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brand building made simple.

a do-it-yourself guide on how you can put together a brand strategy, build your own brand, and be unforgettable.

by Joe Jaraved.

03. Aug. 2018.

Last update:

Let this be a guide on how you can build your brand, and make it unforgettable.

I’ve broken this down into 2 steps:

1. To define the brand that you want, and,
2.
Build the brand strategy to get it.

But first, so that we’re all on the same page, I’d like to define what a brand actually is and why you should be paying attention to yours. Then we can look at how we can build one.

A brand is basically a reputation. In fact, Kotler et al. [1] define it as:

“a perceptual entity rooted in reality but reflecting the perceptions and idiosyncrasies of consumers.”.

With a firm grasp of what a brand is, let’s look at what brand isn’t.

Your brand is not limited to a logo, or a slogan. Nor is it owned by the company or organisation that it represents. In fact, you have a brand, regardless of whether or not you want one [2].

“your brand is not limited to a logo, or a slogan.”

Now that we know what a brand is, we can define what a brand strategy is. If a brand is a reputation, a brand strategy is therefore your approach to build and maintain that reputation.

Remember, your customers are human. They have a limited capacity for remembering things. They cling onto the most memorable part of you and judge you by it. The most memorable part of you becomes your brand. If it’s going to happen regardless of whether you want it to or not, you may as well put in the effort to make sure they remember you for all the right reasons and not all the wrong ones. This is why we create a brand strategy. Now that we’re clear, we can move onto how we can build a brand.

Towards a Brand Strategy: The steps to building a brand.

Firstly, you need to work out what you would like your reputation, or your brand, to be. Then, you can develop a strategy to take that desired reputation forward and make it a reality. You can’t make your brand unforgettable unless you have a strategy in place to do that.

Step 1: Defining the brand you want.

So, what should your desired reputation, or brand, be? Defining your brand’s direction gives you an idea. It puts together the foundations of your brand, like:

  • Your brand’s story (why you do what you do)
  • Your vision for your organisation (where your organisation dreams to be in the future),
  • Whom the brand caters to (your brand’s target audience) and;
  • Why what you do is important to both yourself (your values), and your brand’s target audience (their values).

Of course, you must also consider that you probably have competition – you’re likely not the only ones in the eyes of your brand’s audience. Of course, you know you’re different from your competitors but you need to show that in a way that matters to your brand’s audience. Doing so involves defining your brand’s positioning. Your brand’s positioning tells your audience what it is that your brand offers that nobody else does and has things like:

  • Your category membership (who you are, and whom you compete with)
  • Your points of difference (what makes you different from those you compete with)

I explore these concepts further below.

What’s in a Brand Direction?

customers connect more easily when the brand tells a story.
Why do you do what you do?

The first thing to define in your brand direction is why you do what you do. Customers connect more easily with brands when the brand tells a story, and when that story allows customers to relate to or empathise with the brand; in fact, according to one study, customers actually want to hear stories about the brand’s history [3].

Having defined the ‘why’ of your brand, the next step is to look at your vision for the future – where do you see yourself in the next 5 years, or maybe even the next 25 years? Your vision is the long-term purpose of your brand. A great vision is something that all stakeholders can believe in – a future that inspires everyone that the brand touches to subscribe to, and want to become a part of [4]. So it is a good idea to spend some quality time defining one.

Who is your target audience?

The next step is to establish whom the brand caters to. Who are you offering what you are offering to? In other words, who is your brand’s target audience? This is crucial – the most successful brands are the ones that understood and satisfied their customers best [1]. So, the key to a successful brand is to firstly establish who your target audience is, and subsequently understand them.

you want to be on the right side of your target audience’s values so that you don’t rub them the wrong way

Now that you know who your brand’s audience is, you can now set the values of your organisation in stone. To do this, you need to figure out what your values are, and what those of your target audience are. Because when push comes to shove, you want to be on the right side of your target audience’s values so that you don’t rub them the wrong way. Likewise, you need to make sure you lead by example and stand by these values to make sure your staff embrace them too.

Now that you have worked out why your brand exists, where it dreams to be, and to whom it is talking, you have the foundations of your brand. Now, it’s time to look around at your competition, and define where you stand in comparison to them; your brand’s positioning.

What’s in your Brand’s Positioning?

as unintuitive as it may seem, you need to tell your customers who your competitors are.

It’s important to make sure your brand’s audience perceives you as being different – so you must define your brand’s positioning. By defining what makes you different, you can clearly articulate why you’re better than your competition.

Your category membership.

