Take a moment and list the names of some of the world’s biggest companies to yourself. As you say each one, I’m sure a whole slew of images, ads and logos flash across your mind. This is because these businesses have done a good job of defining their brand. The great brands like the ones you’ve just been listing are easy to recognize. All of them have their own clear, distinct missions and personalities, and these go very far in fostering customer loyalty. Naturally, you may be pretty envious of the awesome power these brands have. This won’t be a problem for long! Here’s the ultimate guide to developing a strong brand and corporate identity for your business.

 

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Although everything in marketing can feel a little vague at times, the path to developing a strong brand identity can be divided fairly cleanly into four essential steps. The first of these is your vision statement. Not to be confused with a mission statement, this part of it is a little more selfish. Your vision statement is where you tell people what you want your business to eventually become. It should be both inspirational and aspirational. The best vision statements ever written are only a sentence long, and don’t mention a word about how the company is going to attain this goal. We’ll get onto that in a moment! When you’re throwing around ideas to draft a vision statement, make sure you’re considering your most important products or services, and the areas of your industry that you’ll never touch. You should also take some time to think about what’s unique about the experience you offer your customers, and how you’d like them to describe your brand. Finally, you need to come back to that old chestnut: where do you want your business to be in five years?

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The next step towards forging a strong brand for yourself is creating a mission statement. This, unlike your vision statement, is going to define the actual purpose of your company. It should be straightforward, articulate, and be completely free of any industry-specific jargon which could confuse prospective customers. It should also be something you can go on to use as a piece of motivational writing for both your employees and your customers. To write a good mission statement, you need to be thinking about the specific needs or issues which your business seeks to deal with, and what it is you do to address these needs and problems. Alex Kleyner, CEO of an esteemed debt consolidation company, certainly knows something about outlining a business’s mission statement, and spinning a company history into an inspirational story. Another important factor which should come into it is the core principles which first inspired your approach to these problems. You also need to think about the things that set you apart from the competition, and why it’s in the interest of your customers to buy from you instead of them. While it’s great if you can make this inspirational, it shouldn’t be as vague or emotional as your vision statement. Your mission statement needs to be a more practical, structured explanation about how you’re going to get from point A to point B.

The next thing you have to work on is your aura or essence. Don’t leave just yet! I know it sounds a little hippyish for a marketing guide, but the intangible “essence” of your business is still a very important part of your overall branding efforts. This is the thing that’s going to reach out and connect with the emotions of your customers, and give them that great, affectionate feeling you get whenever you see the logo of your favorite brand. When you talk about a company with a weak brand, defining their essence can take some time and thought. When the brand’s strong enough though, it can be summed up in a single word. Apple is progressive. Disney is magical. Bentley is prestigious. To define the essence or aura of your brand, you need to really get to the bottom of what your customers feel when they have an experience with your product. If your brand were a person, what kind of person would they be? What would their best qualities be, what kind of crowd would they attract, and how approachable would they seem to you? Shaping the essence of your brand is all a combination of more conventional, measurable marketing tactics. However, it all starts with pinning it down!

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The fourth and final step is your position, sometimes called a value proposition. This is a statement of one or two sentences, which articulates the unique value of your product or service, and explains how this in turn benefits your customers. Though a good value proposition is short, it should define the audience, the niche in which the brand exists, point out the main benefit of your product or service, and do something to set your brand apart from your close competitors.  The overall tone of the statement needs to be professional and informative, as to instill confidence in the readers that your brand can deliver on its promise. When crafting the value statement of your brand, you need to think about your target market, mainly their demographic and persona. You need to consider the promise you want your brand to stand for to these people, both on the rational and emotional side of things. As always, taking steps to set yourself apart from your competitors is an important part of it, which should be reinforced by telling your customers why exactly they should care that your product or service is different to all the alternatives they could choose from.

Once you’ve taken these steps in defining your brand, you’ll be all ready to start some of the more practical work of bringing it to market, and turning your brand identity into some actual marketing. A new website, inbound marketing, paid media, content, and various other marketing materials, will turn your wishy-washy creative brief into hard, measurable numbers. To ensure that your materials turn out as something which will actually bring customers in and convert them, you need to plan each one out with a creative brief.

Every creative brief should start with deliverables. Whether you’re producing a website, video, an infographic or a press release, make sure you start out with a clear idea of what you’re setting out to create. As part of this phase, you should be thinking about what exactly you plan to accomplish with these materials. Have a clear picture of how you’d like your ideal customer to react to the materials, and translate this into something you can actually measure and set a deadline for. Defining your message is another important step in the process for a creative brief, too. This is generally derived from the brand’s value proposition, and should all be centered around a statement which really captures the most compelling benefit your prospects stand to gain from your product. During these drafting processes, it’s a good idea to have a look at your closest competitors’ creative marketing materials, and make 110% sure that your message is distinct from theirs.

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Like countless other business owners, you might find the whole process of branding to be a little convoluted and hard to understand. This is something you’re going to have to work around if you’re going to have any hope of success in your niche market. If doing this seems a little too challenging or daunting, then it may be worth reaching out to a branding agency and paying someone else to take care of the work. Even though it’s just outsourcing, there are still a few important considerations you have to take when bringing your job to a branding agency. Before you pick up the phone or write that first email, you have to have a clear understanding of what you’re actually hiring the agency for. You may have a team of in-house staff, but just need a little support in defining your brand and translating it into solid marketing materials. Your market research may not always be able to pin down the precise information you need. Before they give you a quote for service, a good branding agency will want to know all the details about where you currently are, what you’re trying to achieve and what your current marketing efforts have done. If you need them to take over pretty much everything in your marketing department, it’s going to end up costing a huge amount! In these cases, it’s usually better to train your team and yourself a little more. If, however, you do choose to outsource your branding to an agency, it’s important to make sure that you match the size and influence of the agency to that of your company. This will not only put a certain cap on the price you pay, but will also ensure that the agency gives you their best possible work. They’ll be more accustomed to providing marketing support to companies their own size, rather than anything significantly smaller or larger.