Steps to building a brand

The essence of brand building is engagement. Engagement is a core aspect of communication which is characterized by the passing of information from one entity to another. When a response is generated and sent from entity B to entity A who had originally passed on some information, (even if it is just an acknowledgement of receiving the information), this two way exchange is referred to as engagement.

With respect to brands, engagement is highly sought after as it confers a toga of legitimacy and potency on the brand. The saying, “no man is an island”, plays well at this point because the brand cannot exist in a vacuum. Every brand is attached to a person, a cause or a product. In building a brand, we are basically saying what we have to offer is bigger, better, shinier, less complex to use, more functional in design and a host of other differentiating factors than some other person, cause or product.

Building a brand is done in 2 major ways or phases. Others may argue that there are more.

The first phase covers the following steps:

1. Recognition of a missing link, feature or entire product line to meet a need.
2. Rapid prototyping of a solution to meet the identified need.
3. Roll out of the end product.

The second phase covers the following steps:

1. Publicity of the product and its perceived or actual benefits. (Some products are designed for one thing but are being used for something entirely different.)
2. Acceptance by the market based on proof of usage.
3. Sharing of the information about the product between users and by way of introduction to potential users.
This second phase is also the most critical.

Brands are built around personalities, products or services. A product is usually tangible. A service is more sensory related. Personalities are, well… personalities. Apple has managed to achieve all the above.

The original iPhone was nothing more than a proof of concept that touch screen devices could exist and perform creditably as mobile phones. A premium was placed on the device as a barrier to mass ownership and that barrier is still in existence more than a decade and 10 iterations later. The brand was basically built on breaking the glaring limits espoused by the “Blackberrys” and “Nokias” who closed shop or nearly did and are massively reinventing in order to stay alive.

The iPhone has spawned several copycat devices and launched the world into a new technology age so to speak. They were not the first to make touch screen devices but they made them really popular. The Apple brand remains one of the most valuable in the world as a result.

The Apple product – a fully functional touch screen device that serves as a mobile communication hub.

The Apple service – communicating with ease and in defined style.

The Apple personality – someone who places a premium on their person and style of communication.

Personality, Voice and Message.
Let us take a closer look at personality in branding.

Personality refers to your makeup as an individual. It consists of the nuances, idiosyncrasies, peculiar traits and attitudes that when combined and presented to someone who knows you, they can correctly pinpoint that you’re the one being described even if you are not present.

The voice is a combination of the physical voice box, the left frontal lobe of the brain and the thoughts formed as a result of experiences, expressions and words. The voice is either heard or it is silent.

The message, any message, could be spoken, written or simply lived out for all to see. In order to be repeated, relived, and transmitted to another perceptive entity, the message has to be sticky; meaning it has to stay with you long after you have heard it.

I have written before that branding is a meeting of minds. In this context, your personality is a unique mix of your voice and message which translates into the final outcome known as your brand.

Your personality gets incorporated into the branding process such that the little bits that make you unique show up in the end product. For instance, the colour black in branding circles is said to depict boldness and confidence on the part of the producer. With black as one of your company or product colours, a certain level of those qualities are expected to therefore be transferred to the users of the product, it will reflect on your choice of colours and in the presentation of the total package.

This brings us to the voice, which can be aptly described as the expression of your personality. Personality remains largely unseen and is shown to the world via the voice medium. Your brand is never silent, it always speaks. It is up to you to develop a unique voice for it by taking the best parts of your personality and giving them expression.

In the human growth process, voices change for boys at puberty, and some others train their voices to be finely tuned instruments of melodious harmonious music. This also exists in the branding process. You can change how you give expression to the personality or brand persona. You may also fine-tune the expression until it creates in the eyes, ears and mind of the beholder, literal music.

Your personality is internal, the voice is external. What they combine to produce is a message. This is what your consumer / customer sees, hears, experiences of your personality. Make sure it is pleasant and rewarding every time.

People interact with brands to show a level of affinity. People identify with other people, companies or products for two major reasons: Aspiration OR Practical use of the product or service.

Aspiration is closely linked with status symbols such as the aforementioned iPhone. An example practicality of usage could be the Bic pen for writing.

Considering that branding is a process and your brand is a promise kept. Your personality, voice and message must mesh in such a unique way as to attract repeat custom from people who will pay a premium to experience your promise.

In further building your brand answer these questions:
a. Is it a personality, a product or a service?
b. Who is it for?
c. What’s the ease of access and usage?
d. What method of publicity will be used to sensitize the public about it?

The answer to these four questions form that basic foundation of your brand.

The process of brand building is covered in four stages which are described in brief, next.

Conception: This is when the idea of the product or service takes root. It also covers what the finished product would look like; how it would be presented to the outside world and how it would eventually change the world.

