their chosen company as if it were their own company…this is the power of a brand.
If a brand is intangible, what is brand identity? Well, this is what we discussed earlier with the ‘M’ of McDonald’s because it’s everything we see from a brand. This includes all the visual aspects such as;
- Social media graphics
- Leaflet design
For example, would a brand be successful if they had no universal identity? No. If we consider Coca-Cola, we instantly think of the color red. Why? Because the color red is used absolutely everywhere that the name is mentioned. Whether it’s on the trucks, bottles, cups, billboards, TV ads, social media pages, etc. This is a conscious decision from Coca-Cola because they want to build an identity.
If they were to have different colors and designs for different marketing materials, the effect wouldn’t nearly be as strong. However, it’s more than just color because their name is always printed in the same typography and they often use a silhouette of a bottle as an image to draw consumers in.
Finally, whenever you read about branding, there’s a term that always seems to accompany the topic: build/building. Rather than ‘creating’ or ‘designing’ a brand, we have to ‘build’ a brand and this is important. If you want to build a brand, this process is called ‘branding’ and this is the advice we’re going to provide today.
Building a Brand — Beginner’s Guide
Whether you’re launching a new company or you’ve just realized the importance of the branding process, we have some advice below:
Step 1 — Recognize Your Audience and Competitors
Who is your target audience? For whom is your product/service designed? Who are your competitors in this market? Which companies are targeting a similar audience to your own? If you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be in a great position for the rest of the process.
If you aren’t sure of your competitors, you could search for your service on Google and see what other companies come up, you could read online reviews to see who people are talking about, you could act as a customer and see who you find, or you could simply ask your customers what brands they know in your niche.
While on this note, we believe it can be useful to note the following:
- The very best and most well-known brands in your market.
- The customers to which you can most easily sell.
- The interests your customers have and how they express this in terms of language.
Step 2 — Choose Your Focus
For new businesses, one of the easiest mistakes to make is to try and please every single market. As the old saying goes, ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. Unfortunately, consumers are looking for masters, they want a company who specializes in what they need not a company who can offer them their desired service along with various other services.
Once you know your focus, you start to learn your USP (unique selling point) as well as your personality. Your USP answers the question: why do consumers choose you over every other option they have in the market? You can understand your personality by grabbing a piece of paper and writing down some words that you associate with your brand. Would you describe it as caring, efficient, artistic, professional, helpful, confident, a leader, resourceful, energetic, etc? This simple exercise allows you to start thinking about the qualities you want the brand to have.
Step 3 — Pick a Name, Fonts, and Colors
For those who haven’t yet chosen a business name, we urge you not to panic. As we’ve already discovered in this guide, a brand is more than just a name…but it also impacts every other decision you have to make regarding logos, colors, trademark registration, marketing, etc.
Although we can’t provide tailored advice to you through this guide, we do recommend taking your time, thinking about your business, considering your USP, and not overthinking it too much. While some companies choose to make up a word, like Sony, others choose metaphors, a description, an alteration of existing words, a combination of two/three words, and acronyms.
In terms of fonts, you’ll quickly find that some fonts suit certain businesses. For example some fonts suggest professionalism and seriousness while others suggest creativity and humor. Therefore, you’ll need to consider the words you wrote down in our earlier exercise regarding personality.
Finally, we have your logo which will contain shapes and colors. Although you might think these decisions won’t really affect your business too much, you have to realize that a brand is all about perception. How will consumers perceive your business? Below we have a few examples for shape and color perceptions:
- Sharp Edges — With lots of sharp edges, it suggests stability but it can also prevent a real connection with consumers.
- Round Shapes — Alternatively, a round logo will be easier on the eye and it can suggest unity and community.
- Black — If you choose a black and white logo, consumers will see you’re a serious company who wants to be modern with a no-nonsense attitude.
- Pink — Rightly or wrongly, there’s a subconscious correlation between the color pink and brands for women. However, this isn’t to say pink can’t also be used to demonstrate luxury.
- Brown — To this day, companies seem to avoid the color brown in their branding. Could you turn this in your favor and use it to stand out?
Step 4 — Ask For Help and Be Consistent
If you’re really struggling with this creative process, there’s nothing wrong with hiring a designer and getting help. As long as you communicate what the business is about and what you want to convey, those with experience will know how to translate this into a brand identity. Once you have your colors, fonts, and logos, the next step is to be consistent and use these colors/fonts wherever you appear in front of consumers. Even if it’s just a Twitter heading, this will help the perception of your brand and it will keep your brand in the minds of customers.
At all times, it’s important to be true to your brand identity because it will help customers connect with you. As well as your logo, create blog posts and social posts with your personality in mind. If you remember this, it won’t be long before you have a following that feels as passionately about your products/services as you do.