How to Build a Successful Brand: Complete Step-by-Step Guide
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- Olivia Grande
- April 17, 2023
Building a powerful brand is a complex process. There are many elements involved and all of them must be properly coordinated. The success in building a brand is not the result of a moment of inspiration, although of course this is necessary, but of constant work with a global vision and capacity for coordinated action. It is a long-distance race that requires focus, rigour, perseverance, leadership and determination, all of which are demanding qualities.
From a methodological point of view, to build a brand that adds value, it is necessary to work in 4 large areas, which are: strategy, identity, activation and brand management . Although in a global process work is carried out sequentially in each of these areas, it is often necessary to intervene promptly in one of them if it is necessary to update or modify any aspect.
In this guide you will find the basic concepts, the characteristics of the process and the tools that it is necessary to deploy to be successful in building a brand .
If you were given a choice between owning the Coca-Cola brand or its factories, what would you choose? I think most of us would choose the brand , despite the huge infrastructure that the company has.
And it is that powerful brands have enormous value, because they are capable of:
- Grow faster and faster than your competitors
- Sell at higher prices, achieving higher profitability
- Capture and retain your customers and employees with less effort
- Expand into new territories and categories with a higher probability of success
- Generate a patrimonial value that sometimes can suppose a very important part of the value of the company
But as we say, building a successful brand is not easy. Proof of this is that few companies really manage to make their brands important to people, as some studies show. However, companies with strong brands compete better and are more profitable than their competitors and generally have the ability to last over time.
“POWERFUL BRANDS HAVE HUGE VALUE”
What is a brand and what are the keys to building a brand that adds value and lasts over time?
When talking about brands, terms are often confused and it refers to its graphic or formal aspects (its name, logo, symbol, etc.) although obviously a brand is much more than that.
At Summa we understand by brand the set of meanings that are attributed to an offer and that generates a predisposition towards it .
- From an internal perspective , the brand is the expression of a company’s purpose and commitment to its stakeholders.
- From an external perspective , the brand is everything that people think, feel and share about a company, a product…
- From the perspective of management , the brand is a tool that generates links with people and creates value for the company and for society.
Nowadays we are more informed and we are more demanding. We not only want them to offer us good products and services at a reasonable price, but also to provide us with meaningful and memorable experiences, and as we will see, that greatly raises the level of professionalism necessary to build a successful brand.
Branding, is it the same as the brand?
Branding is the discipline that deals with the process of construction , growth, expansion and consolidation of a brand. And it contemplates the entire set of actions that are necessary both to create a brand and to generate value associated with it, developing its full potential and ensuring that it is maintained over time.
A brand is the expression of the corporate strategy in terms of value and meaning for its stakeholders (customers, employees, partners, administrations, investors, etc.). For this reason, all company departments must be involved in brand management , not just marketing.
What is the return on investment in brand
When a branding strategy (in its entirety) is well conceived and executed over time, the brand generates empathy, predisposition, preference and loyalty. Which obviously translates into extraordinary economic results.
Powerful brands exert great influence on people’s perceptions and feelings and have the power to determine their behaviors. For this reason, a strong brand allows and favors a faster, solid and sustainable growth and a higher economic return than its competitors.
These brands also better resist crises (such as that of 2008 or pandemics such as Covid-19 ) and can even emerge stronger from them.
“POWERFUL BRANDS EXERCISE GREAT INFLUENCE ON PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS AND FEELINGS”
When a brand is well built , its users perceive it as the only solution that meets their desires and expectations .
How do powerful brands add value?
- They generate greater predisposition and preference towards your products or services.
- They have higher margins , by being able to apply higher prices.
- They are more easily extended to new categories of products or services, targets or markets, which favors their expansion and growth.
- They better resist the attacks and offers of the competition and are more resilient.
- They infect the pride of belonging, and for this reason they have an easier time attracting and retaining talent and greater productivity .
- They more easily attract investors and partners
- They have a very important patrimonial value
The strategy is the basis on which the entire process of building a brand is supported. They are the foundations of the building and without a well-defined strategy, nothing we do afterwards will be successful.
