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How to Create and Protect your Brand
By: Jessica Rickard | January 11, 2021
Starting your own business usually starts with an idea – something that you are passionate about. You want to make a living doing something you love and ultimately, you want to be successful.
Before jumping off the deep end and purchasing that store front downtown, it is important to build your brand. What do you stand for, what are your values, who is your target audience, and more are questions you should ask yourself as you build your business.
Let’s take a look at how to create a brand that stands out.
First things first
A brand is how people perceive you or your business any and every time an interaction occurs. This could be when they walk into your store or when they hear someone else talking about your business on the street – controlled and uncontrolled interactions.
Just like you have a personal brand – your name, style, face, way of communicating – your business has a brand. Weather you are starting a new business with a brand-new brand or pivoting a current brand, it is important to really flesh out the details.
How do you build a brand? Braveen Kumar at Shopify says there are seven steps to building a brand:
1. Research your target audience and your competitors.
2. Pick your focus and personality.
3. Choose your business name.
4. Write your slogan.
5. Choose the look of your brand (colors and font).
6. Design your logo.
7. Apply your branding across your business.
Each of these steps is important in developing a strong, recognizable brand or pivoting a current brand to something new. Braveen Kumar goes into detail about all these steps here, but let’s take a brief look at them.
1. Research your target audience and your competitors
You may think you have a great idea – but the world may not be ready for it. It is important to research the product you want to offer and see what the current market is like.
Who are your competitors and what does your audience look like? You can do this a couple different ways:
• Google your product or service category
• Check trending topics on social media
• Talk to people who are a part of your target market
• Act like a customer looking for your product and see how you would browse and buy products
It is important to keep track of who you can easily sell to, the more established brands, and how your potential customers behave. Starting here will help you focus your brand and differentiate you from the competition.
2. Pick your focus and personality
Personally, I believe that personality is a big part in what separates you from the competition. You have probably heard or seen Wendy’s on twitter. They have taken the stance of being in your face and sarcastic on the internet. Even when they aren’t invited to the conversation, they show up – and its memorable.
I’m not saying that you need to be exactly like Wendy’s, but you need to find a personality that aligns with your values and goals. Mission statements and unique value propositions are crucial here! Pick a stance and go all in on it!
Another good exercise here is to think of your brand like a person and come up with words, metaphors, phrases, or concepts that describe it. Write down everything that comes to mind, then go back and pick 3-5 that really stand out to you. These words or phrases will become the base for your personality, and you can build from there.
3. Choose your business name
This sounds so much easier than it actually is. You business’ name will become the base for everything moving forward: messaging, logos, domain names, and trademark registrations. Trademarks are a whole other conversation that we will talk more about later.
Coming from someone who just went through this exercise, coming up with a name that hasn’t been used already is DIFFICULT! So don’t get down on yourself if you don’t come up with something the first day.
But there are a couple ways you can go about coming up with a name:
• Make up a word – like Pepsi
• Reframe an unrelated word – like Crocs for shoes
• Use a suggestive word or metaphor – like Buffer
• Describe it literally (caution: easy to imitate) – like The Cupcake Shop
• Alter a word by removing or adding letters or using Latin endings – like Tumblr
• Create an acronym from a longer name – like HBO • Combine two words – like Snapple
The next couple of steps go hand in hand:
4. Write your slogan
5. Choose the look of your brand
6. Design your logo
These steps are focused on the visual identity of your business and will be very helpful when designing a website and marketing collateral. There are so many resources online to help you create your visual identity, here are some I found:
Use these resources or others to really build out your visual identity and your brand guide!
7. Apply your branding across your business
Now that you have done all of that work…it’s time to put it into action! Create a cohesive brand story by implementing your values and mission into everything you do. From what is posted on your website to the environment in your storefront, it is important to be consistent!
When building your brand from scratch, you need to establish your presence. Let people know who you are, why you started your business, what you stand for, and what your goals are. Like I said before – pick a stance and go all in.
A couple things to keep in mind is that you will never have full control on how people perceive your brand – and that is okay! You can never be everything for everyone, just focus on your target audience and making them happy. This will build loyal customers that keep coming back and will act as advocates for your business.
All of these steps are critical when developing your brand, what do you do after your brand is established?
You need to protect your brand.
Building your brand guide – also called visual identity guidelines – is the first step here. Everything you came up with in the previous steps should be documented in one place, your brand guide. But there is a little more to it than that.
Your brand guide should include your mission statement, your company values, logos, colors, voice and tone, your business backstory, accepted and unaccepted uses of logos, and anything else that you think is important to your business.
The purpose of a brand guide is to make sure everybody within your business is on the same page. When you hire new people, educate them on your brand guide and make sure they follow the guidelines. If you don’t follow a brand guide and start pushing out information or visuals that are different or don’t align with your values, you will confuse your audience.
For example, IHOP is the International House of Pancakes. Anybody remember when they changed their name to IHOB? It was either a genius marketing plan or a devastating mistake. IHOP was all over social media with people wondering what in the world they were doing – a confused audience and at times an angry audience.
Don’t confuse this with a rebrand. When rebranding, it is okay to have a confused audience for a short amount of time. Just make sure you alleviate their concerns and explain your new position. Make sure everybody on your team is on the same page as you when it comes to messaging and positions on issues. Your team is your advocate and can really impact the way the public views your brand.
As a new business you can make the decision to trademark your name and logos or patent your idea. These processes can be long and are very detailed oriented. See more about how to legally protect your business here.
I hope this blog has helped you start the process of building and protecting your brand. Starting your own business is exciting! Make sure you take the time to really build around your own values and goals.
Don’t forget to have fun! Pick something you are passionate about and a cause you want to represent and fall into it. This is YOUR business after all.
And if you need a little help with getting your team on the same page or working with financial data – check out Path by Simplex Financials. Path is the first ever social financial platform built to connect individuals from your team to the data they have a part in, collaborate with your entire team, and grow your business. Learn more here.