Branding goes beyond just “logos and ads and stuff” — just ask the Beyhive or the Marvel movie fanbase. So, what does a company need to do to build that kind of customer loyalty and become a household name? Well, logos and ads are a good start, but successful branding needs a little bit more…
The nuances of branding make it complicated to explain, so let’s start with a simplistic definition:
Your “brand” is your company’s reputation.
Obviously, companies want their reputations to be as positive as possible, because that leads to more business. The field of branding aims to improve a company’s reputation using conventional (and sometimes unconventional) techniques: logos, advertisements, websites, social media presence, blogs, videos, email campaigns, color schemes, sales promotions, publicity events, charity work, customer outreach—and more.
Note that branding applies to companies of any size, even individuals like freelancers, influencers, or entertainers. Everyone whose business depends on public opinion, from global conglomerates to gaming streamers, can benefit from branding.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to branding. Each company has its own unique goals, methods, and target consumers, so everyone needs a unique branding approach that caters to them. The Disney Corporation’s family-friendly branding strategy would utterly sink the Harley-Davidson Corporation.
When building your own brand, it helps to follow guidelines within your own industry. If you’re an ecommerce company, you’ll want to stick with the expert tips for ecommerce branding.
Of course, branding isn’t exactly easy. The challenge of branding is that you can never fully control public opinion. That’s why there’s such an emphasis on the factors you can control, even the minutiae like the color scheme of your website or the font of your email newsletters. These tiny factors add up over time—especially when consistent—to proactively influence how people view your company and how much they enjoy doing business with you.
In other words, your reputation.
So, now that you can conceptualize branding as a whole, let’s dive into the specifics. Among the laundry list of branding components we mentioned above, we’ve found these six below to be the most effective — a good place to start.
Search engine optimization is largely the domain of marketing; its purpose is to attract business. However, it still has implications on branding and how your company is perceived, in at least two ways. First, your SEO campaign inherently affects your brand based on the target keywords you choose. If you choose keywords aimed at older audiences, for example, you’ll gain a reputation for serving older audiences. Your keywords help determine who sees you and which searches you appear in, impacting how new users perceive your brand.
Second, appearing high up in search engine results is like a vote of confidence. Showing up at the top of a search list denotes that your company is popular, which makes people want to do business with you more, which makes you even more popular, which lands you even higher in the list next time, and so on. The problem, though, is how do you improve your SEO enough for it to reflect positively on your company? For starters, you can optimize title tags and meta descriptions to increase traffic. But we also recommend the help of another branding technique—content marketing.
Content marketing encompasses blogs, videos, social media posts, infographics, ebooks, etc. The idea is that you provide something of value to consumers to improve their opinion of you. Typically, these are either informational resources like this article you’re reading now, or something with entertainment value, like a funny video or meme.
The beauty of content marketing is that it improves not only customer engagement, but also SEO. Any content hosted on your own website boosts your SEO—especially text-based content like blogs and ebooks. But videos, too, rank in most search engines. That’s why it's crucial to include your SEO keywords in your content.
Moreover, when you post content, you reinforce your branding by communicating directly with your customers. Depending on the subject matter and “voice” (see below), that content will alter the viewer’s perception of you. At the same time, and independently, that content interacts with search engine algorithms to improve your standing in search results. That’s two branding benefits for the price of one.
For brick-and-mortar stores, branding seeps into areas like employee uniforms and in-store decor. While ecommerce stores don't have to worry about these particulars, they have to deal with a whole different concern: the experience of using their website.
Your site’s user experience affects business just as much as your products and prices, so pay particular attention to usability. How easy is it to search for products? How quickly does it load? How many forms do you have to fill out in checkout? Because these factors affect how customers feel about your company, they impact your brand.
Social media can be your brand’s best friend or worst enemy, depending on how you use it.
As a direct connection to people, social media is the ultimate tool for branding. Your social media followers can interact directly with your posts, creating a back-and-forth conversation. Even content marketing doesn’t offer that kind of dialogue.
Savvy social media brands can also use hashtags and trending topics to generate more traffic. Hashtags are the social media equivalent of SEO keywords, in the sense that choosing the right ones can help you attract the right people. Trending topics, too, are useful because they have built-in traffic, if you know how to tap into them.
Aside from social media, email is the next most personal form of branding. While it’s less of a conversation, emails are still direct communication with customers. Moreover, customers have to opt in to emails (for honest businesses), so enticing a subscriber to sign up voluntarily is a great first step in improving their brand loyalty.
Currently, text-only emails are on their way out. The new trend is attractive, pixel-perfect visuals. This opens up a whole new box of branding techniques, from the colors of email graphics to the images and videos embedded in the email.
