Most entrepreneurs are familiar with mega brands such as Virgin, Apple, Uber, Shell et al; and instantly recognise their distinct colours, photography and style, writes Nene Parsotam.
Many, at a subconscious level, are also familiar with the brand values of these companies. For example, Apple represents simplicity and innovation; Virgin is eclectic and creative; Cadbury is quirky and fun, while Hagan Das is indulgent and luxurious. These brands have been developed by world-class creatives, and cost millions to establish.
With the current rise of African and Africa-focused entrepreneurial services and products, branding is subsequently having a bit of a renaissance on the continent. It is universally known that a brand needs to be established as part of a business or service.
However, though there are great (and in some cases groundbreaking) new businesses emerging, many don’t know how to establish their brand from the ground up or know any branding basics. Because of this, the elements of the brand are unconsidered, or of poor quality, and usually rely heavily on a logo, which in turn may not have been designed correctly, or is a carbon copy of an existing brand.
As a result, the brand’s main message may end up muddled or inconsistent. The knock-on effect is that many businesses do not get the funding they deserve to grow and scale, due to the incorrect perception these companies with poor branding give.
So what makes a brand memorable? Many new businesses rely on a logo to define themselves, but this is very much putting the cart before the horse. Without any clear values, a pretty logo will be unconsidered and won’t actually mean much. A good solid brand is far more than a logo. Branding that is long lasting is considered long before you decide on a logo design, colours, or even a name for your product.
While we can’t go through the whole process in the space of an article, I can give you a few tips to consider to get started and ensure your brand has a solid foundation to grow and develop.
1. Determine who you are talking to
Once you have decided what your business, service or application is going to do, the next question to ask is: Who is your audience? What do they like? Where do they ‘hang out’? How do you think your product or service can add value to their lives? It is very tempting when launching a business or creating a brand to focus on what you like and what you want, but this will result in a brand that doesn’t really resonate with a wide or even niche audience; it will feel like your brand doesn’t connect with either market. The first thing you need to do is put yourself aside, and focus on your target market. It should be one set of people with values close to yours, and the business should align with what they need.
2. Come up with your three main brand values
Brand values are the weight behind the brand; what you connect with and what emotive response is triggered when a brand is mentioned. Drawing out and creating brand values is a science in itself and involves teams of marketers, phycologists, researchers and creatives. However they always start with the founder. It’s very important that brand values are considered very carefully, and are based on you (the founder), as they become the bedrock of your company and very rarely change. These values are the heartbeat and the lifeblood of your brand. They will keep you focused and be the directional compass for everything, from choosing creatives and partners to work with; and how you interact with your customer, right down to what image and typeface style you use in your marketing communications. The best way to start is to look at what is important to you and your audience – then see which values overlap. Write down all the values you feel are right for you and your audience then narrow it down to the three that resonate with you the most. Try to keep them as unique to your company as possible and avoid generic and overused ones, like professional, innovate, quality. The core values of some of the biggest brands in the world resonate with audiences immediately, even without any interaction. You’d usually pick three and they should align and complement each other. They shouldn’t clash, like simplicity and complexity.
Example brand values are authenticity, joy, optimism – these are simple but descriptive values for Coco-Cola. Contemporary, prestigious and instinctive elegance are Jaguar’s.
3. Establish your single-minded proposition.
This is the single thing or value that your business or service adds to your chosen target market. It needs to be only one main one. Many brands have two to three propositions but they very rarely try and show more than one at a time. This is so that brand messaging stays clear at all times. What is the single most important thing your business or service stands for? Why does your business do what it does and for who it does it for? What’s its biggest benefit to your chosen audience? What makes your product or service different from everything else like it on the market? What quality do you want it to be associated with? Is it innovation, knowledge, heritage, simplicity, speed etc? This is very different from the product or service itself. The service proposition is what it does. The brand proposition is where is it placed, what is the feeling to be evoked? How does it speak to the heart of your audience? The emphasis is on the ‘single’. For clear brand message, there should only be one proposition.
4. Be clear on what you want to say
Too many messages around what you want to tell your audience makes for muddled communication, as your brand values are communicated through your messaging. This is done via everything from how you answer the phone to how you interact on social media. If you try and be young and hip as well as serious and corporate you give the impression that your brand doesn’t know who it’s talking to, as you can’t speak to everyone the same way. From your brand values and proposition, choose a means of speaking to your audience that fits with them and your brand values and stick to it. Brand messaging comes through in everything from your image choices, to what typeface you use, even your method of speech.
5. Determine how you want to say it
Once you’ve done the previous four steps you’re ready to think about how to present these values visually, as this will be how you want to say things. It’s at this point that you should work with a good graphic designer who will know how to translate these values in to visuals. Don’t just pick anyone. Branding is a creative science so it needs an expert who has worked with a variety of brands and knows how to translate values across various media. This is crucial to the success of your business or venture as it’s the first connection with outsiders, so it’s important to get right. It can require lots of thought and detail, so it’s best to hire an expert to help and not just get any designer to make things look pretty. The logo and marketing collateral all need to communicate your brand values.
In an environment where everyone can just copy each other, getting your branding right will truly make you stand out from your competition. And in such a fast-paced burgeoning market, you will certainly need to.
Nene Parsotam is a senior digital designer and art director with over 11 years of experience working within the Advertising, Digital Design and Branding industries, and has worked for some of the top advertising agencies in the UK, Dubai and America. Her clientele include Samsung, Channel 4, Visa, Pepsi, Warner Bros, Jaguar, Accenture, Macmillan and L’Oreal to name a few. Nene is an Art Director at VINE Creatives, a London based but Africa focused specialist creative design house.