Build a Brand
In this module, you will...
- Identify the voice, values, and vision of your brand
- Integrate your brand into your business
What is Brand?
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as, “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” In other words, it is the work done to show other people that your business and product (your app) are useful and appealing. Marketing is how you communicate to tell people (customers, investors, other businesses) about your company—what the mission is, what it sells, and what to expect when working with you. Another way to think about the important parts of marketing are the Four P’s: product, price, promotion, and place.
Your brand is what people think about you. If your app was a person, their brand would be their personality. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand and product: factual (e.g. it comes in a purple and orange box) and emotional (e.g. it’s romantic). Your brand name exists objectively, since people can see it. It doesn’t change. But your brand exists only in a person’s mind. It's "who" your product/company is.
Think about some of the brands you already know. Can you remember their logos? What do they sell? What is their motto or slogan? What is the feeling you get when you think about their business?
You know them so well because they have strong branding that is memorable and stands out from a crowd. For example, what do you think of when you see a swoosh on a person’s shoes, shirt, or cap? The swoosh logo is known worldwide as the symbol for Nike, one of the most well-known brands. It represents speed, motion and ultimately, athletic excellence and performance. By getting successful and famous athletes to wear their products with their logos on them, Nike develops an attitude that says, if you want to be athletic, Nike will help you get there. And their famous slogan “Just do it” reinforces that idea.
Take a look at this branding video and see how many brands you recognize!
Branding does many things:
- Makes the product easy to recognize through visual cues (logo, color theme)
- Gives a voice and personality to your product
- Builds relationship and memories with customers
Brand Identity Case Study
Practice understanding how to identify a brand by using the advertisement Steve Jobs used to successfully rebrand Apple Computer.
In his speech, he wanted to answer questions for his customer, such as “Who is Apple? What do we stand for? Where do we fit in this world?” He was able to convey the core values of Apple very simply, and he didn’t even need the product. With his “Think Different” campaign, he was able to tell the customer that if you want to think differently and change the world in some way, you will want to work on an Apple computer. It gets at the heart of the customer mindset: you are what you use. It was one of the most successful marketing campaigns in history.
Identify Your Brand
To get started on your own brand, you’ll want to refer to your consumer research report from Business 2. You want to get to know your target audience really well. These are the people you want to sell to, your customers. This will help you focus on building a brand that really appeals to them, and makes them want to buy your product. Try answering the following questions to start getting a sense of your brand.
- Customer Benefits: What problem are you trying to solve for customers? Think about why would someone buy this product.
- Target Customers: Who are they? Be as specific as possible, try breaking it down into two parts:
- Demographics are the characteristics of a given population. This will tell you who buys your product.
- For example: age, gender, location, race, ethnicity, language, education, religion, income, etc.
- Psychographics is study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. This tells you why they buy your product.
- For example: health conscious, busy, highly organized, family oriented, environmentally conscious, social, homebody, nerdy, etc.
- Demographics are the characteristics of a given population. This will tell you who buys your product.
- Brand Personality: If your brand was a person, who would it be? Try to match your company to a famous person you know. It sounds silly but it will help define what your business is about.
- For example, Nike identifies as a talented athlete so you might think of their personality being similar to Usain Bolt or Simone Biles.
For more information on branding, you can explore these resources:
Activity: We Are & We Are Not
This activity can be facilitated by a mentor or educator.
The We Are & We Are Not activity will help you figure out the main characteristics that best describe your brand. Gather your team—the people who know your brand best. You’ll be writing down adjectives on cards or pieces of paper to describe your brand and the way you want to be seen by your customer. After, you will divide those cards into 3 piles: We Are, We Are Not, and Not Applicable. By the end you’ll want to have just a few adjectives that describe your brand in the We Are pile.
What You’ll Need:
- Note cards or scratch paper cut into small pieces. If you’re working virtually, try using collaborative software, like Google Docs or IdeaBoardz.
- Pens or markers
What You’ll Do:
- Distribute 10-15 note cards to each team member.
- Ask each team member to write down a descriptive word or short phrase for your company on each card.
