When we think about branding we often think about websites, logos, and social media pages, but successful branding goes much deeper than that. Successful brands create an entire community that people can become a part of. In order to build a loyal following it means that people aren’t just buying into your product or service, they are buying into your brand as an image and an identity in itself, whose values and experiences reflect those of their own. The more that people can understand and identify with your brand the more likely they are to choose your offering over the nearest competitor’s. How would your target market describe your brand to someone hearing about it for the first time? This is your brand’s identity, and it’s carefully crafted through a consistent brand narrative, personality, set of visuals, and overall brand image, which work together to reinforce your competitive angle and solidify your position in the market.
BUILDING YOUR BRAND’S NARRATIVE
The narrative is the story behind your brand. It brings meaning to your brand that customers can emotionally connect with. The story is about where your brand started from and what it’s working towards; what it believes to be true and what it’s committed to. When a customer uses your product, hires your service, or reads your blog, how does it make them feel? That’s what your story is communicating. Your brand’s narrative is an incredible opportunity to connect with your audience and stand out from competitors. People want to be a part of something bigger, so it’s critical that you give them that.
HOW CAN YOU YOU EXECUTE THIS?
Craft your story about who you are/ how your brand started and what it is committed to. Put it in writing somewhere that new and existing customers can see it (i.e., about me, about us, who we are). You can separate it by having an “about me page” and a separate vision/mission statement for your brand.
Use Instagram Stories and Snap Chat to give your audience a glimpse “behind the scenes” of your brand. Let people see how your brand is committed to its promise on the day-to-day. Short clips of inspiration, “keeping it real,” the luxurious life, daily struggles- whatever daily stories will help your audience to feel like they are a part of your brand and want to champion your brand.
Use your social media posts to encourage a call to action. This is where you can display short stories of your brand’s narrative (directly and indirectly). The daily versus that show the results of your skill set and competitive advantage, but in a way that educates and inspires your followers who share the same goals (i.e., to shop that look, make that recipe, contribute to a green initiative, etc.,). When you advertise your brand through story telling it is far more likely to be remembered.
BUILDING YOUR BRAND’S PERSONALITY
Your brand’s personality is the set of human characteristics that your followers would use to describe your brand. It’s the tone and voice of your brand, and how it behaves. The most successful brands are the ones that can evoke feelings from their audience and build a relationship with them- your brand needs a personality to do this. Having a unique and defined brand personality is a key driver in differentiating from your competition. Your brand’s personality should be one that is true to you, and in line with your target audience.
Examples of brand personalities:
Cool, wise, bold, socially-conscious, sassy, rebellious, conservative, intellectual, traditional, inspiring, adventurous...
HOW CAN YOU EXECUTE THIS?
The captions on your Instagram, Snap Chat stories, Insta-Stories, business tag-lines, paid advertising, are all opportunities to show your brand’s personality. Just like all areas of branding, your brand’s personality has to be consistent in order to build a strong, trusting relationship with your audience. Reinforce your brand’s personality through interactions with your followers and customers on social media by liking, sharing, and commenting on posts that are in line with what your brand is committed to.
BUILDING YOUR BRAND'S VISUAL BRAND IDENTITY
Your brand’s visual identity is the imagery that your brand uses to communicate with its target audience. It’s how you present your brand’s narrative, personality, and show “who” your brand is and what it’s about. The type of visual content that your brand should have depends on who your audience is and what problem you are solving for them. We will focus on online platforms for now.
1. WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?
The importance of knowing who your target market is repeats itself time and time again. The demographics of your target market (i.e., age, occupation, lifestyle) dictate the mandatory place your brand must be present; the places your market seeks out its information, socializes, and expects to find you.
2. WHAT PROBLEM ARE YOU SOLVING?
Each media platform should serve a specific role that works to reinforce your competitive advantage and solidify your brand identity. Not every social network is the right fit for your brand, so its critical that you take the time to research where your market is and which platforms you need to drive home your brand’s message.
Pinterest is heavily focused on advice and DIY tricks, predominantly female, with a common user age of 25-45. If your brand is about DIY bridal advice then having a strong, actionable (pin-able) Pinterest presence is a must.
Facebook is all about building a community and opening doors for discussion. If creating a safe, open, and encouraging environment is part of your brand then creating a Facebook group/page is a must. The same goes for Google+. (Keep in mind the average age of users on each platform).
If your brand deals with anything instructional then having a strong YouTube channel is critical. Video content is also a great way to display your personality as an extension of your brand’s if it will serve as a competitive advantage for you (i.e., showing whit, charisma, intellectual capacity, silliness).
Twitter is all about instantaneous commentary that displays your brand’s unapologetic self and true opinion.
As mentioned earlier, Snap Chat and Insta-Stories give your audience a glimpse “behind the scenes” of your brand and provide proof that your brand is who it says it is. Organic, effortless self-promotion is key on these platforms.
Finally, your Instagram page. Instagram posts represent the slices of content that speak to the core of your brand- what your brand wants your target audience to feel, remember, and think about that day. Through the combination of both images and captions your page should reflect what your brand stands for and what it values.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
All of your branding efforts are done to inspire a specific call to action from your audience (purchase, hire, read, donate, visit) on your non-social-media-dependent platform (a.k.a. your website), so consistency in brand narrative, personality, and overall image across each platform is essential. Your website is the final step in the equation. Your brand identity on your site should be in line with all of your other platforms, and your company’s tag line and/or purpose should be clearly stated to remove any remaining uncertainty from your audience, especially in the early stages. In addition, displaying your brand’s credibility also helps drive customer confidence in the early stages (i.e., customer testimonials, celebrity endorsements, educational background and awards). Finally, when it comes to your logo its best to just keep it simple. A logo by itself doesn’t carry intrinsic meaning, it will take time for your audience to come to associate your brand with your logo, so focus more on your brand’s message at the start.
Building your brand identity is an exciting part of your entrepreneurial journey, and a turnkey in developing a strong market presence. Good luck in this stage, have fun in this stage, and always remember to keep it consistent!