When you’re thinking of starting a business, it’s easy to think that your brand consists of your company name, logo, and brand colours. This is an easy mistake to make, but jumping the gun on branding before you’ve given it some proper thought is a mistake we see time and time again here at Matchstick Creative. Your company’s branding will influence everything from the types of customers you attract to your marketing activities, and even your SEO (search engine optimisation). So, before you start a major branding project, give it plenty of thought, and try reading through our helpful guide.
1. Define Your Audience
There are many different approaches to branding, but defining your audience should be at the forefront of all your branding activities. Having a good understanding of who your brand is targeting, allows you to tailor your brand to appeal to the right audience.
When you’re defining your brand’s audience it’s helpful to try to build up a profile of your ideal customer. Try to dive as deep as possible with your analysis, looking beyond superficial demographic data such as age, location, and gender. Instead, lean more towards meaningful insights into your customers’ lifestyle and behavioural traits.
Here are the different types of data you can use to build your customer profile:
Although building a customer profile requires a deeper understanding of your customer than their demographic data alone, knowing things like your ideal customers age, gender, ethnicity or location can help you segment your target market to appeal more specifically to your audience.
If demographic factors tell you about who a person is, then socioeconomic factors are where you’ll begin to learn about their lifestyle. Socioeconomic factors include income, education level, occupation, household description (single parent, married with children, house share etc.), neighbourhood (urban, rural, crime rate, average household income etc) and many more.
At this point, you know who your customer is and you have an understanding of their lifestyle. Psychographic data helps you dive even deeper to begin to understand your customer’s motivations and figure out what makes them tick! There’s a large range of psychographic factors to consider when building your customer profile, but below are some of the most vital ones to consider when developing your brand:
- Interests – What are your customers interested in? Finding out about how your customers’ interests can help you to uncover their values. Demonstrating a set of shared values with your audience is the best way to build brand trust and loyalty. Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks once said: “If people believe they share values with a company then they will stay loyal to the brand”.
BRANDING BONUS EXAMPLE: Awesome Merch is a company that produces branded merchandise. They have positioned themselves as a design-centric brand, aimed at a young and creative audience, unlike a lot of their competitors who cater to the corporate side of the market. By identifying art, creativity, and design as areas their audience are interested in they were able to create a brand that places creativity and artistic expression at the core of its identity.
In contrast, if you where to find your target audience was interested in engineering, you might find that they are more likely to engage with a brand that places functionality, efficiency, and process at the core of its identity.
- Entertainment Choices – What genre of music do they listen to? What films do they like? What TV shows do they watch? What are their social media preferences? Your customers’ entertainment choices can tell you a lot about the best ways to engage them. For example, if you identify that your target audience loves rap music, then you know that one way they can be engaged is by using urban themes and aesthetics associated with hip hop.
- Buying Habits – How does your customer like to shop for your product/service? Do they usually subscribe to a monthly fee? Are they used to getting it for free? Is it a big-ticket item that they have to save up for? Do they like to try new brands or stick with the ones they know? Is your product something your customer buys as a luxury or a necessity? These questions can help you understand your customers’ attitude towards your service which allows you to tailor your brand accordingly.
BRANDING BONUS EXAMPLE: If you’re providing a product that your customer considers expensive, but considers a luxury like a designer watch, then maybe the brand they are most likely to engage with is one that places luxury and glamour at the forefront its identity. Whereas if your product is one that your customer considers expensive, but a necessity like a single parent buying a family car, then maybe the brand they are most likely to engage with is one that places functionality and practicality at the forefront of its identity, demonstrating to the customer that value for money is amongst your companies top priorities.
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- Pain Points – Pain points refer to a specific problem or issue faced by prospective customers of your business. Knowing your customers’ pain points helps you understand their anxieties and allows you to build a brand that fixes their problems and shares their concerns, demonstrating shared values between your business and your customers.
These are just some of the ways you can segment your target audience. Remember when it comes to branding that the goal is to narrow down your market as much as possible. In contrast to other areas of marketing where it can often be helpful to develop a number of customer profiles so that you can target each segment accordingly, branding requires you to focus only on the things your core audience have in common as your brand has to appeal to all of them.
2. Define Your Brand Identity
Your brand identity is the very core of what defines your brand. Once you’ve decided on a brand identity, everything your business does will align with that identity, especially the way that you communicate with your audience. Here are a few things to consider when developing your brand identity.
Your brand mission usually takes the form of a small statement that sums up your business’s reason for existing. If you think of your brand as a person, then your brand mission would be their purpose. Here are some questions to answer about your business before writing your brand mission statement.
- Who do we serve?
- Why do we care?
- What do we provide?
- What is the benefit to our audience?
- What do we do differently than my competitors?
Answering these questions can help you to develop a sense of your brand’s purpose. Once you’ve written your first draft, refine it again. Using ‘Apple’ as an example, their original mission statement was “to make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind”. Refining your mission statement makes it clear and memorable. You should think of your mission statement as the answer to the question “what do you do?”.
There are lots of different elements to your brand identity, but your brand personality is a big part of what resonates with your audience. Developing a personality for your brand not only makes your brand more relatable, but also helps to shape other brand elements, and offers a framework for the way you communicate with your audience.
