Think about the most well-known brands in the world for a moment. Apple. Netflix. Coca-Cola. Each of these giants has a ‘personality’ that goes beyond their products or services. It’s an image and a feeling that surfaces when we hear their names or see their logos. That, at its core, is the essence we’re diving into when we talk about brand development.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what it is, how it works, and most importantly, how to shape your own brand into something customers know, love, and trust. Let’s begin!
What is brand development?
Brand development is the process of creating and strengthening a brand’s profile in the market.
It’s a journey that begins with identifying your target audience and defining your message and progresses to building customer loyalty and becoming a notable voice in your niche.
A real-world example
Let’s say you’re a makeup start-up. The brand development process might start with market research to help you spot gaps (aka opportunities), understand potential customers’ needs (aka customer discovery), and differentiate yourself from competitors (aka a competitive landscape analysis).
In this case, your niche might be eco-friendly lipsticks that nourish your lips and the earth via a tree planted for every item bought.
Next comes brand growth. This involves plotting ways to increase visibility and recognition (aka customer building). This could be anything to grow your customer base, from social media campaigns and influencer partnerships to community events, deals, and loyalty programs. It’s about being where your audience is and engaging with them in a way that resonates.
Along the way, you’ll need to consistently monitor your progress, ensuring all interactions, products, and promotional materials reinforce the brand identity, vision statement, and values. This is the secret to long-term company building, and a brand that lasts the ages. Remember — it’s not just about the products but the entire package; the promise, the perception, and the experience.
Why is brand development important?
You know that feeling when you walk into your favorite café? The sounds, the scents, the staff greeting you with a smile. All these elements combine to form an experience and an attachment.
This relationship, borne out of consistent experiences and emotions, is what brands aim to achieve with their audiences. Let’s delve into the core reasons brand development is so important.
1. Trust and credibility
In a world where attention is at a premium, consumers often lean towards brands they recognize and trust. Think about why so many people prefer buying a laptop from Apple or a car from Toyota. Years of consistent quality and branding have established these companies as reliable choices in their respective domains. Why risk something else?
2. Recognition and recall
A strong brand stands out in a crowded marketplace. When you see the ‘swoosh’ symbol, you instantly think of Nike, right? That’s the power of a developed brand. It ensures that consumers remember you amidst a sea of competitors.
3. Adds value beyond the product
Why do some people willingly pay a premium for a Rolex when there are numerous watches that tell time just as efficiently? It’s because Rolex offers more than just a watch; it provides prestige, craftsmanship, and a status symbol. Brand development accentuates the intangible value associated with your offerings.
4. Loyalty and advocacy
Ever noticed how some iPhone users passionately defend their choice and recommend it to others? This kind of loyalty isn’t just about the product’s features. It stems from a deep-rooted attachment to the brand and what it represents. Proper brand development fosters this loyalty, turning customers into brand ambassadors.
5. Attracting the right talent
Today’s workforce, especially the younger generation, wants to work for brands they respect. Things like strong eco-credentials, flexible working, and an ethical way of operating as part of the mission help staff feel proud of their employer.
6. Guided decision-making
Whether it’s Apple’s commitment to user-friendly design or Patagonia’s dedication to environmental causes, these brand pillars guide product development, marketing strategies, and partnerships.
7. Emotional connection
Brands that master the art of emotional connection enjoy a special place in their consumers’ hearts. Think about the warmth and nostalgia evoked by Disney. By consistently delivering experiences and stories centered around magic and wonder, Disney isn’t just another entertainment company; it’s a cherished part of many childhoods.
8. Competitive edge
In sectors where products might be similar, branding becomes the differentiator. Take the cola wars, for example. The battle between Coca-Cola and Pepsi isn’t just about taste; it’s about lifestyles, feelings, and identities cultivated through decades of brand development. Taste is but a small part of what drives people to their respective purchase.
10-step brand development strategy
While the journey can be challenging, a solid strategy can make things easier. Here’s a more detailed roadmap to guide you.
Step 1: Understand your target audience
You wouldn’t set off on a journey without a destination in mind. The same holds true for brand development. The foundation lies in grasping who your audience is. Use tools like surveys, demographic research, and market segmentation to really get under their skin.
Step 2: Carve your unique value proposition (UVP)
What makes your brand unique? Your UVP is the sail that catches the wind, propelling you forward. It’s essential to pinpoint exactly what you offer that competitors don’t.
Dropbox, for instance, positioned itself not just as a storage solution, but as a seamless tool for life and work, emphasizing simplicity in a cluttered tech environment. Spend some time creating a product positioning strategy to raise your chances of a successful launch, and don’t neglect working out where you sit in relation to your competitors.
