The Complete Guide to Building a Brand Online
The rapid development of online technologies and innovations produced a revolution in the field of small businesses. Manufacturers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, retailers, professional creatives of all kinds now can experience an unprecedented freedom as small biz owners. They can create a website and build an online presence, find niche markets to grow into and discover new opportunities for monetization. But can they establish themselves as “brands,” like big companies have been doing for decades?
One key outcome of the online revolution for businesses is the democratization of branding. It is no longer solely the benefit of the “big fish” who can easily devote hefty chunks of the budget to brand building. Now more than ever, companies and organizations across industries and on different scales can accomplish a great deal through brand development.
This detailed article on how to build a brand online is recommended for all small business owners and self-employed professionals who want to see their business fulfill its potential. It is your first step towards establishing your business as a professional brand.
1. Your Brand Identity
To build your brand name successfully you first need to know it inside out. You start by defining the core values and qualities of your brand and let them guide every step in the brand development strategy that we will discuss throughout the article.
Consider the following elements that make up your brand identity:
Who Is Your Target Audience?
Every business transaction is a dialog. If you want the conversation to go well you need to listen to your partner and understand them. Your target audience is the primary conversation partner of your business. The more you know about your audience, the better you become at talking with them. Here are some questions you want to answer:
Demographics: Your audience’s age group, gender(s), educational profile, location.
What do they do with their time?
What drives them?
What are some of their favorite brands? Or cultural icons?
What do they like to do online?
What platforms are they active on?
What can you offer them?
How would interaction with your brand influence them?
What Is the Story of Your Brand?
Successful brands don’t just spring out of nowhere. They emerge from a certain challenge, powered by a unique vision and a drive to share something with the world. This is your brand’s story – the motivation that started it all, the backbone of your entire business operation. When you share it with your target audience, you invite them to partake in your journey.
The values that you want to convey in your brand strategy are derivatives of your brand’s story. Framing your story helps you articulate in more powerful ways the qualities that make your brand what it is. It allows people to see their engagement with your brand as a part of this story, not simply as a transaction or a click on a link.
One great example of storytelling in branding is Airbnb’s use of images on their homepage. These images depict social exchanges, family fun and discoveries of new environments. They show that the added value of using Airbnb’s platform is in forming unique experiences, and in doing so they invite potential users to picture themselves as part of that story.
What Is Your Brand’s Personality?
Before the web became a key arena for business, brands could function as a one-dimensional abstraction and still be somewhat successful. The internet reshuffled the rules of the game, making it necessary for brands to be more than just names and logos. To reach maximum relatability, your brand needs to develop its own personality.
Try to imagine your brand as an actual person: What are its habits, dreams, sense of style, tone of voice? Is it a thin-crust or deep-dish kind of brand? Who are its friends and what do they do for fun together? These traits and features will help you characterize your brand personality and help in developing your brand’s public image.
One brand that is exceptionally awesome in expressing its personality is Old Spice. Go check out their Facebook page to get a sense of how a brand personality feels.
2. Your Brand’s Look
Once you have a solid grip on your brand identity, you can move on to the more practical and technical aspects of branding your business. First in line is the question of your brand’s look – the visual expression of your brand’s story and personality. Let’s break it down to the details:
Defining the Overall Style
Just like in fashion, brands also can be categorized into different styles. Your brand design can be minimalist, nautical, techy or classy; it can draw influences from pop-art, print journalism, hand-drawn illustrations or geometry; it can opt for child-like simplicity, sleek elegance, a holistic atmosphere or vintage galore.
The key issue is to choose a style that corresponds with the brand identity that you have in mind. For example, a refined black & white look isn’t the best choice for your youthful and grungy brand for custom-made skateboards.
Choosing Your Brand’s Colors
It’s tempting to just go with your favorite colors, we know, but this decision should be an informed one. Colors are extremely significant in brand development. It is literally impossible to think of Coca-Cola separate from the color red, or to visualize Facebook in anything but its distinctive blue. These associations are not random; they are the outcome of highly successful branding.
