How to Build a Successful Business Brand Online
Branding isn’t just for supercars and tech giants. It’s for any business looking to create a unique identity in their market.
When you stand in the cereal aisle and choose one box over another, your purchasing decision is often to do with branding.
Do you religiously pick the same make of trainers when your old ones fall apart? That’s brand loyalty.
There’s a reason why some people will pay an eye-watering price tag for a luxury bag, and it’s not always because it’s made from a rare material or is any more valuable.
Branding can be a well-known name. It can be an intangible feeling, evoked through the power of advertising, marketing, and communication. It’s deciding that a product or service aligns with your values and the way you want others to perceive you and your business.
Alas, we can’t wave a magic wand and make your customers choose your product or service above another. What we can do is provide you with some handy tips (and tools!) to help you build your business brand online.
Why branding matters
Let’s take a moment to understand how branding can help your business. We already know it can help distinguish you from the competition.
Designer Walter Landor, who worked on brands such as Coca-Cola and Levi’s, famously said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”
A brand is a business identity. It’s how your company is perceived, and it’s in every place a customer comes into contact with you.
You can create your business identity through design, copy, and your values. It’s repetition on everything from a Monday morning Twitter post to a leaflet falling through the letterbox.
If you’ve convincingly crafted your message, if your brand has buried its way into your customer’s subconscious like a piece of popcorn stuck in your teeth, and you are memorable, you’ve got the branding right.
Think of big brands that have seeped into our culture, our language. You may ‘Google’ a word, or ‘Uber’ to a destination. Branding can be powerful, and the more you’re seen, the more you’re known — and the more people will trust you and ultimately want to use or buy what you’re selling.
Before we get started — if you want to boost your personal profile online, check out Developing Your Personal Brand. It’s packed full of useful tips on how to market yourself.
Right, now let’s go!
Do your homework
As always, with any kind of marketing, it all starts with research.
- Who are your customers?
- What do they do?
- Where do they go online?
Understanding as much as you can about the people that buy your product or choose your service is vital to cultivating a brand.
If you understand how your customers work, it’s easier to provide them with what they need before they even tell you.
Another way to get to know your customers is to look at your competitors.
- Who are they?
- What are they promising?
- What are you doing that’s better?
Check out our handy guide Market Research 101. It’s full of ways to conduct research, from looking at surveys and sales data to market segmentation.
Take your time to get to know your target market. It’s an ongoing process that will help you to build a successful business and strategy, as well as establish your brand. It can help you inform your decisions, from forming your brand message to choosing a font.
You can never know too much about your customer — after all, knowledge is power.
Identify your position
Once you have a firm idea of where you stand in the market and the type of people you want to attract, it’s time to work out where you want your company to be in the future, and how you’re going to get there. Create a vision statement and a mission statement to communicate this message.
A mission statement speaks of your current core values and objectives. A vision statement is an aspirational description of your company’s future.
For example, networking site LinkedIn has a vision to ‘Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.’ while their mission is to ‘Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.’
Over at Netflix, their mission is ‘To entertain the world.’ while their vision is ‘To continue being one of the leading firms of the internet entertainment era.’
Where is it that you want to end up? And how do you plan on getting there?
Both mission and vision statements help to guide these strategic decisions. They also give employees inspiration and purpose, and importantly, help to shape your brand identity.
Define your brand personality
To attract and keep customers, you need to be both relatable and likable. When you establish a personality, you’re giving your brand human traits and characteristics.
- Are you quirky and bold?
- Are you professional and serious?
- Are you smart and informative?
Once you’ve decided who you are, it can inform both design and copy decisions for your brand.
Craft a tagline
I’ll never forget ‘You can’t get better than a KwikFit fitter.’ Despite the tagline first appearing in the 1980s, these words are forever embedded in my subconscious, meaning that if I need my car servicing, I would still probably consider Kwikfit first.
The same goes for makeup brand Maybelline, ‘Maybe she’s born with it? Maybe it’s Maybelline!’ Brands with a catchy tagline or slogan can help make your business a household name.
A tagline is your brand’s message. It can help to position you or communicate personality. It can be playful or simplistic. Sometimes it’s a promise, a summary. Ronseal’s ‘Does exactly what it says on the tin’ and Disney’s ‘The happiest place on earth’ tells the customer what they can expect.
You can use your tagline on social media headers, email signatures, online adverts.
Importantly, you don’t need to be a successful copywriter to create a memorable tagline. Don’t be afraid to ask team members. You never know when creativity might strike.