Step 3. Define your brand’s personality
Brands, much like people, have personalities. Are you the fun, vivacious type like LUSH? Or the elegant, sophisticated kind like Rolex? This persona should resonate in every touchpoint, from product packaging to social media posts, forming a cohesive image in the consumer’s mind.
Step 4. Craft a memorable logo and design palette
Visual cues play a pivotal role in brand recall. A logo isn’t just a symbol; it’s the face of your brand. Coupled with a distinctive color palette and typography, it becomes a powerful recall tool. Consider Nike’s universally recognizable ‘swoosh’ logo. It’s more than just a tick; it symbolizes achievement, dynamism, and speed.
Step 5. Develop a consistent brand voice
The way you communicate speaks volumes about who you are. Whether you’re whimsical, formal, or somewhere in between, this voice should remain consistent. Look at Mailchimp. Their playful and sometimes quirky tone makes the mundane topic of email marketing fun, setting them apart in a tech-heavy space.
Step 6. Tell your brand story
People love stories; they’re hardwired to remember them. What’s your narrative? TOMS doesn’t just sell footwear; they share tales of how each purchase aids someone in need. This story-telling strategy weaves a bond with the customer, making every purchase feel meaningful.
Step 7. Engage on the right platforms
Spreading yourself too thin can dilute your brand’s essence. Instead, identify where your audience spends the most time and establish a solid presence there. A high-end B2B brand might thrive on LinkedIn, whereas a youth-centric fashion label could gain traction on platforms like TikTok or Instagram.
Step 8. Foster community engagement
Beyond just selling, brands that cultivate communities prosper. Engage, interact, and listen to your audience. Lego Ideas is a testament to this approach. By allowing fans to submit designs and potentially see them become official sets, Lego transforms customers into integral community members.
Step 9. Regularly assess and adapt
In the world of branding, stagnation can spell doom. Keep a finger on the market’s pulse. Various metrics like Net Promoter Score and Engagement offer invaluable insights. And don’t neglect both customer service and customer feedback.
Zappos, an online shoe retailer, is a prime example. Their brand revolves around delivering the best customer service, and they regularly go the extra mile to ensure their buyers’ happiness. Meanwhile, Starbucks has My Starbucks Idea, where customers can suggest improvements. This means the brand gets great ideas, and the users feel valued. Win-win!
10. Stay authentic
Authenticity is the currency of today’s brand landscape. Consumers crave genuine interactions and transparency. Everlane excels in this by practicing ‘radical transparency,’ candidly showcasing the true cost of their products and the ethical factories they come from.
Brand development: best practice and tips
While the brand development strategy maps out the steps to take, understanding best practices adds an extra layer of security to your endeavors. Here are some tried-and-tested tips to keep your strategy on point.
1. Consistency is key
Whether it’s the color palette, logo, voice, or messaging, ensure uniformity across all platforms. Coca-Cola’s branding, for instance, has remained consistent for decades, making it one of the most recognizable brands globally.
Consistency also means staying true to your brand. We’ve mentioned the importance of adapting back there, but evolving shouldn’t come at the cost of losing your essence. McDonald’s introduction of healthier menu options is an adaptation to changing health trends, but their core promise of quick, consistent, and affordable meals remains.
2. Build emotional connections
Brands that tap into emotions create deeper bonds. Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ campaigns often spotlight underdogs and personal triumphs, tapping into universal themes of perseverance and ambition. From creating your mission statement and defining your values to your marketing efforts and the stories you tell — make it emotional, inspiring, and authentic.
3. Ensure internal buy-in
It’s not just your customers that should believe in your brand — your employees should too. From staff to stakeholders, make sure everyone’s on board. Begin by creating an inspiring vision statement, and brush up on your organizational communication skills so you can explain it in a way that inspires.
4. Collaborate wisely
Partnerships can amplify brand reach but ensure there’s brand alignment. The collaboration between Apple and Nike for the Apple Watch Nike+ is a perfect mesh of tech and fitness ethos. Use this as your guide rather than latching onto this week’s hottest influencer. Speaking of influencers — do your background research to ensure they don’t have any gremlins in the closet. Scandal via a problematic social media personality might get eyes on you, but not for the right reasons.
5. Empower your team
To build a robust brand, your team needs the right tools. Why? Because clear communication is the backbone of any successful venture.
- Chat apps break down geographical barriers, ensuring no brilliant idea gets lost in the shuffle. They’re your virtual huddle room, where the next big concept could take root.
- Project management software acts as your strategy war room. It’s where you track campaigns, analyze strategies, and set deadlines, ensuring everyone marches to the beat of the same drum.
- Diagramming tools? They’re your blueprint creators. They help your team visualize both the customer and their journey, identifying touchpoints and moments that make your brand memorable.
Empowering your team with these tools isn’t just about efficiency; it’s about cultivating an environment where your core values can thrive internally before they shine externally.