How to build a strong brand

Published: March 2017

You’ve read up on what branding is or isn’t, you’ve designed a great logo and your website is fantastic. You’ve done what you can to create a brilliant brand; but how can you truly know if you’ve developed a brand that speaks to people, or one that says nothing at all? How can you build a strong brand?

Big companies don’t equal strong brands

Don’t be mistaken in thinking a small business can’t possibly have a strong brand – you couldn’t be more wrong. Take Unilever. You recognise the name immediately, because Unilever is a huge organisation. But does it have a strong brand? No – its companies do, but it doesn’t. It has no other identity apart from being big, and owning most of the names in our kitchen cupboards.

Now, let’s take a look at your favourite pub. Let’s imagine it has a roaring fire, cheerful staff who remember you (and your order), classic british food, cooked like your mother made it, and you’re guaranteed to feel relaxed and looked after. If the owners of that pub can communicate all that great stuff to visitors who drive past, or check out the website – that is a strong brand. Check out some of the brands we’ve developed to see what we mean.

Mortgage pathways brand

If a customer was to imagine the owner of your company, how would they describe them?

A brand is your human side. If they can’t conjure up an image of the owner – or of who your company would be if they were a person – you are in trouble. Surely branding is about having a sense of humanity?
Teapigs have the human appeal far more than most brands. Personally, we picture a couple, early thirties, they probably grow their own vegetables and cycle everywhere. We can see their cottage, and can vaguely picture them with jam jars of tea leaves, experimenting with different flavours on their oak dining table.

That’s a pretty strong image. What makes this even more impressive is that none of this is remotely true. The cycling veg loving couple don’t exist, and never have.

International industrial conglomerate TATA developed Teapigs – it’s been one big trick from the start.

Now, we aren’t recommending you trick your customers – but there is power in being (or appearing to be) human.

Strong brand logos

Values matter

What are your company values? What does it stand for? Are these values weaved into everything that you do? We believe that brands should express your company values, and we ensure our branding does just that.
Let’s have a look at milk. Oat milk to be precise. Dairy milk alternatives are becoming more and more popular – and it’s interesting to see how they’re competing with one another. You can buy soya, almond, rice and oat milk, and I’m probably leaving something out. But one product stood out on the shelf. Unlike the other options, Oatly oat milk made it clear on the packet what its values were – that they wanted to be an alternative to cow’s milk. They even sell t-shirts with the words ‘Post Milk Generation’ stamped across them. The other non-dairy milk options kept the vegan talk to a minimum, with the vegan certified logo as small as possible. Now, if we were vegan (and bear in mind that vegans are the target market of dairy free products), we know which brand would stand out to us.

Snowshock brand

Strong brands sometimes upset people

And that’s ok. If your brand is human, then it is worth remembered that no human is liked by everybody. Let’s say that one of your values is sustainable energy that is good for the environment. Sounds pretty hard to dislike – unless you’re living in a rural area with stunning views that have just been ruined by a wind farm.

Let’s say you stand for keeping children safe and healthy. Some people believe children are far too restricted these days.

You can’t win. But don’t worry. If your values are upsetting a few people, congratulations – your business is human!

A strong brand has personality – good and bad bits

Here is a quick branding exercise that you’ve probably done before. Write a list of positive words that people might associate with your company. Then write a list of negative words. If you’re struggling with either list, or are just writing a list of things your company does, rather than adjectives, then you probably don’t have a brand at all.

You can rate your brand based on whether people like your logo, or recognise your company name, but that’s only telling half the story. There’s far more to a brand than that. But don’t worry – you can always make changes and improve.

Redcastle brand

Urban River have been creating effective brands for a variety of customers for 15 years – get in touch and we can do the same for you.
Take a look at another blog > Click here to get plenty of hints and tips on how you can improve customer retention

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