In this 3-Part series, we walk through building a brand from scratch. In Part 2, armed with a good sense of identity after the intensive self-reflection exercises in Part 1, the brand is now ready to advance to the implementation stage and make some solid decisions.
It’s time to level-set and refer to the business plan. Let’s align your brand vision with your revenue source. You need to be able to deliver on your brand promise, which you can achieve by calibrating your tone and messaging to what you have the time, resources, and budget to actually accomplish within a reasonable time period.
Ask yourself what’s feasible, realistic, and affordable. What can the business afford? What can my team support? How much of an authority do we have to be on this subject? How deep a level of customer service do we need to provide?
Determining what’s possible, accomplishable, comfortable, and realistic for you and your team helps you make statements and write copy that doesn’t over or under sell you. This step also helps you dial in an ideal cost-per-customer and harmonize the amount of business you can handle with available budget.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You can grow later. It doesn’t matter if you’re lightly staffed because there are plenty of tools, services, and out-of-house solutions for your needs, large or small.
If you do plan to go big with a large scale brand presence and huge ad campaigns to back it up, make sure your infrastructure is reinforced. Decision trees, scripts, staff, resources, training, and contingency plans should be in place. Again there are plenty of outsource-able support options.
If you’re planning on slower growth, start with a simpler or more regional brand promise you can deliver on today, that leaves open the possibility of scaling and serving a larger market later.
Also, consider all the creative direction options on the table. Be open to ideas that aren’t yours or your favorites. Brand should meet demand. Give ‘em (the market) what they want. Don’t impose some stilted version of your brand on an audience that won’t even appreciate it.
Make it Official
Since we have zeroed in on who you are and what you do best, we can pick the name and logo and other core visual assets. If you decide you do many things best, you may need to set up a brand hierarchy with sub-brands.
A brand is pretty permanent. We’re no longer in the conceptual phase. You are about to make actual choices here. You and the creative team have a great working list of long names, short names, logos, fonts, colors, tag-lines, jingles, handles, and domain names.
Stop here and start checking your names list against what domains and handles are actually available. Take your new list and break it down from there. To be unique, don’t be afraid to get creative with the spelling, but don’t add any unnecessary punctuation. Choose a handle you can keep the same or almost the same across all social apps plus marketplace and e-commerce platforms.
Don’t forget: We’ll shortly want to trademark and file intellectual property on these assets, so please do your Google-due-diligence and legal research to be certain you are going forward with a unique, usable name.
Say the name aloud and make sure it doesn’t sound like something else. Is it hard to spell or say? Does it make a good acronym? Double check that your acronym isn’t A.S.S. or M.U.D. Or maybe that’s perfect!
Be able to fit your logo in all the typical nooks and crannies (Internet, printed pieces). Also look for unique and clever placement choices that mesh with your product. You‘ll need a long and short version of your logo, plus a square one (LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.).
Refer to your Vision Board for some important questions:
What lifestyle images match with your brand? What geographical or geological setting best suits the brand? Woodsy or beachy? Urban west coast or rural southern? Is your brand playful or serious? What will your finished product (including packaging, merchandising) look like?
Make your product or company logos look like what the product or company really does. If it involves water, you might want to use blue. Be relevant. Go for the steadfast and timeless approach, or take a calculated risk with something edgy and bold. How much pizzazz and eccentricity will the market bear?
Settle on slogans and tag lines that are the purest distillation of your carefully crafted mission statement. Choose the simplest words with the fewest syllables.
Get Visual: Create Assets and Standards
Now that we have a great logo with a lot of supporting content and text, it’s time to have the graphic artist formally design and build all the assets. Most likely, you’ll immediately need business cards, letterhead, website headers/footers, social logos, print-friendly and video-friendly logos, .eps’s, .png’s, .gif’s, etc.
What about hats, uniforms, t-shirts, stickers, mugs, jackets, shopping bags, and signage? Do you really need beer koozies right now?
As you create each asset or item, it’s important to archive these files carefully so that you establish a brand book. A well-maintained book will aide you in making good creative decisions as you move forward.
Protect your brand. Preserve its integrity by having official graphic standards in place. Design standards and placement rules guide employees and vendors who work with your brand. These rules deal with things like color and aspect-ratio within different mediums. They prevent logos and tag lines from being placed too near other words and objects, and they dictate instances when the logo color should be inverted, or when the short logo should be used. You don’t want anyone taking liberties with your customer-facing marketing collateral pieces. Uniformity and consistency are paramount in maintaining brand integrity.
Visualize and hear your brand in every aspect of your business. Leave traces of it everywhere. Project your brand onto your storefront, workspace, or your fleet. Go broad and deep, but be subtle and unobtrusive.
Build up copy beyond just your mission statement and product descriptions. Invest in white papers, studies, FAQs, helpful links, a blog, and other resources that back up your brand identity, expertise, and mission.
Let’s Get Digital
With your precious names, social handles, contact info, and graphic elements in hand, you can now build and launch your social pages. For optimal internal routing, decide the emails you want associated with these accounts. Begin populating and fleshing out your pages and profiles with your new domains and email addresses. Start liking and following key people and businesses in your space and beyond. Remember—let the brand make natural friends out there.
A website can be up today. You’re just a WordPress or Shopify account away. It’s okay to put up a coming-soon sign, but have a way for people to get in touch and click the social buttons for your pages. While working on the finished product, go ahead and create pages to process pre-orders, collect info, and subscribe folks to your newsletter.
Think about other integrations that are domain-centric. Now is the time link your CRM, MailChimp, HootSuite, or ZenDesk to forms on your website and other integrated marketing campaign and analytics tools.
A caveat to putting ourselves out there is we do have to keep track of all the people, inquiries, and next steps that pop up (a good problem). Turn on notifications so you can immediately be aware if customers or prospects start to communicate with you there. They will expect just as fast a response as if they’d emailed you—if not faster. If you don’t have a fancy CRM, there are easy, inexpensive, customizable ones like Nutshell you can set up that automatically generate new contacts and action items straight off a submitted form on your website.
Remember that on social platforms our discussions and comments are often open and can easily be shared. It may seem casual and all in fun, but think of it as your Permanent Record. Represent the brand well, put your best foot forward, restrain emotion, and communicate as completely and honestly as possible.
Yes, a digital brand presence requires constant check-up, but the process can be very efficient, cheap, and quickly scaleable. Many companies like the way digital allows highly quantitative and direct interaction between brand and customer. The interactions also yield content for FAQs and improvement on best-practices and sales techniques.
You’re absolutely right in thinking digital presence is both mega-important and high-maintenance at the same time. It does require daily monitoring, responding, and updating. But that’s life in business. Embrace it. With digital leading the advertising media pack, it’s common now for companies to allocate 75% of their marketing budgets to digital. Expect that number to go higher.
Start posting and uploading the brand copy (white papers, articles, etc.) to your online accounts. Ideally these pieces have been written with words and phrases people use when searching for your type of product. This is a great way for you to build organic SEO.
What about a mobile app? You would probably know if you needed a mobile app right now. The app might not be a “today thing” but if you just have to have it, make sure it does something. A great mobile app does something cool and exudes the “experience” your brand strives for.
Getting the brand imagery produced and “in lights” with accompanying verbiage is huge. Great job! In Part 3 we’ll see the brand formally introduced to the market via carefully orchestrated marketing programs while measuring results and satisfying customers.