While you might revisit some steps as you pivot or build your own brand, it’s important that you consider each aspect as you shape your brand identity.
Let’s start by laying the groundwork to inform how to build your business brand.
1. Research your target audience and your competitors
Before you start making any decisions about how to create a business brand, you need to understand the current market, i.e., who your potential customers and current competitors are.
There are many ways to do this step of how to make a brand:
- Google your product or service category and analyze the direct and indirect competitors that come up.
- Check subreddits that relate to your customers and eavesdrop on their conversations and product recommendations.
- Talk to people who are part of your target market and ask them what brands they buy from in your space.
- Look at the relevant social media accounts or pages your target audience follows and are receptive to.
- Go shopping online or offline and get a feel for how your customers would browse and buy products.
As you go about your research, make a note of:
- Who your “lowest hanging fruit” customers are—the ones you could most easily sell to.
- Who your top-of-mind competitors are—the brands that are established and known in the market.
- How your customers speak and what they talk about—the interests they have and the language they express them in.
It’s important to have a handle on this before moving forward, as it will inform what your brand should focus on and how it can position itself apart from competitors.
2. Pick your focus and personality
You can’t establish your brand to be everything to everyone, especially at the start.
It’s important to find your focus and let that inform all the other parts of your brand as you build it.
Here are some questions and branding exercises to get you thinking about the focus and tone of your brand.
3. Choose your business name
What’s in a name? Depending on the kind of business you want to start, you can make the case that your name matters very little or it matters a lot.
As we’ve said before, a brand is so much more than a name. The personality, actions, and reputation of your brand identity are really what give the name meaning in the market.
But as a small business owner, your company’s name is probably one of the first big commitments you have to make. It’ll impact your brand logo, your domain, your marketing, and your trademark registration, if you decide to go that route (it’s harder to trademark generic brand names that literally describe what you sell).
Ideally, you want a store name that’s hard to imitate and even harder to confuse with existing players in the market. If you have any plans to expand the product lines you offer down the road, consider keeping your business name broad so that it’s easier to pivot, rather than choosing a brand name based on your product category.
You can use our business name generator to brainstorm some names, or try one (or a combination) of the following approaches:
- Make up a word, like Pepsi.
- Reframe an unrelated word,likeApple for computers.
- Use a suggestive word or metaphor, likeBuffer.
- Describe it literally (caution: easy to imitate),like The Shoe Company.
- Alter a word by removing letters, adding letters, or using Latin endings, likeTumblr (Tumbler) or Activia.
- Create an acronym from a longer name,like HBO (Home Box Office).
- Combine two words: Pinterest (pin + interest) or Snapple (snappy + apple)
Since your brand name will also affect the domain/URL of your website, be sure to shop around to see what’s available before deciding on a domain name. Check out our guide to choosing a good business name or use our tools to confirm availability (whois lookup), or get some domain name ideas. Then hop over to our domain name registration tool.
It’s also a good idea to run your name by a focus group of close people, if for no other reason than to make sure it doesn’t have an unintended meaning or is too similar to something else that you might’ve missed.
4. Write a slogan
A catchy slogan is a nice-to-have asset—something brief and descriptive you can use as a tagline in your social media bios, website header, custom business cards, and anywhere else where you’ve got very few words to make a big impact.
Keep in mind that you can always change your slogan as you find new angles for marketing—Pepsi has gone through over 30 slogans in the past few decades.
A good slogan is short, catchy, and makes a strong impression to boost brand awareness. Here are some ways to approach writing a slogan of your own:
- Stake your claim. Death Wish Coffee: “The World’s Strongest Coffee”
- Make it a Metaphor. Redbull: “Redbull gives you wings.”
- Adopt your customers’ attitude. Nike: “Just do it.”
- Leverage labels. Cards Against Humanity: “A party game for horrible people.”
- Write a rhyme. Folgers Coffee: “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”
- Describe it literally. Aritzia: “Women’s fashion boutique.”
5. Choose the look of your brand (colors and font)
Once you’ve got a name down, you’ll need to think about your brand design—how you’ll visually represent your brand—namely your colors and typography. This will come in handy when you start to using a website builder to make your own website.
Choosing your colors
Colors don’t just define the look of your brand, they also convey the feeling you want to communicate and help you make it consistent across everything you do. You’ll want to choose colors that differentiate you from direct competitors to avoid confusing consumers.
Color psychology isn’t an exact science, but it does help to inform the choices you make, especially when it comes to the color you pick for your brand logo.
This infographic offers a nice overview of the emotions and associations that different colors generally evoke.
6. Design your brand logo
A brand logo design is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when you think about building a new brand. And for good reason: it’s the face of your company after all and could potentially be everywhere that your brand exists.
Ideally, you’ll want to create your brand with a logo that’s unique, identifiable, and scalable to work at all sizes (something often overlooked).
Consider all the places where your brand’s logo needs to exist: from your website, your Facebook page’s profile picture, YouTube channel banner, to even the little “favicons” you see in your current browser tab.
If you have a text logo as your Instagram avatar, for example, it’ll be almost impossible to read. To make your life easier, create a square version of your brand logo with an icon element that remains recognizable even at smaller sizes.
7. Apply your branding across your business
Applying your branding across your business gives it a cohesive brand story. A brand story represents who your business is and what it stands for. It sets the stage for every interaction customers have with your brand, in-store and online.
In Shopify’s research on what wins buyer and customer trust, we found that buyers shopping on an online store for the first time often look for a business’s mission and purpose to see if they share any values with the business (e.g., sustainability). They will turn to its About Us page to learn more about who they’re buying from and, for more socially conscious customers, how the business is run. If your business has a brand story, share it, because it can help the shopper feel reassured yours is a legitimate business.
When building a new brand, your positioning statement can get you started, but you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions for your brand story:
- What motivated me to start my business?
- Why does the company exist?
- How do we contribute to the world?
- What is the story behind my business the customer should know?
Not every business is mission driven, but if you create your brand with a mission or values, share your brand story and tell customers why the business was started. Look at the businesses TOMS and Coca-Cola, the first a mission-driven brand, the second not so much.