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In: Web Design, Website Development

Setting up a business is no easy feat, especially when competing with others. That’s why branding is essential. Aside from increasing your visibility and improving your brand positioning, data shows that having strong branding can boost revenue by as much as 33%.

Sounds exciting? Explore the building blocks of branding and discover ways that you can add oomph to your brand!

What you need to brand your business

  1. Brand identity: how you want your customers to see you
  2. Brand image: what your customers actually think of you
  3. Brand Promise: what your customers can expect
  4. Brand experience: how your consumers feel from the onset

Why is branding important?

A graphic designer’s brand design journey by felipe_charria

Often, the marketing department carries the burden of branding a business. Chalk it up to the misconception that branding only revolves around creating a positive visual identity of a company or improving how it looks to its market—something that the marketing pros are good at.

However, branding goes beyond what customers can see. A brand is a medley of components that make up your business, like products and services, workforce and the customer experience you bring.

It then makes sense to think of your brand as an integral part of your business that concerns all functions, whether in sales, marketing, operations, or even human resources. Below are what strong branding can bring you:

  • Increased visibility
  • Strengthened brand loyalty
  • Higher employee retention rate
  • Boost credibility and trust
  • Revenue growth

No wonder big companies spend a chunk of their budget on branding alone. However, this does not mean small businesses with limited funds do not stand a chance. It all boils down to getting the building blocks of branding in place.

What you need to brand your business

There is no single recipe for creating a successful brand, but a good brand starts with these base ingredients: brand identity, brand image, brand promise and brand experience.

1. Brand identity: how you want your customers to see you

A brand guideline showing different logo designs and color palette
Logo and brand guide design by merci dsgn

Your brand identity is like a handshake to anyone who encounters your business online or offline. And as they say, first impressions last. So, how can you leave a positive impression? In branding, this process usually begins by forming a visual representation of your business through your chosen logo, photos and imagery, and color palette, to name a few. However, it’s not as easy as picking something pretty to look at.

Your choices of what visual elements to include should align with your mission, vision and values, competitors and market demand. You should also consider your tone of voice or how you sound when communicating your brand’s message. When combined, your brand identity becomes more dynamic and relatable.

For example, Nike’s ‘Just do it’ tagline elicits that assertive tone of voice that motivates people to move. The tagline fits perfectly with Nike’s market of athletes and sports enthusiasts who use positive affirmations to stay driven.

A print ad for Nike that reads “Everyone loses games. Few change them.”
Just Do It campaign of Nike via DesignYourWay

You can mix it up and have two or three tones of voice, but authenticity is crucial in determining which is for your brand.

Another example worth looking into is Swedish milk manufacturer Oatly and how tweaking its brand identity helped boost the business.

 A milk box design by Oatly that shows a glass of milk with a capital H Healthy Oat in front
Oatly’s old milk packaging via TheBrandGym

With lactose intolerants accounting for over 60 percent of the global population, Oatly decided to offer a healthy milk alternative to the market.

Unfortunately, while they pinned down the science behind the product formula, their branding strategy failed to attract their target audience. After more than a decade in the market, they look like any milk brand available in Sweden.

Having limited resources, Oatly relied on an inexpensive yet creative strategy to boost its brand identity through a method called packvertising. Packvertising or package advertising is when a brand utilizes its packaging for ads—a way cheaper alternative to paying for a billboard ad or a TV spot!

Oatly focused on educating its audience by including science-backed yet fun-to-read information about the benefits of its products. The brand’s tagline—which was catchy, factual, with a tinge of sarcasm—“It’s like milk but made for humans,” wittingly took a jab at cow milk-based products.

Moreover, Oatly’s packvertising evoked a playful and organic appeal by integrating pastel colors, a custom-designed typeface, and fun illustrations that attracted the younger market. The overhaul was akin to saying, ‘Different is good. Why not try something new?’

And it worked!The company’s new brand identity greatly resonated with its audience, just when plant-based food and drinks were starting to trend. Oatly has since experienced an astronomical revenue boost of 100% according to its CEO, gaining a broader audience in other countries like Germany and the UK.

2. Brand image: what your customers actually think of you

A gallery of wonderfully illustrated women striking different looks
A creative illustration of how different people may look by Digital Man ✅

We dress according to the image we want to project, but does it translate well to others who see us? Taken into context, your brand identity should align with your brand image or how your market sees you. Your brand image is shaped by tangible elements that your consumers can experience and your brand personality or a set of human characteristics that relate to your brand.When determining your brand personality, you need to identify what type of emotion you wish to elicit from your market. Does it bring out excitement, sympathy, or warmth? These are just some of the characteristics that can make your brand more relatable, boost customer experience and result in a positive brand image.

One company that has mastered the art of brand image is Haidilao.

Haidilao is a 28-year-old popular hot pot restaurant that originated in China. The secret to its longevity? While food is a crucial factor, Haidilao has built a strong image of being a customer-oriented restaurant that gives over-the-top customer service.

