By now, most of us are familiar with the term branding. From social media accounts to professional resumes to large-scale corporations, branding has become an essential way to identify one’s business, or even oneself. The layman may describe it as the messaging and visual aesthetic of a company or organization—who do they speak to, and how do they do it? While that’s certainly true, branding has evolved to become a highly strategic and comprehensive method of driving business and creating consumer communities. In today’s sophisticated media landscape, it’s never been more important to harness the power of branding.
What is branding, and why is it important?
Branding, as explained here, is “the way a company, organization, or individual is perceived by those who experience it. More than simply a name, term, design, or symbol, a brand is the recognizable feeling a product or business evokes.” It encompasses a spectrum of key marketing tactics that drive a message, provide products and services to specific audiences, and reflect certain values and a purpose.
When applied successfully, brands have the power to influence the industry they’re in and become well-known household names. Huge brands like Apple, Dove, and LEGO make expert use of these tactics to differentiate themselves from their competitors (like Microsoft, L’Oreal, and Mattel, respectively). They also generate large profits and maintain a community of loyal consumers whose purchasing habits and satisfaction strengthen the brand’s overall value.
What is brand value?
A brand’s value is measured by its ability to differentiate itself from its competitors. High-value brands may offer services or solutions that aren’t offered by other brands, which makes them more valuable. Or, they may have such deep consumer loyalty that their audience chooses them consciously and consistently over their competitors. Marketing guru Seth Godin explains, “a brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose the expectations, memories, stories, and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.”
Take, for example, a brand with remarkably high value: The Walt Disney Company. The widely beloved media conglomerate produces films and television series, creates and sells trademarked merchandise, operates theme parks and tourist attractions, and owns multiple television networks, studios, and franchises. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t have a favorite animated classic film like Bambi or Cinderella, or a cherished modern film like Toy Story or Remember the Titans. They also own (or have equity holdings in) ABC, A&E, Lifetime, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and others. The conglomerate boasts a net value of around $150 billion
A driving force of Disney’s brand value is a massive international and multigenerational community of loyal consumers who have profound emotional connections with their work. Consumer memories often include family trips to Disney World, watching the Star Wars movies on repeat, and collecting items like t-shirts, stuffed animals, toys, and books. That kind of loyalty means Disney can reliably price their goods and products higher than their competitors. In a blog about the brand’s ingenious marketing success, Annex Cloud reports that a CapGemini study showed 70% of consumers who engage based on their emotions will spend at least twice the amount of money on their preferred brands, compared to less than half (49%) of consumers with low emotional engagement. Moreover, Disney can bank on the satisfaction of their consumers to essentially do a portion of the marketing for them. Annex Cloud writes, “This sense of emotional loyalty means that customers are engaged, associate consistent positive feelings with the brand, and evangelize the brand to their friends and family.”
Disney is certainly a standout example of a mega-brand that’s built up its prestige over a number of decades. Yet their massive success reveals the significance of brand value as a whole: By providing goods that offer the potential for meaningful and emotional connections, Disney’s brand surpasses their competitors by large margins.
What is a brand personality?
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos famously said, “Personal branding is what people say about you when you leave the room.” To put this in context, an effective brand has a personality with a unique set of recognizable traits and characteristics. Think of your brand as a person, and consider what they care about, how they act, how they speak, who they form relationships with, what they want, and how they stand out from the crowd. Your brand personality should embody the feelings and values you’re aiming to capture.
Effective brands strive to not only embody their own personality traits and values but to encourage you to have the same experience. YETI shares their consumers’ love of outdoor adventures and excursions through their reliable products and equipment. Victoria’s Secret invites consumers to have a little naughty fun with their intimates and beauty products. Wendy’s restaurants want customers to enjoy homestyle-inspired fast food while feeling like they’re at the family dinner table.
Equally important to understanding your brand personality is knowing who your target consumer is. Who do you want to attract with your brand? What do they want and need? What do they care about, what do they dislike, how do they speak, what are their values, and how do you form a relationship with them? Without knowing your target consumer’s personality, you cannot establish a meaningful relationship with them.
How do I start to develop a brand?
Defining your brand’s personality is part of a larger brand architecture. Other key elements include a streamlined set of names, visuals, messaging points, objectives, mission statements, and purpose. The process of developing an effective brand is complex and comprehensive, so where do you even start? Column Five Media advises to first identify the following:
- Purpose: Why do you exist?
- Vision: What future do you want to help create? What does the future look like?
- Mission: What are you here to do? How do you create that future?
