Engineering a brand from the ground up is a big undertaking. This mission-critical work is where you determine what your brand stands for, who your target audience is, what you’re promising to deliver to your customers, and how your business will develop in the future.
The results of this work help you connect the dots between the products or services you sell and the audience you’re trying to reach. Whether you’re in the ideation phase or looking to relaunch a brand, understanding the brand development process is crucial to mission success.
What is Brand Development?
Brand development is the process of creating and strengthening an identity that represents your business and differentiates you from your competitors. Customers decide whether to give a brand their business based on how it speaks to their emotions or influences them.
The immediately recognizable part of a brand is its visual identity, the logo, design elements, and messaging, but a brand is much more than that. A powerful brand personality and identity communicate what your company is in a way that makes it not only recognizable but meaningful and memorable.
What is the Brand Development Process?
The brand development process is far-reaching and includes formulating the brand strategy, brand promise, and brand value, as well as the fonts, designs, colors, and words that communicate the brand message to its customers.
Though it may be tempting to take shortcuts in the branding process, cutting corners won’t serve your brand in the long term. A strong brand stands the test of time and offers benefits that far exceed the initial investment.
When you think of some of the strongest brands in history, you’ll realize they all have distinctive colors and looks, a definite meaning, and a clear mission that quickly come to mind. Brands like Apple®, Disney®, LEGO®, Ferrari®, Starbucks®, Google®, Coca-Cola®, McDonald’s®, Microsoft®, and Amazon® all share these qualities – and they’re recognized all over the world.
Creating these brands took time, intentionality, and strategic planning. Whether you do the work yourself or work with a brand development agency like Rocket Launch, here are the critical steps you can expect:
1. Consider Your Business Strategy
A strong, unique brand makes business growth much easier. Your overall business strategy provides the context for your branding strategies and lets you know from where to launch.
What are your goals for the business? How do you want people to perceive your company? Where do you want your brand to be in five years? 10 years?
To determine your brand’s position in the industry, we need to examine two different relationships – your competitors and your customers.
For your competitors, we use a SWOT analysis:
Strengths: What are your business’s strengths that give you an edge over competitors?
Weaknesses: What advantages do competitors have over you?
Opportunities: What’s changing in the industry that you can use to your advantage? Are there gaps in competitor offerings that you can capitalize on?
Threats: What’s happening in the industry or market that can create obstacles for your business? Consider threats like regulatory changes, market saturation, or shifting audiences.
Completing this analysis helps establish your value proposition and communicate your brand message to your target audience. Then, you can determine the relationship you have with your customers.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What are the customers’ pain points?
- What current solutions are available?
- What do you bring to the table that competitors don’t?
Considering these two relationships helps you define the core message of your brand in your industry, which informs your positioning statement, which then illustrates your brand differentiation and why your customers should choose you over competitors.
Think of the benefit you give your customers – that’s your brand positioning. It is essentially a promise, so it’s critical to make sure you can deliver on what you put out into the universe.
2. Identify the Target Audience
Most everyone has heard the phrase, “know your audience.” Part of your brand development process is understanding your audience enough to provide targeted content that helps them take action.
This may seem simple, but a lot of businesses get caught up in who they want their audience to be, not who they actually represent. To truly understand your audience, go straight to the customer to develop buyer personas.
Read your competitors’ reviews, customer testimonials, forums, and social media comments for audience feedback. You’ll hear from customers expressing their thoughts and problems plainly, and that feedback can help inform your brand messaging. What are they looking for? How can you help?
3. Define Your Brand Promise and Identity
The brand promise defines your business’ uniqueness and the value it holds that differentiates it from the competition. This helps with your positioning.
Your brand identity is what people see and hear in your brand, such as the logo, tagline, vision, mission statement, and tone of voice. This helps with recognition.
Take Apple for example. It has a short brand promise that’s evident in its tagline, “Think Different.” As a tech brand with innovative products, the tagline implies that Apple customers are also innovators, mavericks, and trendsetters who think differently.
Further supporting this idea, Apple’s logo is an apple with a bite out of it, signifying the power of creation.
Take some time with this part. Simple is rarely easy, and a lot of thought goes into these minimal symbols and short phrases that define a brand, as with Apple.
4. Create Brand Guidelines
This is the ignition sequence for great branding. Outline your brand guidelines and create content that can be used to promote your business. Your customer analysis, competitor analysis, and customer feedback should inform your brand positioning, which then informs your brand assets and guidelines.
- Style guide
- Content strategy
Before you launch into this part, remember that effective brand assets and guidelines will be a starting point for writers, designers, and other creatives in engineering your brand. In the future, these guidelines will serve as a reference for the entire team, no matter how big your company gets.
You want your brand to be something you can be proud of. You should admire your logo, website, and products, and all the details matter. Your brand identity, brand promise, and personality include small details that will carry through all aspects of your marketing, advertising, content, and public relations.
5. Develop Your Marketing Strategy
Once you have your brand guidelines, you can build your marketing strategy for brand awareness. This plan outlines how your business will reach its target audience and defines how new products or services will be introduced.
This step is about aligning your branding with your marketing strategy to ensure everything is cohesive. Your logo should be consistent with the language you use in your marketing materials, and your brand identity can help determine which marketing channels will be most effective for reaching your target market.
6. Apply Branding Across Your Business
Applying your branding across your business creates a cohesive brand story. This represents who your business is and sets the stage for future interactions with customers, whether that’s in a store, an office, or online.
For example, customers often go to the About Us page when they’re shopping at an online store for the first time. They’ll learn more about the business they’re buying from and browse the mission and purpose to see if they align with the brand’s values.
Coca-Cola is a good example of a globally recognized soft drink brand that communicates its values throughout every aspect of its business. It appeals to the target audience because the branding tells a story of bringing friends together for fun times, leaving customers feeling more socially connected.
The “Share a Coke” campaign, which featured the 250 most popular first names among American teens and millennials, reinforced this messaging by “inviting” customers to find their names and the names of friends or family on the bottles and share a special moment together.
7. Manage Brand Growth
The only way you can know what works and what doesn’t is by tracking your progress. A genius brand development plan means nothing if you can’t determine the impact it has on your business.
Track and monitor metrics like:
- Search traffic
- Volume of web visitors
- Social media engagement and interactions
- New leads and sales
8. Evolve As Your Business Evolves
A successful brand development isn’t a one-time project that stops once you have a logo and tagline. It’s an ongoing and never-ending process. You may make brand development mistakes along the way, but you can learn from them.
Your brand needs to start and stay consistent in every interaction with customers, and in all the details like the look of your website, your marketing materials, your communication with customers via social media, and the packaging and shipping materials for your products.
Over time, you will shape and evolve your brand identity and design as you learn more about who your customers are and how to speak to them. Even if you have an idea of how you want your brand to develop, it’s crucial to follow your customers’ lead as you shape your brand.
You will never have absolute control over how customers perceive your brand, but you can guide them, make an excellent first impression, learn from them, and manage your reputation effectively.
Work with a Brand Development Agency
Branding should be part of your business strategy from the beginning. Whether you’re building from the ground up or relaunching your brand, working with a brand development agency like Rocket Launch can help. We’ll ignite your brand strategy and take you to the next level – contact us today!