Far from everyone would claim to be branding experts, but tend to instinctively understand the power of a strong brand. If we have a choice, for instance, between our next computer being an Apple one or the equivalent offering of a brand we’ve never heard of, a lot of time, we will choose the Apple. It’s the safe, familiar and reassuring bet, enjoying an association with quality and innovation.
Your ecommerce store’s brand design strategy, then, can’t be the work of a moment. Depending on simply putting your shopfront and its products ‘out there’ won’t be enough.
A well-crafted and designed brand won’t merely look good, or appeal to your vanity as a business owner. That’s because it can bring real practical benefits, such as enabling you to meaningfully differentiate your store from its competitors, cultivate customer loyalty, and even put you in a better position to charge higher prices.
After all, if your brand’s fans think you represent superior quality to an alternative, they will probably be prepared to fork out more for it (see that Apple example again).
Why, then, is a brand's design strategy so crucial?
So, you can probably gain a sense from the above of what a great brand can do for a business. But it’s not just a question of why you need a powerful brand, but also why you must formulate an effective strategy for building one.
A strong design strategy is vital on a number of levels. It will guide the decisions that your business makes, far beyond what colours to use for the company logo – think such matters as the products you offer and how you present them, as well as what kind of content you use on your ecommerce site, and the tone you deploy for it.
Your store’s brand design strategy will also be instrumental in keeping every member of your team ‘on the same page’ about what your business stands for, and how to epitomise this in their words and actions. And it will help in terms of achieving consistency and coherence – your customers will want to be sure that the image you present of your firm to the world is matched by the reality, every time.
The 8 steps of creating an impactful brand design strategy
So, you now know about the importance of a brand itself, and a strong accompanying design strategy. Let’s now set out eight stages of putting together a great such strategy.
#1 Pick out your audience
You can’t do much to develop a brand until you know who you will be attempting to reach with that brand. So, pinpointing your target audience is crucial – and when we say pinpointing, we mean being specific about it, if you can.
The better you know the niche you will be serving with particular products of yours, the less competition you will likely face overall – and you will be able to zoom in on a more specific brand voice, design and strategy, too.
But how can you be sure of who your audience is? Well, it’s a good starting point to look at whatever customers you may have already, and consider what they have in common with regard to such things as their age, geography, and what they like about your store.
In identifying your audience, though, you should also be looking at your industry rivals, what kinds of people they seem to be targeting, and what that might mean for who you target (note: you won’t necessarily be aiming at the very same people as your competitors when you are eager to differentiate your brand).
Then, you should be well-placed to start devising some buyer personas. By this, we mean formulating a profile of who your ‘ideal’ customer may be, in terms of factors like their age, gender, demographics, and even behaviours such as how they like to shop online.
As your store and brand continue to evolve, you will have the chance to gather data – from sources like analytics tools and customer surveys – that you can then use to keep on tweaking your customer personas.
#2 Consider how you will position your brand
Becoming more knowledgeable about who your target customers are will greatly aid you in positioning your brand to better appeal to these individuals. After all, your brand can’t be ‘all things to all people’; both formal and offbeat, or both ‘high-end luxury’ and ‘cheap and cheerful’.
You can do this by coming up with a brand positioning statement. This is a statement of one or two lines, effectively setting out who you are and what your business does. Consider the all-natural brain-wellness supplement brand Fredi, for example, which outlines on its homepage that its product represents “your natural boost in focus, memory and mood at work”.
The above instance is just a sentence, yet it already makes clear two obvious differentiating factors for Fredi: the fact that it uses natural ingredients compared to the synthetic ingredients favoured by rivals, and the promise to boost the customer’s effectiveness throughout their workday. That has to be something a bit more appealing than regular coffee, hasn’t it?
Knowing your own brand’s positioning and selling points – and being able to communicate these in just a sentence or two – will provide a strong template for the creation of marketing campaigns that really ‘speak’ to your target audience, in a language they understand.
#3 Choose a name for your business
So, let’s now step up a difficulty level. It’s one thing to be aware of your business’s target audience and brand positioning, but it’s another thing to sum up what your customers ought to know about you in a single word or two. Yes, we’re talking about coming up with your brand’s name.
Sheer memorability obviously matters when devising a business name – how could any of us forget the Coca-Colas or Kodaks of this world? However, you should also consider whether your brand name conveys the principles or emotions that you wish your store to be associated with.
There are, of course, different ‘kinds’ of names that businesses tend to create for themselves. Some – such as Brew Tea Co. – may be fairly descriptive, while others, like The Couture Club, tend to conjure up certain emotions. Then, there are the acronyms like IBM or HSBC, and compound names combining multiple words into one, such as Facebook.
Whichever approach you take to your own brand’s name, it’s a good idea to not finalise your choice until you have also checked what domain names are available.
#4 Set out your brand’s story
If there is one especially ‘fun’ part of your brand design strategy, it is surely explaining why your business exists at all (beyond the imperative to make money). Consider what inspired you to set up not just any business, but this business for which you are formulating a brand. A business having a sense of purpose is so important – how do your store’s products benefit customers and the world?
