In marketing, we hear “branding” and “building a brand” used more and more by marketing consultants, content creators, and aspiring influencers. So, we’ve taken the time to put together the ultimate guide to making your own brand!
The focus on “brand” has become more prevalent in recent years, and rightfully so. One of our favorite quotes that illustrate the importance of brand is from the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. He said, “Brands are not the problem, they are the answer… brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”
This blog is a companion piece to our Ultimate Guide to Building A Brand work document. You can download it from our website here.
What is brand, and what is the “cesspool”?
Many folks think your brand or branding is only your logos, colors, mission statement, etc. While this is part of the truth, it is more complex than that.
The Answer: Your brand is a combination of your logo, assets, products, but most importantly, your reputation. Your reputation is the aggregated thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of your customers, and/or audience members. You as a person have a brand (what would your friends say about you?). The company you work for has a brand (are you known for doing good work?). Even the community you live in has a brand (are you and your neighbors proud to live there?).
Case Example: Think of your favorite place to shop. What words and feelings come to mind? Is it clean? Are the staff nice? Do you feel safe while you shop? This is the brand, and when you aggregate the feelings of your entire customer base or audience, you have a clear picture of what your brand truly is. Brands are built on the messaging and content you share, how you treat your customers, even if there is a spelling mistake on your website – it all matters!
There are a few questions we need to ask:
- What do I think my brand is (think of adjectives like professional, simple, modern, etc.)?
- Does my messaging or content affirm or combat my brand (what needs to change?)
- Do people trust my brand (why)?
- Do people trust my brand (why)?
We developed a fully downloadable document that you can work through to expand on these questions, download The Ultimate Guide To Making Your Own Brand.
So, why are brands the answer?
Strong brands are upfront, honest, and keep their customers top of mind. It’s key to
remember that your brand exists outside of your office walls and it takes considerable time
to nurture your brand or improve it.
For additional information check out how to explain branding to my boss.
Where do you start?
How do you plan a strategy with relevant metrics that will let you know you’re on the right track?
First, we will move through a few steps to identify what your brand is, and then take a look at which metrics are indicators of a successful brand strategy:
- Conduct Audience Listening
- Establish Brand Pillars
- Evaluate Your Audience
- Track Meaningful Metrics
Let’s take a look at each of those steps and how it’s an important building block of understanding your brand.
Conduct Audience Listening
Your brand is shaped by your audience. It’s focused on the collective thoughts of the public as a whole in addition to what brand elements you have.
How do you conduct audience listening for your brand strategy? There are a couple of easy ways to conduct audience listening. The first is conducting research using data and reviews that already exist. The second is to conduct your own research and ask your audience directly.
Take time to go through all of your social media accounts, and any review profiles your business or organization has. Check out Google Reviews, Glassdoor, Yelp, etc.
Look for keywords about their experience while working with your organization and staff. Look for words like high-quality, kind, or any other adjectives that get the brand ball rolling.
What did you find? Download the Ultimate Guide to Making Your Own Brand work packet to answer these questions.
Also, you can ask your audience! For example, you can send out a newsletter or social media post with a survey that asks questions about your audience’s experience with your brand, how they would describe your organization in one word, or what words would they associate with your brand.
From there you can start to paint the picture of what your audience’s perception of your brand is, and consider it in your messaging.
Establish Brand Pillars
Brand pillars are the key themes in your messaging. What content topics are core to your brand and what topics does your audience truly care about? Think about your products, what benefits they provide your audience, or how they make your audience feel.
Additionally, think about what your audience or customers care about. It’s safe to say that they value time management, planning, delegation, etc. How can the content you share on a regular basis hit on all of these content themes, and ultimately be helpful and valuable to your audience?
From here brainstorm a ton of content topics from tips, to best practices, how-to’s, or even testimonials on how someone was able to use your product in a new and exciting way. Then, think about what these content ideas could look like in a blog, or in a newsletter, podcast, video, etc.
What are your brand pillars?
For Example: If you are a company that sells online task management software, obviously the software would be one of the content pillars.
Evaluate How Your Audience Consumes Your Content
Once you’ve solidified your content and have an idea of what types of content are best for your audience, it’s time to think about how they consume your content in the context of your product. This will help guide your focus to the platforms that are truly important and hold most of your audience’s attention.
If your audience is older, consider utilizing Facebook as a vehicle to deliver your content. There is a ton of research out there on what platforms are best for specific audiences, and how they generally consume content. Also, this will help you focus on the metrics that are most important
Track Meaningful Metrics
Lastly, tracking meaningful metrics is one of the most important components of your brand strategy. It’s easy to follow likes and views, but they do not always tell the whole story. We want to look at the overall engagement with your brand, and if your content is creating memorable experiences with your audience that ultimately grows your audience and builds trust.