- Values: What principles guide your behavior?
These four components will help you articulate and clarify the strategy and objective of your brand, and guide all of your decisions when creating subsequent brand details.
How do I choose a brand name?
Naming your brand is one of the most important steps in bringing it to life. Your brand name is likely the first impression you’ll make on your target audience, so you want to make sure the name is memorable, easy to pronounce, clear, and in line with your brand architecture.
Begin by brainstorming the first words or phrases that come to mind when you think of your brand. The more options you give yourself to consider, the better. Consider these questions to help you narrow down your name choices:
- Is it easy to pronounce, or read?
- Is it clear and succinct?
- Does it reflect your purpose, vision, mission, and values?
- Does it evoke the feelings you want your brand to convey?
- Will it make a positive impression on your target consumer?
When narrowing down your name choices, give yourself three to five potential names. Offer folks who are outside of your brand development process the chance to react to your name choices. Branding is all about perception, and testing out potential names and receiving responses will help you gain important insight into your brand’s personality and architecture. Choosing three to five potential brand names will also come in handy when you consider competing brands that already exist. One, or even a few, of your name choices, may already be taken, trademarked, and under copyright.
How do I create a business name?
A common misconception is that a brand is synonymous with a business. Yet they each have different functions and present themselves differently. Think of your business as a well-structured house, and each of the inhabitants is a brand with its own values and mission. A brand contains the personality your consumers will engage with primarily. A business functions on the back-end of the brand, and it’s where the business-to-business relationships reside.
So, how do you go about naming your business? The steps are rather similar to naming your brand. Your business name should still be clear, easy to read and pronounce, succinct, and uniquely specific to what you do. Fortune expresses the importance of this approach: “Right or wrong, the name you choose, or don’t choose, speaks volumes about your business savvy and understanding of the world you are about to enter.” Here are a few tips:
- Aim for clarity. Don’t confuse your reader. You want to pique their interest (“That sounds interesting, tell me more”), as opposed to eliciting further questions for understanding (“So, what exactly does that mean?”).
- Avoid trends. Don’t rush to keep consumers’ attention by tapping into the naming language trends of the time. Business names should be future-proof, and they should be understood no matter what time period they’re in.
- Gesture towards a benefit for solution. Business is, after all, about providing solutions, goods, and services that improve others’ lives. Consider referencing one of the ways your business meets that need in the name itself.
- Make it URL-friendly. A website is paramount to retaining professional inquiries and introducing what you do. Don’t neglect to consider how your business name will read within a website URL, and certainly make sure the domain isn’t already taken.
- Consider your competitors. How does your business compare to others within your industry? Be sure you have a firm understanding of how your business sets itself apart from the competition.
Similar to choosing your brand name, give yourself three to five potential options of business names. Test them out with your peers and colleagues to gain insight into how they perceive them. Likewise, make sure your name isn’t already taken.
How do I create a blog name?
A blog is an excellent way to expand on brand topics, weave a narrative of brand culture, provide insight into your expertise, and even collaborate with other brands. It can also help you introduce your brand to prospective consumers, and at the same time, it can maximize the potential for turning your existing community into brand evangelizers.
Choosing the right blog name is just as important as choosing the right brand and business names. Nowadays, your blog needs to compete on a world stage of domains and content. Users are inundated with media as brands compete for their attention. You don’t have to hem yourself in by using the same title as your brand or business. However, you’ll want to take similar steps when considering an ideal blog name. Here’s what that can look like:
- Keep it simple yet intriguing. To stand out among the blogosphere, aim for something consumers can easily remember but remember fondly. If you created a blog for your vintage clothing shop, naming it “Vintage Clothes Blog” feels dry. If you named it something catchy and whimsical like “Flashback Frocks,” you reflect a specific tone of voice and stand out against competing brands.
- Tailor it to your demographic. Your blog name should organically speak to the audience you’re aiming to reach. Consider what their interests are, and figure out how your blog shows them something new and different.
- Stay on brand. Your blog should still feel like it’s part of the same brand. The tone of voice, language style, and topic should make a seamless connection.
- Consider the search engine. Keywords play a crucial role in increasing your visibility to new consumers. When you use a keyword in your domain name, you increase the likelihood of being found through a Google search. However, you need to ensure your blog lives on a mobile-friendly website, and your website functions smoothly. Read more about that here.
- Choose the right extension. There are multiple website domain extensions available to you. The most common is “.com,” with “.net,” “.info,” “.org,” and “.gov” closely behind it. Your chosen website domain should pair logically with your brand industry. For example, if you have a culinary brand and a recipe blog, using “.gov” would make no sense and would confuse prospective consumers.
