(The Ultimate Branding Checklist: Create Your Brand Strategy Now!)
Now that you know what to do, what not to do and have some amazing branding examples for inspiration, it’s time to get to work! We’ve compiled the outline and template you need to apply the best branding strategy practices to your business. Follow this and discover your own unique, stunning brand style.
Print out each of these sections for yourself and develop the best roadmap for branding your new business.
Branding Strategy Basics
This roster of questions should be the first you consider. The answers you provide here will serve as a foundation for the next steps to further enhance your brand.
What Is Your WHY?
Remember, this needs to be your authentic vision behind why your business exists and why your customers should care about what you have to offer. As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
What & Who Do You Represent?
Think about what position you intend your business to have. For example, do you represent the “gentle dental care” like Doug’s Dentistry for people who are afraid of the dentist or the “stylish fashion source for busy moms” like Melissa’s Boutique, which caters to those who need to still feel confident about style?
What is Your Business Vision and Mission?
Setting an attainable goal for your company will only make you complacent. If your vision is not technically unattainable, then it’s impossible to grow and expand the business indefinitely. All great companies have far-reaching visions that drive them forward beyond an imaginary dollar figure or benchmark. If you set a goal for your business, what happens when you reach it? You don’t close up shop and call it quits right? No. You keep striving for even greater success again and beyond. It’s your brand vision that compels you indefinitely.
What Are Your Features, Advantages & Benefits?
Expand on why your target audience should care and take notice of your business? Are you more convenient, more affordable or improving an existing product or service? How do you improve your customers’ lives and what problems do you intend to solve for them?
Get Down and Dirty Identifying Your Target Audience
This is where you can create buyer personas (which we’ll talk about more in-depth next month) who best represent your target audience. It’s important to emphasize who your ideal customers are so you can customize your messaging strategy accordingly.
Research Your Buyer Persona-Represented Core Customers
Once you identify who your targets are, it’s time to do some research to learn more about their purchasing habits, how they shop and what communication they prefer.
What Are You Promising Your Target Market?
The answer here could be one promise or multiple. But don’t commit to something you can’t effectively deliver across every engagement you have with your core customers.
What Attributes Support Your Brand?
The answer here should determine what characteristics your brand embodies, in terms of brand voice, messaging style and image. For example, this might become a list of adjectives that tell you if your style is professional, fun, authoritative or charitable.
How Does Your Brand Make Customers Feel?
Your customers will care about your business if they feel something when they experience your brand. What feelings or sentiments do you want your business to inspire?
Developing Your Brand’s Personality
Now comes the fun part of branding. With your WHY clearly defined and the branding basics decided, you can dive further into defining your brand’s personality. This checklist will help ensure that your brand story aligns with your vision. This is the time when everything begins to take shape and changes from being an idea in your head to a visual representation of your values.
Melissa’s Boutique: Melissa has made brilliant use of the branding basics for her fashion business. She’s ready to make some branding adjustments to infuse her brand image with some much-needed personality. With a strong foundation rooted in her values, she can tell her story in unique and relevant ways that engage her customers.
Start by Telling Your Story
This is where you let it all out. Recount all your experiences, reasons, inspirations and causes that lead you to start your business. You can then pick and choose which pieces of your story make the most sense to communicate through your brand later.
What Will Compel Customers to Choose You?
The answers you provide here will guide your branding decisions regarding how people feel inspired to choose your product or service over another. Focus any messaging based on the responses you collect here and make sure everything you do supports this inspiration.
Develop Your Official Brand Position
Tapping into your brand attributes (above) along with your values, you can outline what strategic position you feel best suits your brand. This is where you will define your space as a company based on your key differentiators. A brand position statement will establish precisely how you want your brand to be viewed by your customers.
Develop Your Messaging in Accordance with Your Customer Preferences
Using your buyer personas, decide what channels your customers engage with the most and the tone and style of the messaging required to connect with them directly. For example, if you’re selling a children’s product, you would likely target parents on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. You would also want to make sure that you’re using the appropriate language for children.
The Actionable To-Do for Branding First Steps
With the answers to the brand basics and personality questions, you can move forward with creating your principal branding pieces. It’s time to put some verbs in your to-do steps and bring your newly developed brand to life.
