Brand building blocks

The basics of building a brand

august 29, 2023

Creating a brand from scratch is no easy feat, but sometimes you have an idea so good it begs for a wider audience. These basics of brand building will help you get started—or build on the change your brand is already making in the marketing landscape.

What is a brand?

A brand is a constellation of several different messages—whether they’re in words, images, or even emotions. But it’s also how those messages are perceived, so building a brand can be thought of as creating the consistent, overall perception the world has of your product or cause.

Research: Important in every brand-building step

As you build your brand, you won’t know what messages to include or what audience to target until you research those topics. But research isn’t something that goes away once your brand launches. You’ll constantly check in on how your audience is reacting to you, see what your competitors are doing, or even what factors might be affecting your ability to share or create your brand’s deliverable, such as supply chain issues or news stories.

Defining brand identity: Who are you and what are you doing?

Model of brain with sticky notes

Brand identity is comprised of verbal and visual cues that communicate your overall intent. To build your brand identity, and thus, your brand, you can rely on the Ws—who, what, and why—just like a journalist writing a story for a newspaper. You’ll need to ask yourself who your brand is for or who it appeals to, and what it is you’re trying to accomplish or sell. Here’s some tips for that creative brand-building brainstorming session:

  • Make a list of words—try adjectives—that describe what you’re trying to build, create or communicate with your brand.
  • Positioning versus mission—understand the differences and define these important branding terms. A brand’s mission is the reason for its existence or what it’s setting out to accomplish. While a mission is important to how your brand is positioned, positioning refers to the strategy of getting people to notice and remember your brand within the larger market, especially versus its competitors.
  • Understand your audience. Who wants what you have to offer? And who do you want to represent or interact with your brand? You want to build a core audience who will be loyal to your brands and specifics, such as age or geographic location, can dictate what certain groups of people find appealing. While you don’t want to stereotype, there can be tried and true consistencies across groups. For instance, in many cultures, women are historically more likely to have long hair and would probably be the primary buyers of a shampoo that worked well for that style.

What’s in a (brand) name?

Just like a person’s name, your brand’s name is central its identity. Name recognition can help build a brand’s following. Components of a good name include:

  • It’s catchy. You want people to remember your name when people ask about that important cause or cool product they support, right? Catchy names might involve alliteration (repeated uses of letters at the beginning of words); less common or strong-sounding letters like K, Q, or Z; or sounds that harmonize in our ear. Catchy often means a name is probably pretty short too.
  • It’s easy to say. Think of how your brand’s name might sound on the radio. Strive for combos of letters that are predictable to the average speaker of your brand’s native language. And did we mention short?
  • It’s not like other names. No one wants to be confused for the shop or company down the street, especially if you are doing similar work or making similar products—or even if you’re doing something completely different. Even if your name sounds new to you, it might not be; do a few quick searches online to see what comes up.

Visual Identity and brand building

The branding of appearance is called visual identity, and it’s part of building a brand you can’t ignore. Visual identity embodies your brand’s personality before your audience can even read what you have to say about yourself. Here are some key elements or creating a brand’s look:

  • Color. Colors can carry weight and emotion. We think of green as fresh and new, and green lights as a symbol of go, whereas red is bold, maybe even a warning. Colors can also evoke physiological and psychological sensations, such as hunger, which can be a bonus subliminal message for your brand. Learn more about how to choose the perfect colors for your brand.
  • Font. Fonts are an opportunity to communicate an extra dimension of your personality, like whether your brand is serious or fun.
  • Logo. This combo of shape and sometimes text gives the world a way to recognize your brand without any additional content. If your brand becomes popular or has many loyal customers, the logo can also signify bigger concepts, like trust or quality. Not sure where to start? Read these helpful tips for designing a logo for your brand or small business.

With all these elements, make sure you’re communicating the message you intend to communicate in an accessible way. Be aware of what fonts are easiest to read, what colors complement each other or can be hard to see, and what messages the spaces and shapes in and around your logo might be saying at first glance.

How to keep growing a brand after it’s built

Space rocket model with upward arrows

So, you know what your brand stands for and what you’re offering. You’ve named yourself, picked your colors, and drafted an eye-catching logo and people have started to notice. How do you keep people engaged, and get more flocking to your door?

  • Always be doing something new. Whether you come up with new products or services or just new ways to talk about them, changing things up can be a way to stay relevant in a constantly shifting marketing and grab at an audience’s ever-shrinking attention span.
  • But stay true to yourself. We’re not saying don’t innovate. Just remember what made your brand great—those basics, that look, that list of words you drafted that describes what you want to accomplish—and remember that’s the promise you have to deliver on for your audience and yourself. Finding the balance between change and consistency is a struggle on an individual level—now imagine applying that to a whole business.
  • Keep your standards up: That same sparkle and quality you had when you first started can be refined as time goes on. Getting good at what you do or understanding your market better is no excuse to let complacency creep in. In fact, the more you learn, the more you can improve your brand’s messaging, products, and services, and quality improvement can refresh your brand’s identity and make you even more relevant than you work before. Marketing can be one of the most influential factors in your business' success.

Building a brand can be complex, but if you ask simple questions and think seriously about their answers, you’ll find yourself offering the world something fresh and new that they just can’t imagine their life without.

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