How to create a successful brand from scratch
Knowing how to stand out from the crowd and communicate to your potential customers what you offer them that is unique is critical when starting your own business. Too often, those who decide to attempt the entrepreneurial venture commit the risk of throwing themselves headlong into marketing without bothering to first build a solid corporate identity and brand image.
On this aspect, after all, there are still many misunderstandings and mistakes. If you want to avoid committing missteps, you must necessarily be clear about what Brand Identity is and know how to create a successful brand, even from scratch. It is a multi-step process, which hides several pitfalls but, if executed correctly right from the analysis of the business model, puts almost endless opportunities in your hands.
Address this issue step by step: the first point to clarify is the definition of this concept, which is still obscure for many. Once you master the meaning of Brand and Brand Identity, it will be easier for you to take the decisive actions to create a successful brand.
Definition of brand
One of the most evocative definitions of brand was given by author Jonah Sachs:
“A brand is a story that unfolds through all customer touch points”.
Remember these words as we go through the various steps to create a successful brand from scratch.
Now, however, to fully understand the meaning of brand, it is necessary to refer to its etymology and return, that is, to its origins. Historical sources link the origin of the term “brand” to the ancient Norse word “brandr“, meaning “to burn“, and referring to the custom of branding livestock with a symbol so as to identify their ownership.
The element of symbol to identify ownership also returns in the definition of brand provided by the American Marketing Association: “Brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that can identify a seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers“.
Nowadays, however, as you can also easily guess from Jonah Sachs’ aforementioned definition, a brand is much more than a name or symbol. In this regard, it is also useful to quote the words of Jean-Noel Kapferer, a marketing expert and communications specialist. This is his definition of a brand: “A brand is the shared desire and an exclusive idea represented in a product, service, place, person or experience“.
The term “brand” also began to spread in the Italian language around the 20th century, however, bringing with it, as already pointed out, some misunderstandings. One of the most important ones concerns the distinction between Brand Identity and Corporate Identity, two concepts that are often, mistakenly, used as synonyms. In reality, there is a (albeit subtle) difference.
Difference between Brand Identity and Corporate Identity
Although the difference between Brand Identity and Corporate Identity is minimal, being able to grasp it can be the turning point on your path to success.
The concept of Corporate Identity refers to the so-called DNA of the company, consisting of its Vision, Mission and Values. It is, therefore, something almost “invisible” to outside eyes. This is where Brand Identity comes in, that is, the identity of the company that everyone can see, which makes explicit the company’s purpose and values through its name, logo, payoff, general corporate communication and reputation.
How to create your own brand: phase one, analysis
By getting to this point, you will be clearer about what a brand is and what is meant by Brand Identity. You may feel ready to take action and establish a brand, but remember that before you proceed to the actual operational phase and make decisions about your brand, you still need to ask yourself a number of questions about your audience, your target market, and the competitors within it.
The key word of phase one of the delicate process of creating a successful brand, not surprisingly, is “Analysis“.
Define the target audience
The first step concerns the target audience: defining your target, that is, who your potential customers are, what they do in life, what they need and what they think is important, in fact, lays the right foundation for creating a solid brand and developing a successful business. While it is true that taking this step in the right way does not 100% assure you of the success of your business venture, remember that not doing so will certainly doom you to failure: you cannot sell your products or services to someone you do not know and whose attention you do not know how to attract.
Nowadays there are several ways to define your target audience. One particularly useful tool in this regard, for example, is buyer personas: these are fictional, generalized representations of a company’s customer-types that refer to specific segments of the target audience.
The explosion of social media gives you the opportunity to sell your products or services to people who, just a few years ago, were impossible to reach. Not only that: these platforms put at your disposal a huge amount of data about current trends, consumer habits and their interests and needs. Collect and analyze all this information: it will become clearer to you which, among your potential customers, are the ones you can reach most easily and quickly.
Another aspect to investigate is the market. The questions you need to ask yourself in this regard are: what are the characteristics of your niche market? In what context does your company operate? How can you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Market analysis (to be conducted through interviews, focus groups, surveys and the other tools at your disposal) allows you to find out its dimensions and rules, potential and obstacles, the degree of consumer satisfaction and the behaviors of your competitors. The goal is to find your differentiator and secure a competitive advantage over your competitors. This, however, requires a more specific additional step.
