Branding and Brand Building in 2021: Your Ultimate Guide

Brand building—or simply branding— has significantly evolved in the past decade. Social media and other technologies have provided various different ways to raise awareness for your brand. Yet, on the other hand, the market is now very saturated and getting people to recognize our brand amidst all the noises is very challenging.

With that being said, branding in 2021 will be more important than ever, but on the other hand, it might be a very challenging and complicated task.  

Organizations must now consider the fact that their brand needs to exist everywhere to effectively capture the audience’s attention: from logos existing on social media profiles to color choices in the website and packaging to social media posts, strong branding will require tremendous efforts. 

With that being said, in this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about effective branding in 2021. By the end, we hope that we can help you develop and manage an engaging brand identity that can help your business in building awareness, generate more leads, and ultimately, grow your revenue. 

What Actually Is Branding?

Let’s start at the very beginning. To really understand brand-ing we have to really understand the definition of brand. Brand or brand identity is:

  • Who or what your business actually is, the unique identity of your business
  • The promise you make to your target audience (customers), your unique values
  • Engagement and connection between your business and your costumers, including but not limited to how you communicate the unique values of your products or services 

To summarize, a brand is unique characteristics or features that differentiate a business from another. A brand can include elements like—but not limited to— business/brand name, logo and/or logogram, design templates, brand tone/voice, and more. A brand can also refer to the overall unique customer experience of the target audience/customer when they interact with this specific business. 

With that being said, branding is a process that comprises of at least three different processes related to brand identity: 

  • Designing and developing a brand identity according to the company’s goals and according to the target audience
  • Presenting and communicating the brand identity to the target customers, applying the whole concept of the brand including overall user experience
  • Collecting feedback from the audience about the brand identity and overall customer experience, and improve the brand accordingly

A proper branding or brand building process must consider these four different factors:

  1. Who is your target audience?
  2. What matters to your target audience? 
  3. What matters to your brand? What are the values you want to represent as a brand?
  4. How do you want to differentiate your brand from your competitors? 

Why Is Branding Important For Your Business?

How effective your branding is can be a very important deciding factor for your consumers.

Why? It’s quite simple: would you buy something from the brand you don’t recognize? Even more when the product/service is of a substantial price. According to the Nielsen Global Survey, close to 60% of consumers said they only buy from brands they know.

Here are some important facts and statistics on why creating a unique brand identity and properly presenting it to your audience is essential: 

Proper branding can significantly help your marketing and advertising efforts, allowing your target audience to better recognize your business. Also, proper branding can bring pride to your employees and can help in attracting and retaining talent.  

Branding In 2021: Key Principles To Follow

Now that we’ve learned about the concept of brand identity and branding, as well as the importance, here we will discuss the step by step guide to creating a brand and presenting it to your audience.

Remember that the branding process doesn’t really end when you first launch the brand identity, but it can be a continuous process of gathering feedback from your customers and re-inventing your brand identity (rebranding). 

So, keep in mind that even though this is can be treated as a step-by-step guide, you might need to repeat some steps as you build and present your brand identity.  

1.Defining and Understanding Target Audience

One of the key objectives of branding is to build awareness.

Brand awareness is essentially how familiar your target audience is with your business–your brand identity. Awareness will, in turn, develop into brand recognition, a relationship between your brand and customers (trust), and ultimately, sales conversion.

So, a key aspect of the successful branding process is to define your target audience, understand their behaviors and needs, and create a brand identity to accommodate this audience’s needs.

Why? Because when your brand identity doesn’t really come across with your audience, it won’t produce awareness (and in turn, won’t produce brand recognition and conversion). 

This is where proper market research comes in, and in general, we should attempt to answer these questions:

  • Who does your product or service cater to?
  • What is the purpose of creating the business in the first place?
  • Who is your business’s ideal audience?
  • What is your ideal audience’s needs, pain points? 
  • What kind of aesthetics will attract this ideal audience? 
  • What kind of content will engage this audience?

Ideally, develop a buyer persona, figure out your ideal audience, and the answers for the above questions should be the main factors in influencing all your branding-related decisions. 

Defining your target audience and figuring out their needs should be your priority before we can continue with the next steps.  

2. Develop Your Brand Message

Based on the previous step about defining your target audience, the next step is to develop a brand message according to this target audience’s needs. That is, the focus of your brand message should be about defining your business’s mission and vision to define your brand’s beneficial purpose to provide value to your audience. 

