Branding In 9 Steps For Your Ecommerce Business
Meg Whitman, who is personally responsible for making eBay into what it is today from a company with 30 employees and black and white logo, once said ‘When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable’. When millions of people start the day googling this and that, it’s hard to argue, but let’s narrow it even more down.
Another very famous person, Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman, CEO, and president of Amazon said ‘Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room’. And we find that’s a uniquely accurate definition of the phenomena called branding.
Branding is not just a combination of elements that make a company recognizable and lets consumers know what to expect from your company. Properly developed and implemented branding is the driving force, that makes them choose your products over their counterparts due to the vision of you as a problem-solver for your TA.
The aim of branding is the perception of your company as one and only provider of a satisfying solution to their needs, pains, and problems, including the need to find the person with similar beliefs and visions.
Why is it necessary to start working on branding as soon as possible, preferably even before launching? Branding creates and improves recognition. Your branding elements (logo, colors, slogan, etc.) don’t have to be elaborate, just memorable to create a right and lasting impression with customers.
Branding creates trust. It’s not enough to appear slick and polished, you must be perceived as legitimate and people should feel comfortable enough to commit themselves to purchase. Branding supports advertising and builds financial value since it helps to establish and hold your place in the market. It also generates new customers by referrals and ‘word of mouth’ among impressed shoppers and their associates.
Those are all very delicate and tricky aspects, extremely important for budding ventures, which can’t afford to allocate huge sums to advertising and such. Though branding is a complex task, with many components and strategies, we’ll do our best to break it down into doable and actionable recommendations.
To make our help practical as well as theoretical, we’ve also created for you a very useful branding template (part of Shopify Starter Pack) which will save you a lot of time. It includes everything you need for building a brand from scratch.
Let’s dive into the to the exciting ocean of branding and see what treasures are just waiting for you out there.
1. Skeleton of branding
Each brand has certain attributes or functional or emotional associations, assigned to the brand by actual and potential buyers. Brand attributes can be both positive and negative and may have different strengths and importance for different market segments. The essence of any brand is determined by its main characteristics dictated by a company mission. All brand attributes together make up the brand identity.
Brand identity expresses what the brand should mean and is a long-term promise or message to the consumers. The brand has a certain image or a unique set of associations, that are connected with it in the minds of consumers. These associations express what the brand means to them right now. A good example of the brand image is the message behind any advertising campaign.
2. Who is your target audience?
Branding is not pure art or all science. If you rely solely on a sense of beauty or facts, the results will be one-sided at best. A brand must make a favorable and memorable impression on buyers or users in order to win their trust.
Impressing someone is impossible without knowing your targets, so prepare for TA research to penetrate deep into their preferences and psychological characteristics. Define the right folks for your product specifically by age, gender, geographic location, education, and income level, interests and more. Depending on the product, including such characteristics as ethnicity, race, cultural background, religion, etc.
3. Do you have a brand mission statement?
If not, now is the time to get down to it. What makes a brand mission statement a unique something that you can never order or buy from experts? Why can’t you just pick up the phone and ask some marketing guru ‘Look, I want to have the best possible mission, so how much is it going to cost me?’ Because no one besides you know the meaning behind the existence of your particular company.
The mission statement basically defines all whys of your company coming into existence and forms all other aspects of your brand building strategies. Everything from your logo to your tagline, voice, message, and personality should be miniature mirrors of that mission. Read on for getting an example of how to successfully formulate the mission statement.
Identify the basics of the mission by answering four questions:
- What do we sell?
- To whom we sell?
- What problems do we solve?
- What determines the success of the project?
Then leave only keywords and sum it up into one sentence. Check again and revise if necessary.
4. Look up what the competition does and how they do it
You should always strive to be original and never imitate what others do. However, to exclude the chance of unintentional copycatting you must be aware of what your rivals (including big prominent ones) do and how they fail. To convince your clients to purchase from you, you have to be different and for that, you need to know how to become different in the best way.
Create a brand competition spreadsheet for analysis and comparison. Include such columns as ‘Message and visuals’, ‘Quality of products and services’, ‘Review and comments’, ‘Marketing activities’. Then answer the following questions.
- Is there a consistency of messaging and visual/audio identity across channels?
- How would you rate the quality of the competitor’s products or services?
- How the customers rate it in the reviews/testimonials/comments?
Compile the list of their strengths and weaknesses and bearing the results in mind proceed to the next step.
5. Identify key qualities and benefits your brand offers
As there always be bigger-budgeted and resource-richer brands, there’s also always be those with just funds and capabilities as meager as yours. It’s important to remember that there’s no one exactly like you, with your unique vision, ideas and look at things.
Use everything at your disposal to figure out how to craft truly unique offer which would stand out from any crowd. Give your shoppers a reason or better yet several of them to choose your brand over another.
Do not try to create a simple ‘shopping list’ of the characteristics your product or services offer. Instead, envision how you provide values improving their lives and solving their problems.
