Brand Development: 5 Steps for Developing Your Brand

Brand development is a strategic process which is foundational in establishing your business identity and distinguishing you from your competitors.

Brand Development

It defines your company's image, products and services. It is the bedrock upon which your business stands.

Sounds pretty important, right? Well, that's because it kind of is.

Starting out on the right track and ensuring that you dedicate enough time to building a brand foundation is really important.

Brand development, done in the right way, inherently leads to business identity. Without business identity you risk being invisible in crowded marketplaces.

Brand development is also a strategic process, which is ongoing. Take this into account when considering the 5 steps outlined below.

What is brand development?

Brand development is the strategic and ongoing process of defining and evolving your company's image, products and services, in such a way that they are distinct from your competitors.

Your brand development should have tangible goals and follow some kind of process as your company develops and grows.

Your brand development should be aligned to your business objectives and shaped by your target market.

Your brand development should be aligned with your company culture and offer a sincere representation of your corporate values.

Are branding and brand development the same thing?

No, they are not!

One is a process that takes you somewhere; the other is the end goal:

  • Brand development = the journey

  • Branding = the destination

Brand development is a journey of discovery, during which you will learn about and promote your unique identity.

Branding is where you arrive at. It represents the execution, including the channels you use to promote your brand.

The thing with branding is that you never really get there. Yes, you establish your brand. But the process is ongoing and continues to grow as your organisation grows.

The difference may be small but it is important to distinguish branding from brand development.

5 steps for developing your brand

Having defined brand development and distinguished it from branding, we can now look at the 5 steps for developing your brand:

  1. Understanding your business

  2. Understanding your market

  3. Positioning your brand

  4. Staying on message

  5. Planning for growth

We will now take a look at each of these in more detail.

Understanding your business

In order to develop a brand, you first have to understand your business, in doing so you can define your brand's core message.

Understanding customers

As Maxwell Martz put it:

Our self-image, strongly held, essentially determines what we become.

This seems an almost perfect fit for brand development.

Fundamental in understanding your business are two important relationships:

  1. Between you and your competitors

  2. Between you and your customers

To understand the relationship with your competitors you should start by conducting market research to gain competitor insights.

The go to tool for competitor analysis is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) that can help to map the competitor landscape and identify opportunities for market penetration.

For the relationship between you and your customers, you need to get inside their heads. The fundamental question being - who are your customers?

If you say everyone then you are making a big mistake.

You need to have a clearly defined target audience, which can be achieved through customer insights. Again this can be understood through market research.

McKinsey determined that the ability to capture and use customer insights to shape products, solutions, and the buying experience, contributed to an outperformance of peers by some 85%.

That's an impressive percentage. Ultimately customers do not buy a product; they buy a brand!

Examining these two relationships carefully will help you to develop a core message specific to your industry, customers - and differentiate you from your competitors. Both vitally important components in building a brand.

Understanding your market

By understanding both your competitors, and your potential customers, you are part way to understanding your market. In addition to providing customer and competitor insights, market research will help you more broadly understand your market.

Brand marketplace

A clear understanding of your market will greatly aid in your brand strategy and direction.

You should be asking a number of questions, including:

  • Who is your target customer?

  • What connection do you have with your customers?

  • Who are the main competitors in your space?

  • What makes you distinct from your competitors?

  • Do your clients trust you and why?

  • What value are you bringing to the market?

  • What tone does your company and your brand have?

Once you have answered these questions you can look to take your brand development in the right direction: seeking out a distinctive edge and looking to fill opportunities in the market.

Gaining greater market awareness can include online research.

Also think outside the box and pursue both formal and informal channels to gain an understanding.

Positioning your brand

You need to have a plan in order to position your brand. This again entails an inherent understanding of both your customers and the competition.

Brand positioning is all about differentiating yourself from your competitors. In order to do this you need to allocate the right resources and spread brand awareness.

This is the place where actual branding starts!

From the research you have done so far you need to create a brand positioning message. This is then used to create the branding materials for your business.

These will include:

  • A content marketing strategy

  • Branding assets including a logo and tagline

  • A website and online presence though social media channels

  • A corporate style guide

Collectively, all these assets and processes can be used to drive the brand message, and position you where you want to be. Used correctly you can promote your business and continuously build brand awareness.

Staying on message

Once you have created a core brand message and began executing it, it is vitally important to stay on message!

What does this mean?

This means maintaining the strategy that you put in place based on your core brand identity.

Of course, this can change and adapt over time as your business grows in response to changes in the market or your customer base.

In order to stay on message, make your brand identity freely available to your employees and educate them on the importance of staying on message. Your brand identity should be intrinsically linked to your corporate culture.

Provide training workshops to help employees understand the importance of your brand.

Planning for growth

In order to plan for brand growth you need to put into place a process for the continuous monitoring of your brand relative to the measures put in place. You need to track the brand development process.

In order to do this, track things like your search traffic - both organic and paid. What is the ratio of organic search compared with paid search? Are you SEO efforts paying off? Has the overall volume of sight traffic increased and are people sharing your brand on social media? What is the percentage of lead generation?

Customer surveys might help to understand if you are delivering your brand message. Are people identifying with your brand in the ways you had imagined? Do your customers feel connected to your brand?

Create a plan to continuously track your progress and adjust things if needed.

As you scale your business you need to ensure that your brand develops with you and stays true to your brand identity.

Summing Up

In this post we looked at 5 steps you can take in order to develop your brand, and how building on the right foundations is crucial to brand development.

We defined brand development and outlined how it is distinct from branding.

We understood that fundamental to brand development is an understanding of both competitors and customers. Through self awareness and brand identity a brand position can be taken, nurtured, and delivered.

The brand should stay on message, best achieved through a continuous brand strategy. It should also grow with your business and adapt as your market changes.

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