Branding 101

No matter how accomplished you are, you cannot succeed in the business world without branding yourself. Branding is integral: it influences your first impression, online persona and business credibility. Your brand is what allows you to stand out and make you memorable in the competitive market.

You first need to address the “why” or the purpose of your product/service/company. Why are you passionate about doing things differently? Why did you choose to create this product for this group of people? What problem are you solving? Your drive and purpose is what sets you apart from your competitors and can be briefly conveyed through your mission statement. A brand that exemplifies this is Glossier; Glossier’s products are meant to enhance the “real beauty” that we already possess and they have continuously reiterated this through their campaigns celebrating diversity and imperfection.

The next component is the “how.” How are you going to implement your product or solve this problem? The “how” is the specific of how your product/service achieves the goal differently than competitive businesses. This can also include your target audience/market: the “who.” Be sure to make this audience as niche and specific as possible because this allows you to create a more focused campaign.

Lastly, to tie it all in, is the “what.” The “what” is your actual product/service itself and includes the four P’s of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. You can find more information about the four P’s here. The “why,” “who,” and “how” attract people to your brand, while the “what” seals the deal and encourages people to actually use what you have to offer.

After you establish the above, it is now time to work on your physical branding material starting with the single most important symbol of your business: the logo. While this may seem simple, and even trivial, your logo represents your brand’s recognizability and credibility. Invest in a good graphic designer, because your logo will stick with you throughout the growth of your business. Several online platforms also allow you to customize your own logo (I recommend Canva for beginners). Nike, for instance, is now quickly recognized just by their iconic Swoosh.

After your logo is created, you need to figure out the tone for your campaign. What is the central message you want to convey? Let’s say I want to build my campaign on diversity. One way I could do this is by working with models or ambassadors that represent a variety of different backgrounds . You can also use color themes to reinforce this tone. Is it formal (color theme: dark blue/beige/white)? Is it playful (color theme: warm, golden colors)? Is it feminine/masculine (color theme: soft, pastel colors vs deep, stark colors)? The attitude that you want to express should be based around how you want your target audience to perceive your brand. It should be consistent throughout any forms of marketing you do.

There are several ways to market and promote your new brand. The best way to do this is through social connections both online and in real life. Social media campaigns are largely successful; create a social media page to post exclusive details about upcoming events, collaborations and products. You can even enlist the help of online influencers and make them ambassadors for your brand. Additionally, collaborating with other, more established brands and pages that already have traction with your target market is essential. For example, if I was starting a streetwear brand, I might want to collaborate with pages like Hypebeast. All your social media pages should be linked to your website, which is the “mothership” for all your activity. Your website should offer a centralized, all-encompassing source of information about your company that can be accessed by anyone. It can even serve as a place to sell your product!

The Internet is an amazing resource, but human interaction is also crucial. Push yourself to attend conferences and networking events to increase your connections and garner interest for your product; you never know who you will meet (see "How to Get your First Job" for networking tips)! Additionally, you can host launch parties or other less formal initiatives that add dimension to your brand while still sticking with your central mission. The key is to maintain focus on your mission and what sets you apart, while still creating a great reputation for your brand.

These steps can be applied to anything as simple as a self-project to a corporate company. We are excited to see how you will use these tools to succeed in your ventures!

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