Development: While working with a designer, design firm, branding firm, manufacturing outfit or going the whole hog yourself, the product / service is fleshed out and with specific regard to branding, 2D imagery and marketing copy are developed. This covers just two of the major aspects under the development stage.

Consolidation: After several iterations, a decision is made on the design and other implementation details to go with.

Deployment: At this stage, the finished work is shared with the world and based on feedback and other changes made after the launch to accommodate new features, and to decimate others, the product / service is well on its way to being a recognizable brand.

Brand building can be also achieved using different tools. In the present day, one major tool for this utilized in different measures across each of these stages, is social media.

Social Media as a branding tool

3 key lessons so far in our discourse:

1. Every individual or company can have a brand, be a brand. This is based on the impression people have of you upon contact.

2. Branding is a process and your brand is a promise kept. Your personality, voice and message must mesh in such a unique way as to attract repeat custom of people who will pay a premium to experience your promise.

3. The essence of brand building is engagement.

It is critical to understand that just like the logo, social media is not branding neither does it make a brand. Your presence on all social media channels is a basic pointer to your time management skills. If you make money as a blogger or as a promoter online, by all means stay on social media all day. If not, get the word out, engage with your followers, clients and customers, move on until the need arises again.

There are many widely known and used social media portals in the world and just as many if not more that are unknown. For the purpose of brevity we will focus on just a few. That any social media channel is not mentioned here does not mean it is not useful or cannot serve as a means to propagate your brand.

Facebook: With a population of 2.5 billion people and counting, on this platform alone, Facebook is the largest nation on the planet both online and in real life. If you include Instagram and Whatsapp, platforms that are both owned by Facebook, that number goes a lot higher. In recent times, social media has been facing a backlash as being a time suck and avenue of perpetuating hate across the world, prompting the social media giants to take proactive measures to limit the time spent on their platforms as well as checking what is posted. That said, the platform provided by Facebook serves as a veritable point to showcase what you have to sell.

A few ways to do this include:
1. A personal profile: The personal profile belongs to one individual and is primarily a means of keeping up with friends, family and even enemies in some cases.

2. A public page: This can be setup to belong to an organization, a band, a public individual such as Bill Gates, or a host of other options. Facebook permits you to post text, images, videos and audio. They also allow you to boost the said post for maximum visibility. The catchier your copy or your post, the easier it is for people to share in and the wider your brand is known.

3. A group: This can be public, open to one and all yet guided by rules of posting. It could also be private with stricter rules on admission, posting and the likes that govern conversation within them.

Twitter: Life in 140 characters was once the main draw of this service. That limit allowed you to be concise and fairly detailed while passing across your message. The character limit has since been doubled. You can curate news, data and all matter of information from this platform. Twitter is also the land of influencers, which while not as large as Facebook and a few other platforms, you can find the best of whatever it is you seek. Study the platform to discover if your crowd is there, no matter how small. Set up a twitter account, post to it often, retweet from other users what resonates with your brand message, share lots of images too as they get the most interactions. Make yourself and your brand visible. Connect with the influencers both within and outside your industry.

Instagram: Currently owned by Facebook, the channel is mostly image driven. These images could be of your product, you or someone else using your service, a behind the scenes set of pictures at an event your brand sponsored or quotes from your favourite author or the brand CEO. Follow people who represent what you aspire to be like and share similar messages. Engage with them and the general audience using the ubiquitous hash tags or create one for yourself. A similar platform is Pinterest.

YouTube: This is a large forum where videos are posted online showing all sorts of stuff. Set up a channel for your brand. Share product knowledge. Share tips on how to interact with your brand. Share tips on how to interact with other brands. Become a product sponsor. Testaments to the power of video are those musical ones posted by artistes or their official management representatives, with some of them racking up billion of views and counting. YouTube has options for you to copy protect your material as uploaded so that you don’t unintentionally give away stuff for free that should be monetized. YouTube also has a payment plan wherein you get paid for a specified number of views. Some people have gone as far as setting up multiple channels and are building media empires by churning out original content for themselves of on behalf of others. The sky is the seeming limit when it comes to video and its use for brand propagation and engagement. A similar platform is Vimeo.

Other social media channels are Google+, Linkedin, Snapchat, WeChat, Weibo, Reddit among others. One thing to remember is that each of these channels cater to a specific demographic, you will need to identify which ones reach those who are most likely to buy from you and to engage with them there. This is not to say you ignore the other platforms, it just means you prioritize your time and productivity when developing copy for brand engagement.

There are lots of people and businesses who are interested in what you have to offer. There are others who can serve as veritable success partners for your business. Social media is an avenue to easily locate and relate with them.

To learn more about using any or all of these channels for brand propagation, engagement and to possibly generate sales, drop a question in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter @bamsprings Photo credits: Dribbble and Pixabay

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