A few examples:
- Leveling up authenticity or transparency of client service
- Improving productivity or business processes efficiency for your customers
- Reducing costs
- Saving time on daily tasks
6. Create a brand logo and tagline
Fun, fun, fun! Time to create the most exciting and probably the most important pieces of the branding, namely a brand logo and tagline for your company. They will appear everywhere in your company, in every related resource and will become your identity, calling card, and the ‘face’ of your promise to the customers.
Prepare to spend as much time and resources as you can to create a truly exceptional visual identity for your company. Need help? No need to hire an expensive professional designer or go to a creative agency (even more costly, ugh), since Shopify offers an awesome service called Hatchful and it’s free!
Creating a perfect tagline is tricky. Or simple. And can be frustrating. And… You got it, there’s no simple recipe. However, here’s a template that can help.
- Step 1. Describe your entire business in a few sentences.
- Step 2. Trim it down.
- Step 3. Trim it down to one short sentence.
7. Working with a color palette
Colors sell. Doesn’t matter if you are selling physical products, offering less tangible goods or dealing with digital merchandise, nailing down the ‘right’ combo of colors can strongly affect how clients feel, think and behave towards your product.
Statistics say that color is registered by the brain before images or typography. It also states that colors can significantly increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent. It means that it’s worth devoting your time to carefully evaluate the shades and hues that would represent your brand.
A few recommendations:
Align your palette with color theory
Color theory or color psychology is the concept which maintains that certain colors subconsciously evoke specific emotions from people. Like seeing blue makes us feel secure and relaxed while seeing orange induces the feeling of happiness and hunger. Try to envision the emotions your brand promotes and projects. Make a list of them and go to the next step.
You can use Adobe Color tool to find good combinations of colors, it’s free.
Build an image collage
Try to think of images that reflect the mood and essence of your brand, extract the colors and add them to your initial palette.
Use the color wheel
Use it to look for the nuances and hues of the already identified colors and complement your list with them.
Power up the contrasts
When working on a color palette, note the degree of contrasts between chosen colors when using them to design something. Low contrast colors can look gorgeous next to each other, but we advise against using them as foregrounds and backgrounds.
Create drafts of social media posts. Don’t post them, simply have a go at designing at least two or three of them with your final palette using different layouts. That way you can make sure that your color scheme is sufficient to work within various scenarios.
Typography is not a simple choice between this or that font, it’s much more. It’s the whole arrangement of all typographic elements, the hierarchy of all visuals related to the text, contrast, whitespace, punctuation marks, etc. Your design and its perception by consumers is greatly influenced by the used typography at various levels.
In branding, it’s necessary to use consistent typography, since it adds to the ‘face’ of your company and is connected with it in the minds of onlookers.
The role of typography should not be underestimated because it alone can help you craft quite a distinct personality and ambiance. Modern, old-fashioned, romantic, businesslike, ‘salt of the earth’, gothic… You can achieve a lot just by choosing the right typefaces and arranging it strategically. Choose fonts for header, titles, subtitles, body text and experiment with them until you’re sure that they are harmonious with each another.
Ensure that you don’t use anything like your competition already employs and above all take care to make them eligible and readable. After all, no one likes to squint and decipher (otherwise we wouldn’t have that many jokes about medics’ handwriting).
As the afterword, we urge you to be very cautious when using decorative fonts. Sure, they can be beautiful, promise instant infusion of personality, add some flair and pizzazz, grab attention in a sec… but overdoing it just a bit and BOOM! You end up with a lot of visual clutter, chaos, and unreadable text.
9. Tone of voice
Finding the right voice for a company can be very confusing at first since we are speaking not about ‘what’ but about ‘how’. Let’s start with an example. Imagine a restaurant where a family gathered to celebrate an anniversary. Inevitably people at some point start making small talk and complain about the weather. It’s the same weather for everyone (we’re assuming all these people live in the same area) but! Lawyer, DJ, and construction worker would all use different expressions, amount of jargon, level of formality and so on. In fact, you might think that they’re all speaking about different climates, all because of the difference in the mannerisms and such.
So, a brand voice might be:
Aside from the above, we can offer you a few tips. If you decide on being formal, remember that while conveying a sense of professionalism you risk being perceived as faceless and stiff.
Informal style offers easy warmth and caring, but can place a stigma of reckless and unprofessional on you. With one exception, that being the technical terms.
Unless you’re absolutely sure that you address an audience totally consisting of pros and gurus, stay away from salting and peppering the text with technospeak.
Wherever possible try using everyday language that the majority of the audience will understand for sure.
Wrapping it up
Have you ever heard a saying ‘The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing’? It’s making your company and what you sound with your voice, and not just selling but reaching out and communicating, sharing and interacting.
There’re many people, lots of products but only one YOU, which is actually awesome. No one else can use your unique take on things, nobody can make things happen the way you can, and other people just lack your strengths. Be generous and put a little bit of you in everything that makes your company unlike anyone and people will know not just what you offer, but what it has to with them and what it can do for them on a big and small scales alike.
And this is what branding is all about. Use our template, which we worked hard to make as helpful as possible to let you focus on being creative and think fondly of us when you’re crafting your wonderful new brand.
Good luck and happy branding!
Open a Shopify Online Store For Free!
Sign up for a free Shopify 14-day trial and start selling today.