So you’re starting a new business or needing to refresh an older brand and your first thought is a cute name and a cool logo, right? Not so fast. Developing a new brand establishes a solid foundation from which the entire company, its products, and services rely upon. Start out poorly at the beginning of brand development and you will struggle at every step of the way beyond that point.
The biggest mistake we see many new startups make is what we briefly referenced above. Creating a new brand by starting with a cute name and a quickly developed logo isn’t the way to go. In fact, this is where most new company founders start and this can have negative implications later on at year one and two when you are struggling to get traffic to your website, improve messaging and establish search rank.
All pieces of the branding puzzle work together to create the whole of the brand. Each element must have a purpose and an understanding that combine with intent to the many digital marketing components that will be employed as the brand launches and begins communicating with the world.
So what’s the process for properly developing a new brand?
As a digital marketing agency that handles every aspect of our client’s digital marketing presence, we are often involved with new brands that are just getting started. When we are involved from the beginning of a new startup, or refreshing or recreating an existing brand, the process that we employ is quite extensive and detailed, but one that always delivers results and lays a solid foundation from which the brand can grow and drive results.
Following is part of the general process that we use when we develop a new client brand. Though there are many more details related to the how what and why of the overall process, we are attempting to give you a general understanding of what is involved and how complex the path for brand development actually is.
The first step to developing a new brand often isn’t a cute name given to us by a new client, but instead, it involves deep research. We need to understand the new brand, its team, and the products, services, and industry that they will be competing in. The first step is about knowing what you don’t know and validating what you THINK you know about the new company.
Just a few of the subject matters that need to be researched from the beginning are below. Although depending on the industry, size, and type of company, there may be many additional areas that will also require investigation, however, this will give you a basic understanding of the areas that are covered in this step.
You must truly understand the new company at a deep level. To complete this part of the brand development, you have to ask some very important questions. Here are just a few of the many questions that we might ask during this portion of our research. Mind you, these are only a handful of the hundreds of questions that we would want to understand well about the new company, prior to moving forward to the next step of brand development.’
In order to create a new brand, it is imperative that you have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the industry it will be competing in. This understanding must include the general overall market as a whole, as well as the specific niche or niches that the new brand will be operating in. The industry knowledge must be established at an expert level, not just surface information. Missing this part of the research will be detrimental to the resulting branding that is created later.
Before creating brand names, logos and messaging, it is extremely important to know who your competitors are. Not only do you need to research direct competition, but also what we call pseudo competitors. Those who maybe don’t directly compete with your intended products or services, but indirectly are now or could be a competitor in the future because they have similar products to what you are bringing to market.
You have to know who your target customer is and know the details surrounding them. This includes geographic, psychographic, demographic and persona information that will guide the development of your brand name, messaging and value propositions. If you have not done the investigative work regarding target customers and personas, you will be shooting in the dark on your brand identity. For more on customer personas, read here.
Probably one of the most difficult steps for entrepreneurs is the step that defines who you are as a company, what you actually do and the unique value that you deliver to customers. This step of the process is quite involved and we could likely write an entire book on the topic, so we won’t try to condense the details into thousands of words. What we will say is that this step requires that you write a clear one to two sentence description of your brand and what it delivers to its customers, as well as a 3-5 word tagline that does the same thing. You have to be able to clearly state who you are and what you do, as well as what’s in it for your customer with brevity. If you can do that after the above steps, then and only then are you ready to begin the creative process of brand development.
The creative step is where the compilation of the research you have done has provided you information, details, and answers that define your brand comes together with its visual identity. Now is when the research will clearly and boldly combine with colors and iconography to establish a logo and the accompanying message for your new brand.
So, the story of brand development is a much more complex process for brands of any size who desire to be successful and are therefore willing to invest in the time, resources and expertise on the front end. Building a brand from the ground up on a solid foundation is key to the success of the brand moving forward. Skipping the steps outlined within this article or doing it wrong out of inexperience will ultimately make an already difficult path as a startup even more challenging than it should be.