Brand strategy is the roadmap for building a valuable brand.
Having a well-defined and developed brand strategy provides focus and direction, provides its own discourse and is a guide for the future, marking the path to follow in the medium and long term.
A strong brand:
Brand strategy is not a communication “problem” but a business one. In fact, to be successful in building a brand, it is necessary that the brand strategy and the business always go hand in hand . Because brand strategy sets the framework and inspiration for everything a company does, including of course communication.
“THE BRAND STRATEGY IS THE BASE ON WHICH THE ENTIRE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS IS SUPPORTED”
Among the aspects that a good brand strategy must meet , we highlight:
- Make the product or service unique by connecting with the desires and needs of your customers
- To be the basis for inspiring the messages and actions of the company, both internally and externally
- To be a catalyst for the transformation of the organization and the transmission belt between the corporate strategy and the marketing strategy of the company
- Allow the company to survive in a changing and complex environment like the one we live in
How to define the brand strategy
Normally when you ask an executive if their company has a defined brand strategy, they almost always answer yes. But if you ask him what it is, it may take him a little longer to answer and often at most he lists a series of values that supposedly define them. But a brand strategy does not (only) consist of defining values, which are often more desiderative than real and interchangeable between companies.
Defining a brand strategy consists of formulating a value proposition that must derive from the vision and business strategy, be based on the identity, skills, abilities and culture of the company and refer to the experience that the company can offer its customers. and the social value it brings to the community.
Therefore, in its definition, both the internal and external vision of the brand must be taken into account. A successful brand strategy is therefore located at the intersection between both fields, when in addition to responding to the reality of the company, it distinguishes it from its competitors and is relevant to its customers.
Therefore, to develop the brand strategy it is necessary to:
- Define their own and distinctive point of view about the product, market and the context in which they operate
- Reflect on the company’s DNA and how it reflects the skills and characteristics that make it unique and different from the rest
- And, finally, to synthesize these tangible and intangible elements into a purpose and a value proposition that makes our brand unique, relevant to our customers, legitimate (that the company can make tangible with reasons to believe) and that can be sustained . in the time.
All these reflections must be synthesized in a model known as the strategic brand platform , which must consider at least these aspects:
- The purpose : the essential value in which you believe and your reason for existing
- The value proposition : what makes the brand different and relevant over time
- The personality , tone and style of how you speak and behave
- The pillars : they are the tangible elements on which the brand relies to legitimize its idea
- Brand territories : the space where the brand exemplifies and makes its value proposition tangible in the mind of the client or consumer
For this, it will be necessary to go through a process that includes analysis of the current situation, workshops , validations… The result will be a roadmap that indicates short, medium and long-term plans from a global, multidepartmental and multistakeholder perspective .
In this video, we tell you how we at Summa understand the process of defining a brand’s strategy
The identity of a brand is the set of features that characterize and distinguish a brand. Actually, identity, in its conceptual dimension, includes the aspects defined in the strategy, but in general when talking about brand identity, it is usual to refer to the elements that allow it to be identified and differentiated. That is, to its expressive dimension, both at the level of visual and verbal language.
From this perspective, identity includes all the verbal and sensory resources that allow us to give presence and expression to a brand. Brand identity is the filter through which we experience what a brand is and what it offers us.
“BRAND IDENTITY IS THE SET OF FEATURES THAT DISTINGUISH AND CHARACTERIZE IT”
The elements that make up the identity of a brand are the name, the basic identification signs (symbol and/or logo) and visual verbal style – although aspects of sound and olfactory identity must also be taken into account, which in some cases are very relevant-
Defining this set of resources in detail and doing it in accordance with what is embodied in the strategic platform is key, because without clear criteria that inspire the expression of a brand there can be no coherence in expressions, so recognition by the public it will be more complicated and cost more money and time to obtain.
A well-developed brand identity should:
Verbal style is worth talking about , as it is an aspect of identity that is often not given enough attention. In these cases, the tone or verbal expression is at the expense of each campaign or the agency that carries it out, when it must have a much greater projection. Brands must have a verbal and writing style that defines how the brand speaks, writes and communicates.
