How to Brand a New Business

Choosing the right look is the cornerstone of your business’s brand identity.

A brand is the way consumers perceive a particular company. A company’s brand encapsulates the business’s values, the promises it hopes to keep to its customers, the way in which it communicates its products/services to its consumers and the feeling it wishes to impart on its customers as they use the business’s products/services.

Through its delivery, a brand also communicates a company’s unique value proposition – or in other words, how a business sets itself apart from its competitors. Having a good branding strategy is critical to the success of any modern day company.

Likewise, a company’s brand identity is the visual execution of its brand strategy- a collection of visual brand elements that unifies to create a singular brand image. This article will examine elements of brand identity, including the look of a business, selecting the right business name and choosing a logo that represents the business’s brand.

Good Looks, Good Business

Brand perception is what customers believe a business and its products/services represent. A business can control its target of brand messaging to its customers and, by extension, its brand perception, by carefully designing a brand personality that represents its vision, objective and goals.

The goal for any business is to connect to its customers on a visceral level and leave a lasting mental impression by triggering senses. These senses include visual (ex: use of certain colours, symbols), auditory (ex: catchy tunes, songs), emotional (ex: heart tugging TV spots) and olfactory (ex: Buckley’s “It Tastes Awful. And it Works” slogan).

A business with good brand perception often sees higher sales as customers believe in the brand and are more confident in purchasing the business’s products/use its services. Having good brand perception can also lead to higher brand value and brand equity and with it, a higher premium on a business’s selling costs.

Businesses can measure and benchmark brand perception in a number of ways, such as surveys, focus groups and social media monitoring. Surveys allow businesses to gain insight into their users, including understanding who they are and what they think of a particular brand. Businesses often conduct brand perception surveys that include targeted questions and open text to gather invaluable information from consumers. Similarly, businesses assemble brand focus groups to hear the positives and negatives of their brands from the consumers who use them and wish to share their opinion. 

Focus groups are a great way to connect with consumers face-to-face and helps put a face to the average consumer using a business’s brands. The last way is social media monitoring. Businesses often track mentions and reactions to their brand on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which allows them to gain access to information such as dwell time, influencer reach, number of mentions and shout-outs of their brand and which platforms are growing the brand the most. Metrics can be generated from social media numbers (ex: likes, comments, mentions, number of posts with hashtag of the brand), which can be used to track a brand’s buzz or popularity.

Measuring brand perception allows a business to take a fresh look at their brand and make changes to it if needed. Giving an increasingly unpopular brand a makeover can revive the brand’s image in the eyes of the consumer. An example of this is when Mazda recently underwent a brand makeover under the guidance of Chief Marketing Officer Dino Bernacchi. 

Bernacchi sought to clarify Mazda’s market position and provide a clear, unified brand message after it was found through market research that the brand was associated with words like “sporty”, “fun” and “youthful.” Bernacchi realized that the brand can further its appeal to its target audience by striking the right balance between mass market and luxury. As a result, the company started offering advanced technology and premium, up-scale materials on all its latest offerings in an attempt to woo consumers and further carve out a niche in the market.

Another example of a business changing its perceived look is McDonald’s. After a 2004 documentary entitled ‘Super Size Me’ brought attention to the growing health concerns of eating food from McDonald’s, the company sought to change its brand perception by offering healthier food choices. The company realized that their brand needed to target young couples and families in an effort to combat lowering sales and increased competition in the fast food space. The re-brand proved successful, with consumers flocking to stores to try the company’s latest healthy offerings.

It’s all in the Name

It is important for a business to be strategic when selecting a name. As a big part of brand identity, business name has an impact on brand perception. The business’s name will impact things like the logo, marketing and trademark registration. A business needs to ensure brand consistency when selecting its name–the name needs to match the rest of the brand.

A business can use various techniques when coming up with a name. It can make up a word for its name (ex: Pepsi), use an acronym from a longer name (ex: DSW- Designer Shoe Warehouse), use a portmanteau as its name (ex: “Instant camera” and “telegram”) or use a suggestive word or metaphor (ex: Twitter). A brand name will affect the domain of the business’s website, so it is important for a business to check for domain/URL availability with the particular name in it.

It is also a good idea to run the name by a focus group or conduct surveys to see if there are any unintended meanings of the name or whether it is similar to an existing brand name.

The brand name can be used by a business to voice its self-identity. A good example of this is Facebook, which was named after student catalogues that were distributed around Mark Zuckerberg’s college campus.

These student catalogues profiled students and staff and was literally a book with faces of people seen around campus.

Another example of this is Adidas, named after its founder Adolf (“Adi” Dassler). The company has its roots in post World War I Germany, when the Dassler family began manufacturing shoes. As clearly demonstrated, both Facebook and Adidas have used their names to represent their origins and  voice their identities to the world.

What is your Symbol?

Once a business has identified its name, it needs to choose its elements of visual imagery (i.e. colours, typography and logos).

Colours not only define the look of a brand, they also help to convey a feeling that the brand want its consumers to feel. A business needs to consider the emotions conveyed by different colours– for example, if the business is in the field of cybersecurity, it might consider having blue as its representative colour, signalling dependability and strength. Contrastingly, if a company wants consumers to associate its brand with the environment, it will choose green as its colour, signalling growth and health. 

Selecting the right colour that matches the rest of the brand is paramount- if the colour is inconsistent with the overall brand messaging, the business risks lower brand perception and trust issues among its consumers. Another factor in choosing colour is legibility- how legible will standard black and white text be over a brand’s colour palette and how coloured text will look over white or black backgrounds.

Next, a business will need to consider its typography. Different font types, like colours, trigger different feelings among consumers. For example, fonts such as Times New Roman and Arial are perceived as being “direct” and informative, while italic scripts such as Monotype Corsiva are more “elegant” and fonts such as Comic Sans are considered “friendly.”

A high scale Italian restaurant in downtown might have fancy italic script to convey an air of sophistication and class, while a low budget burrito shop located beside a college campus might use Comic Sans to convey friendliness. As with colour selection, font selection needs to be consistent with the rest of the brand. One mistake that a lot of small businesses make is the use of too many fonts. It is best to keep one or two fonts to give an overall cleaner, more organized look.

Lastly, the company needs to design its company logo. Having a unique, instantly identifiable and scalable logo is the key to success. The colors and fonts need to work together with the logo to convey the brand. A business can use various logo types to communicate its brand, including abstract symbols (ex. Google Chrome), mascot (ex. Minnesota Timberwolves), icon (ex: Instagram) or even wordmarks (ex: Tim Horton’s). Having both a wordmark and visual symbol is ideal as a logo since the brand can use the symbol in areas wherever the wordmark does not fit.

The colors, typography and logo need to come together in a cohesive package that is effective at conveying the brand message.

In Conclusion

So there you have it- tips to brand a business. As businessman Scott Cook puts it, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Companies with strong brands reap the rewards through high brand loyalty (think: Apple or Starbucks) and brand perception.

That being said, building a brand does not stop with the creation of a logo or slogan. Businesses need to keep updating their brands with changing times. Changing technologies, consumer preferences, consumer lifestyles and societal trends are all factors that may affect a business to consider a re-branding.

As Ben Franklin once famously said:

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”