Marketing or Branding?
The term “branding” is often used as a wildcard to define a myriad of things and is mixed up with terms like “marketing”, “promotion”, “brand name” and, above all, with “logo”. As we mentioned in The True Potential of Your Logo, your brand is so much more than a logo and a business card. Your brand is what people perceive in your business.
When we talk about working on your brand, or doing some marketing, we’re actually talking about trying to influence this perception people have about your business. To start working on your brand, or improve the current perception your customers have about you, we recommend working through some of the following steps.
Put Together a Creative Brief
Know Your Brand And Your Audience
You might be wondering what’s the most practical way too figure out who your costumers are. Some people recommend thinking of them as a tribe—like groups isolated in islands or remote jungles. The modern urban tribes are groups of people with common interest, slang, ages, and a need to belong. In our case, we prefer to call this your audience.
Ask Yourself these questions about your audience:
- “What are their aspirations?”
- “What are the topics that interest them?”
- “Do they have shared values?”
Who’s your target audience? Women bikers looking for adventure? Newlywed couples in search for luxury properties? First-time mothers who need all the help they can get?
By asking the right questions you can narrow down your audience and focus your efforts to target your so called tribe or audience.
But remember, a map is not the same as a territory—So make sure you get feedback from your audience often to confirm or adjust your understanding of the values and behaviors that best reflect what they’re all about.
If your target audience is “everyone” you effectively have no target audience.
Here are a few Quick Ideas:
- If you have a website, install Google Analytics to get a better understanding about your audience’s demographics. You can see an example of this idea applied to this project we worked on here. Just jump ahead to the “OK Hosting Target Audience & Users” section.
- Use your favorite messenger or video call app to have a real conversation with one or two members of your audience.
- Do your best to understand their lifestyle, values, goals, motivations, and frustrations.
- Once you have a clear idea of what your audience is like, try to meet their needs in an innovative way. Ask yourself, how can I make their lives better?
- Then ask yourself: In which capacities am I better suited than my competitors to help my audience?
Does Your Brand Cover a Need That Other Companies Don’t?
Are you one of the fastest service providers in your market? Is your product the most durable? Do you have some sort of groundbreaking technology at your disposal? Or maybe you have some interesting connections? If all else fails and you can’t think of a particular strength, then try developing one.
Find a competitive advantage that is easy to communicate based on a need not widely covered within your audience. Use that advantage to fill in the gaps in established markets or product lines. This point is critical because by having a competitive advantage you can avoid having to compete on price alone.
Without a clear competitive advantage, you might end up having to go through a price war. With smaller profit margins, your revenue nosedives and you end up going out of business. Don’t let that happen to you.
Once you’ve identified your target market, it’s time to think about your brand’s architecture. Here are a few examples of how that might look.
One Company, Individual Brands
Despite being manufactured by the same company, in this particular type of brand architecture, each product can have its own name, logo, and branded promotional materials to respond to different target audiences.
It is a convenient option if you have a company with important logistic capabilities. Your capabilities allow you to serve different types of markets (or audiences).
Axe, Lipton, Knorr and Dove—among many others—are all products with very different brands. You wouldn’t expect them to have the same type of messaging and visual identity even though they’re all part of Unilever.
This option might sound similar to the individual brands approach at first glace. After all, we’re still talking about having different logos for different products. However, this brand architecture consists of grouping several related products under the same parent brand.
This is a good choice for companies that have several products or services designed to meet the scope of needs of one singular audience.
When people trust the primary brand, it’s easy for them to trust in the new solutions provided by the same entity.
Google—being the parent brand in this example—manages different divisions to offer a variety of services. (And I know there’s also Alphabet, but the point still stands).
When a company finds an opportunity in a new market, it might be challenging to try to break through with their primary brand. That’s when they can resort to creating a second brand with its own characteristics custom-fitted to their new audience. Another similar option is to buy a competitor and make the necessary adjustments to segment both brands into different markets.
As a famous example Levis and Dockers—former competitors—are now under the ownership of the same company and they target different market segments.
Once your brand architecture is decided you have to define the best way to communicate your brand’s value proposition to its customers. This is not a one time task, mind you. Instead, a plan must be developed to guarantee the continued presence of the brand in your audience’s mind. The values of your brand need to be communicated externally to your market and internally to your stakeholders, employees, and suppliers.
You can see an example of visual identity development here.
Your product or service needs a timeless logo: easy to identify, versatile and fitting to the taste of your audience.
There are several factors to determine if a logotype is suitable for your brand, so we recommend you find a professional who can give you a proper diagnosis.
