Most businesses wonder what it takes to build a brand that reaches to the ends of the earth (think Coca-Cola, Apple, Kleenex). Everyone knows these brands, and if you don’t, you probably need to get out more. But what makes them so successful?
Psst! The answer is a little thing called branding.
And good branding is not just about a name or a logo. Branding is far more psychological — it's what people think of when they hear your name, see your logo, or use your product. Do you ever call it a “tissue?” No, you call it a Kleenex. Boom. Brand brainwash.
So how do you get there?
Well, we’ve mapped out five tips we think are essential for building a strong brand. We can’t promise that your brand will spread to China, but we can promise that spending a little brain power on each tip will help you solidify your brand and grow your business.
Let's get started.
1. Know Yourself
Cat Stevens said it best, “If you want to be me, be me. And If you want to be you, be you.”
It sounds simple, but this might be the hardest part of building a brand. Nearly every business struggles with pinpointing its personality and vision. Often, in hopes of nailing down a specific niche, businesses take on more than one personality. This is called “mission creep” and it can be detrimental in the long run. Instead, focus on what your business offers.
If you’re a yoga studio, don’t try to be a CrossFit. If you're a chiropractor, don't try to be a dentist (obviously). Losing focus can result in losing customers. After you establish your purpose, your brand will have legs to stand on.
To begin this process, try brainstorming words that represent your company's product or values. For example, if you're a restaurant, you might start with words like health, entertainment, enjoyment. These words will help guide the language you use to communicate your vision and develop a mission statement.
2. Know Your People
You can’t build a brand without knowing whom you’re building it for — your customers. And to reach your customers effectively, you must cater to their communication preferences. What does that mean? Find out what they like, how they talk, when they’re listening, and where they hang out online. Make sure you offer something that your customers actually want (not what you think they want).
Your priority is to make a connection that hooks your customer's brain and heart. If you can do that, you’ll have customers for life, AKA "brand loyalty" (think Harley Davidson and men with bushy beards, leather jackets, and plenty of tattoos).
To really know your customers, you'll need to create customer personas. Don't know what that means? Here's a quick walk-through to get you started.
3. Be Honest
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters."
— Albert Einstein.
Being honest reinforces who you are and how you do business. Be completely honest about everything — your successes, your failures, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Evaluating your weaknesses can be tough and requires a great deal of humility and courage. But demonstrating honesty shows that you're business is run by real people. When your customers feel like they know the people running the business, they're more likely to develop trust.
As much as being honest will help build your brand, it will also build your customer base. People are attracted to honest brands because they are more trustworthy. If your members trust you, they will be more likely to recommend you to friends (hello, word-of-mouth referral).
4. Be Passionate
You love your business — it’s your passion. And your passion can be contagious if you let it be. As much as people cling to honest brands, they also cling to passionate ones. The passion starts with you and your employees. Together, you are the face of your organization and its biggest advocates. Communicate your passion in the way you relate to your customers. Before long, they'll share your enthusiasm.
Here's an example. When you think of Apple, what do you think of? For many people, Steve Jobs immediately comes to mind. After all, he developed some of the most loyal brand followers on Earth. It's real. You could feel his passion every time he spoke about Apple. Your passion has the power to inspire your customers to tattoo your logo on their chests.
Just kidding, but you get the idea. Passion attracts people. When others see your passion, they will likely be more receptive to what you're communicating.
5. Be Consistent
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of a good brand is consistency. Coca-Cola didn’t get into 200 countries by changing its mission statement or logo for each country. Once you know your brand, stick with it! If you’ve grown so much and need to reevaluate, you can. Just don’t do it every week.
Oh, and remember how we talked about honesty? Well, consistency and honesty are kind of the same thing. Really, really important. Without a consistent brand, your customers will get confused, lose interest, and gravitate toward other brands that provide the trust they are seeking.
Consistency in logos can be especially tricky because your logo is the easiest piece of information for people to remember about your brand. Make sure your customers support your re-brand if you choose to go down that route. Avoid re-branding pitfalls by taking a look at these logo redesigns gone bad.