For a business to consumer (B2C) brand, brand development is a deceptively complex process.
Ad textbook writers, branding agencies, and marketers have been hashing out how to build distinctive brands from the ground up for decades so we won’t burden you with an exhaustive step-by-step guide for how to develop a brand or how to build brand guidelines.
Instead, we’ll be sharing foundational questions that can help you center yourself as you begin to build – or rebuild – your consumer-facing brand strategy, as well as a few core inventory items that can help you jump-start the brand development process.
Get Started by Downloading the Brand Development Infographic
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Key Questions to Ask Before You Begin
We can’t overstate the importance of aligning on a few key questions before developing a brand:
- What are you selling?
- Who are you selling to?
- What are your differentiators?
It’s okay to not have all the answers (or agree on them internally) when you bring in an agency partner, since having an outside perspective with expertise can help you arrive at a better understanding of where to start.
This may seem like an obvious set of questions, but they’re deceptively complicated—especially when it comes to B2C advertising.
Selling a product or service isn’t just about the item itself.
It’s the lifestyle or feeling that comes along with it, how it interacts with the culture at large, and where it stands in relationship to the rest of the market. That means doing branding right starts with a holistic view of your offering and its associated intangibles, its potential customers, and what would cause your potential customers to react favorably.
Incorporating the wrong differentiators into branding is probably the biggest potential pitfall we see brands falling into, because what you isolate internally may be good for a sales pitch or for messaging but might not work well conceptually or emotionally.
To illustrate, let’s explore an oversimplified example.
Say you have a luxury product to sell that’s the same quality – but a lower price – than an established competitor. Lower price may be a differentiator that you creatively feature in messaging, but trying to build your brand identity around low price will detract from the luxury aspect, thus cheapening the brand. A creative agency with branding expertise should be able to help you isolate differentiators that hone your branding instead of diluting it.
Your Brand Development Inventory
After you’re comfortable with your answers to the key questions above, you can dig into building your brand from the ground up with these must-have basics:
Step one in brand development, regardless of whether you’re building a corporate brand, a product brand, or a service brand, is landing on a name.
Make sure to do a trademark search through the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) and do a thorough web search of potential names as well. If your name is already taken legally, associated with something else on the web, or used in other countries as a brand name, it may be best to move on.
Even a quick Urban Dictionary search wouldn’t be amiss to ensure you’re not evoking a potentially offensive or suggestive slang term. In case your desired name is a no-go, brand development experts can help you devise alternate options.
Once you have a name, it’s time to develop a logo.
We’ve seen brands pick a logo before a name (typically when they feel strongly about a certain shape or visual) but the reverse is typically true. Plus, it’s always good to ensure your chosen name works well either within or adjacent to the logo.
If you partner with a branding agency, creative professionals who specialize in brand development will give you a range of logo options to choose from and can show them in ad mockups to help you understand their proportions. This step either feeds into or occurs simultaneously with the next item: selecting a brand color palette and developing a brand image.
A logo can be monochromatic or colored, but whatever you decide on will set the stage for your brand’s color palette as a whole—which provides a foundation for your brand’s image.
Your chosen palette should carry through your brand materials, website, and even environmental design and product packaging (if applicable). It should also coordinate nicely with any photography and illustrations you use, and font style and color should all feel cohesive.
Imagery should be representative and inclusive of your desired audience without being too hyper-focused or homogenous.
Be careful here, though—you don’t want inclusivity to feel like tokenism. This is where having a branding agency partner is crucial, since creative professionals will have the experience and insight necessary to develop a brand that works conceptually, visually, and culturally.
In the old school brand development world, the tagline would be a north star for your brand’s language.
Today taglines aren’t the mandatory brand item that they used to be, but just because you’re not using one doesn’t mean you can neglect to establish language and tone for consistency within your brand. Brands aren’t just visual—they’re cultural. They need to have a consistent vocabulary that registers with the culture at large.
A brand development agency can help you create examples of working brand language (a brand statement, a mantra, a manifesto, etc.) that encapsulate your tone and isolate any key words or phrases that you want to carry through in your messaging. Mocking up ads in your medium of choice can be a good way to see how your language choices play out with visuals.
That’s it! Once you have these elements in place, your advertising, websites, environmental design, and product packaging will benefit from the consistency and impact of a well-defined brand. If you’re ready to start the brand development process and need help from an experienced agency to get started the right way, give us a call.
Want to get a head start? Download our 60-second brand development infographic.