To be able to make a confident choice about your brand colors, start by familiarizing yourself with color theory to understand how colors work together, which combinations are absolutely fabulous and which you want to avoid.
Creating a Winning Logo
Logos are the ultimate branding tool. The most successful brands in the world can be recognized only by their logos, which shows just how important the logo is to the core of the brand. Your logo may not be the next Nike Swoosh, but it nevertheless plays a huge role in shaping the relationship between you and your target audience.
The qualities of a powerful logo are:
It activates associations fast and clearly. One industry rule-of-thumb says people should know what your brand is about just by looking at your logo.
It looks great no matter where you put it – on your website’s header, your Facebook profile image or your business cards.
It is a concise and condensed visual representation of your brand identity.
Finding the Right Fonts
Believe it or not, your choice of fonts is a major component in how people evaluate your brand. Different fonts can send out different messages, and you certainly don’t want to be sending the wrong one when it comes to brand development.
3. Your Brand’s Tone
Your target audience does not only see your brand. They interact with it textually and verbally as well. The look and feel are crucial in conveying your brand identity, but it’s the brand’s tone that actively determines how people engage with it. Here’s how it works:
Crafting the Ultimate Brand Name
What’s in a name? Everything. If the logo encapsulates your entire brand identity in one image, your brand name should do the same in 1-3 words. A good brand name is not only impressive and captivating. It has to be functional too: easy to spell, has a catchy ring to it, and the domain name for it is still available for purchase (otherwise, how are people supposed to find you online?).
We suggest that you prepare a long list of names that pop into your head and gradually narrow it down.
Once you have the brand name, start working on a tagline. The tagline (or the brand slogan) is a very short sentence that completes your brand name. Together, they deliver the full essence of your brand. These examples clarify exactly what it’s about:
Walmart: Save Money. Live Better
BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine
Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth
Building Your Brand Vocabulary
Each brand has a vocabulary. This pool of keywords operates like codes that help characterize who you are, what you stand for and what you offer. Building this vocabulary shouldn’t be hard, especially after you defined your brand identity.
If, for example, you are branding your services as a personal trainer, your brand identity will help you identify words like Health, Empower, Results, Active, Fitness, Strength, Endurance, Goals, Focus and others. This vocabulary will be your toolkit, available to you for any type of action and interaction – blog posts, online ads, tweets, private emails with clients, etc.
Engaging with Your Audience
Branding your business entails more than designing a logo, creating a website and advertising yourself. Some of the most important elements of branding take place in the day-to-day activity of engaging with your target audience.
Regular engagement includes your social media posts, newsletters and email marketing, responding to questions and assisting with any issues, monitoring your brand’s reputation on ranking sites and more. To increase your engagement’s impact, there are two points you need to consider:
What’s your tone of voice? Do you think your audience will respond better to a professional tone or a colloquial one? Remember: One emoji too many could tarnish your brand’s reputation.
Where should you engage? Not every brand needs a Pinterest account, for example. Depending on your target audience, you may want to place more emphasis on certain platforms.
So there you have it: Your brand identity, the looks and the tone are the three essential elements to successful brand development. Now, before you go ahead and start branding your business, consider these rule of thumbs:
Don’t Pose: Your brand identity should feel real, not over-the-top. This doesn’t mean you have to simplify it all. You can still be wacky or silly, if that is the type of identity that feels natural with your brand’s core. The point is to stick to your brand’s true identity and not fake it.
Stay Consistent: Branding is all about coherence. You can’t use multiple logos, and you don’t want to confuse your audience with a chorus of different voices and personalities. It’s good to adapt yourself to different platforms (people talk differently on Facebook and on Twitter, and you want your brand to fit in the discussion naturally), but do so in a way that corresponds and compliments, not contradicts, your general branding strategy.
Remember the Big Picture: Branding is a mean to an end. It’s not the reason you decided to start your business or establish an organization. Stay focused on your ultimate goals and make sure that your branding efforts help you achieve them.
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