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Building a company is hard work, but building a brand is even harder. Brands, after all, have the power to outlive the products and services that hold the company together.

Branding is about the beginning-to-end customer experience. It includes everything from your social media presence, customer engagement, content, copywriting, company culture, and graphic elements. The phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” will help you understand exactly what branding is about. Pull apart all the aspects of a major brand like Zappos, and you’re left with dozens of smaller, relatable pieces. But what really makes Zappos such a great brand is the sum of all the qualities it brings to the table.

In a nutshell, your brand is how the public perceives you. It’s how your audience views your morals and outlook. A great brand doesn’t happen overnight. It requires thorough, strategic planning. According to a study conducted by Nielsen, 59 per cent of consumers would rather purchase new products from brands they know and trust.

Brand building for startups and small businesses can be problematic, especially when business owners are confident in their products and services and believe that all they need to do is push their offerings forward and let the word spread on its own. But with so much competition, you need to be able to stand out. To help build your brand, here are a few tips:

Hire an agency

While there are many aspects of building a business you can do for yourself – especially if you’re strapped for cash – working with an agency that specializes in brand building will have a far greater impact on the long-term success of your business. Reputable agencies have worked with dozens and even hundreds of brands to shape popular opinion.

Create a shortlist of viable options based on your needs and the type of clients you want to attract. Then peruse their case studies. Lambesis Branding Agency, for example, seeks to create iconic brands and cultivate cultural connection with the consumer. Its list of case studies includes brands like Dasani, Skyy Vodka, and bebe.

Once you’ve found a short list of agencies that closely match your needs, delve into them deeply to gauge their level of commitment, communication strategies, and approach to potential clients.

Develop a brand voice

Your brand voice directly ties into your mission statement, tagline, and all other aspects of the business. The brand voice is the business’s expression through prose style and written word. Your brand voice sets the tone, and your tone of voice is more about how you say things than what you say. It’s all about the rhythm, the type of words you choose, and the flow with which you execute those words. Ultimately, it’s the brand’s voice that expresses its personality, values, and most importantly, the people behind the company.

To help get you started, think about why the company was started in the first place. What goal were you trying to solve? How are you trying to make your industry better, and what sets you apart from others?

For example, while L’Oreal, Lush, and MAC are all skincare/beauty brands that target just about the same audience and feature similar products, each of their brand voices are different. Lush focuses on being eco-friendly and natural, using handwritten-type fonts in its messages. L’Oreal focuses on advancement, science, and affordable luxury. MAC, on the other hand, touts its brand as more high-end but within reach of the average consumer, with a strong emphasis on models and photography.

Don’t be afraid to have fun, and don’t be afraid to be too corporate. Think about the audience you’re trying to attract, and the language that would attract them. This brand voice should be consistent across all marketing materials, so create a document that all employees can reference.

Create a mission statement

Your mission statement is the foundation of your brand, but is not to be confused with your tagline. Most companies have unique taglines that people associate with the brand, but do you know their mission statement?

A mission statement defines the purpose of the business. Warby Parker uses language to describe the company’s young, progressive, and socially-conscious mission. Part of Warby Parker’s mission statement says, “Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.” This one sentence says a lot about the culture at Warby Parker. They care about the consumer, they understand trends and want to make the optical industry fun again.

Honest Tea’s mission statement is straightforward about their ingredients and business practices.  A portion of its mission statement reads: “Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthier, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our products, with sustainability and great taste for all.”

Your tagline, message, aesthetic and overall personality should reflect that mission statement. There are plenty of other inspiring mission statements to help guide you in the right direction.

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