As business owners, we are used to juggling multiple projects, workflows and topics. And sometimes it can be very hard to see the big picture. You might be tempted to just fire away with social media marketing. It cannot be that difficult, right? Just post some pictures, a short text and some Hashtags, that’s it? Well, I have to disappoint you. Before you jump into the execution you need to lay the groundwork – your branding. Let me share why you need branding for your business and what are the basics to get started.
The word “branding” goes back to wine production. Did you know that? In 16th century Europe, wine producers acquired the right to brand the wine barrels with the first letter of the town. This early type of “logo” was aimed at preventing fraud and at the same time served as an early measure of branding and brand awareness raising.
Similar to the wine barrels, you need to raise awareness among customers about your product or service. Branding today is the promise to your customers? What is your mission? Why should they believe in your product? It relates to who you and your brand are, who and what you want to be and what other people perceive you and your brand to be.
Therefore, your branding strategy is the basis for all other workflows such as marketing and sales. It even trickles down to small operative steps such as designing your logo, your website and deciding on colour schemes. Think about it like writing a book or seminar paper. You first need to have a rough concept and a title. Then you focus on all the other chapters. All of it needs to come together under one coherent umbrella.
For my branding concepts, I usually think of the branding strategy process as a ladder or staircase. Moving bottom-up, I work with six major steps:
1. Product Features
Sum up the product features. What is it that you actually do? It sounds basic but it is a very good exercise to put it down in writing and have it in front of you.
2. Target Audience and Insights
For whom did you make this product? Try to be as precise as possible and think about
- Age groups – How old is your target group?
- Demographics – Men or women or both? To which social classes do they belong?
- Regional factors – Where does your target group live?
- Economic factors – What is the disposable income?
- Interests – What are their hobbies and interests? Are those related to your product?
Once you define that target group, summarize what you know about this group. Do you have special insights into their buying habits, interests or lifestyles?
3. Benefits for Your Customers
There are two types of benefits you promise your customers. Firstly, the functional benefit: Is your product better than others? Does it make your customers’ lives easier? Is it easy to use?
The second one is the emotional benefit: Which emotions does your product trigger? Does it create a sense of community or belonging? What is so special this brand that your customers identify with it?
In some cases, a third dimension of benefits can be useful: the economic benefit. Is your product cheaper than others? Be careful how you look at this perspective. Being cheaper does not automatically mean it creates more value to the customers. I sometimes use the economic benefit in the sense of time: Does your product save your customers time compared to other products?
4. Reason to Believe
I think this is probably the trickiest one: Why should potential customers believe in you and your brand instead of your competitors? What is it that makes you stand out?
This step requires a lot of research about the market and your competitors. However, it is worth investing in a thorough analysis. It will not only help you with your branding but also is a sound knowledge of the competitive landscape key for being successful. Furthermore, potential investors and partners will always ask for a competitor analysis.
5. Brand Personality
After the harder steps of research, I really enjoy building the brand personality. Think about your brand as a person? What would it be like? Which attributes would you ascribe to this “person”? You can think of a celebrity or someone close to you, or even yourself if you have a strong impact on the brand and how it will be perceived.
6. Brand Essence
This last step is a summary of the five steps we have accomplished before. In one sentence, what does your brand stand for?
Do not worry if you cannot come up with the sentence immediately. It may take some time and a lot of iterations. However, it is crucial to know this sentence by heart. You are your brands most important ambassador and if somebody asks you about it, this sentence is the answer.
This six-step approach should help you to lay the foundations of your brand. Check out more of my articles about start-ups and small businesses. I have much more about branding and marketing in the pipeline. And please let me know if there is a particular topic you would like to know more about!