Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.
What makes a brand a success? Quite simply, almost everything a business does! It goes beyond a beautiful logo, a memorable brand name and an advertising campaign that reaches all the right people. Discussed below are the primary elements and preparations that go into building a successful brand.
After an organization has been in business for some time, it may find that the initial decisions it made about its branding strategy no longer work for either the market, the organization or its customers. A review and restructuring of the primary branding elements will be required in order to rebuild the brand.
Whether building or rebuilding, the following apply to both.
Mission, Values and Customers
What is the organization's mission and values? Who are the organization's customers? What does your brand "promise"? These questions must be answered prior to developing any branding strategy. Why?
Let's review an example organization to illustrate. The company is a large discount retailer of grocery, health and home products. Their mission is to serve communities of middle class to low income families with reasonably priced, but quality, brand name products. The families want to save money, but want to be assured that they are doing the best for their families and budget. Quick, efficient checkout lines help these families get on with their busy schedules.
For a customer base such as this, promotions that are quite specific with advertised prices and sale offers would be required. Abstract, image conscious advertising, without pricing, such as that seen for luxury car brands, is likely to be ignored. Concierge-type customer service that may be typical in upscale retail settings cannot be afforded... nor is it expected.
8 Elements of a Successful Brand
Knowing the organization's mission and customers will help make decisions about the following elements that build a brand:
1. Logo Design
In general, an organization's logo must convey its basic mission and appeal to the target audience of customers. That is a tall order best left to graphic design professionals!
Many small businesses try to cobble a logo together using clip art. Not only is that illegal or prohibited by most clip art sites, it doesn't make the business look unique.
A logo is an investment. If an organization does not have funds to hire a designer at the beginning, they are best advised to use the brand name in text only until they can afford a logo design.
Usually when an organization's logo is designed, colors are usually integrated into the design that can be established as the official colors. If a logo design cannot be funded at the beginning and text is just being used for the brand name, the organization can start using colors that can be carried over into a logo later.
In general, bright, clear colors often appeal to more budget conscious audiences. Muted and blended colors are usually appropriate for more upscale crowds. However, both rules are often broken successfully.
As with the logo design itself, graphic designers can provide valuable insight into what colors would work for various audiences.
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As with logo design, packaging design is an area where professional, experienced consultants can be of valuable assistance. Not only will they provide advice on an artistically appealing package, they will usually be able to advise on practical aspects such as product protection, shipping and safety issues. This can be a major branding investment.
It is recommended that a packaging designer work with the logo designer to provide a consistent look throughout the organization and its offerings. Some design firms provide both logo and packaging consulting.
4. Customer Service
Customer service levels vary by type of customer and offerings. A hungry customer going through a fast food restaurant drive-thru window will not expect fine china and silverware with the meal. On the flip side, upscale diners at a city's finest eateries would be appalled being served anything in a paper wrapper.
Choosing an appropriate level and type of service for type of customers sought is just as important as any logo or store design.
Staffing is an often overlooked aspect of branding. If an organization values being friendly, but only hires workers who have no patience for customers, the brand will suffer immensely. This requires coordination with the organization's ownership or human resources unit to make sure that staff members hired can properly represent the brand.
6. Physical or Virtual (Website) Location
Starbucks. McDonald's. Target. Wal-Mart. Walk into any location of these corporate giants and observe the surroundings. Now go into another one of their locations and observe. You know you're in the same company's store! Each one has a very distinct retail look, feel and even smell.
Creating a unique environment in which to do business is often referred to as trade dress. Interestingly, trade dress can be protected under the law.
In the virtual realm, websites are the online "locations" where companies do business. Like their physical counterparts, websites also have a unique trade dress. However, with so many template-based websites, many sites tend to look alike. This is not all bad since it helps users more easily navigate a site. Using custom photos, videos and graphics can help convey the brand and make it stand out from the rest.
A price is part of a brand? Yes!
As discussed in Understanding Brand Loyalty in Marketing, many generic products are manufactured by brand name companies. Yet the brand name counterparts can command higher prices... and they need to get higher prices to cover the costs of advertising and marketing the brand. As well, authentic brand name products will appeal to some audiences and their generic cousins will appeal to a more budget conscious public. So the same product can be packaged, priced and marketed to create completely different brands.
8. Advertisement Methods and Placements
As discussed in Choosing a Method of Advertisement for a Business, the concept of "where" determines the best place to reach a target audience. Plus, where the ad is placed says a lot about the organization, its customers and its brand.
For example, Wal-Mart's $1.97 sale price on a canned good would not be useful for readers of the Wall Street Journal... even though business leader readers of WSJ are interested in saving money.
Ad placements chosen are a reflection of who the organization wants to serve and who they believe themselves to be.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 25, 2013:
Hi AliciaC! You're not alone in not thinking about it before. Most businesses don't! We're creating our brands either by design or default. Glad you found it helpful. Cheers!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 24, 2013:
This is very interesting, Heidi. What you say makes a lot of sense, yet most of it I haven't thought about before! Thanks for the useful information.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 24, 2013:
I hope they will listen, too, billybuc! I think they have visions of the Glengarry Glenross "Always Be Closing" sales scenario and it scares them. Selling is communication. Ironic that writers, who are communicators, have such issues with it. One day, one day...
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2013:
This needs to be read by every writer, Heidi! I swear, based on comments I get, people don't understand that they need to sell themselves. They think if they just write something that people will flock to their site and buy everything. This business....any business....just doesn't work that way.
Keep singing your song my friend. Hopefully some writers will listen soon.