Once you’ve moved through these tips, it’s time to start choosing the right blog name. Follow similar steps as you would when creating a name for your brand and business. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your brand follow the blog, or does the blog follow the brand?
- What is the tone of voice you’re aiming to capture?
- What other blogs are you competing with in the industry?
- Does this read clearly in a URL format?
- Is the blog name catchy and memorable?
As with your blog name and business name, narrow down your selections to three to five options, and test them out on your peers and colleagues.
How do I create a product name?
At the end of the day, your brand, business, and blog come down to a crucial element: the product! What you offer by way of solutions, services, and goods is the quintessential element of your entire business. When it comes to naming the product, the same basic rules apply:
- Make it clear and simple.
- Be descriptive yet catchy.
- Stay on brand with your tone of voice and language.
- Speak to your demographic.
That being said, product names still have their own unique needs. Frabrik Brands reports that a common misstep among entrepreneurs is assuming that the product name is the final step of the business, but the product needs to have consideration of the following:
- Brand potential: Your product naming strategy doesn’t exist in a silo. Your product titles should align with your brand image.
- Market appeal: The more you know about your target audience, the better your product names will be. Remember to speak your customer’s language.
- Visibility: Make sure your product is easy to find and search for online.
- Uniqueness: You don’t want your offering to compete with dozens of other items. Make it stand out.
- Scalability: Is your product going to go global or stay local? Is it part of a product line or a stand-alone item?
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you begin the brainstorm and naming process:
- Be succinct and descriptive at the same time. Carefully choose words that may have a double meaning, have similar connotations as your brand, and communicate an accurate description of the product itself.
- Have fun with words. Product names need to be memorable and different without straying too far from the objective. Consider creative adjustments by adding a prefix or suffix, combining two words, making up your own word, or altering the spelling of a well-known word. (Just remember to keep it clear!)
- Harness the power of verbs. If users need to actively use your product, embed the function right into the title. Consider how effective the noun “text” has become for cell phones, or how “Hoover” operates as both a verb and a product name. They naturally become a part of the product users’ lingo.
Remember that your product is the tangible unit of your brand. Finding a name that’s descriptive, clear, and easy to recall is crucial, and it will serve as the lynchpin to your business.
What mistakes should I avoid?
With target consumers virtually at our fingertips and sophisticated data and performance analysis, thoughtful strategy is extremely important. Developing your brand, as with any endeavor, is bound to encounter some hurdles. Here are some common challenges and missteps to avoid:
- Being impatient. Building a brand takes time, strategy, feedback, and constant critique. Don’t make any split-second decisions.
- Being inflexible. Brands depend on perception, and businesses exist to serve needs. Don’t stubbornly cling to a passion project if your consumers aren’t buying it–literally.
- Getting attached to trends. Industries move fast these days, and so do trends. If you’re eager to develop a brand that depends on a product or concept that comes in fast (and is sure to leave quickly), your brand will flame out along with it.
- Making yourself an island. It’s tempting to silo yourself when you’re manifesting your vision, but perception demands feedback. You don’t want to sink countless hours and energy into creating the “perfect” brand without having any peer feedback.
- Not differentiating yourself. Consumers can experience brands in so many ways, from social media to television commercials to print ads. Don’t neglect to embody and communicate that way your brand stands out amongst the rest.
- Not streamlining your focus. When you make an impression on your target consumers, make sure they have a clear understanding of what you offer so that they continue to engage with you.
- Ignoring your consumer base. Branding is certainly a creative process, but its success wholly depends on the satisfaction of your consumers. Stay connected with them, listen to how they respond and engage, offer them a unique experience, analyze your brand’s consumer data, and don’t feed the trolls!
- Thinking too locally. Your brand may cater to the needs of your geographical community, but it will live online to be accessed from around the world.
What tools can I use?
Branding may be everywhere, making the competition pretty stiff, but fortunately there are plenty of tools to help you throughout every step of the process. Here’s a rundown of digital resources.
Naming your brand, business, and product:
Harnessing the power of branding can pave the way to tremendous success. You can create the communities you wish to serve, provide goods and solutions to improve lives, contribute influential and engaging ideas, and even more. But the competition today is extremely tough, and making your mark with your brand requires time, patience, creativity, critique, and above all, strategy. If you’re up to the challenge of building a business in today’s global marketplace, don’t be shy about sinking your teeth into the process and setting yourself up for success.