But firstly, as unintuitive as it may seem, you need to tell your customers who your competitors are. In other words, your customers need to know your category membership. For example, consumers know that Nikon makes cameras, but they might not know if Hewlett-Packard (HP), who also makes cameras, is in the same league. So, it’s important to reinforce your category membership – or, why you deserve to be in the same league as the others. Once you define that, you can go on to defining what makes you different.

Your brand’s points of difference (PODs).

Now you’re onto defining what makes you different. you need to identify your points of difference (PODs) as a brand. So, what makes you different? A good POD is one that is both desirable by your audience, and also deliverable by you [1]. In other words, you need to pick something that makes you different, but that something must hold some relevance to your audience, and you must be able to reliably deliver and stand by that point of difference.

Okay, so now you have defined your category membership, and your points of difference. You now know what your brand’s position is in your market. Awesome. Now that you know what your brand’s direction is, and what it’s position is, you can go ahead and devise a strategy to make sure that your reputation reflects that.

Step 2: The brand strategy process - get the brand you want.

Now you can define your strategy to make your reputation a reality.

Remember, a brand is a perceptual entity – it corresponds to reality as your audience perceives it. Now that you’ve defined your desired brand from your brand’s direction and positioning, it’s time to make that your actual brand as perceived by your target audience. Defining the brand strategy is the art of using the resources you have to make your target audience perceive your direction, and your positioning, as you want them to.

What is in a brand strategy?

brand strategy is the process of using the resources you have at your disposal to show your target audience what your brand’s direction and positioning is.

Basically, brand strategy is the process of using the resources you have at your disposal to show your target audience what your brand’s direction and positioning is. These resources are your various points of contact with your audience; from your product, to your logo, your business cards, your website, your office or storefronts. How you use those points of contact to build your brand is exactly what your brand strategy achieves. This is actually quite simple to do on its own, but you may run into issues when you factor in the requirements of your marketing strategies and your drive for sales. In the next couple of sections, I go over how you can use your points of contact to build your brand, and how your marketing can actually hurt your brand.

Using your points of contact to build your brand.

Your product, your logo, your website – your everything – must reflect your brand’s direction and positioning.

You know your brand’s direction and your brand’s positioning. Now reinforce it. Your product, your logo, your website – your everything – must reflect your brand’s direction and positioning. If you value quality, your products, logo, everything, must denote quality. If your brand’s story is to change the world, your website should state this. Your employees should know this, and you should inspire them to believe in it.

Make it a goal to check every point of contact you have with your stakeholders – do they reflect your brand’s direction and positioning? Do your customers know what your brand’s story is? Do your employees?

Making sure your brand and your marketing don’t conflict.

marketing is about ‘identifying and meeting human and social needs;’ it mentions nothing about building and maintaining a reputation.

I’m not going to go much into the difference between marketing and branding here but suffice to say that while a brand is a reputation, ‘marketing’ as a whole is about ‘identifying and meeting human and social needs’ [1]. It mentions nothing about building and maintaining a reputation. Now your brand is built over time through hundreds of small acts. When you go out to market your product or service, or otherwise get more sales, you don’t want to destroy the hard work you have done. In my experience, the easiest trap to fall into is that of pricing. If your marketing requires you to lower the price of your product to compete and you are building a reputation as a high-quality provider, your brand and your marketing are at odds. Add in the temptation to lower quality, and you’re truly gutting your brand.

Don’t do that.

Instead, find a way to make your brand and your marketing live harmoniously. When you devise any marketing strategy, make your brand a key point to consider. Though the prospect of quick sales is always tempting, ask yourself – will this make or break my brand? And if the answer is break, then you better have a pretty solid reason for it.

And there you have it. Those are my steps to building your brand and making it unforgettable, with a brand strategy. Easier said than done? Perhaps, but a brand is hard work. This is why only a few notable organisations have really cracked it, and almost all of these brands are huge and can afford to throw money at it. I want more people to crack this, and I want to do my part to benefit the smaller businesses that don’t have the finances to make it happen. I’ve put together my best advice on it, because I think that a good framework is needed for people to be able to do it themselves. So, from one entrepreneur to the next: go make your brand unforgettable.

The References.

[1]      P. Kotler, K. L. Keller, and S. Burton, Marketing Management, 1st ed. Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia, 2009.
[2]      M. Halttu, “Corporate brand building in different small business growth stages,” University of Oulu, 2005.
[3]      N. Granitz and H. Forman, “Building self-brand connections: Exploring brand stories through a transmedia perspective,” J. Brand Manag., vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 38–59, 2015.
[4]      L. de Chernatony, “A model for strategically building brands,” J. Brand Manag., vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 32–44, 2001.