The process of building a brand is complex but amazing. Abhishek Sareen, a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience, explains branding process steps for entrepreneurs and brand managers.
From a marketing perspective, branding is the phenomenon of attributing recognition to brand by the process of receptiveness or by communicating strong ideas. The earliest form of branding, where the word probably originated, was when shepherds used to distinctly mark their cattle. They did this so as to differentiate their property from others’ so that it doesn’t get mixed up. The mark of distinction gave a unique identity, which led to easy recognition.
In today’s world, people and companies do the same by trying to brand their products distinctly by using a name, color or symbol. Over a period of time, a product becomes recognizable by its brand attributes and value delivered. That’s when we say that a brand has established itself in the minds of people.
Branding Process Steps
As we have already discussed in my previous article about Marketing vs. Sales, the four pillars of marketing are product, price, place and promotion. Creating a product that delivers value to the customer, at a price lower than the benefits it offers thus delivering value, and which is serviced in a place where the customer can be engaged, by promoting it benefits to the desired customer segment. These are called the 4 P’s of marketing.
The process of branding is a not something that can be achieved in short span of time. It requires a lot of effort and convincing, in order gain any space in the minds of people. Although there is no clear cut path to create a brand, here I discuss the possible branding process steps and guidelines that I have learnt through industry experience. These steps can help an organization build a sustainable brand.
Before we move on to the steps, please note that these steps are not sequential, but rather should be worked on in tandem. One should always look and relook at every step to make sure everything works well together.
1. Creating a Great Product
A big myth about branding is that it comes into play after the product is ready. However, the process of branding starts right at the product creation stage. A great product should fulfil an existing need or be able to create a demand. It should fill some market gap. This is one of the most important branding process steps.
To create a product, on needs to have an understanding of their customer, and have a clear objective of what need a product or service will fulfil. This is known as customer insight. This may sound very simple; however simple things are the toughest to identify. A successful entrepreneur is not only able to identify, but also has a high amount of belief in the customer insight philosophy, as this defines the overall strategy of their product.
I have written much about the process of customer insight and creating brand ethos from scratch. You can read about it here: How to do Branding for Startups | 6 Steps to Create a Strong Brand
2. Name Your Brand
The name of your brand should communicate your product or service’s USP (unique selling point), so that the customers are able to identify with it later on. Some brand names also communicate their story, background or ethos.
People trust people, thus you would often find a majority of brands are named after their founders. Even if a brand is does not reflect a person’s name, consumers will associate their founders with it.
3. Note Your Vision
Every good brand has a set of values or ethos, which drive its product, communication and business growth. It is a good idea to keep a note of your brand’s vision, even as early as conception stage. What set of values does your brand stand for and where do you envision it going?
The vision and mission statement are not set in stone. In fact, an entrepreneur should always be able to look at them and revise them as the business strategy becomes clearer. It will keep evolving over time, but the vision document will always act as a guidebook for you and other members of your team.
4. Positioning and Price
The decision of pricing comes from customer insight, and can be a part of your USP too. Ideally, the price of your product or service should deliver value. Your customers should not feel they are overpaying for it. However, pricing can also set your brand’s positioning, as in do you want your brand to be considered affordable, premium or luxury?
The place a product will be sold and promoted will depend on the customer insight. Are your customers more likely to buy your product or service online or offline, on an app or on social media? What country or geographic regions should you target and if you’ll be selling online, what kind of a store presence would go well with your brand vision?
One of the key jobs in branding process steps with respect to promotion is to communicate the background story and values of the brand and company behind it. A brand’s perceptive value is very subjective and can vary from person to person, depending on their experience with it.
Once we engage in the process of branding, a brand identity gradually emerges. A brand is set of values and attributes which gets built in the minds of its users and potential customers when they engage with it, either by using it or by the effect of its promotion and communication.
The process of creating a brand is a long term approach. Companies usually pick up one of the three broad attributes i.e. innovation, cost effectiveness and high quality/ dependability to convey their brand value. Good brands that stick to one of these attributes for their product and promotion, over a long period of time, are usually are able to establish a strong mind space in the minds of people.
So let’s look at the next steps that can help you best communicate your message.
Just like the brand name, a brand’s tagline should communicate its USP. A tagline should not be generic, but be specific to your own brand and its values. It should be a good fit. The perfect test for whether or not you have a good tagline is to think whether it will fit your competitors too. If yes, then it means you haven’t communicated your USP through it.
Creating a logo is one of the branding process steps on every entrepreneur’s list. However, most don’t understand what kind of a logo would be right for them, or even how to select one if a designer gives them options.
A logo is a simple graphic that communicates your brand name and its value. It communicates the story or ethos or your company. A good logo should be easily identifiable among your competitors and should stand out. One should be able to use a logo in different sizes and media, so you may want to consider different size-versions. A logo should also be able to be made very small and still be identifiable, such as for an app icon or website favicon. So it’s best to keep it simple and minimal, without too many colors or patterns.
This brings us to colors. Colors have a great impact on the mood of people, and may evoke certain emotions among your consumers. Every good brand has one main color, such as the blue of Twitter or the red of McDonald’s. However, it’s a good idea to have a color palette of 3 colors. One of these is the main color, another can be a base color, like black or white. And the third can be an accent color, which contrasts well or is complementary to the main color. A color palette is helpful when creating product catalogs, menus, packaging, signage or website.
10. Digital Marketing
In the age of the internet, digital marketing has become one of the most important branding process steps for every brand. Creating a website or app is the first step to create a digital footprint. You can also select which social media to be active on, where you can share your new products, company news and workflow, or interesting content that gels well with your brand philosophy.
Your brand should be googlable, so try to keep building your digital footprint gradually over time. Additionally, you may want your brand to be more popular on a certain social media, depending on your consumer insight. You can do this by collaborating with influencers who can mention you or creating customer engagement through polls, contests, etc.
11. Offline Marketing
In my personal opinion, a brand gets created when a product truly delivers great value and has a distinct identity in the mind of it user or consumer. That’s why this is last but not the least of branding process steps. With an effect so strong in the mind of its consumers, this brand then gets communicated from a user to other people by word of mouth. Unless a brand is able to create considerable impact in the minds of its users, its communication will not be effective.
The traditional ways of offline marketing include radio/TV/print media ads, fliers, product catalogs. It can also mean simply having a brick and mortar presence. However, the idea is to connect with your consumers on a human level. Every company needs to think of creative ways to do so. This could include participating in trade shows, putting up exhibitions or hosting local events.
The promoters of a brand are always communicating about it, even when they think they’re not, such as handing out business cards to new acquaintances. For example, even hiring or creating a good work culture can help promote your brand through word of mouth. You could also give lectures, either in colleges where potential consumers or employees are, or by creating YouTube videos.
In today’s world, it’s very difficult for a brand to stand out. Brands keep searching for a unique idea to communicate. But unless there is something unique or high value delivery in the product itself, no amount or promotion can create a brand. A brand gets established only when it consistently delivers high value (i.e. delivers much more than what you are paying for) to its customers over long period of time.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant and currently works in international business. He has set up businesses like Track & Trail, BrooksBicycles.com and created consumer brands like Montra, Machcity and Roadeo. He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.