A lot of people really don’t understand exactly what branding entails. Some think it’s all about logo placement on office stationery and apparel. Others think it is just the logo and your choice of colors. It is much more than that.

If we go back in time, the term branding came from the traditional process of animal identification. An iron rod with a specific symbol fashioned on one end would be heated and emblazoned onto animals’ hides. At times the ears of cattle, pigs or sheep would be tagged or notched. It was a clear form of identification of farmers’ livestock.

Fast-forward to the 20th century with markets flooded with products, some almost identical. How do they differentiate themselves from the others? Beyond distinct product packaging, it is essential to create a clear unique identifier. That is what branding is about. Making your product or service as unique as a fingerprint.
To put it simply, in branding you need to ask yourself this:
1. What solution am I offering with my product or service?
2. Which demographic group would benefit directly from this product or service?
3. Why should this demographic group care?
These, three questions help guide your reason for existence as a company. But in order for your company to become a brand, you need to go an extra mile.

Your brand is a guarantee of a certain experience. What your logo and packaging looks like is also what your customer should be willing to experience when they consume your product or service. And also what they intend to expect when they interact with your staff. If your service guarantees fun, your customer expectations are set on having fun. They hope to encounter fun every time they interact with your staff, your services and even when they see your communication offline or online. That is what solidifies your brand.

Brand Foundation
But it all begins with a solid foundation. And that comes from your brand guideline. The brand guideline defines your logo, your brand colors, your typography and its application on your social media pages, business cards, website, banners, billboards, staff uniforms, office interiors etc. Your brand guideline also determines what your brand will sound like, is it male or female, young, elderly etc. In essence, your brand foundation personifies the brand. People now understand how to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world as your brand. Brand building is like creating a new being. After all, your company is like a child - you birth, care for and raise it. It takes nurturing. Just as your figurative child’s personality is developed, so too is your brand.

Brand Application
One of the biggest struggles a lot of people face is building content for a website and social media pages. The reason why you struggle is because you are not clear on what your brand embodies. Once you have personified your brand this really shouldn’t be a struggle. You know where and with whom your brand hangs out, and what kind of engagements your brand could have with your target audience. Your brand will also understand your clients’ concerns. When you have this understanding, creating your content is much easier.

Brand Strategy
Your brand strategy determines, who you will target with your advertising, where you will communicate with them, when and what you will say, and how you will say it. So if you are offering a solution in geriatric care, it makes no sense to advertise on youthful radio stations or on Snapchat. Your audience isn’t there. You need to know where these senior citizens are, and how they access and consume information. Then you can go to them.

Brand strategy is about going to your audience, communicating to them in a language they understand and resonate with and are willing to engage with. Once you do that well and consistently you have an actual brand.
Brand Evolution
You need to be in touch with the normal interest and reality shifts of your target consumer. That’s why companies spend a whole lot of money on research and development. You need to stay relevant to your target consumer as a brand and ensure that you are constantly fulfilling a specific need. Note, a need, not needs. Being too many things to your target audience causes confusion and strain on your company, especially as a startup. Focus on one solution and build on it. The goal is to have a brand that is integrated into your customers’ lifestyles.

A quick thing to note: not all companies are brands and not all brands are companies.
Brands offer their target consumers a guaranteed experience; a company simply sells you a packaged product or service. Brands can be people or things e.g. Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo are human beings but are consumed as sports brands, but Anna and Elsa are characters from the animated movie “Frozen”; in the children’s world, they are brands little girls adore. They sing their songs from the movie, dress up like them and carry their branded bags.

The reality is, how you package a product or service matters. And how you deliberately enforce how the product or service engages with a defined demographic group, is what really makes a brand.
Here are a few steps to get you started.

Clearly define your target audience
You need to be extremely specific here. You need to personify them, give your target audience a name, gender, describe where they live, how much they earn, define what their main concerns are. Ideally, when you finish this exercise you should be able to see clients in real life who embody your ideal target audience.

2. Define the singular solution you will offer this specific audience?
Once you visualize your target audience, you will understand their needs. Find that one need you are offering a solution to; it needs to be a clear pain point for your target client.

3. Contact a Brand Strategist
The brand strategist will walk with you step by step, to develop the ideal brand image and messaging that will draw in and keep your target consumer engaged. And in the process build your brand and grow your bottom line.

This process should entail the following, but may vary from consultant to consultant:

Develop a Brand Guideline – this provides a visual guideline for the brand as well as define your brand tone e.g. male, female, enthusiastic, cautious etc. Your logo, typography, brand colors, and applications on business cards, presentation slides, banners, social media badges etc.

Brand Communication – this will determine the media you are to communicate in as a brand, how to communicate and engage accordingly as a brand with your target consumer on digital platforms, above the line marketing and below the line marketing platforms.

Marketing Strategy – this will guide you on how best to apply the communication framework to draw in sales and build top of mind awareness.

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