- As a team, start organizing all the cards into 3 categories: We Are, We Are Not, and Not Applicable. Keep in mind, these words should describe how you want to be perceived by the customer.
- Narrow down the We Are and We Are Not categories down to 4-7 cards.
- Finalize your cards. Make sure the whole team agrees with the organization. If not, discuss and come to a conclusion as a group.
Now you’ve got the most important words for your brand. It’s time to apply it to your business! You can use these words as a guide for building your brand. These descriptions can be expressed through many aspects of your brand, including the name of your business and the name of your product.
They can also come in handy when you are developing your visuals, too! If your company adjectives are “young” and “fun”, you might want to use a lot of different bright colors, whereas if you company was “serious” and “professional” your might use simple, sophisticated colors instead. As you build your brand throughout this module and the competition, ask yourself if these are consistent with the adjectives you came up with in this activity.
Ready to start? Download this worksheet and start brainstorming!
Name Your Business
When tackling this challenge, think about what makes a good name and what makes a bad name. A name does not have to exactly say what a business does, but can become catchy and memorable over time, as a business and its brand becomes well known. In the beginning, the words Apple, Google, and Coca-Cola were just words or made up phrases. But they became well known over time, as people interacted with their brands more and more. They can even be acronyms, last names, or a combination of words. Examples would be BMW, MTN, AT&T, and Samsung. Did you know that the founders of Google were going to name it Backrub?
If you don’t know where to start, this article, is a good place to begin!
Remember, the name of your business does not have to be the same as your app name, although they can share a name if you prefer. You choose how to name your business and your app! For example, Apple has several different products like Macbook and iPhone that still have an Apple brand. On the other hand, there are companies that have the same name as the product, like Coca-Cola is the same as its product.
Activity: Brainstorm Business Names
Brainstorm a list of potential business names with your team! Use your creative brainpower, or use a naming generator. Naming generators can help by adding in the words you want to feature, and creating a lot of different options. Keep in mind, you’ll want to refer back to the adjectives you decided on for the ‘We Are & We Are Not’ activity, which will help guide your conversations and help you determine what name would fit your company best.
After you’ve narrowed down your list of potential names to less than 5 or fewer, try asking your target customers, friends, or anyone who might come across your business or app. It can help to get a lot of people's impressions on your name, so you can see which name is the most appealing and makes the most sense to people. You might even want to try asking people what sort of adjectives describe the name of your business, so you can see if it matches up with your branding activity.
Once you’ve narrowed it down even further, it’s time to pick just one! Make sure you and your team are all agreed upon the final name.
For more tips on naming your business and/or app, take a look below:
Create a Positioning Statement
Now that you’ve got a better sense of what your brand is, you can start working on your positioning statement. A positioning statement is a concise description of your customer as well as a compelling picture of how you want your customer to perceive your brand. When done well, this is one of the most essential parts of your marketing plan—it will dictate how your branding, logos, and even customer service will be accomplished. This should not be confused with the mission statement that you created in Business 1 , which is broader and describes what an organization hopes to solve or achieve.
Your positioning statement will cover 4 main parts:
- Your Product (And Why It’s Special)
Clearly describe the value you (or your app) provide. If you’re an architect, you don’t provide blueprints, you design buildings. If you’re a high-end restaurant, you don’t make food, you provide culinary experiences. Make sure you understand what you’re actually providing when someone buys your product or service.
- Your Target Market (And Why You Love Them)
Who are you trying to appeal to? What are they like? This should be short and to-the-point, but it should also give a thorough understanding of who you want to reach. It’s not enough to say that your target market is “teenagers” but it would be too wordy to say “Our mission is to provide males between the ages of 13 and 17 who enjoy board games similar to Dungeons and Dragons but NOT games like Monopoly…” A short and punchy “Teenage Tabletop Gamers” works.
- The Competitive Landscape (And Why You’re Better)
Your brand positioning statement should also describe your product's value. Does your product provide the highest quality or a balance of price and quality? Do you have a large following or are you an up-and-comer? Make sure you understand exactly where your brand is in the competitive landscape. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of buying your brand.