There are two key areas to consider when developing your brand message: 

  • Your target audience must be able to recognize, values, and trusts your business based on this brand message
  • Your message should successfully communicate the purpose or mission of your business

That is, every aspect of your brand message—and brand identity—from logo/logogram, images used, font selection, tone/voice, and brand personality should reflect your business’s purpose, vision, and mission

Your brand message and especially your brand purpose should be clear and specific enough so your target audience can understand why your business exists and why they should care about your brand.

3. Develop a Unique Brand Identity

Why is uniqueness important in branding? It’s quite simple: 

Unless you are a really unique business in the first place, most likely there are a lot of other businesses in your niche/industry as your competitors, competing to capture the same target audience. 

Besides catering to your audience’s needs, pain points, and behaviors, another important purpose of your branding is to differentiate your business from your competitors, creating a unique identity your competitors can’t legally copy.

So, a core aspect of the branding process is to create unique aspects of your identity from your purpose (as discussed above), values, how you will benefit your audience through your product/service, and qualities.

In this step, take the time to really think about how your business can differentiate itself from the competition. Remember that this is not only about your product’s or service’s unique features and qualities, but how your brand as a whole can be a valuable solution for your audience’s real problems and improve your audience’s lives. 

You can learn from various examples of how top brands successfully differentiate their businesses. Remember that how you communicate your brand’s unique value is just as, if not even more important than highlighting them.

Cling to the main objectives:  so your audience can recognize your product/service’s unique benefits, trust your brand’s values, and most importantly, so they can choose your brand over your competitors.

4. Develop and Communicate Your Brand “Voice”

Brand “voice” is an often misunderstood concept compared to other elements of brand identity.  

Simply put, the brand voice is how a brand communicates with everyone in a unique way—especially but not limited to the target customers/prospects—. So, “voice” here doesn’t only refer to the auditory communications, but also textual and visual. 

Brand voice can include a unique selection of words, attitude/tone on how we communicate the brand message, and how we communicate the unique values (as established in the previous point) to everyone.

Your main focus, however, is your target audience. You’d want to develop a brand voice that your ideal customers can relate to, so you can capture their attention. So, again, go back to the drawing board in getting to know your audience better and better.

Another important aspect of your brand voice is consistency. Make sure your tone is consistent throughout all of your channels from your advertising campaign to your blog posts to your social media posts to your videos. Remember that your audience will need time to recognize your tone and get familiar with it. 

5. Develop Unique Visual Assets

With visual-forward being the trend surrounding content marketing in the past few years, it’s only obvious that visual assets will be a very important aspect of branding. 

At this stage, you should’ve properly understood your target audience according to the previous steps. You should’ve developed a proper brand message/mission statement, and have also defined all the unique qualities and values that make up your business.

Designing all the different visuals is probably the most familiar (and exciting) aspect of branding, and here we should pay attention to all the different elements like logo/logogram, font choices, icons, color schemes, and so on. 

An important part of this step is to develop brand guidelines to ensure that different team members (or whoever use your brand identity) can use all the different elements consistently and accurately. 

Designing visual elements, although exciting, can be a very challenging process, so you might want to consider outsourcing to a professional designer or even a design agency.

6. Implementing Your Brand Identity

Even after you’ve developed all the different aspects of your brand identity, as we’ve discussed in the previous steps, you still need to integrate the brand identity to all the different elements of your business process.

The idea is to make sure your brand identity is properly displayed anywhere your brand interacts with anyone—especially but not limited to your customers—.

  • Social Media Profiles

Nowadays, your social media profiles are often the most important aspect of any business’s online presence. The common practice is to put your logo as the profile/display picture and make sure all possible visual aspects: page covers, branded images, profile photos, etc.

The main focus here is to make sure your customers can easily recognize your business. Also, make sure your posts and all other textual/auditory content reflect your developed brand voice.

  • Your Website

Your website is obviously one of the most important places to put your brand identity in action. Since with your website you get the utmost freedom to place your visual assets and content anywhere you want, too many options can often be overwhelming.

With that being said, make sure not to use anything but your pre-built assets that you’ve established in your brand guidelines. It’s very important that your overall website design and voice should reflect your brand values. Make sure all content including CTAs and product/service descriptions should align with your brand voice.

  • Advertising/ Promotional Campaigns

Advertising and other forms of outbound marketing are very important channels in establishing brand awareness. That is, these activities are often the main way prospects and customers get introduced to your business. 

