Whether you’re starting a new ecommerce company, or looking to take your current business to the next level, the strength of your brand plays a critical role in your potential success.

How you are viewed in the eyes of your customers, competition, and community comes down to your brand. Building a respected and strong brand is not something you can accomplish by checking off a few items on your to-do list. Instead, it should be approached with the long term in mind.

In this introductory guide, we’ll introduce you to the basics of brand strategy and branding as well as highlight the benefits of having a strong brand. If you’re looking for a more detailed look at branding strategy, be sure to check out the brand strategy guide.

What is Branding?

Branding is the process of creating a distinct identity for a business in the mind of your target audience and consumers. At the most basic level, branding is made up of a company’s logo, visual design, mission, and tone of voice. But your brand identity is also determined by the quality of your products, customer service, and even how you price your products or services.

By building a website that describes what you offer, designing ads that promote your goods and services, selecting specific corporate colors that will be associated with your company, creating a logo, and featuring it across all your social media accounts, you are branding your company. That is, you are shaping how and what people’s perceptions of your business are.

Yet, even if you never invest in a strategic brand strategy, you’re still going to have a brand. If you’re a company with bad customer service for example, that will ultimately affect how your customers view you. You can be known as a company that doesn’t care about your customers just as easily as you can establish yourself as a brand that goes above and beyond.

Ultimately, what your customers think and say about your brand is the reality (not what you’d like them to think). It’s the impression that pops into their minds when they hear your business’ name. It’s based on a feeling they have that is based on the experiences they’ve had with you, good or bad.

That’s why your branding strategy and brand management plan are so important.

Why You Should Take Branding Seriously

Virtually no business starts out hoping to create a an unreliable or “bad” brand. Many entrepreneurs start a company with a grand vision of delivering great products, at a great value, and creating loyal customers for life.

Again, you’re going to have a brand regardless if you invest in building a strong brand identity so you might as well give your self every opportunity to succeed.

The purpose of branding building is to simply and easily help your customers understand what you offer and how through effective positioning. But it’s not only a USP (unique selling proposition), it is the combination of all the ways you communicate what you stand for. In the case branding, what you do is far more important than what you say. If your company mission statement focuses on your world-class quality service, but you don’t actually deliver great customer service, there’s a mismatch.

Effective branding requires a strategic plan, including clear brand guidelines, as well as alignment as a company on your desired brand identity.

Benefits of Building A Strong Brand

Investing in your brand identity isn’t just for fun, it has many real world benefits that can help your company grow and succeed at scale.

Benefits of a strong brand include:

  • Increased sales.
  • Customer loyalty and recognition.
  • Helping create a clear and inspiring mission or purpose company wide.
  • Helping create a strong company culture where your employees love what they do.
  • Attracting top-quality talent to help grow your business even further.
  • Developing strong brand equity helping you stand out from your competition.

Again, building a strong brand does take time, but the effort is well worth the reward.

Brand Guidelines and The Branding Process

Having clear brand guidelines are critical for keeping a consistent and cohesive brand. Your brand not only includes how your customers perceive you, but how your employees think of you as well.

In addition to your logo and corporate colors, you can communicate your brand message and brand identity through:

  • Your store environment and atmosphere: Is your store environment uplifting and modern? Or is your atmosphere, dull and boring?
  • Having a clear brand promise: What do you want to be known for by your customers?
  • How your staff members treat customers: Are you known for incredible customer service and a great customer experience?
  • The products you carry: Are your products known to be high-quality?
  • The price you charge: Is your branding geared more towards luxury customers, or are you selling to customers who value a great bargain or deal?
  • Product packaging: Often overlooked, strategic product packaging can have a signifiant impact on your brand recognition, and brand value.
  • Public relations: Public relations and branding strategy often go hand in hand. How you respond to the challenges and mistakes made while growing a business impacts your brand.
  • Sponsorships: Who your brand partners with also plays a big role in your brand image.
  • Advertising: Effective advertising is critical for improving your brand recognition. Your messaging to your target audience should speak directly to their pain points, challenges, and needs.

Virtually every decision you make in your business will ultimately impact the strength of your brand.

Brand Management and Branding Tips For Growing Your Brand

If your business does not yet have a consistent brand, or you don’t like what your brand currently stands for, you may benefit from a “rebrand.” Before you throw out all the hard work you’ve put into your current brand, it’s important to keep your target audience and loyal customers in mind.

Avoid the temptation to “start from scratch” unless absolutely needed. A new brand can dramatically improve the health of your business, but you want to avoid alentiaitng current customers in the process.

Here are some steps to take to shape public perception for the better:

  • Identify what your customers and target audience love most about your business. What makes yours stand out? What are your strengths?
  • Create a brand message and brand promise that conveys what your business aims to do for its customers – what you’re best at. Geico promises to save you 15% in 15 minutes. That’s its brand promise. Marriott promises quiet luxury. What are you promising your customers? Here it can be helpful to list out a 3-6 brand attributes you want to absolutely excel at.
  • Make sure your visual elements match your desired visual identity and your brand. If you’re promising innovation, don’t use greys and boring images. Colors and design play a critical role in developing a strong brand image.
  • Develop standards for employee dress and behavior that support your brand promise. Make sure they understand what your brand is and can support it.
  • Apply your visuals across every marketing tool you use, from advertising to signage to store displays to mailings to shopping bags. This helps both existing customers and new customers a consistent brand message.

Branding is a complex process, mainly because its success or failure is determined by your customers’ reactions to the act of doing business with you. You won’t always get it right, but the costs of not investing in your branding far out weigh the negative consequences of being seen as an untrustworthy or reliable brand.