Building a brand from the ground up that stands out is no easy task. What should it look like? How should it make people feel? Will it resonate with my target audience?
These are questions that inevitably come up when you start thinking about how to connect the dots between what you’re selling and who you’re trying to reach. You can check our guide on how to start a business to get started.
Whether you’ve got nothing but a business idea or want to pivot your existing branding design, here’s what you need to know about building a strong brand identity for your business.
What is a brand?
A brand isn’t just a recognizable name and brand logo that distinguishes you in a crowded market.
When you think about it, people have personal brands, too. We each have a name, a face, a style, a way of communicating, and with these traits, we make different impressions on different people.
Likewise, businesses have names, products, logos, colors, fonts, voices, and reputations that make up what they are and affect how they’re perceived.
You can’t effectively approach how to create a brand without being consistent and maintaining that consistency as you extend your brand to every part of your business. The best way to build a brand starts with establishing what that consistency is going to look like and the feeling you want it to evoke.
How to build a brand
Building a new brand essentially boils down to seven steps:
- Research your target audience and your competitors.
- Pick your focus and personality.
- Choose your business name.
- Write your slogan.
- Choose the look of your brand (colors and font).
- Design your brand logo.
- Apply your branding across your business.
While you might revisit some steps as you pivot or create your brand, it’s important that you consider each aspect as you shape your brand identity.
Let’s start by laying the groundwork to inform how to build your business brand.
1. Research your target audience and your competitors
Before you start making any decisions about how to create a business brand, you need to understand the current market, i.e., who your potential customers and current competitors are.
There are many ways to do this step of how to make a brand:
- Google your product or service category and analyze the direct and indirect competitors that come up.
- Check subreddits that relate to your customers and eavesdrop on their conversations and product recommendations.
- Talk to people who are part of your target market and ask them what brands they buy from in your space.
- Look at the relevant social media accounts or pages your target audience follows and are receptive to.
- Go shopping online or offline and get a feel for how your customers would browse and buy products.
As you go about your research, make a note of:
- Who your “lowest hanging fruit” customers are—the ones you could most easily sell to.
- Who your top-of-mind competitors are—the brands that are established and known in the market.
- How your customers speak and what they talk about—the interests they have and the language they express them in.
It’s important to have a handle on this before moving forward, as it will inform what your brand should focus on and how it can position itself apart from competitors.
2. Pick your focus and personality
You can’t establish your brand to be everything to everyone, especially at the start.
It’s important to find your focus and let that inform all the other parts of your brand as you build it.
Here are some questions and branding exercises to get you thinking about the focus and tone of your brand.
What’s your positioning statement?
A positioning statement is one or two lines that stake your claim in the market. This isn’t necessarily something you put on your website or business card—it’s just to help you answer the right questions about your brand and aids in creating your brand’s tagline.
Your unique value proposition is the one thing you’re competing on. Find it, go in on it, and make it a part of your brand's messaging.
Alternatively, if the company you want to start has a cause at its core (e.g., if you’re starting a social enterprise), you can also write this out as a mission statement that makes a clear promise to your customers or to the world.
What words would you associate with your brand?
One way to look at how to build your brand is to imagine your brand as a person. What would he or she be like? What kind of personality would your customers be attracted to?
This will help inform your voice on social media and the tone of all your creative, both visual and written.
A fun and useful exercise for how to create a new brand is pitching three to five adjectives that describe the type of brand that might resonate with your audience. I compiled this list of traits to help you get started.