Also consider the words, expressions or phrases, tenses or grammatical structures that will help characterize and distinguish the brand.
To express itself in a coherent way when activated through any of its dimensions, reflecting its personality and role as a brand.
Having a well-defined verbal style allows:
- Be very clear about the brand’s tone of voice and in which fields it should act, in which not, and in what way
- Determine patterns of verbal behavior, transversally for all its spokespersons
- Being able to hierarchize and order in a certain way the different pieces on which it acts
- Be functional and “manualizable”, thus allowing it to be implemented consistently over time
- Help audiences empathize with the brand and therefore develop a positive predisposition to interact with it and purchase its products or services
Among the elements that make up the verbal identity of a brand are:
Based on the personality traits defined in the brand platform, the way of speaking, territories of action and the main verbal communication codes of a brand must be established for each of its areas of action and targets . We are talking about defining the tone of voice by audiences and channels, the verbal expression of the brand personality .
As is logical, it must help to differentiate itself from its competition, to build positioning and to strengthen the connection with its audiences.
Naming is the process of creating a brand name. Let’s not forget that the name is the element with the longest time horizon of a brand and that on many occasions it is the first point of contact with the public.
A good name can go a long way in building the desired brand image, while a bad name will force you to spend more time and money on communication and marketing to achieve it and can even represent a real problem for future growth, whether it is a large multinational or a startup .
As an essential manifestation of the brand, and beyond choosing one ‘that we like’ , the name must respond to a process that makes it possible to objectify the choice as much as possible, even knowing that it is something that is subjective by nature. For this, there are some key criteria and a rigorous process in which going hand in hand or being advised by experts is key.
Naming is much more than a creative process . It is as important as the generation techniques to apply a strategic vision to decide what type of name we need and what suits us, to evaluate the linguistic and cultural connotations that a name may have in other countries and languages, to have specialized methods to assess the possible options (tests), and the legal processes that guarantee its viability at an international level, among others. In addition, of course, to guarantee that the name is appropriate with respect to the tone of voice or the architecture of the brand .
The definition of a visual identity consists of planning and developing a graphic system and visual resources that allow a characteristic and recognizable style to be given to all the expressions with which a brand is manifested.
The visual identity should inspire the creation of all types of communication materials, harmonizing its style and creating a perception as a whole, but at the same time allowing it to adapt to different situations, audiences, etc., whether it is corporate brands or product brands . In the former, the expression of identity encompasses contact points such as the corporate website, offices and points of sale, corporate communication, internal communication, vehicle fleets when they exist, etc. In product brands, and especially in those of great consumption, packaging , the supermarket shelf and advertising communication are their main means of expression, without forgetting the social and digital media of course.
In all cases, the visual identity must:
- Evoke and transmit the brand personality
- Make all the pieces, services or products recognizable and aligned through certain codes and sufficiently clear elements: both graphically and images, colors, frames, attitudes, etc.
- Hierarchize and order in a certain way the different pieces or assets
- Be functional, systematizable and have continuity over time
The visual identity is made up of the following elements:
Together with the naming , it is one of the most recognizable distinctive signs of a brand’s identity . Its creation must contemplate its different elements, such as corporate typography, color or the possible symbol or icon. And it is important to know which ones we should use in each case and in what way.
As with naming , beyond “I like it or I don’t like it” (something subjective), a logo must respond to the brand’s strategy and be consistent with the rest of the identity elements as a whole. For this reason, before ‘designing’ it, it is necessary to define what type of logo suits us, what it should express or where it is going to be used, among other things.
A good creative approach should answer questions such as: what is the tone and focus that the corporate identity should have, according to the brand concept? What are the functional requirements for application on supports? Do we need a typographic logo ( wordmark ) or should it have a symbol? Are there elements of the current identity (when applicable) that can or should remain? The solution must be carried out in such a way that:
- Enhance brand values and concept
- Strengthen your recognition and differentiation in the market
- Define future application criteria
- Harmonize coexistence with other company identities (if any)
Sometimes symbols have become so recognizable that they can stand alone or even replace the logo, although a lot of exposure and communication skills are required to achieve this. Few brands have symbols that are universally recognized without having to see the logo (text).
