Originally published in 2018, we've updated this post with new information and links for 2020.
So you want to build your brand and attract lots of new customers? Great! But the truth is, “brand building” probably means something a little different than you think it does.
First, brand building is more than brand awareness because brand awareness alone will NOT make it rain leads (unless of course, you’re in the business of giving away puppies and ice cream). Brand building is a set of strategies to improve your reputation, increase your relevance and become more visible to your potential consumers.
Holistically, brand-building strategies should create a valuable experience for the world because that’s what lures new customers in. And “valuable experiences” can be as unique as the brands they belong to. So naturally, there’s no one set of guidelines that work to build every brand.
Instead, customize these three brand-building strategies for your own brand and goals:
Define Your Brand
The best brand-building strategies will help buyers to resonate and identify with companies. People, by nature, can’t relate to what they don’t understand. So don’t make people guess what your brand is all about. Tell them or show them, clearly and simply.
Define your brand values, unique selling proposition, and strengths with creative, branded content.
It’s hard to define a brand that doesn’t stand for something. Unlike a lot of tactical branding strategies, this one will likely take you back to a drawing board in the C Suite. Your brand values really can be as simple as a statement or a bulleted list of 3-5 words with some simple context.
Revisit your core business plan, mission, or vision to find a good starting point. What’s the why of your business? It’s not to make a profit, because we all need to make money to live. This “why” is the reason or belief behind why you do specifically what you do.
By defining your brand values, you’re trying to help buyers identify with you and give them a higher purpose for becoming a consumer. Explore these awesome brand values that have worked to attract hordes of loyal, like-minded consumers.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Ever heard the old adage: If you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one? It’s still true.
When I’m helping a client with their brand marketing, one of the first questions I ask is, “What makes you different from your competitors?” This self-examination is a great place to start understanding and explaining how you stand out.
It’s a simple concept: find the thing(s) that makes you different and shout it from the rooftops. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your unique selling proposition needs to appeal to every customer. It doesn’t, and that’s ok. Instead, focus hard on resonating that unique appeal to the audience who will appreciate it most.
Here are some fun examples of USPs represented in famous brand slogans.
What is it that you do well? Spell it out and never assume anyone is going to just figure it out. (Because no one cares about anything until they have a reason to.)
You should define your brand strengths and put those strengths in context with your consumer pain points. As in, “We kick ass at X which is exactly what YOU need because of X.”
Everyone wants to helpfully offer their knowledge of the best products and services. By defining the strengths of your brand, you give customers something to actually talk about.
Content and storytelling should play a significant role in every part of your branding. While you’re still defining (or refining) your brand, blogs, photos, and social media posts about your brand culture are perfect.
Position Your Brand
Where are you on the map of your industry? Are you on it all? You’re probably not looking down from the top, but make it a goal to have a clear brand position. Carve your position by focusing your mission or vision, adding your voice to the conversation of your industry, aligning with like-minded audiences or businesses and deploying smart strategies to rise in SEO rankings.
For most businesses, the best sales strategy is to target niche markets. Focus your mission or marketing on a targeted group of people or a specific slice of your industry. Find opportunities and underserved consumers in your industry, then customize your marketing to be everything they’ve always wanted. After all, you don’t need every customer in the world, just your own healthy market share. So find a vulnerable or available one and go after it.
Be a Voice in Your Industry
There’s nothing stopping you from literally writing the book on your industry. In this age of digital ebooks, it’s not only possible, but it’s also pretty easy.
A fundamental principle of modern marketing, also known as inbound marketing, is using educational or helpful blogs and other content to get discovered by consumers when they need your help. It’s OK if your idea or advice isn’t original.
No one cares whose idea was first, only whose idea was best.
Start telling the world what you know in a way that’s helpful to them and you’ll start being seen as an authority in your industry.
Align with Influencers
This isn’t high school. You can just buy a seat at the cool kid’s table. But tread lightly. Influencer marketing works incredibly well when it’s perceived as genuine. So carefully consider how well the influencer and their audience align with your brand before you spend big bucks to leverage the sway of a blogger, vlogger, or internet celeb.
Check out our helpful best practices for working with influencers.
Align Yourself With Other Brands or Clients
Put your brand in context with other businesses you’re happy to work with or serve. Use testimonials, official partnerships, endorsements, shared projects or events, and more to be found and understood by way of a better-known brand.
Not only will a brand family help to build your brand, but your business will also get a boost from both direct and indirect referrals. So take a good look at your operations, software, hardware, services and products, and find opportunities to phone a friend.
Smart SEO strategy is another way to literally position your brand at the top (of search results). Sometimes, that’s all that matters to successfully attract new website visitors.
SEO is a science that can take years to master, but here are some basic tips for using SEO to position your brand:
- Hire a professional or start by researching the relevant industry keywords your competition is ranking for.
- Choose long-tail keywords and phrases you have a real shot at ranking for.
- Write lots of original content focusing on those keywords.
- Avoid keyword stuffing and other black hat SEO practices that will seriously damage your brand’s online rep in the eyes of Google.
Explore our smart SEO advice in this blog.
Give Your Brand an Identity
Don’t be a stranger. Humanize your brand with an identity consumers can understand and relate to by personifying your brand, establishing a tone of voice, and even giving it a face.
Personify Your Brand
If your brand was a person, who would it be? What gender? What level of education? What style and personality would it have?
It might seem silly at first, but personifying your brand can help you to understand the personality of your brand and the tone of your marketing. And aside from buyer personas, this exercise is the best way to understand how you should be talking to the world.
Use this cheat sheet from the Impulse Creative Brand Plan to get started:
- Sense of humor
- Entertainment preferences
- Social groups and subcultures
- Characteristics and traits
- Favorite phrases or words
Know Your Voice
Personifying your brand can definitely help to understand the tone of voice your marketing should talk, but you should rely heavily on your buyer personas before writing anything specific.
Using those very specific demographic personas, you can use specific social media sites, types of media, subcultures, and ages to target your language and speak to consumers like you’re just one of the gang. Maybe that means simple and friendly, maybe it’s vague and edgy. It’s also possible to need drastically different brand voices for selling the same product to different buyer personas.
Give Your Brand a Face
If it’s a feasible option for your business, consider using an employee, spokesperson, graphic character, or celebrity as the official face of your brand. Aside from the obvious perks of a well-known celebrity, using a real (or cartoon) face to represent your brand can help with memory retention and customer attraction by making your brand personality tangible and easily understood.
A popular option for this is an in-house brand expert, someone internal that’s the personification of your brand and a know-it-all for your company. As silly as it may seem, that’s who people will naturally choose to do (or not do) business with, when they’re considering your brand.
Those are the Basics
There’s more than one way to build a brand, but these strategies are basics you just can’t go wrong with. Find a way to make each one your own by customizing it for your brand, your marketing, your goals, and your challenges.
As you strengthen your brand, continue to review and revise your strategies by tracking helpful metrics and data such as brand awareness and engagement.