What comes to mind when you think about “branding?” Most people think about logos, names, and colors. While that’s part of it, there’s a lot more to branding than what’s visible. Branding is also your values and personality, what your brand represents at its core. All of this together can influencer how customers and potential customers feel about your business. When branding is done well you’ll be able to connect with customers and leads and build the relationships necessary for a loyal following.
To get your branding just right, you might want to consider hiring a branding agency to help you out. Branding agencies offer several services that can help you build a brand identity that resonates with your target audience as well as develop and communicate your brand messaging and values. In this article, we’ll lay out everything you need to know about branding, what it is, what branding agencies do, and outline the differences between a branding agency and a marketing agency.
What Is Branding and How Branding Agencies Help Your Business:
What Is Branding?
Branding is the process of using logos, themes, designs, mission statements, marketing messages, and more to build a cohesive, positive view of your business. Effective branding means putting forth an image of your business that ties your brand’s personality throughout all aspects of your business—website, email, customer service, and any other customer touchpoints in your buyer journey. When branding is done right, it can go a long way towards setting your apart from your competitors, encouraging customer retention, and bringing in new clients.
Why Is Branding Important?
Branding is vital to the success of your business. It can impact how customers and potential customers view your brand, increase brand awareness, and bring in new business. Plus, as we mentioned, effective branding helps set you apart from your competition. And, no matter what your industry, you’re going to have competitors. Your branding can work for you to show customers why you’re the brand they should choose from all of their options.
Branding also creates a complete brand experience that your customers will come to expect, inspiring brand affinity and loyalty. Your branding goes deeper than simple brand recognition. It helps you guide the perception of your brand and control how your brand is experienced by others. This, in turn, helps nurture relationships with your target audience, turning them into brand ambassadors.
There are different branding strategies and branding services you can use to create and cultivate relationships with your customers. If you’re not sure where to begin or don’t have the bandwidth to do it yourself, don’t worry. That’s where branding agencies come into play.
What Does a Branding Agency Do?
As we’ve covered, your branding includes everything from the visual elements of your company—logos, color schemes, etc.—as well as your brand personality, tone, your marketing message, and how you share that message. Branding agencies can take all of those disparate elements and merge them into a complete branding that delights both you and your target audience.
Branding agencies have a pool of skilled and talented marketers at their disposal, including copywriters, designers-, strategists, developers, and others. Some branding agencies even have specialists that work specifically in the areas of SEO, ads, social media, video marketing, or content planning. This puts them in a great position to build your company’s branding for much less money than hiring branding staff in-house.
In just a moment, we’ll talk more about branding agency services you can use to build your business. First, let’s take a look at how branding agencies differ from marketing agencies.
What Is the Difference Between a Marketing Agency and a Branding Agency?
It might seem like branding agencies and marketing agencies handle the same things. And, in some cases, that’s true. However, it’s important to understand that branding is more about bringing attention to your company whereas marketing is for pushing your message to your target audience. Branding happens first, marketing follows.
The Role Of Your Marketing Agency
Marketing agencies don’t have anything to do with developing themes and logos. Instead, they seek to align your branding (visual and non) with an advertising strategy. Marketing agencies take your branding and make it connect with your target audience.
The Role Of Your Brand Agency
Branding agencies create the face of your brand based on your values and strengths as a business. Your brand is how customers will identify your brand. This means building a brand identity upon which you can hang your marketing.
What Services Do Branding Agencies Offer?
Branding agencies offer several different services to help businesses create, maintain, or expand their brand. We’re going to look at seven branding agency services that we’ve found to best focus your marketing and advertising strategy.
Your logo design is the first look of your brand. It should support brand awareness, helping customers identify your brand and giving them insight into what your business is about. For the largest brands, their logos are enough to bring about strong emotion in their customers. This is why rebranding shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. When well-loved brands change their logos it can be jarring for their fans, with some fans going so far as to denounce the brand based solely on the logo change.
Pepsi is an example of this. When the brand changed its logo in 2008, it was met with harsh criticism. Given that they spent $1 million on the new logo, it’s no surprise that Pepsi opted to deal with the criticism and keep the logo.
Brand identity is a mix of all the elements that businesses use to show the right image to customers and potential customers. This is different from a brand’s image and overall branding, though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Brand identity is what your audience associates with your brand and helps build a connection between you and your customers. Brand identity can build customer loyalty and determine how your brand is perceived.
