Our modern concept of brand originates with the practice of literally branding a mark of ownership onto items using burning metal tools. With that origin in mind, it makes sense that “brand” and “logo” are sometimes used interchangeably, but brand has developed to encompass much more than the visual identifiers of a company.
“A lot of people chalk brand up to being colors, fonts and logos, but it really goes way beyond what you can see,” says Amanda Nielsen, New Breed’s Partner Marketing Strategist and member of our internal marketing team.
Entrepreneur summed brand up as “your promise to your customer.” A Forbes column summarizes brand as “what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.” Merriam-Webster defines brand as “a public image, reputation or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted.”
“There’s a lot of different ways to define brand, but essentially it’s how people experience your company, how they interact with it and how it makes them feel when they think of you and see your content,” Amanda says. “It’s kind of this intangible thing that’s difficult to measure, but it’s really important and often makes or breaks certain companies.”
Visual components contribute to brand and reinforce it, but they’re not the entirety of your brand. To develop the multi-layer experience you deliver to your customers, you need to develop a brand strategy.
“Your brand strategy is your guideline for how you position your company to the public. That encompasses how you write about it, the visual components, audio, voice, tone and everything that has to do with how people interact with your business,” Amanda says.
Creating a brand strategy isn’t as simple as coming up with a tag line and choosing your favorite colors. Before you can dive into the more creative elements, you need to understand what your brand is representing to begin with.
1. Identify Your Mission And Values
Why does your company exist? What led to you developing your product or starting to offer your service? Why do you do what you do? The answer can’t just be money.
“Your brand is made up of your company’s values, your mission and your long-term vision,” Amanda says.
The first step of developing your brand strategy is identifying the core values propelling your company forward.
“Dig beyond just ‘we want to make money and we want to sell our product’ and really tap into the ultimate impact it has on society as a whole,” Amanda says.
Figure out your reason and write it down. Define not just what you do, but why you do it and what you hope to accomplish.
2. Share Your Purpose With the World
Once you’ve crafted your mission statement or brand story, publish it on your website so visitors don’t have to guess at what your brand is trying to evoke.
“Create collateral on your website, like a mission page, that clearly defines the purpose of your business, how you want to impact the world, what’s important to you and why you’re doing what you’re doing,” Amanda says.
“People don’t care about you making money,” she adds. “They want to know you’re in it for something other than that. Even in B2B where the sales process is traditionally less personal.”
If you can foster intimacy and forge a personal connection despite the additional friction and impersonal nature of B2B sales, you’ll be that much more effective at selling your product or service.
3. Establish How Your Audio-Visual Components Will Support Your Brand
While words can definitely effectively evoke your brand, consider slogans like “Just do it” or “I’m lovin’ it.” How your content looks and sounds plays a role in how your company is perceived as well.
When deciding on a visual strategy, keep your mission statement in mind. Your audio-visual components should be consistent with your written content, your people, your purpose and your product.
“Design elements should supplement and enhance your brand positioning statement,” Amanda says. “If you’re saying your company’s goal is to streamline efficiency for sophisticated data analysis and your website isn’t consistent with that vibe, if it has polka dots, bright colors and goofy fonts, no one’s going to take you seriously, and it’s going to contradict what you’re trying to convey to people.”
4. Map Out How Your Brand Compares With Your Competitors
Once you have a solid idea of who you are, determine what sets you apart from your competitors.
“You might sell a very, very similar product,” Amanda says, “but where you can set yourself apart is through your brand.”
Granular product differences will matter to your product team and may come into play when a prospect is making their final decision, but your brand will help you get considered in the first place.
Audiences notice brand much earlier in the buyer’s journey than they notice product specifics, so having a strong brand that sets you apart from your competitors can help you get leads into your funnel so you can wow them with your product later on.
5. Align Your Brand With the People You’re Trying to Reach
You might love your brand strategy, but if it doesn’t resonate with your buyer personas, your brand isn’t helping your company grow.
“People are inclined to like people who are like themselves, and you can use that to your advantage,” Amanda says.
Highlighting your shared values can keep you at the forefront of prospects’ minds, but if your values don’t align, you might drive them to your competitors.
If you’re trying to appeal to companies that specialize in renewable energy, but your company uses coal to power all its factories, those renewable energy companies will likely turn elsewhere due to the misalignment in your ideologies.
“At the end of the day, B2B purchases aren’t made by a company,” Amanda says. “They’re made by a person on behalf of a company. It’s important to keep the person in mind rather than the company as a whole.”
6. Take the Things You Know And Apply Them to Your Channels.
Once you have a solid definition of your brand, apply it to your communications across a variety of media and channels.
“How do you combine the visual and audio components with the message, how you differentiate yourself from your competitors and how you resonate with your audience all in one message on different channels through different media?” Amanda says.
Whether you’re tweeting a GIF, writing an email or hosting a webinar, your brand should be guiding your communications.
As you mix and match tactics across channels, a brand style guide can help you remain consistent in your communications and positioning. So, as you’re making decisions about your branding and learning what works and what doesn’t, document it for future reference.
“Your brand strategy is ultimately there as a guide to help you maintain your brand and enhance it in the future. It’s not something that should be stagnant,” Amanda says.
Consistency is key for effective branding. Your marketing efforts shouldn’t just look consistent, they should sound and feel consistent. Regardless of whether a prospect is browsing your website, scrolling through your social media feed or listening to your podcast, they should know exactly who you are.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.