Martin Jelsema

Article Summary:

Steps to building a brand the proper way.

Building A Brand

One of the things that make entrepreneurs "entrepreneurs" has to do with ownership. Another characteristic: impatience. Together those two factors can sabotage a fledgling brand before it first flaps a wing.

Early on the development of their businesses, many will want to name their product or company. Using their own perspective only, they will think up and fall in love with a name. If it's available, they quickly trademark or incorporate it and then move on to getting financing.

Many will ask for branding help after a year or two because they sense something just isn't right.

But they are dead set against changing a weak name. Same thing has happened when one proudly presents a logo their 14-year-old daughter designed, and won't give up even if it won't work in half the needed applications. NIH and ego combine to hinder good brandsmanship.

But these are just the first and most obvious problems. The order in which many entrepreneurs tackle the elements of branding can cause major brand weakness, not to mention cause them to waste time and money getting to market, and to profitibility.

They are out of sequence. Many have picked a name and registered it even before they've written a mission statement. They've written a tagline before they've identified target markets. They've developed a brand story after all the obvious elements are created and in use. And they'll not have provided writers and designers with a brand platform on which the creative structure is to be solidly and consistently built.

First thing first should be the rule

There is a sequence to developing a brand, just as there is to developing the business itself. When you get things out of sequence you find you need to start over which is expensive and time-consuming, or even worse, you live with a brand with weak elements that become more burdensome as time goes by.

I suggest anyone starting a business or introducing a new product follow the simple process outlined below:

  • Write a vision statement
  • Write a mission statement
  • Write down the goals of the business or product
  • Describe the business model you are planning to implement
  • Identify the market segments you will serve
  • Identify the product category in which you will compete
  • Identify and assess your major competitors
  • Crystallize your brand promise
  • Identify and develop your differentiator (Unique Value Proposition)
  • Write your brand platform (The info presented above plus your branding guidelines)
  • Append your brand platform to your strategic plan
At this point, you may want to consider bringing in a branding consultant to help you fashion the branding platform. He or she should be able to translate and integrate the vision, mission, goals, business model, and the information concerning markets, product categories and competition into a brand platform.

Upon completion of the business plan, and not before, you can begin to think of names, logos, taglines, color palettes, etc. Then, the process of branding the business or product can begin.
  • Create brand story
  • Create branding creed (principals)
  • Generate name candidates
  • Screen name for availability, obscenity and adverse connotations
  • Select three to five name candidates
  • Develop name preference questionnaire
  • Survey members of relevant market segments
  • Select and register name
Once the name is selected, other branding elements can initiated, probably in the order below:
  • Determine if a tagline needs to amplify the name.
  • If so, generate tagline candidates
  • Select several candidates for evaluation by market segment members
  • Select final tagline.
  • Bring in graphic designer with branding experience
  • Create logo candidates and color palette
  • Select several candidates for evaluation by Market segment members
  • Select a final logo design
At this point, materials can begin to be prepared for use in soliciting investors/bankers/partners. But there is more to do as outlined below.
  • Document color palette, type fonts, illustrative styles and other visual elements of the brand
  • If audio signature is desired, brainstorm and then create appropriate sounds, music, voice using professional talent
  • Select several candidates for evaluation by Market segment members
  • If a video/flash signature is desired, brainstorm and them create appropriate clips, commercials, presentations using professional talent
  • If a web site is desired, brainstorm and then create your website and/or your blog using professional talent
  • If packaging, signage, marketing materials are required, brainstorm and then create the required materials using professional talent
There may be additional items and requirements to address. There certainly will be as time passes. But for a business or product launch, the materials above will suffice. There is one more vitally important component of the branding process that needs to be developed at this point:
  • Develop a Brand Style Guide/manual.
  • Hold meeting(s) with employees, and possibly supply chain members, to provide them an understanding of the brand and their part in communicating and representing the brand
  • Distribute the Brand Style Guide to all suppliers, distributors and employees who will be producing materials, or in any way representing the "brand"
  • Post the Brand Style Guide on the Internet, along with logos
So there's a sequence that builds from idea through launch of a potentially strong brand whose elements are integrated and meaningful. There may be variations on this theme, but for an entrepreneur beginning the branding process, the basics are outlined here.

Martin Jelsema is CEO of Signature Strategies where he helps small businesses profit from the power of branding. Martin has 50-years experience with ad agencies (BBDO, Marstellar, J.M.Mathis) and companies (IBM, Coors Ceramics, Information Handling Services). He has been a marketing consultant and freelance writer since 1983. Martin also blogs at The Branding Blog. For more info, visit Signature Strategies.com

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