50% of your brand is built on perception – nail your branding and you’ve got half the battle won. Find out how small startups with big visions complement a great product with a great look.
For most aspiring entrepreneurs, the Starbucks brand represents one of the biggest success stories in solid branding. From its humble origins in 1971 when Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel, and Gordon Bowker opened a small café called Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice in Seattle, to the well-known global coffee juggernaut that it is today, the Starbucks branding story is one that many have tried to emulate. Back in the day, the three founders invested $1,350 each and borrowed another $5,000 from a bank to open the very first Starbucks. In May 2013, the company was estimated to be worth around $43.2 Billion. To put that into context, the Space Shuttle is priced at around $1.7 Billion. You can buy about 25 Space Shuttles with enough spare change to still get you the whole Los Angeles Lakers team (valued at $1 Billion).
Why is this important? It’s just to prove that, paraphrasing Spider-Man, with great branding, comes great profits and market value.
So how do you build a solid brand, you ask?
It’s all about image, baby.
A good brand is one that has a strong and memorable image. If I were to ask you to think of a soda brand off the top of your head, chances are that you would answer with “Coca-Cola”. You can probably picture the iconic logotype and the familiar red can and bottle of sweet, carbonated liquid.
How does it all start? It begins with a name. Your brand name can be anything at all that you want. It can be a made-up word or someone’s last name. It could even be a fruit. Case in point: Apple. The important thing is to get it mentioned repeatedly. Get it ingrained in your consumers’ minds. It’s always easier to remember a short and unique name than it is to a more complicated or boring name.
Next up is your logo. Your logo is the visual representation of your brand. It is what triggers brand perception and awareness. Your logo must tell your target audience who you are, what you do, and how you can benefit them.
Your logo is just as crucial as your name. The logo is the first visceral connection the consumer makes with the brand. It triggers the brand perception. The first measure of a symbol is that it answers questions: Who’re you? What do you do? What’s in it for me? In terms of practicality, your logo should also be easily and uniquely recognizable. No point in creating a logo that is a direct rip-off of an established brand. That would just dilute your own brand identity.
Start the conversation – your brand will mean nothing if your target audience doesn’t care enough about it to talk about it. Branding happens in the minds of your consumers. The promises behind the brand produce its allure, but getting the word out is still what brings in the customers.
Your image may appeal to your target audience, but talking to them is what engages them. As a startup, you may not have access to traditional media exposure such as advertising, promotions, direct marketing or events, directories. These things cost money and as a startup, every single dollar counts.
Here’s where social media comes into play.
Take your brand online using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media outlets. Talk to your target audience. Listen to their needs and then give them the answers they seek promptly. Ask questions. Get feedback. Find out from your consumers how you can improve. Be polite. This is extremely important. Always be polite. Always be real as well. No one likes talking to what seems to be a robot. Show your brand’s personality through your online interaction with your target audience.
Always know what your target audience wants
If you’re in the business of creating mobile apps, you need to know what kind of mobile apps your consumers are looking for. How does your mobile app stack up to your competitors? How strong is the perception of your brand, and how can you make it stronger? Does your target audience prefer your competitors’ products? If so, why do you think that is so? How is your brand perceived? If it’s negative, what can you do to change this perception? These are some questions you have to answer.
For your brand to succeed, you need to know how your brand is perceived, how many people dislike it, how many it appeals to strongly enough that it triggers brand loyalty and these people become champions of your brand, and how your brand stacks up against the competition. This battle for the top-of-mind recall is fought within the battleground of your consumers’ minds.
Nothing that has been mentioned here is easy to do. It takes hard work and time to successfully build a solid brand. But as Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try”. Strengthen your brand image and identity, communicate with your target audience, and make sure that whatever you do revolves around your audience. Can it, and you’ll be on the path to success.