Branding Strategies

3 Questions to Ask When Building Your Own Brand

Before you lay down any solid ground work for your business, you have to come up with a brand. Why is this such a quintessential step? Because your brand is your business’ soul. It’s the personality that separates it from the rest of the crowd. Without a discernable, unique, vivid brand, your business is an empty husk.

However, creating a brand from scratch is a tricky task. No one ever said branding was easy, but it is rewarding…still, it’s only fulfilling if you know how to do it the right way. Otherwise you’ll have a lot of balled up scratch paper sitting haphazardly around you office trash can, covered in half-baked ideas that don’t go anywhere.

Like all artforms, branding comes from an idea — an inspiration. In order to cultivate that inspiration, you have to ask yourself these three important branding questions. If you don’t know the answers, you don’t have anything close to a workable brand.

Question 1: Why do you want to create this company or business?

This may sound like a simple question, but try to answer it in short-form essay format. It’s not enough to say “to sell stuff” or “to make a quick buck” even if those answers are true. No, branding requires something a little more raw and personal than that.

Say you want to start a business selling a new type of food tray for toddlers and infants. This might be your quick idea at a cash cow, but think of the brand itself: what does that type of product say to consumers? It’s a helpful product, meant to nurture infants and appeal to frustrated, tired mothers. This kind of branding image should be soft and maternal — maybe rounded and green in color.

Branding comes about when you truly get to the heart of why a business exists and what the product gives to people. This is the heart of any good branding schematic.

Question 2: How do you appeal to your audience?

Revisit the above toddler food tray example. For a product like this, the beneficiary is actually the mother even though the baby is using the tangible item. You’ll notice marketing shifts like this based on who the consumer is, not who the recipient is. Toddler’s TV shows appeal to both mother and child because both audiences consume the content, while only the mother is the true consumer of the feeding tray. In these examples, the toddler receives the product but the branding is different based on the audience.

You have to learn what your audience wants and how to appeal to them? Who is your audience? How does your branding work to identify with their needs?

Question 3: Does your branding leave room for growth and development.

Let’s look at that example one last time. You start out manufacturing baby trays, but maybe one day you’ll want to expand to include more baby-related items to your product line…does your current branding allow for this?

Products are products, but brands are brands. A good branding concept leaves room for expansion. Coca Cola isn’t just Coke Zero — the former is the branding umbrella, while the second is a specific product that can be branded.

Thus, it’s important to give yourself a general concept that leaves room for growth. Think of it as planning for your business future.

How to Create a Cult-Like Following for your Brand, Engrossing Followers to Elevated Status

FantasyFootballLogo_300x300 The Appeal of Hordes following your brand

As the purveyor of a brand, you would honestly love almost nothing more than achieving a form of cult status. Social media brands like Facebook have achieved this, as well as activities tied into brands like NFL Fantasy Football. Recently with about 35 million followers, the activity of fantasy football along with shows like “The League” has more than reached out and grabbed the attention of consumers. At a certain point, marketers have realized that people want to be a part of something that goes beyond just the sphere of themselves.

Once you reach a cult following, if it happens overnight, you may even run out of product. If you can keep the product stocked, you will see more users talking about your brand than maybe ever imagined. Shoe purchase portals like Zappos, Soft drinks like Coke, beers like Dos Equis and many more have achieved this status with more than just placement and protocol. They have sometimes gambled everything to create a persona that people will not only never forget, but tell everyone they know to consume. The initial feeding frenzies drive up IPO’s and in some cases, get the product out of the red forever.

Dreaming at the drawing board

Creating a cult brand is something that is much harder than just creating any brand. One of the pinnacles of the industry, Harley Davidson, formed their cult status because people literally formed groups based on the brand. At the time and even still, it didn’t matter that some of them were perceived as a bit on the outlaw front. When you are really thinking about taking a brand to cult status, envisioning it as a group activity (Think Pinterest) is sometimes a great first step. Along the realms of cult status success in transportation is Vespa, the Italian made scooter that was a driving force in gaining many people the ability to get from A to B after the Second World War.

When you are trying to create a cult following for your brand, it is hard not to imitate directly, but there are some great brands to take a beginning nod from. Trader Joe’s created an incredibly loyal fan base with “Two buck chuck” wine, and a selection that feels like a local market, has uncommon items, and tries to shy away from steep prices. When looking at truly becoming a cult brand, there are really two most important elements to investigate; creating a community of customers, and selling an overall lifestyle.

How could my brand do these things?

One successful thing that brands have done to create a community of customers is by encouraging them to show off their wares. Toms shoes has done this, by encouraging customers to show off their loyalty and their pairs of Toms in pictures they personally take. Even though to be truly iconic there has to be a lot of other appeals, sometimes risky and weird works. A whole culture has sprung up since about the late 1990’s that embraces coffee, quirks of life, imperfection, and noticing the oddities in the workplace. Having a scrapbook themed sharing platform and/or finding a way to reward people posting the coolest photos of your brand is a great start.

If you feel in any way that your product is limited or not as good as others, don’t panic. One thing that entrepreneurs have really seen help with cult status is creating the “fun factor”. Cars like Volkswagen have mastered this. It needs to be a careful blend of engineering & design, and then perhaps spreading around some examples of the fun and savvy ways people use your product. There are some small startups, pet companies and others creating loyalty and driving good reviews by having over the top customer service. These companies must really hire only the best of the best, and know how to be perfect ambassadors even when times are stressful.

It is true that some companies have been lucky enough to stumble upon these quirky ideas that make their product stand out. There have been many brands that really start to rise up and then can’t accomplish the next level of true attachment to the brand. While there are many things about a product like food that can attach a customer to a brand, examples like Zappos show us that any niche can work. The absolute best strategy is providing something different. In this day and age there is always another person doing what you are; the challenge is dripping originality, and creating a desire for what you have that is unparalleled.