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Branding 101: 5 Essentials for Building a Strong Brand

You had a great idea, so you turned it into an even better, unique product – where does branding come in? You thought of a clever name, put the product in a sharp-looking package, and created a logo and tagline.

Now, you’re sure your brand is ready to go…

Not so fast.

The visual representation of your product or service is an important component of branding, but the graphic elements are just the beginning of the branding process.

Most key purchasing influencers are based on your consumers' emotional response to your product: her attitudes, perceptions, values, and priorities. A well-developed brand strategy ensures that your customers will connect with your product on this deeper level. To help your target customer understand, appreciate, and become a loyal consumer of your brand, keep these essential strategies in mind.

Five essential branding strategies

1. Know Your Audience

Your brand identity should be based upon the concerns, needs, preferences, and lifestyles of your target audience. Find your niche and focus on it – don’t try to be everything to everyone. Do your homework, pay attention to the data, and know your target market inside out, by understanding the buying trends and opportunities in your product’s category.

Helpful Hint: Look into survey tools like Survey Gizmo to collect consumer information.

2. Define Your Story

The building blocks of a compelling brand story include your company’s mission, vision, and values.  Start by asking yourself the questions, “Why does the world need my product?” and “Why was I inspired to create it?” Resist the temptation to make your product’s story about what’s wrong with other products. “My X product is better than their Y product because it doesn’t do or have Z” Instead, remain positive, and always make sure your product rationale is about what your product does do.

Helpful Hint: Write an “Elevator Pitch” for your brand – a 3-minute summary of your business and why it’s important. Practice it, refine it, and share it until your audience starts to enthusiastically share it with others. Then, you’ll know you’ve hit the mark.

3. Brand through Association

As you consider where your product should be sold, understand the message of the venue itself. Is it a hip and trendy boutique? A discount outlet? A farmer’s market? The stores you choose (especially at first) are critical and can set the tone for your brand. If you have a natural product you want your customers to trust, choose a store with a reputation for high standards. On the other hand, you wouldn’t choose to launch a premium brand in an online discount outlet. If you present your product in a venue that doesn’t value the premium quality of your brand, your customer won’t either.

Helpful Hint: Identify your product’s top 2 or 3 most important qualities. Match these with the values of the stores that carry your brand, at least for the first 1-2 years.

4. Develop Customer Loyalty With Brand Ambassadors

The stronger your brand is, the greater your customer loyalty. The world's strongest brands don’t just have customers, but evangelists. Brand evangelists champion their favorite brands by enthusiastically recommending them to other potential customers. Word of mouth is one of the most important purchasing influencers, and brand evangelists build buzz for your brand out of intense loyalty, and they provide free advertising.

Helpful Hint: Utilize social media networks and influential bloggers in your category (ie: children, craft, design, food), to develop brand ambassadors.

5. Go Deep, Stay Consistent

Your brand strategy should be clear and compelling to everyone who comes in contact with your product. If your brand is about a new natural product, a commitment to the value of ‘natural’ should be evident in everything you do – the product itself, the packaging, your corporate culture, your education of your customer, and your own personal behavior. Know your mission, Believe your mission, Live your mission.

Helpful Hint: Surprise, delight, and impress your customers by infusing your brand strategy into every point of contact including marketing, sales, customer service, corporate culture and personal commitment.

This is a guest post from Diana Mercer, Founder, Clementine Art.

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  1. This is a wonderful article. Thanks for writing it! I’m a painter. I paint with a lot of different materials: pastels,watercolors,egg tempra,bead weaving,wire wrapping,enamels,and metals. I’ve also branched out into jewelry and making evening bags. I’ve won some awards in several of these medias. Over the last few years,my bead weaving paintings seem to be gaining more awards/and acceptance. I have a little problem with attention deficit,and have a hard time settling in one area.

  2. Great post; as an intellectual property attorney, I work with brand owners to build and protect their brands so there is a natural synergy with my practice and the marketing side of business matters. Best case scenario, I’m involved on the front end to ensure the strength of a mark before moving forward, but often I’m strategizing with business owners to protect a mark (of varying strengths) already in use.

    I’ve always admired the branding of Clementine Art; pleasing to the eye and finely geared towards its audience. You offer valuable advice for both developing and established brands; thanks!

  3. Thank you for this great article. I sold street-wear through a few urban boutiques I owned several years ago. I shut them down due to lifestyle changes, but I haven’t lost the desire to connect with others through fashion and other creative ways. However, so much has changed and (is) changing so rapidly. I am hopeful to dive back into creating a brand and/or improving on some previous ideas. This article was so helpful. Thanks again..! ~Paris

  4. Thanks Diana for this informative article. I’ve just launched my first website for my handmade accessories that I have been selling locally in craft shows for the past few months. I’m running into a lot of the things you mentioned related to brand past the actual product – packaging, shipping, etc. I’ve tried to keep the theme of recycled vintage and re-purposed materials that shapes my brand and hold true to them throughout the entire process of the customer buying and receiving the product. I’m just beginning to approach local stores to carry my bags and ties and it’s a great reminder to continue to develop the brand through association. Thanks again for your helpful article!

      1. Thanks Diana 🙂 My accessories range from small headbands to bags, totes, and even men’s ties. Right now, my current line is focusing on bags for her and ties for him. I’m really inspired by vintage materials and especially those with rich texture and organic fibers. I’ve also recently been experimenting with suede and leather – all recycled vintage as well. I’ve turned thrift stores into my own personal discount fabric stores – it’s not only economical, but eco-friendly, and I really enjoy it. I’ve also created some custom accessories from sentimental keepsakes for a few customers. One woman had a suit jacket of her grandfather who had recently passed away. I was able to make three kid’s ties out of the jacket, giving the children something to wear and remember their great grandfather by. Most likely, the coat would have been hung up in an old closet and never used – this way they were able to keep the sentimental item and give it a new life. It was a great project. I’m working on building my inventory up because a few items have sold out. Thanks again Diana!

  5. Thank Andrea for sharing your insights about growing a business. I am an artist/calligrapher of 35 years. My website shows a range of my art and I am learning which elements reveal my “brand”. I am in transition from doing many kinds of art… to focus on what unique style and message is my passion.
    I welcome your advice.

    Shelly-Ann Guinn

  6. Great article! As with anything new, it requires a steady and rigorous daily renewal. Every day you have to look at your product, prioritize and revise, incorporate new methods to reinvigorate and strengthen your products image, presentation and representation. Defining and designing necessary portals through which you wish to ultimately sell and create a virtual community. It can be quite a daunting task. As they say, an elephant is not eaten in one bite – it is one bite at a time – each day must be focused on making sure each bite taken ultimately leads to the eventual goal of product appeal, definition, identity, value and validity.

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