Where to start with your branding?

As a business owner you know your product or service inside out, but your target market may not. That is why you need to tell your story. What makes your brand different from all the others? By bringing rationale and consistency to your brand you are creating the best version of your story that will allow you to connect with your audience in a much more meaningful way.

Where to start?

One of the most common mistakes I see businesses make is asking for a logo, assuming they are 'creating a brand'. When talking about a brand, designers are most commonly referring to the fundamental idea a brand represents. The story is the very core of what your business is about. It dictates how your business speaks to its customers and is ultimately what sets you apart from your competitors.  The key to a successful brand is having a clear and concise brand story and then applying it consistently. 

There are numerous methods available to create a brand, but they all have one thing in common. They need to uncover the story behind the business or product so that they can tell it in a unique way, that will ultimately set them apart from the competition.

The raw ingredients.

Let's say you run a restaurant specialising in grilled meat. 

Firstly we need to create a set of clear goals to ensure we keep the brand development on track. In the case of the restaurant this could be something like:

  • Double cash flow over a two year period
  • Achieve 60% repeat customers
  • Position your restaurant as the place to go for the best grilled meat dishes.

Developing these goals will take some time and will be different depending on your business but it is worth having something to work towards.

From these goals you can now understand the challenges you will face in developing your brand. To improve cash flow you will need to provide a service people are willing to pay for (basic business sense). You can improve the chances of attracting customers (and therefore cash flow) by having a well thought out brand that looks the part. Customers are more likely to pay a reasonable price for a good eating experience, and a well thought out brand will only enhance this experience. If your brand also speaks to the audience in the right tone they are more likely to buy into it, This eventually leads to brand loyalty which helps work towards your second goal. If you have a loyal base of customers who keep returning because they like your service and buy into what you stand for you're already half way there.

The final goal is about how you are perceived. By maintaining a consistent look, feel and tone of voice throughout all the communications and interactions you have with your customers the easier it is for them to buy into your brand (and build loyalty with it). The best way to do this to build an emotional connection with your customers.

The recipe.

To get started on your brand story you need to gather as much knowledge and information as possible about your product and service. Who is your target customer? What do they aspire to? What do they want out of a night out at a restaurant? What makes your grilled meat better than everyone else's? What makes eating at your restaurant different to other restaurants?

Let's look at the what we know first. Your meat is all sourced locally, and from organic farms. All your meat is grilled on an open coal pit and the chef has spent the best part of ten years perfecting a special herb rub. You serve all of this with the finest craft beers in a rustic setting in a converted industrial loft in the city centre. Your prices aren't cheap but they are very reasonable for the quality of food you serve.

You have also done some market research. There are plenty of fast food places in town as well a number of high end restaurants that serve fine dining menus. You also know that the area your restaurant is located is with in walking distance of a newly renovated part of town targeted at start ups and business incubators.

With this knowledge you can build up different personas of who you are going to target, the best way to reach out to them and how you can build a consistent emotional connection with the brand.

For the restaurant there could be multiple customer groups, for example:

Passing trade 

Potential customers passing by looking for somewhere to eat but with nothing specific in mind. These would be the ones who are attracted by the menu and the atmosphere they see inside.

Businesses entertaining clients

Your research showed that there are lots of start ups and businesses in the area. By positioning the restaurant as a destination rather than just somewhere to eat you can appeal to business owners looking to impress their clients. A modern and trendy restaurant with a good atmosphere and service becomes an asset for them to use in future meetings as well.

Evening diners

The same also goes for people in the area looking to eat out on an evening. If the brand exudes cool and trendy, customers are more likely to visit to let their hair down. 

The common theme between them is that people are looking for something to engage them. The restaurant is ideally positioned to be a destination rather than a convenience.

Alongside your customer personas you should work out your position within the market to help focus where your brand is targeted. If your offering is of a high quality and price point then the tone of voice and brand image should reflect this. It wouldn't make sense to target budget customers looking for convenience food when your price point would put them off eating in the restaurant. 

The Final Product

Armed with these insights you can now start to develop your brand ethos, the key idea that your brand is built around and will eventually form your brand strategy (how you actually apply your brand in the real world from your visual identity right through to marketing campaigns and printed collateral).

The information from your research will help to form the basis of your brand attributes. These are the core values of your restaurant before you add any marketing speak. Having these clearly defined will help you to check your branding against what you set out to achieve. You should look to come up with attributes that are emotive to help build your brand’s language. For example you could sum up the restaurant’s service as "premium meat dishes served in a trendy upmarket venue".  An attribute of the restaurant is "good food". To develop this further you could explore words and ideas that reflect the premium quality of the food. You could include things like satisfaction, fulfilled, enjoyment, indulgence. This can then be developed into a brand essence of "Culinary Satisfaction".

You then need to develop these statements into your brand ethos. The ethos is what connects your business to the customers and sets you apart from other brands in a meaningful way. This statement will then form and guide your brand strategy.

For the restaurant it could be something like “authentic flavours and timeless recipes brought together to create culinary satisfaction”. (The authentic could be developed from the style and ingredients used on the menu and the timeless from the chef’s experience with herbs and spices. Remember to keep referring back to the core values to keep the brand true to the business).

This process takes time but is worth the effort as it will ultimately lead to a concise message being developed that reflects your brand. So remember, when you're developing your brand don't rush into quick short term solutions but break down your services or product offerings to help potential customers understand what your brand is all about. Look for emotional connections that relate back to your brand as well as your customer and use them to inform decisions going forward.

If you are unsure of where to start, or would like a fresh perspective on how you can build and develop your brand identity get in touch today.