A great example of a compelling brand story is Who Gives a Crap, which specialises in eco-friendly, plastic-free toilet paper. But more than that, the business donates 50% of its profits to efforts to construct toilets for those around the world who don’t have one. There’s no question, then, of why the brand exists, and it tells its story in an engaging, light-hearted way.
Setting out a brand narrative like this can be a very powerful way of demonstrating that your business really cares about the products it sells, beyond the ‘bottom’ line (sorry, we’ve still got bums on the mind). That, in turn, can help you attract new target customers with similar values and priorities to your brand.
#5 Determine your brand’s look
The visual appearance of your brand naturally encompasses a lot of elements. That will include the colours, fonts and illustrations you use across such branded assets as your website, emails and product packaging.
A distinctive look will help the customer to pick out your brand from the mass of competitors, but getting your brand’s look right isn’t about distinctiveness alone. You will need to consider the psychological effects that certain hues, fonts and imagery might have on your customers – red, for example, being associated with boldness and passion, while blue is comparatively calming.
Once you’ve got together the range of elements that constitute your brand’s overall look, you should also make sure you assemble a set of visual guidelines for the benefit of your team and any designers who work alongside you. Through our own branding and creative services here at Underwaterpistol, we can help make it all easier.
#6 Design a logo
As one of the most instantly recognisable elements of a brand, your logo will unquestionably have a major part to play in your brand design strategy. And like a name, a great brand logo will have a strong impact on your target audience’s perception of what your company stands for.
To this day, we see iconic logos such as Apple’s apple symbol with a bite taken out of it, and we feel that the given brand has been encapsulated in that image – no further explanation needed.
But again, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to designing an impactful logo. Some ecommerce stores might go for the ‘emblem’ style, for instance, which consists of their image being placed in another device such as a shield or circle. Others may have a mascot that they incorporate into their logo to help give their brand a ‘human’ face, while others use letter marks to effectively make a visual logo out of an acronym – the IBM logo being a great example of the latter.
Or perhaps you might feel that your brand would be best represented by an icon such as the Twitter bird, or a combination mark that – as the term suggests – combines an image and the company name in the logo, as Taco Bell does?
Working alongside a professional designer will help you whittle down these possibilities when deciding on what type of logo to opt for. And yes, we provide our own logo design expertise as part of our broader branding services here at Underwaterpistol.
#7 Compose a slogan
Strictly speaking, your ecommerce store doesn’t need a slogan in order to have a captivating brand. However, it is certainly an ingredient that has been shown to help many businesses reach further and maximise brand recognition. Getting your own brand slogan right could make it even easier for your target shoppers to understand what your firm stands for.
Looking back in history, different slogans have helped ambitious brands to convey different messages, while remaining in tune with their own unique brand voice. Consider Adidas’ “Impossible is nothing”, which sounds a rallying call for the world’s would-be high-achievers and trailblazers. Or what about Apple’s “Think different”, which helped imbue Apple with an improbably rebellious and countercultural image during its late 1990s period of recovery under the late Steve Jobs?
Whatever slogan you end up going with, the key things to ask yourself are: is it saying to your target audience something they ought to know about your business, and is it adding to and enhancing your business’s existing brand identity?
#8 Incorporate your brand everywhere
So, with all the above steps completed, you have a brand! Now, it’s a case of presenting it to the wider world. That will mean integrating your brand into every aspect of your firm’s operations and marketing, to help entrench the imagery and values it represents – and maximise memorability.
A good foundation for accomplishing this will be a style guide that all employees and contractors can refer to, thereby helping to ensure your brand always looks and sounds as set out in your design strategy.
Then, it’s simply a question of taking your brand to the various channels on which your company is active. Does your ecommerce store, for example, have a shopfront that incorporates the agreed-upon company colours and displays the logo on every page? Are the graphics that you use in your social media posts well-aligned with these brand elements? What about your email newsletters – are they also embodying the brand image and voice you wish to perpetuate?
Being consistent in how you develop and communicate your brand across these multiple channels – and offline, too – will be vital in ensuring your target audiences become gradually more familiar with your company, and more assured of its stability and reliability.
The UWP team can provide brand integration services encompassing all the above. Where other agencies may promise to help you select the right theme for your website, we’ll design it for you from the ground up, and so much more besides, to help make sure you convey the right messages in the right ways, to the right people.
A great brand helps you attract – and keep – lucrative customers
You should never underestimate what a well-designed brand can do, which in turn, means you should never underestimate the value of an intelligently formulated brand design strategy.
In a business world that now seems more competitive than ever, we cannot emphasise enough the imperative role the right branding will play for your firm. If you want your customers to feel an emotional connection with your store, and stay loyal to you instead of simply heading elsewhere the moment an alternative pops up, you must put in the time and work to create a resonant brand.
With the optimal brand, your target audiences won’t just come back to shop with you time and time again – they will also become enthusiastic advocates of everything your business does. Contact the Underwaterpistol team today, so that our own skilled and experienced branding professionals can show you the way to a growth-led brand design strategy.
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