Business branding can be one of the most important things to get right in your business. For businesses operating in highly competitive markets, this is especially true.
But even if you have a small local business that consists of just you, the owner, branding can still be very important.
In this guide to business branding, we will explore what branding is and how to create a brand identity.
What Is Branding?
Why is branding important? Without it, your company or product is just a generic entity that could be easily confused with a similar company or product.
But what exactly is a brand? And what is branding?
Entrepreneur’s Encyclopedia defines “branding” as:
The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.
Technically, a “brand” is the sum of everything in that definition. It is the logo, name, and other identifying markers for a business.
To further confuse things, sometimes people use the word “brand” interchangeably with the company itself or its offerings. But remember, the brand is simply a representation of the company.
As a representation, the brand should provide a positive image. It should bring to mind positive qualities, so the customer wants to purchase the brand.
At its best, a brand can become so beloved by customers, that they may go out of their way to buy items with the “brand” on it. This would be the case with people who purchase Coca-Cola hats, shirts, and polar bear stuffed animals.
At its core, branding consists of three basic things:
- A Brand Name – the name of your business and product.
- The Brand Logo – a graphic that identifies your brand.
- Your Brand Slogan or Tagline – a short phrase or word that goes with your brand name and logo.
Branding “the Brand”
When you add “ing” to the word “brand,” the word becomes active. The term branding in marketing can be used interchangeably with the word “brand.” However, it more specifically means the process of creating, sustaining, and promoting a brand.
As a new business owner, as you go about choosing a logo and a brand name, you are engaging in the process of branding.
Does this make sense?
As part of your branding activities, you should also develop branding strategies for a branding business plan. We will talk about that shortly, but first, let us get into the basics of branding and how to brand your company.
First Branding Strategy Step: Identify Your Target Audience with Brand Personas
We are assuming if you are reading this, that you are starting up a new business. Therefore, we will be working “from scratch” here. However, even if you have an existing brand, you may be ready to update it. You may need some business branding ideas.
A good exercise, when developing branding strategies, is to get a good look at your target audience first. One way to do this is by creating “personas.” A persona is a fictional person who represents your ideal customer. You may have just one persona or a bunch of them. You can base your personas off of existing customers, market research, or personal interviews.
Your personas should be gathered into a document that provides a quick graphical review. The personas will include a fake name, general age, interests, pain points (what they need), and what motivates them. Adding a stock photograph is necessary to represent the person.
You can find many free persona templates online to make this process quick and easy.
How to Create a Brand Identity
Once you have identified your target audience, here are some basic steps to take in branding your business:
1. Choose a Brand Name
Your brand needs a name. Ideally, this will be a name that goes along with an available domain name (see below). You can check a trademark search engine to see what brand names are already taken.
This is where you may need to get creative since many names are already used. However, typically, if the name is for another industry, you can potentially use it with some variations. Sometimes, you can merge two or three words to make up a new name.
It’s not a bad idea to hire a trademark lawyer to help you with this if you can afford one.
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You should check odd sources such as the Urban Dictionary to make sure your name isn’t actually used for some bad slang.
Do not forget to check foreign language websites to make sure your name doesn’t mean something negative in another language if you are going to be reaching that target market.
Why? Well. you may have heard the apocryphal story of Chevy selling a car in Latin America that was named “Nova,” which can be translated in Spanish into “no go.” The car sold just fine, despite the urban legend of it being a total failure. Still, it’s a good idea to check other languages.
2. Design a Logo
A logo is a graphic that represents your business. It can be a symbol, or simply be your brand name in a certain kind of font, or include both a symbol with your brand name.
First, you need to weigh the costs and determine whether you need a custom logo or not.
We will be honest here and say that sometimes, you don’t need a real logo to market a business. If, for example, you are a yoga teacher who is marketing your yoga classes locally, spending thousands on a logo design would be a waste of money. You could probably throw an OM symbol or a picture of a lotus flower on your business card and be done with it.
In this case, you aren’t doing real branding, however. Instead, you are piggybacking off of existing generic branding to sell yourself. In this case, certain designs such as the OM symbol are expected in yoga, and by reusing a familiar symbol, you are getting the benefits of all the “feel good” impressions people have of yoga in general.
This, however, is an article about branding, which is about differentiating your business. Thus, if you, as a yoga teacher, want to go national, then you should probably invest in a professional logo to distinguish yourself.
The same goes true for other small businesses. Logos may or may not be required. Sometimes a name is enough, depending on the type of business you have. Let’s say your company is Acme Accounting. You may not need a graphic at all. You might just have ACME ACCOUNTING printed in a specific font on your website and business cards, and that is your logo.
Still, if you want to stand out, go ahead and get a symbol or graphic designed with your logo. This will require the services of a graphic designer, or, for higher-end projects, an advertising agency. Good logo designs will not be cheap. Your basic costs would be $250 for a super cheap and probably bad logo and around $5,000 or more for something good – and that’s just the graphic from an independent graphic designer.
If you hire an advertising agency to do a full branding package for you, which would include brand name, logo, slogan, and other elements of your brand identity, you could be looking at tens of thousands and millions for the best.
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3. Create a Slogan
A slogan is optional, but it can help set your brand apart. When you think of Nike, what comes to mind? “Just Do It.” For years, Burger King kept McDonald’s in check with it’s famous “Have It Your Way” slogan, which has never been surpassed by the chain in terms of effectiveness.
Slogans can help people remember your brand if they are catchy and memorable.
If you are on a budget, you might be able to come up with a business slogan for your brand by canvassing family and friends. You might also get business branding ideas from your social media network. Consider holding an online contest to get branding identity ideas. Or, go with a respected advertising agency – just remember, this may cost a lot more money.
4. Get a Domain Name
Your brand also includes your domain name, the URL address that people will type in to reach your website. Fortunately, you are not limited to “.com” domain name extensions these days. You can get a domain name with any number of different suffixes, such as .biz, .name, .us, and even .lol.
Other Elements of Successful Brand Building
A name, logo, and slogan are just the beginning. When coming up with branding techniques, think about what other advertising assets might help. Could your brand benefit from a mascot, such as the Geico lizard? How about a spokesperson, like Flo from Progressive Insurance?
Consider the following when developing your branding strategies:
Brands as Identities
The best branding makes your business more than just a business. As corporations become more and more powerful worldwide, they are becoming more than just a source for things people buy. For Millennials, corporations are becoming a way to express their personal identity.
In the past, people might have identified as Catholic or Protestant. Today, people are just as likely to identify as being a Coke or Pepsi person.
Your brand is more than just a logo. Your company branding also includes how you communicate with your customers. Thus, as part of your branding business plan, you should look at how you will communicate publicly.
Will you be using Twitter to provide data and information that might be of interest to your followers? Or perhaps you want to provide a more personal touch, with personal sharing being part of your Twitter feed?
What about your blog? Are the articles light-hearted and funny, or meant to be serious and thought-provoking?
Your communications should be designed to speak to your target audience.
Let’s consider Instagram. For the aforementioned yoga teacher, Instagram can be a powerful branding tool or end up causing a backlash. For example, if you are a yoga teacher trying to encourage people to use yoga for body acceptance, and you are constantly posting pictures of super skinny women doing yoga, that could backfire. Instead, find inspiring pictures of women of all shapes and sizes.
Know the Importance of Branding for Your Marketing Plans
Before you even start marketing your business, you need a business brand. At its most basic, your brand will have a name and a logo. From there, you can work on brand communications and creating a brand identity that people will want to associate with.