Branding is just as important to a startup as it is a fortune 500 company.
To be successful, entrepreneurs must recognize the link between successful businesses and strong branding, and aspire to build a brand that emulates similar success for themselves. Additionally, entrepreneurs must understand that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived externally. Branding is a way of authentically defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audiences.
Hilary Folger, CEO of Sparkfire, a branding company that specializes in early-stage businesses, offers three tips to successfully building a strong and powerful brand.
1. Build a strong brand story.
Begin building your brand "positioning" by anchoring it in purpose. It's about crafting a compelling mission and narrative for your company.
What are the unmet needs of our customers? How can we address some of their wishes that our competitors aren't? What are some gaps? What are some bigger societal concerns that we can capture? What is on the minds of our customers?
Folger then suggests asking questions that focus on looking "inside" such as: Who are we? Determine your company's identity and purpose. What are your company's unique capabilities? The intersection between your customer insight and your company's identity is where your brand idea lies. Keep in mind that you can build your brand around several different ideas and test them to see how they fit.
2. Create "framework" elements are present to solidfy your brand positioning.
Put simply, a brand framework serves as a North Star which defines what the brand stands for, and acts as a guide to ensure all touchpoints with the market build on the brand:
Brand essence: Folger says this is the title of your company's story. Why are you doing what you're doing? It doesn't have to be just a tagline. Some companies will talk about their essence as being identical to the what, how, and why of their service. There is no one right way to write your essence.
Brand purpose: This is your company's mission. What does it help customers achieve? Push yourself to create a company purpose that is big and world-changing. Folger uses Starbucks' brand purpose as a great example: "To inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time."
Brand differentiators: These support your brand purpose and are what make your company capable of delivering on your brand promise. It should be 100% unique to your company. For example, the Apple Genius Bar is something that is exclusive to Apple. Southwest has comical and energetic employees that set its brand apart from other airlines. Look for a variety of resources for your brand differentiators; such as the culture, your employees, your extremely low prices, etc.
Brand personality: The "uniquely human way" your company comes to life. When defined, it should include human traits. Affordable is not a human trait. When deciding on your brand personality, ask yourself how your company emotionally connects with your customers.
Once you have built your framework, ask yourself: What are two or three words that capture your company in the best way? What does the customer feel when they think about or experience the brand? What is the big idea that says who you are?
3. Deliver your brand idea through the customer experience.
Your brand experience is not just your product. It's everything about your brand that is out there, from your design and graphics to your social media and advertising, to your employees and customer service. The experiences you deliver really matter to your customers and will be what they remember.
Folger suggests making your customer experiences "branded," not just better than your competitors. Make the experience uniquely you. A few examples are how Starbucks writes your name on their cups or the beautiful blue gift boxes at Tiffany & Co.
This article originally appeared on the Project Entrepreneur website and has been condensed for clarity.