When I graduated from college I got a cool little corporate job at one of the larger ad agencies in town. I always say that the experience I gained at my first gig was priceless. I truly learned the fundamentals of servicing clients and driving a project from initiation to completion working in a team environment; both invaluable skills in the ad business. However, I had the luxury of working with/for the very advanced marketing department at Ford Motor Company, which left me completely clueless to the fact that small business clients really have no clue when it comes to marketing (no offense, that just means they’re really good at their core business). When I moved on to working with small businesses I noticed some common themes:
A lot of companies don’t know who they are as a brand
Many companies cannot articulate who their best customer or target audience is; they have no idea what their customer pain points are
Most small businesses and entrepreneurs approach marketing based on their instinct with no data to back up their tactics and/or claims
Marketing strategy is basically non-existent in the small business world, as many small business owners just don’t have the time or desire to do it
There are still many companies out there with no online presence at all. Like nothing, no website, no Facebook page, nada.
So, in an effort to provide a framework for developing a cohesive brand that resonates with your desired customers, below I’ve laid out 7 essential elements for developing your kick-ass, stand-out brand and how they should be used.
A brand is a story that is always being told. - Someone brilliant said this, but I can’t seem to find a consistent source online, so… I’ll just call it Anonymous.
First, let me start by explaining why this endeavor is important… I’m not one of those people who believes you need a perfect business plan to start a successful business (honestly, I think you only need a business plan to start a business if you are planning to fundraise, but that’s another story). However, what we know to be true is, MARKETING IS ESSENTIAL to all businesses. To maintain a high level of success in business, you must have a strategic approach to how you market your company and/or products. Like anything else, your approach will change over time, your marketing strategy will continue to grow and be a living, breathing component of your business, but you have to start somewhere.
Many business owners that I’ve encountered decide on a product to sell and go straight to market. I get it, the most important thing you can do as a business owner is start. That is a major first step, but a major second step is to be smart about it. I know, that’s not a very descriptive second step, but the reality is that many small businesses struggle to keep the doors open past the 2-year mark. I’m no social scientist, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a lack of planning plays a part in why businesses fail. Most small businesses I’ve worked with have no COHESIVE brand identity, they have a product, which will not sustain longevity. Longevity is the reason huge corporations invest in developing a highly recognizable brand that remains top of mind for consumers.
Let’s play a game. Who do you think of when I say:
Online retail shopping
High quality gym shoes and sports apparel
The best technology and devices
I’m willing to bet your answers were as follows:
I hate to burst your bubble, but the reason you thought of those brands is not because their products are necessarily better than their competitors. It’s more so about the brand that those companies have created. They have managed to create a consistent, lasting image of what they represent in the minds of the general public. And that my friend, is what branding is all about. That is the goal.
I know… you’re probably thinking, “but Tiana, do you think I have millions of dollars to invest in branding?”... No, I don’t. But the good news is, you don’t need it. Think of a social media influencer that you follow. I’m sure someone came to mind. Guess what?... They didn’t have millions of dollars either when they started, however he/she was able to create a lasting image in your mind through deliberate and consist online engagement. You can do the same, but first you have to decide who your are as a brand.
With that said, below are 7 essential tools to get you started on your path to creating a recognizable brand.
1. BRAND AUDIT
What Is a Brand Audit?
A brand audit lays the foundation for identifying brand strengths and opportunities, it is a great tool to kick off your rebranding and marketing campaign development initiatives.
How do I use a Brand Audit?
Use this tool to take a holistic look at your company, to review your brand identity, brand positioning, and identify growth opportunities.
2. COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS
What is a Competitive Analysis?
A competitive landscape analysis is an important component of brand strategy development. It identifies competitive insights and market implications; as well as your brand and competitor strengths and weaknesses. A competitive audit systematically addresses questions about the overall category/market, your target audience, competing brands and their offerings.
How do I use a Competitive Analysis?
Use a competitive analysis to uncover or influence your brand positioning. By gaining a thorough understanding of your competitors, their positioning and marketing strategy you can identify and build key differentiators for your brand.
3. TARGET AUDIENCE PERSONAS
What are Target Audience Personas?
Audience personas are detailed generalizations/descriptions of your ideal and existing customers. Your personas should include demographic, psychographic and lifestyle information, as well as key insights such as motivators, behavior trends, etc. Extreme detail is key to creating an effective and useful audience persona.
How do I use Target Audience Personas?
Audience personas are used to develop targeted marketing communications. Understanding your customer is integral to creating messaging that resonates, allows you to create an emotional connection and ultimately moves prospects to engage with, purchase from and become loyal brand advocates of your company. Personas also allow you to segment your audience into cohorts, preventing you from sending irrelevant messaging.
Pro tip: Most brands have more than one audience persona. Develop as many personas as necessary to avoid alienating potential customers.
4. CUSTOMER JOURNEY
What is Customer Journey?
Customer journey is the collection of the critical touch points that characterize a customer's
interaction with a product and/or brand. The touch points combine to create the overall customer experience, which in turn becomes brand identity
How do I use Customer Journeys?
Customer journeys are super informative and a very valuable brand asset. Not only can companies use customer journeys to develop a more seamless and profitable relationship with customers, but they can also be used to improve internal processes, systems and operations. Knowing how your customers interact with your brand can and should drive your entire business strategy.
5. BRAND POSITIONING STATEMENT
What is a Positioning Statement?
Your brand positioning is a statement of the space that your brand occupies in the market, that no other company can claim. Your brand positioning statement is the reason customers choose your company over others; it is the reason anyone cares about what you’re selling.
How do I use a Positioning Statement?
Your brand positioning statement will drive all of your marketing communications. Your value proposition, brand pillars and reasons to believe will be a direct reflection of your brand positioning.
6. BRAND STORY
What is a Brand Story?
Stories engage people and invoke brand loyalty. Your brand story is the ever evolving key to your marketing success. Your brand story is the human approach to your messaging strategy and creative execution. Your brand story will be the tie that binds your brand and your customers, it’s the emotional connection that exists between the two entities.
How do I use a Brand Story?
Your brand story will be in the forefront of your marketing strategy and ultimately create a thread of similarity to be carried across campaigns, platforms and tactics. Utilize key themes from your brand story in your marketing communications. This will make your brand/company and products more relatable, thus more desirable.
7. BRAND STYLE GUIDE
What is a Brand Style Guide?
A brand style guide is a document that essentially provides the rules and regulations for how your brand will be communicated. It documents your brand colors, your brand fonts, logo treatments, etc.
How do I use a Brand Style Guide?
Provide your brand style guide to anyone who will be developing creative for your brand/company. All creative elements should follow the guidelines documented in your brand style guide; including, but not limited to online ads, print ads, email creative, internal communications, brochures, TV broadcast treatments, etc.
As always, if you enjoyed what you read, or gleaned some insight/value, please share.