 A spread of cold cuts, meatballs, and vegetables with a boiling hot pot in the middle
Haidilao’s famous hot pot via RedChili21MY

In many Haidilao branches, patrons wait about two hours due to the sheer number of people lining up for their hot pot. So to keep its hungry customers happy, Haidilao provides activities they can get busy with.Got kids who are about to get bored? Each Haidilao branch has a fully equipped playground for children. Feeling stressed? You don’t have to go far as the restaurant offers free massage and a full-service nail spa while waiting in line.

A short clip of Haidilao staff offering a full-service nail spa
A customer shares her nail spa experience while waiting to be seated at Haidilao via Tiktok

Once you are seated, a team of attentive staff is ready to pamper you. There are also noodle masters who will personally come to your table and make fresh noodles by hand while dancing. And if you are in China, Haidilao is considered very affordable at 100RMB (USD15/pax), making the dining experience worth every penny!

A noodle master handmakes fresh noodles while performing in front of the diners
Haidilao gives its diners a meal and a show via YouTube

As the brand’s tagline says, “Service first, customer first.”This undying commitment to building a brand image around excellent customer service has put the restaurant on the map with over 1,000 branches. As a result, Haidilao has amassed a solid following from its loyal customers in various parts of Asia, London and New York.

3. Brand Promise: what your customers can expect

Taglines may seem like a brand promise, but they are distinct.

A tagline is a memorable phrase that encapsulates a specific brand value and purpose, capturing the interest of your audience. Attached to a logo or imagery, your tagline represents your overall message. On the other hand, a brand promise is your business’ creed that states what you commit to delivering to your consumers. It reminds your team and other stakeholders of what the business should accomplish at every turn and why it exists.

Amazon’s tagline is “Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History.” The tagline represents Amazon’s journey toward greatness and its goal of bringing a unique experience to its customers. A message that continues to resonate with its customers and is a constant reminder of why they should trust Amazon.

An office wall with the words “Work hard. Have fun. Make history.”
Amazon adds its new tagline to its office wall via Glassdoor

And its brand promise is to be the “Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” As you can infer, the brand promise guides every product development and business strategy Amazon executes. The brand promise also becomes a guarantee to customers that Amazon will continue to keep evolving to meet their needs.

When crafting your brand promise, there are three things it should address:

  1. What sets you apart from other brands?
  2. How can your customers benefit from your brand?
  3. How does your brand meet the expectations of your customers?

Above all, your brand promise should be genuine, bring value to your consumers and something you can follow through. Otherwise, a broken brand promise is a sure way to lose the trust of your most loyal customers, putting all your efforts in vain.

4. Brand experience: how your consumers feel from the onset

Rounding up the building blocks of branding is brand experience. Brand experience pertains to the quality of interaction your consumers experience from the first contact to the last—from seeing your branded ads online to experiencing your product after making a purchase. It influences the opinions of people about your brand and can ultimately be what sets you apart from your competitors.

A group of people exploring ideas
An abstract illustration of how creative ideas are made by Spoon Lancer

Say, Eloise, a photography newbie, is interested in buying a new camera. Your online ad popped up on her feed, which led her to your social media page. Satisfied with the reviews and designs, she decided to drop by the mall.Although there were rows of other shops selling cameras nearby, Eloise was smitten by the interior design of your shop from the window glass and the retro-themed logo with the tagline that says, ‘Where your passion comes to life.’ She is attended to by a cheerful salesperson who patiently explains the key features of each model so she can choose the right product for her.

She tried the display products and found them intuitive to use with beginner-friendly features perfect for her needs. After a couple of minutes, she decided to make a purchase. But the transaction did not end there.

In the following days, Eloise received links from the brand to YouTube tutorials customized for photography beginners. She was also invited to attend free photography workshops on Zoom tailored for its customers. As a result, Eloise had a 360-degree experience that was memorable and topnotch, prompting her to promote the shop on her social media page.

Three people are brainstorming together
Close collaboration between teams improves brand strategy by wildanya

From the surface, these all look like a marketing and sales team effort. But behind the scenes shows that it was a concerted effort of the HR department in hiring on-brand employees, the sales and marketing team for its winning customer-centric strategy, and the product team for developing cameras that meet the needs of its consumers, that made the overall brand experience unique.Creating a holistic brand experience needs all hands on deck. It is vital for small businesses and startups to start investing in your workforce, from sales and marketing teams to product and operations teams.

You can do this by ensuring that your HR team and department managers are hiring diverse and on-brand employees whose values align with the company. Additionally, consistent training and upskilling opportunities can make a difference in keeping your workforce sharp.

A well-trained workforce delivers high-quality products or services and ensures that your branding remains consistent from all touchpoints.

Let us design your brand

With all the building blocks of branding combined, you can achieve a high brand salience or a high level of awareness and knowledge about your brand from your consumers. The best part of branding is how versatile it can be. These building blocks serve as your starting point, but with a dash of creativity and innovation, you can inject more elements to bring your brand strategy to the next level.

Want to strengthen your brand identity?
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