The choice of a brand color or colors is also a decision that must be reasoned. For example, based on these strategic questions, a brand can appropriate a color or play with the palette . There is also the option of adapting to the predominant colors in the sector or, as long as it is consistent with the personality of the brand, deciding to be groundbreaking.
There are sectors where color is the most important differentiating element, however not in all sectors it is a differentiating element itself.
Since many brands share color, it must be taken into account that as important as choosing a color and a tone is the way to use it and its combination with other elements such as typography or images.
The perception of the same color can be very different depending on the size of the surface on which it is applied, as well as the materials on which it appears.
Typography is another of the fundamental elements of a brand ‘s visual identity. It is necessary to ensure that the choice is appropriate and contributes to expressing the personality of the brand. And of course, that it has an optimal application in the supports in which it should be used.
Each type and style of letter connotes a style and a type of associations, partly by itself but also by conventional or cultural factors that may vary slightly with current trends.
In general, a serif typeface is associated with classicism, sophistication, and traditionalism, and a sans serif typeface is associated with simplicity, modernity, and closeness. But this should not be understood as a strict or immovable rule.
For some time now, it is increasingly common to design ad hoc fonts for a company , but not only for the logo but as a font for the entire company. At Summa we have been doing it for our clients for a long time, according to each case.
The definition of a visual style consists of systematizing certain graphic solutions, image treatment, light, framing and other visual resources to achieve identity and recognition.
Even leaving some freedom of resources, brands must have a style of photography or illustration. The same with pictograms and icons (if they are line, filled, gestural, with identity elements…). also where they will be applied, if on the web, in the signage, in the signage, etc.
Example of iconography of the Correos project:
On the other hand, it is also necessary to take into account the movement, or what is the same, define the behavior patterns of the elements of brand identity in audiovisual supports . More and more supports allow movement, so it must be defined within the brand identity so as not to have to improvise solutions without a global vision.
In addition to verbal and visual identity, some brands choose or need other identity resources such as hearing or smell. You probably recognize the smell of a clothing brand store or a bank office. Or the sound of a computing device or a motorcycle engine.
The sound identity or audiobranding identifies the brand in supports that include audio, from the web or videos, to simply waiting for a phone call or a characteristic sound of the product . It can be a hymn, a human voice, a tune, a sound or a bank of sound effects. Logically it will be more important the more the sense of hearing intervenes in their expressions and interactions.
On the other hand, the olfactory identity can be key for some brands and a decisive factor in the memory or loyalty of a customer with respect to the brand.
When should we update any aspect of our brand?
In the first place, it is necessary to insist that when conceiving and creating a brand, as well as all its hallmarks, it must be considered with a timeless and lasting perspective. But this does not mean that over time it is not necessary to adjust or update all or part of the elements that identify a brand, since there are a number of factors that make it necessary for the brand to go through a redesign. These factors can be:
- Strategic: when the company undergoes a total change in its strategy, the brand must undergo a redesign
- Market or technological: some changes at the legislative level or great technological advances will require our brands to be adapted or updated through a redesign
- Aesthetics: the brand must be updated from time to time so as not to be outdated. Therefore, you must be aware of changes and new trends that may appear in the market.
- Changes in the competition: similar to the aesthetic one, but this time only focused on the changes that affect the market. You must monitor and be aware of what is happening in the sector and if we have become obsolete with respect to our competition
Rebranding or Restyling
Although these terms are often used as synonyms, when deciding to make a change in the brand, the needs must be very clear and therefore the degree of evolution that is appropriate and necessary.
A restyling has to do with the modification, normally slight, of some aspects of the brand’s visual identity, so it is a lesser change than a rebranding.
