What is branding?
Think of the times when you have stood in the supermarket aisles trying to decide which products to buy. Do you tend to choose brands that you know and trust?
Branding, or the act of shaping a brand, brings out the personality of your business, giving it a face and a voice. It affects how people relate to your products and tips them over to your customer camp. Besides helping your business grow over time, a successful brand can become financially valuable. One famous example is Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint that was sold for S$4 million in 2014.
Building a brand strategy certainly takes time, but here are a few tips to get you started.
What is your business about?
Even if you are clear on what you want to sell, take a moment to dig deeper into the value of your business. What do you bring to your customers? What do you want your business to be remembered for?
While Ikea’s life-sized showrooms inspire customers to “create better everyday life”, local furnishing company, Castlery, started as a pure online store and has an app that allows customers to virtually outfit their home with furniture pieces from the brand. Knowing which path your business would like to take is the first step to making your branding tick.
Next, think of the reason why potential customers would want to buy from you instead of the shop next door. What kind of edge do you have over your competitors?
Drinking local kopi-o at Ya Kun’s no-frills outlets may not be as hip as sipping latte at Starbucks. However, many Singaporeans and tourists have come to appreciate Ya Kun’s breakfast staples and drinks served in traditional cups and saucers. On the other hand, Starbucks’ customers know that they can walk into any outlet worldwide and order the same cuppa in a familiar ambience.
Your business needs to convey a powerful story to convince your target audience why they need your products or services, and what inspired you to create them in the first place. The clearer you are about what your business stands for (mission) and where it is heading (vision), the better you can communicate them through branding.
Who do you want to sell to?
Next, narrow down your target customers. It will help you find the right voice to communicate with them.
If you plan to create and sell shoes, think of which market segment to build your niche in. Do you plan to sell to women or men, young or old? Are your shoes for formal or casual wear?
Customers buying from Charles and Keith, Bata or Crocs are likely to have different profiles, needs and wants. Trying to catch them all is a stretch goal and may be unrealistic. The last thing you want to do is spend hours creating a brand that is too generic to resonate with any group.
Before starting on any branding activities for the business, research on the people most likely to buy your products or services. Try sieving through demographic data such as age, income and gender to help you create a typical customer profile, or a “user persona”. Consider their purchasing power and lifestyle too.
Alternatively, check out your competitors (including online retailers) to see what they are offering and where the gaps are. Online comments left by their customers offer a glimpse into their pain points and may be hints as to which segments are underserved.
The more you know about your target audience – who they are, what they value, what type of lingo they use – the easier it will be to “talk to them” and convert them into your customers.
Creating your brand deck
Now that you have clarified what your business is about and who you intend to sell to, start thinking about the elements of your branding. These include:
Do you want your business to sound professional, stylish or sassy? Decide what works for your target audience and how it ties in with your business values. This has a bearing on how you choose other design elements for your brand.
• Corporate colour and font
Colours evoke emotions and can get your message across subtly. Think of TWG’s black and gold hues for sophistication and luxury, or M1’s choice of orange for dynamism. Likewise, the fonts on your company’s website and stationery speak volumes to the audience. Whether you choose traditional or whimsical ones, be consistent.
Now that you have pinned down the voice, colour and fonts representing the branding of your company, go ahead and design a logo that represents what your brand stands for. Logos are the face of a brand and can help to differentiate a brand from its competitors.
Ensure that the business’s branding is consistent across its product and service packaging. The same look and feel should be present, along with being aligned with the business’s values (e.g. eco-friendliness and innovation). Pay attention to your business cards as it conveys what the business is about. First impressions matter.
• Website and social media
Your website is where many customers will get to know all about your business, while social media platforms are where you can converse with them. Make sure that the brand identity of your business stands out clearly.
Ensure that there’s brand consistency across all platforms (e.g. choice of motifs, colour etc.). Most importantly, stitch up all these elements and pin them down in your company’s very own brand style guide. It helps you clarify your branding practices and serves as a handy document for onboarding your vendors or new employees.
Stick to the plan, be consistent
After building a brand strategy, your next task is to ensure it remains consistent across your marketing channels and platforms. A consistent identity not only makes your product more memorable, it makes your brand more authoritative and credible in the market. A good product generates customers, but a strong brand generates advocates.
This article was contributed by Enterprise Singapore and originally appeared in the Entrepreneur's Digest print edition #94. It has been edited for clarity, brevity and for the relevance of this website.