Businesses of all sizes and types are constantly engaged in branding efforts. Even individuals develop their own brand identity.
For instance, freelance graphic designers, writers, and web design specialists work to cultivate a brand that sends the right message to potential clients.
While you can’t control everything about how consumers see you (brand image), a consistent approach to brand development will give you the best chance of getting the response you want.
In the early stages of your business, you may not be quite sure about what your brand is supposed to look like. But if you think about different parts of your brand as parts of a bigger picture, you are likely to get the results you want.
8 Steps for Defining Your Brand Identity
1. Identify your brand’s voice.
From advertising to website content to social media accounts, your brand should have a coherent, consistent voice. If you don’t pay close attention to what you’re putting out there, you could end up with a lot of different styles and messages. Start by thinking about what you want your brand to convey. Lighthearted humour? Intense concern for customer wellbeing? An interest in preserving the environment? Choose one or two aspects that are most important, and make sure that everything you do on behalf of your brand (or get someone else to do) puts those front and center.
2. Make sure the people you hire are on board.
There’s nothing wrong with getting talented people to help you with different aspects of your business. On the contrary, it is highly advisable to outsource those bits that aren’t your strong point. However, you should never bring in anyone who doesn’t get, or doesn’t agree with, your vision for your brand. If you hire a writer for your blog, make sure his writing voice jives with what you’re looking to show about yourself. If you’re looking for a website designer, make sure she understands your vision and knows how to execute it.
3. Your brand identity needs to be consistent both inside and outside of your business.
That is, if you’re projecting one image to consumers, you shouldn’t cultivate a completely different culture within your organization. For example, let’s say your business’ brand identity centers around a friendly, casual, and welcoming vibe. You don’t want a work environment that is ultra formal, or employees that are constantly on edge. Sooner or later, your customers will catch on to the dissonance, and it will turn them off.
4. Consider your target market.
Your target market is determined by who you are and what you have to offer. At the same time, your brand identity is largely shaped by your target market. When you’re starting out, there is nothing more essential than dialogue with your customers. Learn who they are, what they’re interested in, how they feel about your business, its products, and its services. This dialogue doesn’t cease to be important as your business grows and solidifies its identity. However, it is especially crucial in the early stages because it gives you access to feedback that is crucial to deciding what sort of image you want to project. And in turn, the decisions you make based on that feedback will influence what sorts of people are attracted to your brand.
5. Never cease to grow and adapt.
While you shouldn’t go around changing things on a day-to-day basis, you have to be responsive to shifts in your clientele and the business climate. What resonates perfectly with your audience today likely will not have the same effect in 5 or 10 years (maybe not even 5 or 10 months). A complete 180 degree shift is almost never the answer, but 15 or 20 degrees in one direction or the other can sometimes make a world of difference in redefining a brand and refreshing its image.
6. Think big, but also think small.
Each discrete, individual communication, advertising piece, etc. should both fully serve its intended purpose and stay true to your overall brand identity. Don’t sacrifice one for the other.
7. Think about Why?
- Why does your business want and need this brand?
- Why would your audience be interested?
- Why would they identify with what you have to say?
And, at least as important,
- Why would they find you believable?
Authenticity is an important component of successful branding. Put all components of your brand – even the small ones – to the test. Ask yourself and ask others what they think – how compelling is your brand identity?
8. Be different.
You don’t have to be completely unique, or entirely unexpected. Your brand doesn’t have to push all the boundaries or break all the new ground. But if you’re mimicking another brand step-by-step, you’ll seem like a fraud. To be a successful brand, there has to be something, or some combination of things, that is different.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that defining your brand has to be a coherent effort. Too often, businesses approach different elements individually – advertising is advertising, sales is sales, and management is management. When the different people and groups involved don’t meet to compare notes, it can spell problems for the brand. To identify and define your brand, stay focused.