How to Build a Strong Brand
Strong brands have mastered three crucial steps: brand coherence, consistency, and authenticity.
When you think of strong brands, I'm sure Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Walmart come to mind. These brands are so strong that if you saw the silhouette of an apple, for example, your brain would likely make the connection to the Apple brand and remember what Apple stands for, such as quality, style, and creative freedom.
Try it yourself. It is incredible how quickly we can associate particular shapes, fonts, colors, smells, or sounds with brands and name what they represent, even if we have never bought a product or service from them but have only seen their advertising. The effect is so powerful that potential customers are more inclined to purchase a product from a strong rather than a weak brand. That's what branding does. It shapes how a brand is perceived.
A strong brand has many benefits:
Increased customer loyalty. Customers identifying with your brand tend to be more loyal and buy more;
Positive Word-of-Mouth Marketing. Happy customers will recommend your brand to everyone they know without being asked or leave a positive review on Google, Facebook, and review sites, such as Yelp.
Higher advertising effectiveness. If a strong brand advertises the launch of a new product, customers will take note and become curious about any new features. Think of Apple when they launch a new iPhone.
Less price sensitivity. Strong brands can command a premium over weaker brands and raise prices without fear that their loyal customers will buy less (price inelasticity).
Higher attractiveness for top talent. Strong brands are an attractive place to work and can select the most suitable candidates from a larger pool of applicants.
Higher employee engagement. Employees working for strong brands often share their cause, are proud to work for them, and are more engaged, leading to better products and higher company profits.
What Does It Take to Build a Strong Brand?
Building a strong brand is not done in a couple of months. It takes years, even decades.
Create a coherent brand without conflict and contradictions.
Apply the brand design elements consistently, on your website, with every social media post, and in print.
Live your brand. Be authentic and genuine in your communication with your followers and customers.
Step 1: Create a Coherent Brand
When the images, colors, fonts, messages, tone of voice, values, and cause all build upon each other without conflict and contradiction, your brand will look coherent. Branding companies specialize in creating such coherent brands. They go to great lengths to understand your cause, values, and goals to select complementing design elements that maximize the strength of your brand and give your website, social media post, or business card their signature look.
Here are a few articles that can help you create a coherent brand:
Step 2: Apply the Brand Design Elements Consistently
Many entrepreneurs believe they can pay a branding company to come up with a strong brand. That's a mistake. Nobody can come up with a strong brand; you have to build it over time. Unfortunately, that's the most challenging part of branding. It takes patience, persistence, and perseverance to build a strong brand and, of course, time and money.
Essentially, you must consistently apply the visual and verbal brand design elements to every external-facing communication, email, newsletter, website, social media post, PowerPoint presentation, proposal, invoice, flyer, yard sign, vehicle, and packaging. For example, if you decide not to use your branded fonts or color scheme in favor of different ones, you will weaken your brand. Don't think that people won't notice; they will, and they will remember. One of the main reasons why strong brands became so strong is that they meticulously and consistently use their brand design elements without allowing any exceptions. I know it's a high bar to clear. That's why only a few brands achieve that level.
As a small business, it can be expensive to strive for perfection. You might not need to go all the way to have a stronger brand than your competitors. But you must get the basics right. That means applying your brand design elements consistently, starting with your website and social media through to signage, packaging, and business cards.
Step 3: Live Your Brand
Brands are not static, nor can you create a strong brand simply by adding your logo to every social media post.
Brands are dynamic and have a personality (brand personality) similar to people.
For a brand to become strong, you have to live your brand and show its personality.
Think of your brand as a person, not an object. When you communicate with your followers, be authentic and genuine. Treat them with respect and kindness, just like you relate to friends.
Even a coherent brand whose design elements you apply consistently wouldn't succeed without constant interactions with its followers. These interactions influence the meaning of your brand and shape it.
Strong brands evolve over time, adapting to changes in the tastes and preferences of their followers. They stay relevant.
In my experience, this third point of living your brand is the real secret key to building a strong brand.
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