Part 1: Creating a Brand
Thanks to the advances of the digital age, becoming a global brand is no longer the domain of big, multinational corporations with formidable starting capital. Today, with the help of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular social media platforms, and a bit of search engine optimization (SEO) know-how, even small brands can quickly go from obscurity to international fame. On the other hand, popularity created and based solely on social media buzz can be a two-edged sword. The attention span of Internet users is short, and Web 2.0 fads fade quickly. So, if you’re trying to create a brand with lasting appeal and an allure that will endure decades rather than months or years, you need to look up to companies that have managed to achieve this extraordinary feat.
There are many strategies that can help small and developing businesses gain notice and thrive in the market. Effective branding is certainly one of the most important things a company can do to increase its chances for a long-term success. That’s why we decided to dedicate a two-part article exclusively to the subject of brands. We will share our own insights as well as stories of small companies that have managed to successfully create a strong brand for themselves. We’ll begin by investigating why branding is so important and analyze what strategies can help entrepreneurs to create a brand from scratch. In the next segment, we’ll provide some practical suggestions on developing brand awareness.
The Anatomy of a Brand
If you want to create a company with a lasting appeal - no matter the size of your business - remember that your brand must be something bigger and more meaningful than any one product or service you’re going to offer. Take Red Bull, for example. Even though the company sells a single product - an energy drink - there are few other businesses associated with such a diverse range of activities and values. Through a mixture of sponsorship and patronage, Red Bull has become widely associated with the most daring athletic feats ever performed. Adventurousness and audacity lie at the core of the brand’s identity even though it sells almost exclusively canned soft drinks. The lesson? Regardless of the type of a product you sell or a service you offer, you have a full control over what your brand will stand for.
While each company may take a different approach to discovering and creating its identity, all brands share some important common building blocks such as a story, the central idea, values, vision and personality.
The story of how your company came into existence can be an important marketing tool (more about that later on) that will allow you to gain or reinforce your customers’ trust. The more relatable or inspiring the story, the better. Dropbox was conceived because its founder would frequently forget to carry a USB to his college. Tesla’s co-founder Elon Musk would often start conversations at college parties asking: “Do you think about electric cars?” Yvon Chouinard named his clothing company “Patagonia” to commemorate a climbing trip to Argentina. Every company’s story is unique so don’t underestimate the branding power of the story behind your business.
Chumbak is an Indian clothing and lifestyle brand with a moderate presence in the brick and mortar stores in that country, a bustling Internet store, and a very wide, diverse offer of products spanning more than 100 categories - from apparel and home, to accessories. Yet, when the company started in 2010, it was driven by a single, simple idea encapsulated in the following sentence: “Let’s give the world something cool to take back from their travels to India.” The lesson to be learned here is that you should think of your brand in terms of an idea or an innovation rather than simply a product. For example:
- What is your big idea?
- What makes your product different?
- Why is it something that consumers will want or need?
Answering these questions will help you find and develop your brand’s identity.
What are the consumer trends in Canada? Some current research showed that newly arrived immigrants were driving behavior, consumers were increasingly shopping online, and there is an expected continued slow growth in spending.
Part of values is creating a brand that meets current consumer demands, desires and trends, and continuing to stay on top of the data and adapt to your business to meet consumer needs. A great example of this is the following; where a business targeting millennials understood that ethics, charity, community and global awareness are an important values of their intended customer base. They took that information and made it an integral part of their business. Here’s how.
Nappa Dori is a small Indian company that produces bags and accessories made of leather. In the “About Us” section of the company’s website, potential customers can read: “At Nappa Dori we contribute a portion of our profits to charity as we believe it’s essential to give back to the community.” The company brand was presented as socially conscious and had a much greater chance of capturing the minds and hearts of the millennials they targeted.
Your brand’s story focuses on the past. The central idea is what you’re constantly trying to implement and improve in the present moment. Your company’s vision, however, defines where you want your brand to be in 5 years from now. A brand’s vision determines what a business should contribute to the market in the long run. While a company without it may function, only businesses with a vision of future growth clearly defined will manage to thrive and prosper.
Generator is Europe’s fastest growing hostel brand. Take a minute and go to this brand’s website. Does it look as you expected it would? If you have any kind of hostel experience, it’s likely that you have been positively surprised by the design of the website, the tone of its content, and the visuals presented. Generator is trying to market itself as an accommodation option offering the luxury of a hotel along with the social experience of a backpacker’s hostel. In essence, it’s like the community tables at a chic, farm-to-table restaurant. You’re investing in both a fine-dining meal and a social experience.
This unusual combination is the crucial aspect of the brand’s personality. It makes it standout from both overpriced hotels and cheaper yet less luxurious accommodation options. This is also a leitmotif that governs the company’s marketing strategy. That’s why, for example, the website’s design uses almost exclusively black and white - a palette typically associated with elegance and luxury - yet the photographs present people in their 20s socializing in a hostel’s lobby. Depending on the market your business will operate in, your values as well as the products or services you offer, you may use similar techniques to give your brand its own, unique personality.
Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we’ll explain what brand awareness is, why you should care about it, and how to create it…