Some great metrics to focus on are the organic engagement on your website. Keep track of how many people are searching for your brand. Do you see an increase over time since you have implemented your brand strategy? It’s a great way to start and see if you are on the right track.
Hint: How do you measure your website traffic? Google Analytics is our favorite!
Also, look for those engagement metrics that indicate your content is engaging. Content that is engaging will bring in comments and shares. Now, this doesn’t mean creating content that includes phrases like “share this post” or “comment below” in almost every sentence. Social Media platforms are smart and can actually ding your organic reach if these phrases are too prevalent. Also, be sure to engage back with your audience. If someone took the time to leave a thoughtful review, thank them. One of the best ways to drive engagement and build a brand is to showcase that you are responsive to your audience.
Now that you have identified your brand, how do you measure branding campaigns?
One of the long-standing questions about branding and making your own brand is how to measure branding campaigns. Unfortunately, there is not a direct answer that works every time. There are a few strategies (basic and advanced) that can provide key insights into your brand. Also, it helps evaluate if the brand strategy you’re developing is on the right track. Before we start it’s important to remember to benchmark your brand before your start. It’s important to have a starting point to compare to the long term.
First, we will take a look at a couple of basic strategies. These are tactics that can be done on your own; using free metrics that are provided to you through your website or social platforms.
Benchmark Organic & Direct Indicators
Before you start, take a look at the organic visitors on your site and the organic reach of your social media accounts. Take stock of how you are doing, and where most of your engagement comes from. This is a great practice as it provides a benchmark moving forward.
Some examples of these indicators are organic & direct website sessions, # of social media comments, or search keywords.
Once you have benchmarked some of these indicators, it’s time to collect some data. There are plenty of tools, like Agency Analytics, that can keep track of various metrics across multiple platforms or it can be as simple as creating an Excel document.
Be disciplined about keeping track of these metrics, and do your best to understand what works and what doesn’t. It’s important to remember to have a collection of key metrics rather than one. It provides a clearer picture of performance and campaign success.
Ask Your Audience (a basic form of marketing research)
A quick way to understand your brand’s reputation is to poll your audience. This is accomplished through email, text, or social media. Build a basic form/survey with some general questions about audience satisfaction. Also, ask questions about their understanding of your company and your brand. This provides key audience insights regarding your company and brand. Additionally, use the data to establish a net promoter score (NPS) and understand if your audience members are “brand promoters” or “brand detractors”.
Now, we’re going to transition to a bit more advanced methodology of measuring branding campaigns. These will require the help of a specialized partner.
Media monitoring is a type of software that tracks all digital and printed records of your brand or organization. The tools track media sources such as television, blogs or articles, or what’s shared publicly on social media. These tools can track overall sentiment (whether it’s positive or negative press), and trends across months or years.
Last is good old-fashioned marketing research. Marketing research is conducted by a specialized firm. It consists of both qualitative (in-person interviews) and quantitative (surveys and data). These both help to build a picture of an audience’s understanding of a topic or idea. Additionally, it is a great way to engage current audience members. Lastly, you can engage folks who have not heard of your brand before but fall in your target market or buyer persona.
It’s important to remember that there is not a single solution that always answers “How to Measure Branding Campaigns”. It takes a well-thought-out mix of indicators and strategies to ensure that you have a current idea of what your audience thinks your brand is and the best way to build it.
Making Your Own Brand Ultimate Guide Recap
Branding can sometimes be difficult to understand and take hold of for you or your organization. It’s always good to start off with ensuring we all define “brand” the same way. Most expect the brand to do with your logo, mission statement, colors, etc. While it is partially, it encompasses much more than that.
When working on a brand, it’s most important to remember that your customers’ experiences and thoughts shape the reality of your brand. It is key to consistently work with your audience to learn more about their understanding of your brand.
There are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Does my view of my brand match that of my audiences?
- Does my content reinforce this brand or contradict it?
- What does my audience expect from this brand?
These questions are great starting points when thinking about branding and your organization. Branding is playing the long game, working with each client to create positive experiences, and then repeating that with others.
Once you solidify your brand and message, it will be important to create a brand deck to help share who you are with others.
We will close with this thought shared by Seth Godin. Think of Nike and Hyatt Hotels. Imagine Nike launches a new hotel, we bet you can imagine what it would look like, how the building would be decorated (with a sweet fitness center), and how the staff would treat you. Now, think about if Hyatt Hotels launched a clothing line. This is brand.
Want help with your branding? Schedule a free ultimate guide to building a brand worksheet review with one of our experts!
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