Traditional marketing pushed products. Nowadays, we buy brands. Brands are experiences, and products merely souvenirs. Especially since products and services are looking more and more alike. Brand identity and brand positioning are becoming increasingly important – at least to the consumer.
But a lot of business owners – understandably – get lost in their day-to-day operations and brand development is on the bottom of their to-do list, if it’s on there at all. They are more focused on next month’s content marketing strategy, and less on their overall brand message.
But there are a lot of reasons to invest in brand development. If you want to create a powerful brand and have loyal customers, focus less on short-term campaigns that might boost sales, and look longer term at what your brand is all about.
Let’s look at what brand building is and isn’t, and how you can get started with your brand development process ASAP.
What you’ll find in this guide:
A clear definition of what brand development actually is
The difference between branding and brand development, because it can get a bit confusing.
Seven really good reasons why you should invest in a brand development strategy
An explanation on when you should go for rebranding (first) instead
What the brand development process looks like in 8 steps
What is brand development?
If you want to develop a brand, you need more than a website, logo, colours and even a tone of voice. A brand goes beyond what people can see, it’s about what it makes them feel. Brand development is working on that. It’s aligning your brand with your objectives and values and strengthening your brand.
The brand development process is a long, ongoing one, of expressing your values and working according to your mission and vision. Let’s put it this way: If you would sell exactly the same products to exactly the same customers as your competitor, brand development is what could make them pick you – consciously.
Developing a brand is a creative process, but also an exploration of the principles you want to make standard in your business. And brand development, real brand development, doesn’t just happen on paper or screen. The implementation of it is what makes it real.
Besides that brand building is also closely linked to customer experience and your company culture. Let’s dive even deeper into it to explain why.
The difference between ‘brand development’ and ‘branding’
Brand identity, brand strategy, branding – are we just mixing up words here? Not at all: brand development and branding are two different things. Connected, yes, but not the same.
Branding is promotion. It’s how you advertise your company or products with ads and visuals. It’s design-oriented, and focused on execution. It’s websites, brochures, ads, colours, logos, and tone of voice.
Brand development is building a reputation. It’s basically personality development for businesses, not focused on promotion, but rather on connection. It’s more strategic and long-term, more conceptual. It’s how you as a brand distinguish yourself from your competitors, if all your products and prices were the same.
Now, branding is a part of brand development. But both require different experts.
When done right, branding contributes to brand development, and the two make each other stronger. What a team!
Why is brand development important?
If you want to create a strong business that can pass the test of time, you will need to work on the development of your brand.
Chances are you have worked out an amazing looking branding. Your business strategy is on point. You hired the best in the biz when it comes to search engine optimization. Your sales team knows how many new leads they need to get, and get them. Your mission and vision are inspiring. You know who your target audience is and how you want to be perceived.
Brand development is tying all of that together, so it really comes to life.
Because if you want a solid strategy and a remarkable market positioning, you shouldn’t work on those aspects separately. The only way to be convincing as a brand, is to see it as a whole. Here’s what benefits that will bring you.
7 ways brand development will help your business
Brand development will affect different aspects of your business. Your marketing efforts might shift. Your customers will notice, but so will your team. So, what are the benefits of brand building and development?
1. It will be easier to develop relevant content for your target customers
Is filling up your content calendar a monthly struggle? If you work on brand building, you’ll never be lost for words ever again. Once you know your values and what you want to radiate to your target audience, you will always have something relevant to talk about, besides your products.
2. It gives you a competitive edge
It’s easy to recognize the brands that have invested in brand building. They’re the ones we reach for automatically in the supermarket, the ones we browse first. Brand awareness is built by brand development.
It helps you make sure you are always top-of-mind, leaving little space for your competitors, and helps build consumer loyalty.
3. Brand development makes you more authentic
”Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time.” – Elon Musk.
We couldn’t have said it better. 86 percent of people name authenticity as a key factor in deciding what brands they like and support – or buy from, in other words. Real authenticity comes from matching your actions to your words, over and over again.
