Launching & Building a Brand For Dummies
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The thought of building and launching a brand can send any budding entrepreneur into a panic. Where do you begin with such a formidable task? How do you build marketplace momentum? How do you extend your brand’s reach and increase awareness of it? How do you protect it from threats — external and internal? And when you finally achieve some degree of success, how do you reach the next level?

In Launching and Building a Brand For Dummies, I answer all of those questions and more. This Cheat Sheet highlights a small sample of what’s included in the book while getting you up to speed in a hurry on a few key branding topics.

7 reasons to build a brand

Why build a brand? I can give you seven good reasons:

  • You’re have a new or existing business and want everyone to know about it.
  • You’re introducing a new product or service to the market.
  • You want to further your career by establishing yourself as a trusted expert in your field.
  • You’re looking to build a career as an influencer — a social media personality with a huge following to whom businesses pay big bucks for promoting their products and services.
  • You’ve built a not-for-profit organization and are looking to ramp up your fundraising efforts.
  • You need to raise capital for a new business or venture you’re planning and are trying to attract and impress prospective investors.
  • You have a business, product, or service, and you’re looking to expand into new markets.

Launching and building a brand in a nutshell

The process of building and launching a brand is complicated, but it can be boiled down to the following ten steps:

  1. Create something to brand. That something can be a company or not-for-profit organization, a product or service, some form of entertainment (such as a band or theater group), or even yourself (as a consultant or influencer).
  2. Position and define your brand. Look at your brand in the context of what’s already out there, and figure out what’s distinctive about your brand.
  3. Set your branding goals. Common branding goals include differentiating a business, product, or service; building credibility and trust; and increasing sales and profitability.
  4. Define your brand’s customer avatar. A customer avatar is a fictional character that represents the people in your target market gives you a clear sense of the people you’re pitching to.
  5. Create a brand style guide. A brand style guide is a rulebook that ensures consistency by governing everything that contributes to the look and feel of your brand, including colors, typography, logos, imagery, and tone of voice.
  6. Establish an online presence. Create a website, blog, online store, or app and a branded email address.
  7. Form strategic partnerships. Establish mutually beneficial relationships with other brands to identify and pursue promotional opportunities that increase your brand’s reach.
  8. Launch your brand. Kick all your marketing activities into gear, including publishing a press release, launching your website or blog, and hosting one or more brand-launch parties (what fun!).
  9. Promote your brand. Engage in content marketing, podcasting, social media marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, hosting in-person events, and more.
  10. Maintain and protect your brand. Audit your brand regularly, and protect your intellectual-property rights with trademarks and patents.

5 ways to build a distinctive brand

Branding is all about distinguishing your organization, product, or service from what’s already available — setting your brand apart from the others and establishing it in the minds of your customers as something special. Here are five ways to do just that:

  • Solve a challenging problem. In every problem is an opportunity. Solve a particularly troubling problem for someone, and that person will remember you and be grateful to you forever.
  • Fulfill an unmet need, or create one. You can meet demand or create it. By create one, I mean invent something that people come to rely on before they even realize they need it, such as a cellphone that takes photos.
  • Specialize to create a new market niche. Instead of trying to be a Jack or Jill of all trades, be a master of one. By being better, faster, or cheaper in one tiny area of your market, you set your brand apart.
  • Offer something unique. Offer your customers and prospective customers something they can’t get anywhere else. Better, offer them something that only you can provide.
  • Deliver an interesting, fun, or fulfilling experience. Build a community people want to belong to, with experiences they want to engage in. Succeed at that part, and you can sell just about anything.

Understanding branding lingo

Marketing people talk to one another in a language nobody else understands, but you can get by with a handful of specialized terms:

  • Brand: An image built in the minds of consumers that enables them to readily identify a distinctive organization, product, service, or person.
  • Branding: The process of establishing something such as a business, product, or service as distinctive and special in the minds of consumers.
  • Brand identity: The characteristics of an organization, product, or service that make it unique and recognizable, such as its name, logo, packaging, and colors.
  • Brand personality: The pattern of expressions, behaviors, and emotions attributed to an organization, product, or service or to a group of associated products or services.
  • Brand reach: The number of people exposed to a brand. They don’t need to know anything about the brand; they just need to have encountered it somewhere.
  • Brand recognition: The ease with which people can identify a brand through visual and audio clues, such as its name or logo, the voice of a spokesperson, or a song used in a television or radio ad.
  • Brand awareness: The degree to which people who know about a brand understand what it is, does, and offers.
  • Brand assets: The elements that make a brand recognizable, such as its logo, color scheme, jingle, and font.
  • Brand equity: The value that branding adds to a business, product, or service compared with a generic equivalent.
  • Customer avatar: A fictitious character that represents a member of a target market and is used to help shape a brand’s messaging.
  • Brand ambassador: Anyone who sings the praises of a brand.
  • Value proposition: A statement that explains why a customer should buy what you’re selling.
  • Unique selling proposition (USP): The one feature or benefit of a business, product, or service that makes it superior to its competition.

10 essential elements of a brand style guide

A brand style guide is a collection of specifications and guidelines to follow when engaging in branding activities — everything from creating ads to podcasting. Every brand style guide must have the following ten essential elements:

  • Brand name: A concise, unique, and memorable name for your brand.
  • Mission statement: Your brand’s reason for being — its overall purpose.
  • Brand values: Your brand’s fundamental beliefs, which guide its thinking, behavior, and expression.
  • Target audience: A description of the people you’re selling to, including demographics (such as age, location, and income), interests, challenges, and so on.
  • Your brand’s story: A narrative that recounts the series of events that led to your brand’s inception, expresses your brand’s mission and values, and portrays the people behind it.
  • Logo: The logo itself, along with specifications about size, orientation, and when and how it’s to be used.
  • Color palette: The colors to be used for your brand, including specific color codes, how colors are to be used alone and in combination, how they’re to be used in print versus online, and the rationale for choosing the colors.
  • Typography: Fonts to be used, how they’re to be used in print and online, and the rationale for choosing the fonts.
  • Voice/tone: The emotion behind your brand’s messaging — fun, serious, inspirational, sassy, adventurous, you name it.
  • Imaging guidelines: Quality and content guidelines for images including photos and illustrations. Some brands require that people be in the foreground of all their photos, for example, and the people must reflect diversity to some degree.

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