- The Promise Your Brand Makes (And Why We Should Believe You)
What promise does your brand make to your market? Do you promise reliability? Speed? Low cost? Make sure you understand what you are promising and know how you can back it up. How can you prove it?
Great Brand Positioning Statement Examples
So what does a great brand positioning statement look like? It can take many forms, and many lengths, but it should always encompass the four elements listed above. Take a look at the following positioning statements for well-known brands. As you can see, certain elements are subtle or implied, but it’s important to notice how well-thought out each one is.
- Volvo: For upscale American families, Volvo is the family automobile that offers maximum safety.
- Home Depot: The hardware department store for do‑it‑yourselfers.
- Zipcar: To urban-dwelling, educated techno-savvy customers, when you use Zipcar car-sharing service instead of owning a car, you save money while reducing your carbon footprint.
Template for Writing a Positioning Statement
For [Target Customer], the [Brand] is the [Point of Differentiation] among all [Frame of Reference] because [Reason to Believe].
- The point of differentiation (POD) describes how your brand or product benefits customers in ways that set you apart from your competitors.
- The frame of reference (FOR) is the segment or category in which your company competes.
- The reason to believe is just what it says. This is a statement providing compelling evidence and reasons why customers in your target market can have confidence in your differentiation claims.
The wording of your positioning statement doesn’t have to match this template exactly, but to be effective, it must contain the five main components in brackets above. If you get stuck or just need some help, you can take a look at this generator that can help you write it up. Once you’ve written it up, you can also ask your mentor for feedback, or do this activity individually and give each other feedback as a team.
Apply Your Brand
You’ve got your brand, now it’s time to start applying it to your business. This means you have to put the ‘feeling’ of your brand everywhere! Think about how you are writing up your app description, customer service interactions, and the design of the app. Everything needs to be thoughtfully done and most importantly, consistent. To make sure you’re ready, try taking a brand identity quiz.
If you are a business that is geared toward children, you might have simple, easy to understand language and a lot of fun imagery in all of your different communications. It would be out of place and confusing for the customer if all of a sudden you had very formal language and very little color or images. If you are a business that is geared toward animal lovers, you might have some fun facts about animals and pictures of animals in your writings. It’s important to keep reinforcing the key concepts of your brand in all things related to your customers (from your email correspondence to your social media), so they recognize and associate your company with it. Keep in mind the business plan, pitch deck, and pitch and demo videos can be more technical, since they will be used in a more formal setting.
Tip: In order to test out your branding, you can refer back to the work you did in Business 1 and see if you are able to hold any solution interviews to test out your branding materials.
So far, you've narrowed down and identified the voice, values, and vision of your business. From this, you’ve created a brand positioning statement and identified ways of integrating your brand into your business.
We learned a lot in this unit! Let’s do a quick recap of all the things you learned:
- Marketing - is try to convince people to want and to buy what you have to sell
- Positioning statement - is a short description of your customer and how you want to be seen by the customer
- Point of differentiation - is how you are different from your competitors
- Frame of reference - is where you business belongs with respect to the marketplace
- Customers - the people who you want to buy your product
- Demographics - are the characteristics of a group of people, in this case, your customer. This gives you background information on who buys your product, which will include: age, gender, location, etc.
- Psychographics - is the kind of personality that your customers might have that gives you information on why someone would buy a product. This information might include that your customer is outdoorsy, busy, family-oriented, etc.
In the next marketing unit, you'll start developing your visuals for the business—that means developing your logo and brand colors! You can start brainstorming what kind of visual components you’ll need, for example: flyers, newsletters, slide deck, business cards, packaging, etc.
- Fastco Design: Branding Is About Creating Patterns, Not Repeating Messages
- Harvard Business Review: Branding in the Age of Social Media
- TED Talk: Dan Cobley - What Physics Taught Me About Marketing
- Entrepreneur: Basics of Branding
- OwnerNation: Brand Your Business
- Google for Small Business: Branding
- Miles Herndon: What is a Brand Positioning Statement?
- eCornell: How to Write Brand Positioning Statements