4. Brand building helps build trust
An important part of the brand development process is working in alignment with your values. If people can relate to those values, and you work according to them time and time again, you’ll inevitably build trust. The more your target market trusts your brand, the longer the queues when you launch a new product.
5. Brand development helps you create a high-value business
How can you expect a customer to value your business if you don’t? Businesses that are too product-centered will see the effects of that in the long run. Consumers will spot a well-developed brand from miles away and recommend it to others, increasing the value even more.
6. Brand development makes you more resilient when the going gets tough
A strong brand promise will increase brand loyalty. Whenever you get into rough waters, but you stay true to your brand, your target audience will know exactly what they can get from you — even if you slightly alter the product or service itself. It’s the values and quality that stay the same.
7. Brand development is a great framework for your company culture
Your company culture influences how your brand is perceived, and your goals for your brand development affect your company culture. The two are inseparable. Ultimately, it’s your staff who needs to make the brand development happen.
Not just in big strategic moves, but also smaller, day-to-day actions and interactions. Having a plan for your brand development in place will steer them in the right direction.
Should you go for rebranding or brand development?
We’ve covered the difference between branding and brand development, but brand development isn’t always the right choice right away. Sometimes you’ll first need to do a (full) rebranding before you start further developing your brand.
Rebranding isn’t something you should take lightly. It’s a big investment – time and money-wise. And you shouldn’t do it just because you feel like your company needs a new look.
Rebranding is often done to battle a bad reputation or update an outdated image. Sometimes it’s necessary to rebrand if you want to expand internationally and your current branding doesn’t fit into the markets of other countries.
Many brands opt for rebranding when they find their current branding isn’t working, when in reality they are simply not using it right.
So, when do you start with brand development? Brand development is the right choice when you want to build on what you already have, or after you’ve completed your rebranding.
Rebranding is only right if there is really a need for change and your current branding is harming you and standing in the way of your business objectives.
‘But business is going well! Why should we invest in brand development?”
There are plenty of big brands that are slowly but surely losing market share. They were household names for new generations, who then stopped bothering with establishing a strong brand under the young kids. Their target audiences from several years ago still love them, but what about their kids?
New brands enter the market rapidly, and the consumer’s attention is more divided than ever. Brands that are still deciding on what personality they want to have and what they stand for, will be cancelled quickly by the younger generations who are looking for connection more than ever.
No brand is immortal. If you feel like you’ve exhausted all the possibilities of improving your product or service, focus on something a little more long-lasting: your brand.
If in ten years, your product isn’t in demand anymore and you want to introduce something new, you better have a strong brand in place that people will recognize and trust right off the bat.
7-Step Process For Brand Development
Okay, but how do you actually work on brand development? Even though it’s an ongoing process, there are some crucial steps to follow. We’ll show you how to get started and develop an effective brand development strategy in seven steps.
Step 0: Find out where your brand is now
We’ll start the brand development process by looking at the state of things as they are.
If you want to develop and grow your brand, you’ll have to put a mark on the wall to see where your starting point is. If you’ve been working on your brand and branding here and there, we recommend you start with brand measurement.
The benchmarks you get are a foundational piece of the puzzle. They will help you make well-informed decisions about making the right adjustments that actually solve problems in your brand, rather than just piling on creative ideas that aren’t aligned with your goals and vision.
With brand measurement, you can define the key areas in which you need to work on successful brand development.
Step 1: Define your target audience
Don’t roll your eyes and sigh, ‘ugh, again?’ just yet.
Yes, the target audience is part of, well, every X-step process to creating anything for your brand. The reason it keeps coming up, however, is that many businesses still get it (slightly) wrong.
Instead of mapping out who their customers are, they draw up personas of their ideal customers.
A little ambition is great, but you will need to be realistic. Do those fantasy, ideal customers even exist? And while you are targeting them, what about the people who are actually interested in buying from you?
If you are happy with the target market you are reaching now, talk to the people in it to make more accurate personas.
Why do new customers choose you, and how do current customers feel about you? The only way to really learn all this, is by speaking directly to your customers and prospects. Even the smartest marketing minds can’t read minds. The most valuable information about your customers comes from your customers.