Create a visual style guide
When it comes to brand building, good design matters. Everything that a customer can see needs to be carefully crafted.
Your logo is an asset that can help make a good impression. It helps to identify you from competitors and strengthen brand loyalty. Think of the golden ‘M’ from McDonald’s, Nike’s ‘swoosh,’ and Apple’s… apple. These logos can be recognized across the globe.
But forget blowing half your budget on a logo designer. Our Free Logo Maker lets you create your own beautiful logo in minutes, to use on your website, on social media, and in print.
Next, think about your color palette. Take a look at our guide, How To Choose Awesome Brand Colors. They evoke emotion, and understanding a little about color psychology can help in brand recognition. There’s a reason that environmentally-conscious companies often choose green, and software companies like HP and IBM choose blue.
Once you’ve picked a color or set of colors, use them throughout your website, social media, advertising, business card — at any customer touchpoint.
Pull all those rules together, such as your font, color palette, and templates, into one visual style guide that can be shared with designers.
Create a copy style guide
By now, you will have a firm grasp on what your business looks like, the story behind it, and your personality. Understanding these three factors can help you to establish a tone of voice for your copy.
Just like design, the type of voice you create is essential. Smart copywriting can help to build trust, communicate personality, and strengthen a connection.
Start by picking a few words. Are you silly, sassy, or sage? Write examples of this in article titles, Instagram captions, product descriptions to help any new and existing writers capture your brand.
Outline rules, such as sentence case or title case for headers, clarify product terms, and include explanations where possible.
A copy style guide is not just for writers. It can help other company members understand the brand, the tone, from website designers to customer service operators.
Keep it consistent
Now that you’ve established a set of rules for design and copy, you need to ensure that your guides are easily found and kept up-to-date. If everyone in the company is familiar with any assets, webpage layouts, and guides for external promotions — all will be aligned, and your message will be consistent.
Everything a customer sees, hears, or reads about your company should be consistent. Consistency will help to create an experience unique to your brand, they get to know you, and they will start to recognize you and choose you above the competition.
Don’t leave it all up to chance. Make sure you correctly organize your assets organized, and ensure your customers can access your guides easily. Have separate guidelines to help external people realize your rules for using and mentioning your brand to ensure that your message remains consistent.
Branding is repetition. The more we see it, the more we grow to know it. And, as long as the product and service your business is selling is a positive experience, the stronger your brand will be.
Write a brand story
Whether it’s told by a campfire, shown in a crowded movie theatre, or read alone in bed, a story helps us make sense of the world and foster deeper connections.
Business storytelling supports your brand by igniting a connection with your audience, clearly communicating what you have to offer.
How did you start your business? Was it in a garage? Did you overcome steep hurdles to get to where you are?
When you’re in the early stages of building a brand, it might be an idea to enlist the help of a social media influencer. If you are on Instagram and follow any celebrity figure, you may have seen a plug for a magical whitening toothpaste or diet supplements.
Although this act can seem forced, it can help to build social trust and make your brand memorable. People are more likely to buy things that are recommended by people they listen to.
I watched this in action this year when a friend took an allergy and intolerance test. His findings were so interesting and compelling that suddenly we all discovered out which foods were likely to send us scuttling to the bathroom and which would keep us in a clean bill of health.
There is probably someone out there who already interacts with your brand, or would if they could. Whether they’re on TikTok, Twitch, or Twitter, they may just be the doorway to an untapped audience. Check your follower or fan list; you may be surprised!
Don’t be afraid of change
McDonald’s is one of the world’s largest restaurant chains, and its brand has changed many times since it first opened in 1955. Whether you’re a fast-food lover or not, they are a fine example of a company that embraces change and adapts its brand to changing tastes.
Greens and pastels started to find their way into Ronald’s color palette, and the menu now includes fruit bags and side salads. As times change, so does their packaging, uniforms, and restaurants.
Keep a deck of inspiration in a folder on your browser bar or in a file. Anytime you’re convinced by branding, whether it’s an amazing advert, a tagline, a Google advert — save it and think about how it got you clicking.
Don’t be frightened to consider rebranding, whether you need to mend a reputation or update your image. A fresh look and feel can help your business stay ahead of the competition and connect with a new audience.
Branding is the way you present yourself both online and offline. It’s your reputation, and it’s the way people talk and think about your business.
Once you’ve done the hard work, don’t forget to protect your brand. Use patents, copyrights, and trademarks to ensure that no one else uses your design and copy.
I hope this post will help you to succeed in creating a strong brand that is relatable and likable. Once you’ve mastered that, the sky’s the limit.
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