Competitor analysis is a process that takes time and attention, but it provides you with very valuable information: you can find out, in fact, which companies are operating in the same market as you, what determines their success, and how they are similar or different from you. Focus on your direct competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, but also how they present themselves to the market and talk to consumers about their products or services. Finding out why your potential customers are targeting them will help you make more effective operational decisions. Indeed, now is the time to take action.
How to create your own brand: phase two, development
Step two in the process of creating a successful brand from scratch is development. Don’t forget the information gathered during the first phase: it will help you define your identity and personality and develop your image. Let’s see, in concrete terms, how you can do this.
Defining one’s identity and personality
Now that you know how you want to be perceived by consumers and what you need to do to achieve this, you need to define your identity and personality.
Think of your company as if it were a person and think about the personality it must have to attract your customers. A useful expedient is to think about some human characteristics, adjectives, and metaphors that you would like to be associated with your brand.
To define your identity, you can also turn to the Prism of Brand Identity, a model proposed by the aforementioned Jean-Noel Kapferer in 1996 for the purpose of illustrating the factors crucial to a brand identity.
There are 6 and, specifically, they are: physique (i.e., the set of images, materials, and physical qualities of the brand), personality (i.e., the character traits that the brand would have if it were a person), relationship (i.e., the bond between the brand and the consumer), culture (to be understood as the creation of a following, including those related to the brand’s country of origin), reflection (understood as the outward mirror, i.e., the type of person associated by consumers with the brand), and self-image (i.e., the inward mirror, the company’s perception of its brand).
This is also the phase in which the concepts we mentioned a few lines above return to the forefront: the company’s vision, mission, and values.
Corporate vision refers to the set of ambitions and dreams that led to the birth of your company, i.e., its purpose. The corporate mission, on the other hand, describes what your company does and why, translating the goals defined with the vision into concrete actions. Corporate values are those that guide your company, that is, those you believe in and wish to be recognized for.
They may seem like abstract concepts, but remember that reasoning about your company’s history, why and how it came into being, and the contributions it can make to society will be very helpful in creating a successful brand.
To make it more practical, you can resort to the so-called positioning statement: this is a short text (often just a few lines are sufficient) in which you can set your market positioning, that is, what makes you unique within the market sector in which you operate and how you are able to stand out from the competition.
Generally, we use formulas like this: we offer (your product/service) for (your target market) to (your value proposition). Unlike (your competitors), we (your key differentiator) and that to the customer means (the benefits you offer).
Never forget how important it is to “be different”: to achieve this, focus on your Unique Selling Proposition and Value Proposition. These are similar concepts, but again, as before with Brand Identity and Corporate Identity, it is important that you grasp the nuance that distinguishes them: the Unique Selling Proposition is what makes you unique, setting you apart from the competition, while the Value Proposition is what explains in short and more concrete terms the benefits your product or service offers customers. Remember: defining your identity and personality also means making sure that the product or service you offer actually meets the benefits you promise.
Developing one’s Image
You must be realizing that this is getting more and more concrete: to develop your image, now, you have to define the various elements, i.e., the name, colors and font, logo, payoff, and general corporate communication.
Let’s start with the name: the implications of naming and the characteristics it must necessarily have vary according to the type of business, but choosing the right name is always very important. Among the winning characteristics, one of the most important is uniqueness: check that the name you choose has not already been used and avoid names that may remind you of others already in use by other companies. It is equally important that the name you choose is memorable, that is, it stays easily in the minds of consumers.
The choice of a name does not end with the choice of word(s): you must also identify the right colors and font to visually represent your brand and, most importantly, to communicate the feelings you want consumers to feel as they approach your brand. Colors are, in fact, associated with emotions, which is why companies take into account the principles of color psychology to make their choices.
Do not be outdone and do not underestimate the importance of this aspect. Likewise, however, also keep in mind the readability of the text in the various uses you can envisage for the company’s various activities. Avoiding confusion is a categorical imperative, which should also guide you in your choice of font(s) (as a general rule, avoid choosing more than 2).
The same attentions must be paid to the logo: among the various characteristics it must have, in fact, it must be unique (like the name), it must be able to be adaptable to all the places (physical and virtual) in which it is to be present, and it must be clear and clearly identifiable.
The payoff is the short phrase that accompanies the logo and should be recognizable and attractive. It is intended to make the brand identity explicit, summarizing the company values in a few words and establishing a connection with consumers by leaving them with a kind of promise (to be kept at the time of purchase).
