• It All Starts With Your Brand
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It All Starts With Your Brand

Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola – we all know what good branding is when we see it. The intangible feeling you get when you watch a commercial, an interview or see an ad by one of these brands – the sense that you know what the company’s mission is, and exactly how you fit into it – is characteristic of some of the most competent and cutting-edge branding that exists.

Unfortunately, building an iconic brand is not as easy as recognizing one, and yet it’s an integral part of creating any startup. To help startups get their branding on track, our team here at HJR Global has come together to give you the tips you’ll need to build a brand for yourself.

What Exactly Is Branding?

A common misconception when it comes to branding is that as long as you have a logo and a witty Twitter account, you’re good to go as far as branding is concerned. The reality, of course, is quite a bit more complicated.

To classify it simply, your brand not only defines the products or services you sell, but also how you interact with your customers and your business ethos – the goal of your business beyond simply generating profit.

You shouldn’t view your brand as merely a color pallet you slap on your website to make it look congruent or a logo that’s eye-catching, although both of those elements are certainly part of branding. Your brand should be the central idea that every other element of your business is derived from.

Let’s look at an example: the company ThirdLove. ThirdLove specializes in making female undergarments that are ethically sourced and designed to fit women regardless of their body size and shape.

ThirdLove’s brand isn’t centered on selling undergarments. Rather, it’s centered on creating an experience for customers that celebrates women of all shapes and sizes and embraces diversity and ethical clothes-making.

From slamming Victoria’s Secret for their supermodel-fantasy approach to underwear by taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times, to letting customers try their products for 30 days at no cost with a “try before you buy” guarantee, ThirdLove’s branding revolves around a clear ethos, or set of moral and business values, that the company isn’t afraid to commit to.

The Importance Of Branding

Speaking of ThirdLove, their commitment to branding themselves with a specific identity and committing to that identity has driven the company to post revenue up 347 percent year-over-year (YOY) from 2016-2017, and a returning customer rate that has climbed to 62 percent YOY as well.

In contrast, let’s look at Activision Blizzard. Blizzard has been developing video games tailored to the personal computer (PC) audience for over a decade and cemented themselves in the gaming industry by branding themselves as a customer-centric company where gamers make games not only for their customers, but also for themselves.

This year, when Blizzard broke from their branding by announcing a mobile-only game, Diablo Immortal. The result was catastrophic. In 20 days, the company’s stock dropped 28.83 percent, falling from $84.68 a share at the start of 2018, to $50.05 a share as of November 23, 2018. If such a dramatic drop in share price due to poor branding doesn’t indicate the importance of branding your company well, then it’s hard to say what could.

How To Create An Effective Brand Strategy

Building a brand strategy sounds hard, but it’s actually fairly simple. The hard part is executing that strategy effectively. First, you’ll want to identify your company’s purpose – the company “ethos” we wrote about earlier. What purpose does your company serve to the regional, national or global community you’re targeting?

For example, Apple’s purpose is clear – to provide sleek, efficient, streamlined technology that looks and feels luxurious at a premium price that makes its most recent products – not only computers, phones and tablets – as status symbols that reflect a consumer’s aesthetic and monetary value.

On the other hand, brands like ThirdLove prioritize customer service and ethics over monetary return in their branding. Decide what route you want to take with your brand, and then commit to it. Looking at any big-name brand’s social media will tell you one thing – they’re consistent when it comes to the look and feel of their branding campaigns.

Being consistent will cement you in your customer’s minds. From there, it’s all about getting people involved in your brand – and when we say that, we don’t just mean liking your Instagram posts.

Create ads that appeal to the emotional tone of your company. For a great example of emotional branding, check out this ad by Amazon. Get your employees involved in branding by creating a workplace they’ll want to tell their friends about – if you treat your employees well, they’ll brand and advertise your company for you.

Treat your customers well – as ThirdLove has proved, creating a product or service customers can trust will keep them coming back for more. And finally, maintain awareness of the market-space your company occupies.

Keep track of competitors, especially ones with similar branding to yours. Set yourself apart by creating Facebook communities for customers and interacting with them regularly. Do everything you can to keep your brand ahead of the competition, and your business will prosper.

Creating A Brand That Works

Of course, creating a brand strategy isn’t the same as actually creating a brand, although the two do go hand-in-hand. To create your brand, one of the first things you’ll want to do is create a buyer persona – a written, fictional example of the person you’d like to buy your product.

For example, a buyer persona for an ethically sourced dog food brand might look something like this: “Sarah, 26, has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and lives in Seattle. She loves her dogs and taking them on regular runs. She’s trendy, and loves keeping up to date with the most current fashion and music trends.”

What does this company want to market to? Young, trendy adults who own dogs and have the means to splurge a bit on making sure their pets get the best food available. Creating a buyer persona is incredibly important – in fact, 82 percent of companies with better value propositions use buyer personas to help drive their branding campaigns.

Next, you’ll want to create a logo. Put thought into this, and in no small amount either. Coca-Cola has had the same logo with only minor variations for over a hundred years – aim for that kind of longevity when creating your logo. Then, extend the aesthetics of your logo to your website – is it messy or clean? Professional or edgy? Pick a color palette and an aesthetic, and stick with it.

Next, build out your brand. Get in touch with influencers to advertise your product. Nike has been famous in the past couple of years for offering even small influencers free products for advertising, and the company’s revenue has increased 13 percent to 9.8 billion as a result of their influencer-driven, cutting-edge branding campaigns.

Partner with a non-profit or charity that represents your company values – 85 percent of millennials say that they’re more willing to recommend a company that partners with nonprofits to support ethical business practices.

Finally, identify yourself with a consistently updated blog and a good social media presence. If you can afford to, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to appoint multiple content creators to your blog and social media accounts. Startups have an unfortunate habit of ignoring just how much value a blog can bring to them.

81 percent of Americans trust the information they read on blogs, which is exactly why making sure your blog is consistently updated is so important. Having a consistent and branded social media and blog presence lets you connect with consumers and spread brand awareness faster than Greek fire.

As an addendum, consider participating in inbound marketing campaigns, such as creating a landing page on your website for an email list, to boost your brand reach and awareness.

Above all, try and create a culture of authenticity around your brand. Nobody likes feeling as though their only purpose is to shovel money into a corporate executive’s pockets. Be up-front and honest with your customers. Treat your consumers well, and your employees even better, and your brand will thrive.

Are you struggling to define your brand and make it profitable? Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at HJR Global. We specialize in assisting startups and medium-sized companies with their branding. We use innovative marketing and financing techniques to make your business reach its full potential.

To learn more about what we can do for you, click here.