Everyone’s talking about branding for a good reason:
Everything about it should evoke certain thoughts or feelings in your customers, compelling them to want to do business with you. Because your brand is your primary means of communicating what your company stands for, it extends far beyond just your logo or website.
Branding is even more important now that people have increasingly more access to products and services from anywhere in the world. A standout brand is the best way to attract their attention, but first, you need to know exactly who your customers are and what appeals to them. You should view the process as an opportunity to get more deeply in touch with your customers’ perspectives and expectations in order to craft a brand identity that truly speaks to them.
Research is the key to successful branding. With better insight into your customers and your own business, you can design your visuals and improve your messaging to communicate a consistent, highly targeted brand. It's about more than just choosing your colors—a thoughtfully executed brand can boost your relationship with current clients and help you cultivate prospective customers.
When we branded our company, Hatchbuck, we did extensive research to ensure that our decisions were based on real data. Our goal was for the Hatchbuck brand to embody who we are, to serve our existing customers, and to reach prospective customers.
Through this research, we learned that small businesses were actually our biggest champions, so we wanted our brand to reflect the needs of small business owners.
“Unique,” “bold,” and “adventurous” were some of the entrepreneurial characteristics we injected into our new brand. From our color palette to our tagline, the branding focused on celebrating and inspiring our radical buyers—those small business owners who were our biggest promoters—and demonstrating that our company is the best choice for them because we are all about them.
3 things to consider when you create your brand
The most difficult part of crafting your entire company identity is getting started. We found that tapping into our most loyal customer base was the spark that led our brand in a better direction.
Embarking on your own branding? Here are three steps you can take to create an effective brand identity that successfully connects with your target audience.
1. Get feedback from your power users
It's one thing to think you know how well you're serving your customers, but it's another thing to actually ask. Happy or unhappy, most customers are more than willing to provide very honest feedback. In fact, a Market Force survey found that over the course of a year, 83 percent of consumers will complete a least one survey. Don’t let your customers’ thoughts go unheard.
Harness outside input through structured, targeted questions. Generally, soliciting open feedback only garners rambling responses that may not be credible or usable. Rather, ask customers pointed questions about their purchase and experience with your company. This will yield much more relevant and illuminating results. When everyone answers the same questions, you can easily compare responses, pick out trends, and disregard outliers.
Also, consider asking some of your most loyal customers to participate in a case study or even just to contribute their opinions to your branding or rebranding process. When Google rebranded, the company provided its users with an in-depth explanation of exactly what had been changed and why. This opened up room for Google’s fans to weigh in on the new look, which helped prove to them that their needs were central to Google’s redesign.
The feedback your customers can provide regarding what they do and don’t love will help you get to the heart of what your branding efforts should express.
2. Differentiate your message
Your research should go beyond your company and your customers. To differentiate your brand from others, you also have to look at your competitors. How saturated is the market for your product or service? How easy or difficult will it be to make a splash with your current product and brand?
You can discover how your company compares to others by asking your customers to provide a Net Promoter Score (NPS). This rating system groups consumers into categories based on how willing they would be to recommend your company. Your NPS can be especially helpful for small businesses, as it allows you to see how you stack up against competitors and determine whether you’re getting lost in the shuffle.
Let this be the foundation for developing a value proposition that stands out from your competitors' value propositions. Evaluate your industry and the competitors who have a higher NPS. Are they direct competitors, solving the same problems for the same customers? Or are they indirect competitors with a similar value proposition for a different audience? Craft a value proposition that demonstrates how you provide a better or more exact solution for your target clients than these competitors do.
Your differentiators should be presented in a way that prioritizes your customers' needs and the overall user experience. Do this through the visual and messaging components of your brand by telling your clients a story about them. After all, people don't care what you know until they know that you care.
To illustrate: Small business owners should see themselves in the Hatchbuck logo: the Diver, an intrepid explorer. And our tagline—”seize the opportunity”—should tell them exactly what to expect from working with us. Your brand should show clients that they have no better choice than you.
3. Reflect your company values visually
Once you have a clear picture of your customers and competitors, consider what your company is all about. The majority of American consumers base brand loyalty on shared values, so a huge part of your branding depends on your organization, the values you hold, and the persona you want to embrace.
Are you snarky? Are you professional? Humorous? Always on trend? Your messaging and visuals should work together to put those attributes front and center for prospective customers.
Every component of your visual design can communicate or undermine your brand. Consider how colors and imagery support your company’s personality. Bright, bold colors serve Hatchbuck’s “energetic” brand and story, for example. We also carried that story through to our Diver logo and nautical theme to reflect how we help our small business clients explore new depths.
Let your story drive your brand's visuals, as Zonzo Estate, a popular wedding destination in Australia, did to bring a more modern feel to what most of its prospects might otherwise think of as a rustic winery and restaurant. Its design incorporates a versatile logo that can appear either fresh and youthful when printed in outline format on the menu cover or sophisticated and classic in gold foil.
Making sure that its visuals reflect the versatile nature of its offerings paid off for Zonzo Estate—bookings increased by 120 percent within two years of launching its new look.
Similarly, when Elo, a Greek soap manufacturer, wanted its brand to reflect how it was offering something new, the main story was all about differentiation. Elo’s line of Greek god-inspired olive oil soaps is a new take on a more traditional product, so its branded design is fresh and unlike competitors. This helps Elo stand out in a market oversaturated with touristy souvenir shops.
The customer experience is consequential to your branding efforts. According to a recent Forrester report, it's a top priority for 95 percent of businesses. Whatever is most important to your customers is what you need to communicate through your brand. Research your target audience’s perceptions of your company and find out what differentiates you from competitors. Then, craft visuals, messaging, and a brand that speaks directly to your radical buyer.
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