«RESTYLING HAS TO DO WITH THE MODIFICATION OF THE LOGO. REBRANDING BRINGS A MUCH BIGGER AND COMPLEX CHANGE»
Before embarking on a rebranding , as we said, there must be clear reasons for carrying out the change or evolution:
- That time has left the brand identity outdated
- An important change or evolution in the activity of the company
- That in the product or the sector they have given great changes
- When our company strategy changes
- Or if a simplification is needed in the symbol and identity of the brand
Once we have the answers to these aspects, we must define the scope and depth that we want to address with our rebranding. And the reason. It is not the same that the motivation for a redesign is the loss of market share than a reputation problem, for example.
It is also different if it is a B2B or B2C business . In B2B, deeper changes can usually be made, as change communication and management can be more controlled and less costly.
On the other hand, in B2C, calmer changes are usually advisable, implemented in several phases and supported by communication campaigns. In the event that we must change the naming, logically we must have investment in communication, the more the more consumption and momentum the brand is.
Finally, the planning and timing of an identity change are also important. Excessively delaying the process can mean a loss of competitiveness, but we should not make changes without any reason that advises it or before time. For this reason, planning the entire rebranding strategy is essential for the success of a process of this type.
The phase of definition of the strategy and the identity of a brand are key, since they are elements of high temporary projection. Its successful and rigorous creation is undoubtedly one of the keys to building a successful brand. But it is of little use to define a strategy and create an ideal identity if they are not executed or applied correctly later on. In fact, most companies fail more in execution than in definition. As the Harvard Business Review points out : more than 66% of brand strategies are not executed correctly or are not implemented.
The strategic concept and identity provide the necessary inspiration to focus and give meaning and coherence to everything a company does and says, and not only at the level of communication or marketing. As we have said many times, it is the normal activity of a company, in its day to day, the main channel for building a brand. If day-to-day actions are not inspired by the brand (in its purpose, value proposition, personality) we will have a significant gap between what we say and what we do. And hardly we will generate a significant and memorable experience .
According to The Brand Experience Index study , a good brand experience increases consumer preference by up to 13% – “this brand will be my first choice in the future” – and loyalty by 9%.
Another report, the Brand Experience Report 2017, ensures that 76% of consumers who favor a brand describe it through their lived experience. However, this same study ensures that although 80% of leading brands affirm that the experience they generate is superior , only 8% of consumers support it. How do we overcome this gap?
There are four keys to a correct staging of the brand strategy:
What is brand activation?
Brand activation contemplates the initiatives, plans and actions that may be necessary to build the image and brand experience that we want, according to the strategy that we have determined. Any company has, by the mere fact of carrying out an activity, five dimensions through which it can express what it believes in and what characterizes it as a brand: it is about its products and services, the processes and people, the communication of all kinds, the physical environments in which it carries out its activities and the digital environments.
On the other hand, the activation of these dimensions consists of four stages:
1.- Identification of contact points
Based on the conclusions drawn in the strategic phase and according to the defined communication territories, an analysis and identification of all the touchpoints or contact opportunities that we may have with our stakeholders and for each of the dimensions is carried out. branded. Also establishing an order of importance and priority in the weight or incidence that each one of them can have in the construction of the brand experience.
Although all the contact points are key and must be activated in a coordinated manner, for each company there are some that may be more important or even more complicated to activate than others. In a service business, people are the key dimension, while in a consumer product it will be the product itself, the packaging and the communication. In a store, logically it will be the physical environment of the point of sale, although personal attention is also key. And for a brand that operates in the digital environment , this will be the priority dimension to work on, although the others must also be taken care of and activated as a brand.
2.- Construction of the customer journey
Once the different touchpoints or contact points have been analysed, it will be time to identify and capture the journey that our audiences take in interacting with them. A journey that begins long before the sale and continues after it. And that it is not necessarily linear, but that it goes back and forth and changes the channel constantly. This is what we call customer journey. For the construction of this ‘journey’, we can rely on:
- Information obtained in interviews
- User feedback
- Communications to recent users asking for their collaboration to improve the experience
- Surveys where the importance and satisfaction with each point of contact is valued
- Data analytics (cross data from the different sources of information that we have)