As originally published on Forbes.com.
Building a brand doesn’t happen over night. And very rarely does a successful brand occur accidentally. A strong brand is usually one that has undergone research, planning and strategic implementation. A strong brand relays a clear, concise message about a company, its products or services and its values. It resonates with both current and potential customers, and its identity dominates its position in its respective market. But before any of that can happen, companies need to determine their brand. Before building a brand, companies need to answer the following five questions.
- Who are your customers?
As much as we would love every single consumer to be our target audience, it is too wide of a net to cast because not everyone is the right fit for your product. In addition to understanding your core audience demographics, such as age, gender and income, consider their personalities, their habits and their lifestyles.
Before building a brand, ask all of the key players in your company if your current target audience the market they want? If so, who are they? What do they value — family, free-time, money? Create a fictional persona for your ideal customer. What do they do for a living? What do they do for fun? What is their yearly salary? When do they find that they need to purchase or use your product? By fictionalizing your ideal customer on paper, your brand will better position itself for the next questions.
- What problem does your company solve? In other words, how do your customers benefit by using your products and services?
Think about your purpose as a company. Of course, we all want to make money, but by considering what problem your product or service fixes or what needs you are fulfilling for your customers, you can start to craft not only your brand’s mission but its identity, too.
If you offer portable “pick-up-and-go” salads, then you are selling convenience and fixing a time problem for busy people who still want a healthy lunch. At Clearbridge Branding Agency, we offer social media management services. This sells not only assistance and time-savings to businesses, but also it fixes their problems of staffing, training and budget concerns, among other issues, if they were to hire an in-house team.
- When people think about your company, what feelings does it elicit?
Once you have determined what problems your product solves, you have to evaluate how it makes people feel. There are eight types of core human emotions: joy, sadness, anger, fear, trust, distrust, surprise and anticipation. What feelings do you want your brand to convey to your customers?
Clearly, most companies want to stay away from any negative connotations like distrust. However, some typically negatively-associated emotions can work to a brand’s advantage. At first glance, no brand wants to elicit fear of their product. But using fear to motivate people to go to a doctor to get a suspicious mole checked is one way of using a negative emotion as a positive. Many brands also capitalize on fear of missing out (FOMO). They create a sense of urgency that a product is needed before anyone else has it or the fear of just not owning it at all.
Eliciting joy, making people feel happy when they buy or use your product is also a popular method but one that can sometimes backfire. Remember McDonald’s #McDStories? McDonald’s asked consumers to share heart-warming tweets about experiences in their stores. Instead, it turned into a trending hashtag full of horror stories. Determining how you want your product and your company to make people feel will help craft the overall brand image as well as your digital and traditional marketing efforts.
- What kind of personality will your brand have?
Just as you have to consider the personality of your target audience, you have to do the same for your brand. Think of your brand as a person. Who would they be? Are they funny and witty? Dry and serious? Sincere and knowledgeable? Would this person be friends with someone in your target audience?
From snarky and fun brand voices (think Wendy’s Twitter) to serious and professional (LinkedIn’s Twitter), a good brand personality will reflect the product being sold and the customers who use it. Building a brand with personality in mind will help marketing and advertising efforts.
- Who are your competitors and what is their brand position?
Only after identifying your competition can you try to understand their brand position. What do consumers think and feel about their product? And, most importantly, do you want consumers to feel the same way about yours, or do you want your brand position to be the complete opposite of your competition? How is your product more relevant to those consumers than your competition’s version, and what are the key points of difference between your brand and theirs?
When building a brand, keep in mind that you can’t definitively define your brand. Your customers and how they perceive your brand helps shape it as well. But when you can satisfactorily answer these five questions, you can start to put the pieces together and develop your brand and guide your audience’s perception. From there, create a marketing campaign that captures your brand’s personality, the feeling that your brand creates and that speaks directly to your target audience.