Doug’s Dentistry: Doug feels confident that he has a great brand identity and plan. He’s ready to take the first steps forward with implementing branding techniques. It’s time to introduce his story to his potential patients, and he knows just where to start. He begins by creating a website that promotes his “gentle dental” vision with supporting elements like soft colors that match his waiting room walls. He sets up a Facebook, LinkedIn, Google My Business and Instagram account for his dentistry, too. He knows that getting the word out will require robust posting strategies in line with his values. And he has the brand roadmap he needs to ensure each engagement effort reaches his target audience.
Other branding pieces you might include for your business during this initial stage include vehicle wraps, tri-fold brochures and business cards. Also, make sure you initiate all the appropriate social media channels that you plan to use the most. We recommend choosing no more than four social media platforms in the beginning. Just remember to reference your branding template as you go to stay authentic and consistent with your WHY.
Branding Function & Guidelines
Your brand represents the beating heart of your business. You’ll need to determine which metrics make the most sense for your model and establish a schedule of routine maintenance and management. Here is the checklist to help you stay on top of your brand’s health.
Develop Brand Rules and Guidelines
Decide what rules every business decision must follow with regard to your brand. This will ultimately become the benchmark for every marketing strategy and customer engagement moving forward. It might include a menu of “must-haves” along with “never-dos.” For example, Chick-Fil-A’s brand and messaging focuses on quality food and customer experiences. It’s brand rules reinforce what sets it apart from others in the drive-thru, fast food industry. Johnson & Johnson portrays itself as a “family company” with gentle products, not mentioning anything related to the chemicals it develops.
Establish the Metrics to Monitor Your Brand’s Performance
Reflect on the previous post we offered about the kick-ass metrics you can leverage to monitor your brand’s performance. You won’t necessarily need all of them. However, it’s best to commit to which you plan to use moving forward.
Schedule Brand Evaluation Efforts, Including Performance and Customer Experience Tracking
Don’t just assume you’ll remember to go and check how your brand’s doing or calculate your NPS. Commit to it here by scheduling and planning a timeline. Remember, it’s best to follow up on brand performance and customer experience tracking weekly or bi-weekly and never more infrequent than monthly.
Brand Evolution Metrics
You’ll need to make sure that your brand can grow with you. Here’s where you’ll outline how and when to change, from the tiniest of tweaks up through complete overhauls — all in order for your brand to remain authentic and stay on track over time.
What Are the Signs You’ll Need to Recognize Indicating a Loss in Brand Equity?
Check back with our previous blog about brand evolution red flags. You don’t have to be well-versed in the math behind brand equity to know a brand problem when you see one. Write down a few signs you’ll recognize immediately that means it’s time to make some changes.
What Brand Characteristics Can You Change?
There are some elements of your brand vision and story that should never change. Create a list of what you can and can’t change as part of your brand evolution strategy. For example, McDonalds has changed its tagline several times over the years (Food, Folks & Fun or I’m Lovin’ It.) But it has never changed its iconic golden arches.
When Is It Time for a Rebrand?
Here is where you’ll commit to a checklist of negative branding metrics that translate to a need for a complete rebrand. Knowing when the brand has gone off track will allow you to stop what you’re doing and correct your brand direction. Even if this means a complete overhaul, which can be costly, you’ll need to be able to identify when you’ve reached this critical point. Operating a single day longer in the wrong direction will slowly kill your brand and even your business. For example, Subway has always promoted its healthy eating message. But a damaging conviction with its spokesperson forced rebranding efforts. The company still promotes healthy options but now uses a different branding strategy. Old Spice also did it when they decided it wasn’t “your grandpa’s deodorant.” Dunkin Donuts is a great example of a successful rebrand, rebranding as the place for “fast coffee” and tagging itself with” America Runs on Dunkin.”
Print out these questions and template guides. They will help to shape, create and launch your brand the right way from day one. If you’re interested in more freebies, take advantage of the Awareness Branding & Consulting FREE consultation!
And stay tuned for next month’s series, where we dive into building the foundation for your marketing in our introduction to the world of marketing basics. With your branding strategies in place, marketing and advertising are your next logical business steps. We’ll also introduce new business character examples and follow their journeys in a way you might find relatable to your business. We will explore the basics you need to know about marketing and offer free advice about how to develop your strategies.