So, properly integrating your brand identity in these promotional activities is critical, and you have to ensure that these efforts always reflect your brand message at all costs. 

On the other hand, proper brand identity development should give way for an easier ad creation process. A functional set of brand guidelines can—and should—also help in how we should develop our ads and their copywriting.

  • Product/Service Design and Packaging

This one is fairly obvious. If your business is selling physical products, the product is probably the best and most effective way your prospects and customers can interact with your brand identity. Your product/service packaging should integrate your brand identity properly, from its color scheme, logo usage, size, and overall design/feel. 

  • Customer Service and User Experience

The people element of your business is also a very important part of your overall brand identity. Especially people in your business that directly interact with customers and other external parties. 

Train your sales team and customer service to stick with the brand guidelines during interactions, train them on when and where to use your logo, tagline, and how to align their communications with your brand message. 

Tips In Implementing Successful Branding in 2021

How can your branding initiative stand out amongst thousands of social media profiles, logos, and various branding efforts from other companies? The general rule is to be unique and authentic, but here are some effective tips you can try: 

1. Define Your Branding Objectives

One of the most common branding mistakes made by so many brands is not having a clear brand strategy in the first place. 

A proper brand strategy is more than just your brand guidelines, and the most important aspect of brand strategy—just like any strategy—, is to have clear objectives/goals. Your strategy should properly define how your branding activity will achieve these objectives, and will typically involve defining the purpose of your brand, the tone/emotion aspect of your brand messages, versatility in communicating your message, and people involvement.

Since branding can be a long-term, continuous process, a proper brand strategy, and especially establishing clear objectives can help your branding activity to move forward in improving brand awareness and recognition. 

2. Consistency Is Key

In this digital environment where our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, consistency in introducing and communicating our brand identity and brand message is the key to building awareness. 

On the other hand, branding inconsistency is a very common, and very dangerous mistake made by many businesses. Inconsistency can lead to confusion, and in turn, will significantly decrease the effectiveness of your branding. 

Make sure to always maintain a consistent, integrated branding presence and message at all costs, so your target audience (and everyone) can easily recognize, trust, and prefer your brand over time. 

Again, developing and sticking with proper brand guidelines can significantly help in this enterprise. 

3. It’s All in The Details

There are three key aspects of successful branding:

  1. Identity: what or who your brand is
  2. Voice/tone: how your brand communicates with others
  3. Experience: how your brand should be remembers

So, when developing your brand identity, consider all the important details on these three factors, such as: 

  • The visual “appearance” of your brand and if it’s a person, how would it introduce itself?
  • The overall tone of your brand. How would you introduce your products and/or services? Would it be fun and humorous, or serious?
  • How would you like your audience to describe your brand after the first meeting with your business (their first impression)? 

Don’t forget that the main purpose of communicating your brand identity is creating and maintaining healthy relationships with your prospects and customers. So, understanding your target audience (in detail), and developing various aspects of your brand identity (in detail) will be the keys for these relationships to flourish.

4. Gather Feedback Effectively

Since—as established above— branding is about relationships, then maintaining a two-way communication and gather feedback from your audience will be very important for success.

Nowadays, social media can be a very powerful channel to connect all the different people around the world, including your target audience. Maintain authenticity and consistency (as we have discussed above) when engaging your audience on social media and other channels.

Treat your branding process as a continuous cycle, gather valuable feedback from these relationships, and improve your brand identity accordingly according to your target audience’s preferences.

5. Branding To Improve HR Performance

The advantages of an effective branding process don’t only extend to external benefits, but also internal. Strong brand identity can make your employees proud, which can, in turn, help your business in attracting new talents and also retaining valuable talents in your team.

On the other hand, employer branding is also an effective way to communicate your brand to your external audience. Why? Simply put, when people in your organization are publicly proud of your brand, more people will recognize and trust your brand.

End Words

Although the branding activity can, and should, involve many different activities, arguably the most important thing in brand building is to maintain authentic and engaging relationships with your prospects and customers. 

With that being said, our branding efforts in 2021 and onwards should leverage all the available digital channels (especially social channels) to maintain two-way communications with customers, gather feedback, and use the insights to further improve our brand identity. 

About the author

Mike is a lead SEO strategist at Nine Peaks Media. With over 10+ year of experience in SEO and Inbound Marketing, he helped hundreds of B2B and SaaS businesses rank on the first page of Google.

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