A huge and common mistake made by business owners who design their own logo is to use an image from a stock library. Avoid this option if you don’t want to end up with a generic logo shared with hundreds of other companies. This can lead to costly problems in the future at best, and it can damage your image or even cause legal problems at worst.
Brand Style Guide
A brand style guide (or brand guidelines) is a document that helps you ensure your visual identity is treated carefully throughout all of your communication efforts. This guide should reflect the values of the brand and depict the different use cases for your logo, images, video, illustration, icons, etc. You can think of this as an investment for the future of your brand. If you use your guide correctly—and keep it updated—you might never need to redesign or refresh the brand of your business again.
Flexibility is important here since we must think about the different media where the identity will be represented visually. This can include printed material—like business cards and labels—even working with different printing techniques, such as laser printing, offset, screen printing, among others. Not to mention digital media such as web design, social media marketing, video production, email signatures, intranet, app loading screens, etc.
Some people might think otherwise, but the choice of your brand’s colors is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. Seek guidance of a professional graphic designer.
There are whole disciplines—like color theory and color psychology—dedicated to studying the effects of different colors in our minds. Different colors have different effects and emotional reactions attached to them. Some colors can even have very different connotations among different cultures.
If you have a physical product, you should also think about how you can create contrast between your product and whatever other products will be displayed around it. Similarly, if you have an app, you might want to consider using striking colors that will help your icon stand out in the app stores.
An experienced designer with a trained eye and theoretical knowledge of color theory will be able to guide you here.
The use of traditional media such as television, radio, and newspaper is in decline. It’s clear now that the Internet is the place to be.
Nowadays, having a couple of social media accounts and a simple website is not nearly enough to stand out and grow your business. The Internet is full of websites and social media accounts fighting to get some attention. It’s vital to have a clear strategy and objectives to have a successful digital presence.
If you’re thinking about building a presence on social media, your first instinct might be to create a Facebook and Twitter account for your business and start posting daily images with offers and promotions. This is a beginner’s mistake. If all you do is promote your own things, it will be very hard for you to gain any traction with your audience.
There’s also many different social media platforms out there, each with their different demographic information. Do your research and choose the best platforms for your business.
Hint: there’s no universal best social media platform. The best platform for you is the one your audience is already using the most.
Arguably the most important benefit of social media is building rapport and trust with your audience. Make sure to spend time liking, sharing, replying and commenting to what your audience is posting, both in and out of your own social media profiles. When using social media for your business, think about providing value and useful information first. If you don’t have time for this, delegating this task to a professional might be a good idea.
Before making a website it’s important to define a goal of your business online. It’s important that your website has a clear set of objectives.
A website can do a lot of different things. That doesn’t mean it should do all of them. Think critically about what your business needs from your website.
Here are a few things a website can do:
- Handle transactions (payments or donations).
- Showcase an online catalog of products.
- Work as a directory of contacts for a specific industry.
- Provide news or information about an organization.
- Capture contact details of potential customers.
- Provide information about the company for inquiries from customers, investors and onlookers.
- And even become an automated selling machine.
what you need to have a website up and running
- The first thing you’re going to need is a domain name: You can think of the domain as the written address of your website. For example ours is “uprise.studio”. Think about a simple, catchy, and memorable name. This part can be tricky because each day there are less and less domain names available.
- The second thing you’re going to need is to hire a hosting provider. If your domain is like the written address of your website, you can think of the hosting service as the actual block or street where your website is located. Every website needs space to host all of their images, video, audio, text, etc. That’s what hosting is for.
- Finally, once you have your domain and hosting set up, you can get your website designed and developed by a professional or learn how to do that yourself if you’re tech-savvy.
- Alternatively you can also delegate the entire process from start to finish. Some agencies can help you get the domain and hosting services for you or even provide them themselves along with the web design, development, security, and maintenance services.
Test, Feedback and Constant Improvement
As a closing to this introduction, we want to encourage you to think of your marketing strategy as a constant process where you will evaluate the response of your audience every step of the way and make the necessary adjustments to obtain a more favorable response. Always keep looking for the best ways to serve the needs of your customers and stay in sync with their values and interests.
If you’d like to start a conversation about your brand. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you’re interested in learning more about branding, marketing, and all the good stuff that’s going to help your business grow, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter with the form below.
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César Fernando Pérez
Before partnering with Dany and Jo, César worked on several digital design agencies and hosting companies following his mission to help businesses find their personality, connect with the right audiences and leverage their competitive advantages. Beside his design work, César enjoys drawing and reading history books.