While your brand represents your business story, if done well it also becomes representative of your audience’s stories. For many Americans, McDonald’s is a fixture of childhood happiness that makes it difficult to disentangle from the brand (even when you know it’s not good for you). It’s too entrenched in memories of kiddie birthday parties and colorful Happy Meals. The golden arches become symbolic of the easy comforts of youth. They become personal triggers.
To have that kind of lasting impact on your market, it’s not enough to choose colors that you like or fonts that are trending. It’s necessary to think carefully about your brand and your audience in order to develop a consistent, compelling brand strategy. How can you improve your brand strategy if it doesn’t seem to be catching on?
Start by defining your brand goals
In the beginning of your enterprise, you took time to develop a business vision: long-term goals and expectations for your business’ development. Your brand goals should align with your business vision, and they should be explicitly stated. It’s impossible to determine if your brand is successful if you haven’t set benchmarks to measure it.
What are some common brand goals? If your business vision is to expand beyond your domestic market, a brand goal may be to rely more heavily on symbols and images, which are capable of quickly communicating across language barriers. Another goal may be to rely more heavily on colors that are attractive to the other cultures you’re trying to reach. While white is associated with purity in the US, many cultures associate it with mourning, death, and misfortune.
Allow user personas to guide brand development
Remember, your brand should accomplish more than representing your business. Ideally, it should be relevant to your market. Even better, it should represent a lifestyle or value system that your market identifies with or would like to identify with.
People choose one brand over another based on perceived value. By associating ourselves with brands that have greater perceived value, we feel on some level that we’ve elevated our own status, whether we like to admit it or not. The person who cruises through the streets in a Hummer is making a very different statement about what he values than someone who squeezes a tiny smart car into one of Manhattan’s tight parking spots. Obviously, a brand doesn’t make the person, but it can help the person define herself.
When you’re building your brand, start by understanding your audience. Brainstorm lists of their interests, objects and atmospheres that they gravitate towards, and activities that they commonly participate in. Then incorporate the most powerful of those elements into your brand strategy.
Keep it simple and consistent
If you want your brand to anchor itself in your audience’s life, you need to make conscious choices initially and then follow through with them consistently. Choosing a limited palette of colors, a defining font, and a few strong images and using them across your messaging makes it easier for your audience to recall your brand quickly.
A gorgeous shoe with a red lacquered sole has been instantly recognizable among shoe aficionados as a Christian Louboutin since 1992. The high contrast red and yellow of McDonald’s brand advertisements no longer even require the company’s logo to elicit recognition. Tiffany’s trademarked color is another brand element that requires no introduction. When a woman is offered that blue box, she knows she can expect something luxurious.
One detail – whether it’s a color, a unique font, or a striking symbol – is easier to remember than several elements, so choose a motif with the bare minimum of elements to increase your brand’s memorability.
Create a brand foundation guideline
Once you’ve got your brand basics established, take the time to develop a simple brand foundation guideline. Include the hex codes of your primary colors to make it ensure the color is always the same across platforms. Provide instructions on the use of fonts and symbols across communications.
Refer back to your brand foundation when you’re making decisions about packaging and advertisements. Each outreach – from tissue paper to Christmas cards – is an opportunity to solidify your brand strategy.