Branding agencies can help you design a logo that grabs attention and builds a clearly apparent identity for your brand, even demonstrating your business values. You can use different logos, fonts, and colors to create a visual representation of what your brand believes in.
Before you can build a strong brand identity, you need to understand who you are as a brand. This can be as simple as answering a few questions about yourself:
- Why did you start your business?
- What are your values (what beliefs drive your business)?
- If your brand was a person, what would it be like?
- How are you different from your competitors?
- If your brand was a person, how would it communicate?
- What are three words you would use to describe your brand?
- What are three words you want your customers to use to describe your brand?
Once you know the answers to those questions, you can work with a branding agency to develop the visual representation of your brand.
Brand messaging encompasses the words, language, and phrasing used by your brand on your website and in your marketing materials. This includes product messaging, marketing messaging, and everything else. Your brand messaging is more than logos, slogans, and taglines, though those are a part of it. Brand messaging includes verbiage around what you can offer customers, how your products, services, and brand experience compare with your competitors’, and what customers get from you that they can’t get elsewhere.
To create brand messaging that resonates with your target audience, you’ll need to keep in mind these brand messaging guidelines:
- Your unique selling proposition (USP)
- A detailed understanding of your target audience
- Your company’s values and goals
- Your slogans, taglines, and other messaging (including the words and phrases you don’t want to be used in your brand messaging)
- Your brand story
- Your brand’s tone that is used when creating content for your brand (and when you should be using that tone)
A branding agency can provide guidance on how to use all of this information to create just the right message to reach your target audience.
Brand positioning is the strategy businesses use to create a unique image of their brand in the minds of their customers and potential customers. Brand positioning needs to be specific, clear, desirable, and distinguish you from your competitors. Simply put, brand positioning is how you set your brand apart. If you don’t know why potential customers should choose you over others in your industry, you’re going to have a hard time convincing potential customers to do that.
Fortunately, branding agencies can help with brand positioning. Branding agencies use market research and organizational analysis to find out what customers are looking for as well as what your business can actually provide compared to your competitors. You can then use that information to match your USP with your potential customers’ expectations.
To create a strong brand positioning strategy, you’ll need to gather some information:
- Current standing: Identify and understand your current positioning and analyze how that standing is working for or against the brand
- Direct competition: Identify your direct competition to understand their core value, brand strengths, the nature of their products and services offered, and what makes them unique in the market
- Competitor standing: Understand the positioning of your competitors, their missions and visions, core values, and brand architecture
- Uniqueness: Identify your core values, strengths, long-term vision, and what makes your brand unique
- USP: Develop a unique selling proposition based on your features, objectives, core values, and strengths
- Messaging: Create mission and vision statements and a tagline or brand slogan that are clear and unique
Your brand should have a distinct voice. This is how you talk to your target audience and is defined by who your target audience is, your industry, and how you want to communicate with your audience. Some brands are friendly, some suit-and-tie professional, some (like Wendy’s) are sassy. Your brand voice goes a long way towards developing an emotional connection with your audience.
Branding agencies can help you find your brand voice and show you how to create and use it. To do this, branding agencies will analyze your industry or niche, customer base, and your company’s culture to figure out what your brand voice might sound like.
Once you’ve decided on a logo and defined your brand identity, brand messaging, brand positioning, and brand voice, you need to put together a brand style guide to ensure that everyone on your team can use that information to further your brand. A brand style guide provides shareholders a way to present your brand across platforms in a cohesive and consistent way, using the right colors, fonts, and more. Check out Influencer Marketing Hub’s style guide for an example of some of the content you should build into your own.
Branding agencies will help you create this guide that you can then share with employees, stakeholders, influencers, and others who work with your brand. This eliminates confusion about how your brand will be represented.
A Quick Word About Social Media Branding
Social media should get special attention in your brand style guide. Yes, you can still use your brand style guide for social media branding, but different social media platforms may require changes in messaging and voice. This can be a bit of a balancing act if you use platforms that have different goals, like LinkedIn and Twitter, for instance.
Your LinkedIn content will need to stay within your brand messaging and brand voice with a more professional tone than you would use on Twitter where playful content does much better. Fortunately, a branding agency can help you understand how to walk that line without sacrificing your brand identity.
Better Branding = Better Business
As you can see, branding is a whole lot more than your name, logo, color choices, and fonts. All of those things and more go into creating a complete brand experience in which your customers and potential customers get to participate when they interact with your brand. It’s the heart and soul of your businesses that draws the right audience to you, wrapped up in a visually identifiable package. Branding agencies are there to support your vision and bring your branding to life.