How can new businesses build a brand that lasts?

It’s an exciting time for start-up businesses. During the past 18 months, many – through choice or lack thereof – have grabbed at the opportunity of launching their own business. With so many new businesses emerging, consideration for a strong, meaningful, and lasting brand is crucial.

It’s easy to jump straight in to the nitty gritty of operations without giving brand or brand identity much more than an afterthought. It’s understandable – the world of brand and branding can be confusing. But what if it didn’t have to be? What if building your brand was a crucial factor in the success of your business?

What is brand?

When we talk about brand, we are talking about the image and reputation of a business or product. It’s what people think of and expect from you.

So, careful consideration should be given to brand identity – how a business portrays itself. This will go a long way to determining how people feel about a brand.

Why all the fuss?

Well, let’s not overcomplicate this – brand can be the deciding factor between a customer, or next employee, choosing your business or product, over another.

People will buy based on brand and a strong brand opens opportunity for price differentiation and business growth. A world without brand is one where all businesses compete on price and price alone – and that world is a race to the bottom.

Those thoughts and expectations we mentioned earlier all contribute to the buying decision. What are the questions racing through the mind of a potential customer – Is this brand relevant to me? Can I trust this brand? Does it meet my expectations? Does it share similar values to me? Is it a good way for me to spend my hard-earned money?

If your brand can answer yes to these questions, you’ve just acquired a new customer, or successfully retained an existing one.

Inside a business, a strong brand can give employees a sense of pride and guidance on how to behave and perform. It can ensure that customer interactions are consistent and at all levels it can inform decisions, processes and strategy.

Why should you think about your brand now?

It is a misconception that businesses don’t need to seriously think about brand until they have grown and become bigger businesses. In fact, there is no better time to invest in your brand. At start-up stage a sense of direction, a purpose, and a point of difference against your competitors is vital. A strong brand can deliver on all of those points.

What makes a strong brand?

A strong brand is well-positioned, lasting and cohesive.

A well-positioned brand knows where it fits in the market, what it offers that competitors in the space can’t, and what its audience values most.

From here, a brand can stand out and connect with its audience. Knowing what the customer values most means a brand knows what expectations it must meet and can therefore present itself in a way that feels relevant. From the logo, typefaces, and colours through to the words and images it uses to tell its story and what it stands for – it is all designed to connect with its audience.

Apple first launched targeting creatives. The brand and products were all designed to be more visually attractive than the competition. Products were given simple names to connect with the creative’s desire for simplicity. Apple knew their audience, knew their market opportunity, and designed a brand to position themselves effectively.

The key to a lasting brand is determining a set of values and being true to those day-to-day. At the heart of any strong brand is a set of beliefs – beliefs about the difference it wants to make and what it is believes most important to achieving it. Often aligned to customer values, a brand that meets or exceeds the expectations of its customers each and every time will gain loyalty and stand a greater chance of standing the test of time.

As the world changes, brands need to adapt, but the values at the heart of a brand should fundamentally remain. They are a key part of the story and of the connection between brand and customer.

Finally, a strong brand should be cohesive. Cohesion comes with a degree of flexibility, which is vital for a brand to stand the test of time. Especially in the turbulent and quickly changing world of today. New technologies, new generations and global-scale events require today’s brands to be able to shift and adapt to a changing world in order to survive.  

A cohesive brand maintains core elements that feel familiar across a multitude of different interactions – from an in-store experience to online advertising, to live chats via social media platforms. If a brand were to look and feel completely different across each interaction it would create confusion and doubt in the mind of the customer, potentially harming the reputation of that brand. 

Where do you start?

When we first start working with a business and their brand, we start by asking two simple questions: What should people remember us for? Who do we need to be noticed by?

In order to answer these questions, we need to ask further questions. Knowing the answers will help form the building blocks of a strong and lasting brand. A brand that gives you the advantage when it comes to attracting new and retaining existing customers and talent.

If you don’t know where to start with your brand, try answering the following questions. Ask your colleagues to do the same and identify where you differ and where you align.

  • What are our values, what do we stand for?
  • Who are our customers?
  • What do our customers value most?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What makes us different to our competitors?
  • What difference do we want to make?