You can launch surveys, but also look into reviews and research forums to find out what your target audiences are talking about when it comes to your brand and market. That way, you’ll really learn what they value and are looking for.
Step 2: Define your true brand mission and vision
If you haven’t yet, define your brand mission – the right way. Formulate a mission that actually resonates with you and the people in the company. That way it’s more authentic, and you can actually reach it.
A mission statement is not just a bunch of words on your About page. It’s why you came in to work this morning, and why you’ll be back tomorrow.
Part of this is also your brand vision. As a quick reminder: your mission is what you want to reach. Your vision is how you believe this should be done – not in a practical way, but with what values. On to the next step!
Step 3: Pick values that really fit your brand
You should derive these from your mission, to make sure it’s a match. Why have both? Because it makes it even easier to identify what actions come from your ideas and ”what you stand for”. Plus, they will make it easier to make brand development visual and tangible. You can show the values, and know what words to communicate.
Step 4: Formulate a brand promise
Now, this is a big one. Promises always are. Your brand promise, or value propositions, will affect your team (how they work) and your customers (what they expect from you). Better pick one carefully.
A brand promise is not a tag line or slogan. It’s a value you add. It’s what customers experience when they interact with you. And that’s not just when they buy from you.
Why does a brand promise matter for your brand development? Because it’s a daily reminder of what you’re working towards. The more you develop a brand, the easier it will become to deliver what you promise.
Step 4: Develop brand guidelines and create content accordingly
This is where (for a lot of people) the fun starts. You create the visual elements based on your values. That means you will not pick colours just because they look good, but because of what they stand for, what emotions they spark in people.
This is how your entire design process will look like: you’ll always look back at your values to see if it’s a match.
Apart from your visual identity, your tone of voice and communication guidelines are also important brand assets. You could create a style guide that every employee has to follow, so your brand is recognizable – not just in what it conveys, but also in what it looks like.
Step 5: Pick brand growth strategies that match your brand
Managing brand growth isn’t something like a marketing campaign. There are no sprints that will help you boost revenue or grow your customer base directly. It’s a long-term journey to grow and strengthen your brand.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any KPIs. Check out our article on 10 brand health metrics you should know about, and keep an eye on those as your brand develops.
Sentiment, brand equity and brand awareness are just a few that give you a great overview on how you’re doing in terms of brand development.
That being said, your brand development strategy has to be aligned with your value proposition and mission statement.
Calm, a meditation app, knew just when to launch a brand growth strategy – during the 2020 presidential election. In a stressful time for everyone, they were seen on CNN offering free coping and calming tools to help stressed out Americans – perfectly aligned with what they stand for.
Gymshark helped both gym-goers and personal trainers during the pandemic, with free resources to train from home, and even the option for PTs to host workouts online. With this, they really doubled-down on taking care of the physical and mental health of their customers.
Papa John’s also knows what brand growth is all about: delivering meaning. Instead of an expensive Christmas episode telling people about the importance of giving, they actually gave the money reserved for that commercial to a charity. In a simple, fun video, they explained what they did.
Step 6: Implement everywhere and be consistent
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, brand development is all about being consistent. It’s crucial that you include all aspects of your business in this, internally and externally.
From your packaging materials to your customer service and from your website to your meetings: your brand is being built everywhere where people can see it – customers and employees.
Step 7: Keep measuring and improve
And just like that, we’ve come full circle. We recommend you to keep measuring your brand health metrics to see if your strategy is paying off.
Having set moments to look at these metrics will also help you stay on top of it and make brand development a priority – which it should be.
Ready to build a successful brand that is future-proof?
Developing your brand and watching it grow is an exciting process. Stay on top of it using our brand tracker to always have an accurate idea of how well you’re performing brand-wise.
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Elliot joined Attest in 2019 and has dedicated his career to working with brands carrying out market research. At Attest Elliot takes a leading role in the Customer Research Team, to support customers as they uncover insights and new areas for growth.