Being authentic is an essential ingredient for a brand’s success. You need to come from a place of truth and stay constantly attuned to your audience. Here’s how to get started with building a brand that’s true to your vision and genuinely serves your customers…
If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. So really, zeroing in on your audience and identifying who they are is an essential part of building your brand. This exercise is known in the trade as ‘doing your personas’, and it will help you establish your brand direction and tone of voice. Here are some pointers:
Creating your customer personas
- You may want to create several personas – three or more – as your product probably appeals to different types of people for different reasons.
- To make each persona as distinctive as possible, go to either end of your market to create contrasting, almost stereotypical characters – but have a common thread that connects them all.
- To bring your personas to life, you may want to give them names.
- To flesh out your personas, examine them one at a time and ask yourself, who is this person? What do they look like? Where do they go? What do they do? Where do they shop? What sort of house do they live in? How old are they? What are they wearing?
- One of your personas might be someone like YOU, especially if your business was inspired by spotting a gap in the market (for something you needed but wasn’t there).
Building your brand’s personality
Now that you have your personas, you need to focus on shaping your brand’s personality. The stronger and more distinct this is, the more it will stand out in the marketplace and be noticed and remembered by your customers. Your brand should naturally reflect your own values and be aligned with the mission and vision that drove you to start your business in the first place.
One of the main ways you’ll express your brand personality is through your tone of voice (TOV). Will your language be formal, chatty, authoritative or empathetic? Will your emails, ads, social media posts and on-pack messaging be serious, humorous, bold or understated?
Once you’ve established your brand’s TOV, your imagery, fonts and whole visual look should flow naturally from there.
Visually bringing your brand to life
Unless you’re a designer yourself, you’ll need to hire a creative team to bring your brand to life – through colours, typefaces, graphics, imagery, layouts, photos and illustrations, etc. – that do justice to your vision.
So how can you make your team see what you see – so they can manifest your brand in all its glory, for the world to see?
First, you need to write a clear brief that’s strong and precise – describing your vision and giving examples (maybe likening it to people, things, celebrities, fashions, styles, etc.).
Create a mood board, capturing all the elements you see making up your brand – images, sounds, music, colours, textures, words.
Take your team through the brief verbally and hear their thoughts – gauge their feelings and initial responses. You’ll soon sense if they’re ‘getting’ your brand and the back-and-forth dialogue will help refine their understanding – so your vision becomes theirs.
Handing over your ‘baby’ in this way can feel scary – and you’ll need to stay true to your vision, while also trusting in your creative team. You need to find the sweet spot between getting the results you envisaged while welcoming your team’s contribution – which may expand on your vision, enhancing and embellishing it.
Embracing change while staying true to you
Bear in mind that where you start may not be where you end – and this is a good thing. Your brand will have a natural evolution as it develops and changes over time. Make room for this growth, so your creative direction allows it to breathe – don’t stifle it. As you grow, stay attuned to your customers as they feed into your brand’s flow and help shape its evolution.
That said, your creative direction will sometimes face opposition from people who think you should be doing things differently. Some ideas may be useful – but if you listened to everyone, your brand would soon be diluted and altered beyond recognition. So you need to stand firm in your conviction, staying true to what you want to do and how you want to do it.
Testing your brand in the marketplace
Social media is a good place to test your brand and see how people respond. It gives you an easy, cost-free opportunity to ‘put out feelers’ and gauge market reaction. Here are some suggestions:
- Give your audiences a sneak peek of what is to come – maybe announce your intentions (in your brand TOV, of course), including your logo, artwork and imagery.
- Repost from other brands and people who are connected to your potential audience and share statements to reveal – or hint at – what you’re aspiring to.
- Keeping in mind your customer personas, tune in and talk to your audiences like real people (because they are!) to engage with them and spark their interest.
This how-to guide was inspired by one of our Zoom Dives with co-founder and head of Girls Who Grind Coffee, Fiona O’Brien.
Zoom Dives are deep-delving discussions between our founder, Carolyn Dailey and hand-picked business experts from the creative world. You can listen to Carolyn and Fiona’s full discussion here.