Knowing how branding works isn’t quite the same as actually doing it well. Now that we’ve covered what branding entails, below we explain how you can apply it yourself. Just follow these 10 expert tips.
Branding revolves around your own particular business and company goals. You have to understand those first to know which direction to take. So, at this stage in your company’s growth, what’s the top priority?
For example, which do you need more of: sales or customers? If you’re a new brand, you may want to prioritize simply getting your name out there before you focus on making money. Your goals will determine the rest of your branding strategy, as different techniques serve different goals better.
You can use branding to optimally position yourself among your competitors, but that requires a deep understanding of both your industry and your rival’s branding strategies. Take a look at your competitors through the eyes of your audience. What’s the appeal? Lower prices? Higher-quality goods?
Dissect their branding elements to see what works and where there’s room for improvement. The goal is to stand out from your competition, but not by sacrificing the branding techniques that have been proven effective with your industry. For example, tech brands tend to use mostly blue in their branding. Using a different color could help you stand out, but you miss out on all the color theory benefits of blue, such as appearing more trustworthy and inviting.
The more accurately you can pinpoint your target audience, the more you’ll be able to tailor your branding content to them specifically.
Your market research should identify your best options for customers. From there, it helps to create a user persona—a fictionalized character that represents your target customer. This helps you conceptualize your audience. Instead of asking yourself, “What would thousands of people think?” it’s easier to just ask, “What would this one representative think?”
Brands are more than just their financial goals. To really establish your brand’s personality, you have to give it grander aspirations, such as helping the environment or making life for your customers more convenient. Such goals are depicted in your company’s mission statement.
Mission statements should lean more towards altruism rather than self-gain. Customers don’t always buy from the company with the best offer; there’s a lot of other factors at play. Take a look at The Honest Company's branding to see what we mean.
Of course, your offers are still vital to purchasing decisions. Not only should you provide the most lucrative deal your business model will allow, but also you need to publicize it. You could have the best deal in the world, but it won’t make a difference if no one knows about it.
Be sure to mention your value proposition in your branding materials to give consumers a reason to do business with you. Be explicit about why choosing you over your competitors is in their best interest.
Your brand voice is the voice of your content: funny or professional, young or experienced, relaxed or energetic, etc. You develop your brand voice through the language you use in your content and the style of how you write and speak, as well as the topics you choose to discuss.
Again, there’s no single “best” brand voice—it depends on your goals and audience. If you’re targeting younger markets, you might want to speak more casually or dabble in slang. But if you’re a more serious company or target conservative professionals, they may feel more comfortable doing business with a more formal voice.
Your brand personality doesn’t just happen; you have to proactively develop it. It’s not enough to simply write a how-to article—you have to write it in the right voice for the right audience, and post it in the right places.
Furthermore, you need to be consistent. If you’re casual and upbeat one day and then all-business the next day, that sends mixed messages to your audience. It’s better to establish a single, well thought-out brand personality and stick with it.
Have you ever heard people talk about a brand narrative? That’s the story behind the company—how they were founded or their greatest accomplishments. It’s like if someone climbs Mt. Everest; chances are whenever people discuss them, they’ll mention it.
Your brand story is primarily orchestrated by your About page or social media profile descriptions—any place where you talk about yourself. However, everything about your company feeds into its brand story, from your mission statement to your prices to your customer service. Because you can’t completely control the narrative people build around you, put your best foot forward everywhere and remain consistent.
The quality of your logo suggests the quality of your company. Successful companies have enough money to afford the best graphic designers, so their logos are usually top-notch. At the same time, struggling companies often cut corners with their logos, and customers can pick up on that at first sight.
The good news is that you can still afford masterful logos even if you’re a new or small-scale company. Design communities like 99designs make it easy to find and hire talented freelance designers from all over the world. Just browse through thousands of professionals to find the one who best matches your style and price range.
Branding is not something you handle outside of your other business endeavors. It works in conjunction with them all. You can tap your branding strategies to promote certain products or services, break into a new market, or influence public opinion.
Once you have your branding materials, use them on your site and even your product packages. Handle online customer service conversations with a consistent brand voice. If you ever need to decorate a social media profile, use colors within your brand palette. Making your branding a part of your business is an essential part of using branding in the first place.
A company’s reputation can make or break their success. It’s less about how good you are, and more about how good people think you are. (Although, if you offer quality products at reasonable prices, that goes a long way in improving your reputation.) That’s why branding is as essential to business as other fields like marketing or sales.
Review the guide above to see if you can isolate the techniques and strategies that best apply to your company. Remember, each company’s branding should be different, so you can’t just copy someone else’s and expect it to work. Take the information above and build your own branding strategy based on your unique needs.