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The Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Brand: Part 1

By: David Brooks
The Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Brand: Part 1

Coca-Cola. McDonald’s. Walmart. These brands are etched in our minds with their rich history and iconic imprint in business and society.

Branding is all around us. Branding can be experienced with all five senses. People are unique brands portrayed in specific ways to be set apart from their peers.

For example, my writing style throughout this blog post is part of my personal brand. 

But what is branding? How can you build a successful brand? And how can you measure – and ensure – your brand’s success?

Learn more in part one of this ultimate guide to building a successful brand.

Setting the Stage: Branding Defined

Per to the American Marketing Association, “A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

A brand is the idea or image in people’s minds when they think about products, services, and companies. This is achieved in both practical and emotional ways. Physical features such as logo, packaging, or messaging created help to cultivate a brand.

According to Marty Neumeier in The Brand Gap (2006), branding is an individual’s gut feeling regarding a product, service, or company. Neumeier defines branding this way as we all interpret a brand differently.

Once a collection of individuals has the same gut feeling, Neumeier explains, a company can be said to have a brand.

Douglas B. Holt states in How Brands Become Icons (2004) that branding does not truly exist within a new company. The features of the brand exist – e.g., the name, logo, packaging, and other unique features that we commonly associate with a brand.

However, without a history, they are devoid of any significant clout.

What is Branding Success?

We can derive from Holt and Neumeier that a true brand does not exist or achieve success until feelings and historical value have been developed over time. Before arriving at this point, a company must understand its own brand internally.

For a company to understand its own brand it must answer three questions according to Neumeier:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Why does it matter?

Only after these questions have been answered can a brand begin to blossom into a strategic competitive advantage.

Five disciplines are discussed by Neumeier on which to build a brand from its foundation:

  1. Differentiate
  2. Collaborate
  3. Innovate
  4. Validate
  5. Cultivate

Brand Positioning & its Importance in Successful Branding

Brand positioning is a key element in successful branding.

As author Harris Roberts states in a Figmints article: “Creating a new value curve allows a brand to communicate effectively within the market through its aligned messaging creating unique value propositions.”

How are value propositions far more than features, advantages and benefits?

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Branding becomes the key to a successful brand’s growth. Developing the gut feelings that Neumeier and Holt have strongly advocated in how a brand is successful.

Below is an example of how brands in the same market position themselves differently to achieve branding success:

Taco Bell 89 cheesy
Chipotle

In looking at this branding example in fast-food Mexican restaurants, Taco Bell and Chipotle, we can see that they are positioned differently to capture uniqueness in the market as well as branding success.

Taco Bell is price-centric while Chipotle positions themselves as being a source of “real” ingredients.

Both are successful because they have communicated with their audience effective branding by following Neumeier’s five disciplines of successful branding.

How to Measure Your Brand’s Success

Branding can be measured in five areas related to communication that build upon each other according to Neumeier:

  1. Distinctiveness – Brands must provide quality of the messaging and expression to stand apart from competitors. Without distinctiveness, they will not be successful and blend into the scenery.
  2. Relevance – Brands must determine relevance in determining if the expression of the brand is appropriate for their goals.
  3. Memorability – How often a person can recall the brand expression is achieved over time and goes back to creating a lasting feeling. This reflects on Holt’s (2006) idea of being without true brand identity until remembrance is created.
  4. Extendibility – Brands that can extend throughout multiple media, cultures, and messaging types are successful in creating the final message.
  5. Depth – Being able to communicate messaging on a multitude of levels is important in developing a successful brand because people are drawn and connected by different things.

Branding Evolution

“Like innovations in product, those in marketing can influence industry structure directly,” Michel E. Porter writes in Competitive Strategy (1980). 

Learn about “Competitive Strategy” by Michel E. Porter!

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Through time branding and marketing have had a paradigm shift in what matters to achieve feelings that influence success. Figure 1 illustrates a timeline of this evolution:

Source: Neumeier, M. (2006). The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design: a Whiteboard Overview. Peachpit Press. Pages 38-39.
*Source: Neumeier, M. (2006). The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design: a Whiteboard Overview. Peachpit Press. Pgs. 38-39.

What is most important to people has changed over time. Think of the Ford Model T car.

In its initial production, every car that came out of the factory looked identical and was the same color black. During times of war, it became most important on what a product could do.

What did you feel when you had your first Happy Meal at McDonald’s? Today, who you are is most vital in the success of a company’s branding efforts. A great example of “who you are” branding is TOMS Shoes.

The TOMS brand gives a pair of shoes to those in countries with great poverty for every shoe purchased.

TOMS Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie writes in his 2012 book Start Something That Matters:

“When you have a memorable story about who you are and what your mission is, your success no longer depends on how experienced you are or how many degrees you have or who you know. A good story transcends boundaries, breaks barriers, and opens doors. It is a key not only to starting a business but also to clarifying your own personal identity and choices.”

Pg. 77

This message resonates in all their branding and builds a personal connection to their brand.

Cohesive Branding and Why It Matters

“Cohesive branding involves ensuring consistency in your brand no matter which platforms you use so that your brand is immediately recognizable,” Jason Corgiat from LeapGo writes. “This involves choosing certain fonts, graphics, illustrations, colors, and tone of voice, and then being consistent with these on all of your platforms and marketing materials.”

Cohesion in branding extends the ability for companies to make the right impression with their brand from inception. Through Holt’s and Neumeier’s observations on successful branding, this is the key to increasing and sustaining brand recognition with the goal of creating brand affinity.            

Cohesion also directly is applicable to increased conversions in the sales cycle of a company. An example of this would be an HTML email being sent out that has a matching aesthetic and message on the landing page.

Aligning increased improvement in cohesiveness is critical to the success of a brand. For example, here at COACT, we’ve implemented designer portfolios and mini brand standards for all clients to build continuity for a particular client to achieve cohesiveness. 

As Corgiat explains: “A cohesive brand helps you to make a positive first impression, increase sales, become more recognizable, stand out from your competition and become more memorable.”

Stay tuned for part two of this ultimate guide to branding! In the meantime, we invite you to check out some of our past articles about branding:

This article was written by:

David Brooks
Senior Business Development Specialist
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