As with the choice of name, there are many paths to the best decision when it comes to the payoff: you can, for example, choose to be purely descriptive by limiting yourself to explaining in a few words who you are and what you do, or you can take advantage of a metaphor or use a rhyme to make your brand identity clearer and more appealing; you can, in addition, decide to promote your idea or, alternatively, choose to put your customer at the center of your playoff and describe their attitude.
Developing your brand image also means choosing the tone of voice to use in all your business communications to the public. It can be more or less informal, more technical or more promotional: the choice is yours, but remember that the tone of voice is linked to the company’s mission and must be consistent with the company’s target industry and your potential customers.
How much does it cost to create a brand
Now that you know how to create a successful brand and the mistakes to avoid, you’re probably wondering: okay, but how much does this all cost? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question: everything, in fact, depends on how you decide to proceed with the various steps to be taken. You may choose to embark on this adventure on your own, or you may decide to outsource certain steps or the entire process to professionals. Take into account your experience in the matter and don’t be afraid to ask for help from the experts: the financial investment might hold you back initially, but it will be easier that way for you to avoid committing missteps that risk jeopardizing the present and future of your business.
In light of what has just been said, it should be clarified that it is as difficult as ever to make an estimate of the costs that it is necessary to incur for the creation of a brand, precisely because this process involves several expense items, such as those related to the legal aspect and those necessary for marketing . It is possible, however, to get an idea of how much it costs to register a brand, in Italy and beyond.
How much does it cost to register a trademark?
Trademark registration has several advantages, above all that of protecting business by securing the right to exclusive use of the trademark itself for the purpose of distinguishing products or services from those of competitors. Before doing so, however, as already mentioned, it is advisable to check that the chosen brand is not already in use by others and previously registered.
In Italy, registration can be done at any Chamber of Commerce office, which then takes care of telematically transmitting the application to the relevant Patent and Trademark Office. Keep in mind that only Italian trademarks can be registered with the Chamber of Commerce and that registration lasts 10 years.
The cost of registering a trademark depends on various factors, such as the number of classes, that is, the types to which the goods and services related to your company correspond. The fixed costs for a single class are about 170 euros, to which must be added costs related to stamp duty and late payment in case of delays in payment. There is also a charge of 34 euros for each added class.
Trademark registration can also take place at the EU and international level. To protect the trademark at the Community level, that is, in all member countries of the European Union, you must file a European trademark application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The costs for registration in this case are higher.
As mentioned, legal protection of the trademark can also be extended internationally: this is possible in all European and non-European countries that adhere to the Madrid Protocol and the Madrid Agreement. Even in this case the costs are higher than in the national procedure.
Successful brands: some case studies
Now you know everything there is to know about how to create a successful brand. There is a lot of information, so to provide clarity, here are some examples of successful brands from which you can draw inspiration.
One of the most iconic brands in the world is Apple. Already the name represents a peculiar choice: it was decided, in fact, to choose a name totally unrelated to the business carried on by the company. It is the history of the logo, however, that reveals the really winning insight: you may not know that, initially, Apple’s logo featured the words Apple Computer & Co. and an image of Isaac Newton intent on reading under an apple tree. It was a very distinctive and detailed logo, but it was difficult to replicate and very complicated to remember. In the 1970s, however, the famous bitten apple made its debut, evoking Adam and Eve and the bite of the apple of knowledge and suggesting more immediately the human thirst for knowledge that Apple products are able to quench. That’s not all: the bite features a reference to the computer unit of measurement “byte”.
Let’s change sectors and now analyze how Nike, a famous U.S. company specializing in clothing and sporting goods, answered the fateful question, “How to create a successful brand?” Its iconic “swoosh” or “mustache” is a logo recognized all over the world, so much so that the presence of the name “Nike” is superfluous (as, for that matter, in the previous case of Apple). Both the name and the logo are reminiscent of the Nike of Samothrace, that is, the marble sculpture representing the Goddess of Victory worshipped by the ancient Greeks: in the simple sketch chosen by the company as its logo, in fact, it is possible to find the elements of movement and speed characteristic of the work of art. Also peculiar is the choice of the payoff: “Just do it”. In this case, in fact, the customer’s point of view is taken in the payoff, creating an even closer and more successful connection.
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