Archetypes are a handy way of categorising common but complex character types and can be a useful tool when thinking about your brand’s personality. If we imagine that your brand is a person, your brand mission is their purpose, their archetype is their personality.
To know your brand archetype, ask yourself: “If my brand were a person, how would people describe them?” Luckily, there are 12 main archetypes which exist in the form of characters in nearly every story ever told!
Below are examples of brands associated with each archetype:
- The Explorer – The North Face
- Innocent – Innocent Smoothies
- Regular Guy – PG Tips
- Hero – Nike
- Caregiver – Pampers
- Rebel – Harley Davison
- Lover – Chanel
- Creator – Apple
- Jester – Paddy Power
- Sage – Google
- Magician – Tesla
- Ruler – Rolex
Choosing an archetype for your brand can help to shape all your other branding activities from your brand name, logo and aesthetic, to the tone of voice you use when communicating with your customers.
Using the Innocent Archetype and ‘Innocent Smoothies’ as an example; the Innocent Archetype is one associated with being wholesome, happy, optimistic, and simple. This is clear to see in the Innocent smoothie brand through their tone of voice, soft rounded fonts and smiley face logo.
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There are lots of ways to raise money for charity. Jo didn’t fancy a bath full of baked beans so she made us these Big Knit beauties instead. Thanks very much to all the excellent humans who have made hats to raise money for Age UK. They’ll be on our bottles this Autumn. Keep your eyes peeled.
As well as the audience you’re targeting, your choice of brand archetype should also be influenced by your brand positioning strategy. Your brand’s positioning is based on where your brand is perceived by your customers relative to your competitors, and also the value proposition you are offering your customers.
If we look at the electric car company Tesla, for example, Tesla is considered pioneers of innovation and new technology; their products are more expensive than their competitors, but also better performing.
Where other electric car manufacturers position their brand and their products as a sensible alternative to petrol and diesel engine cars, Tesla has tried to move away from this, positioning itself as a fun trailblazing company on the forefront of technology. Tesla recognises this and uses brand themes associated with the Magician, and the Ruler archetypes to appeal to their customers, and reflect their value proposition.
3. Brand Name & Aesthetic
Defining your audience and coming up with an identity for your brand are hands down the most important stages of your branding, and the ones that will have the most influence on the content you put out and the way you communicate with your audience. The outcomes of these two stages will also shape the rest of your branding decisions from the name, to the logo, brand colours and even the fonts you use. Here are some things to consider when coming up with your brand name and brand aesthetics.
Your brand name is the first point of contact with your audience, giving them an introduction into who you are, and what you do. Your name will more than likely feature in all your content and be at the forefront of any your advertisements, so there’s plenty to think about.
- Having an original brand name can help differentiate you from competitors and make your brand more memorable.
- It can also make life easier for you when you’re registering for a domain name for your website, as common names are often taken.
- Your SEO (search engine optimisation) will also see the benefits of an original name as there will be less to compete within search engine results, allowing you to achieve higher rankings on sites like Google.
Coming up with an original name is no easy task, however, so if your struggling try these tips:
- Joining words together (e.g Facebook)
- Take out or change letters in a word (e.g ‘Flickr’)
- Abbreviate words (e.g H&M)
- Combine words (e.g Instagram)
- Look words you’d like to use up in a thesaurus to see if there are any alternatives
Another important thing to consider when coming up with your brand name is brand symmetry. The term brand symmetry refers to how consistently your visual identity matches up with your strategic identity. As part of your visual identity, it is important that your brand name reflects the strategic identity formed by steps 1 and 2. There’s no point building an exciting, vibrant brand identity based around a young target market, only to go and pick a formal, dull brand name that doesn’t match your identity.
Your brand aesthetics are your brand’s outward expressions, such as:
- The logo
- Icons you use
- Brand colours
- Illustrations, and any other visual elements of your brand
It’s important to remember when you’re choosing these elements of your brand, that they will appear in all the content you business produces including:
- Blog posts
- Your company website
- Social media posts
With this in mind, pick aesthetics that are memorable, complementary of each other and ones that you can live with over a sustained period of time. Just because you have a cool idea for an illuminous green poster, doesnt mean its the right choice for your brand colours!
Once again, it is important to consider brand symmetry to make sure your brand aesthetics reflect your strategic identity. If we refer back to the previous example of building an exciting and vibrant brand identity to appeal to a younger audience, then in this instance you would choose aesthetics to reflect that strategy; this might consist of bright brand colours, bold whacky typefaces, and a creative logo.
Key Branding Takeaways
Branding can be a tricky stage of any start-up, but it’s worth spending the time (and sometimes capital) getting it right. Here are the key takeaways from our beginners guide to branding.
- Defining your audience – Finding out how to engage your audience will make sure that your brand gets noticed; demonstrate shared values with your audience helps them to relate to your brand, and is essential for building brand trust.
- Defining your brand identity – Identifying your purpose and developing a personality for your brand makes your brand more relatable, and also provides you with a framework for communicating with your audience.
- Choosing brand names and aesthetics – Consider the previous two points when deciding on your brand name and aesthetics. Choosing a brand name and aesthetics that don’t reflect your brand identity can dilute your brand message, undermining its purpose.
Remember that good branding goes past the superficial elements such as your brand colour and logo, to a deeper understanding of your audience and the way they like to be communicated with. Branding is the process of connecting a good strategy, with good creativity.
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