To many people, if you mention the word ‘brand’, they are likely to think of popular logos such as Coca-Cola and Nike. However, a brand is far more than a logo. A brand determines the complete look and feel of a company and alters your emotions on hearing that brand’s name or seeing something related to that company.

True brand strategy is based on extensive marketing knowledge and design integration to create a complete overall picture of a company. A successful brand can give you an impression of that company’s goals, beliefs, vision, price point and even how well that company can be trusted.

Brand Strategy: Where to Begin

Many new start-up companies can fall into the trap of determining the company logo based on the tastes of one person before any other business planning has taken place. This can be a hazard as that logo may have a powerful affect on how others view that business and, without the business establishing exactly how it wants to be viewed by others, this can be quite restrictive when it comes to planning large marketing campaigns in the business’ future.

Step 1: Research

Well before organising logo designs and ordering brochures, a good amount of research needs to be carried out in three particular areas:

The Market

Research should be carried out into the market for your particular product or service and a good idea of a target market should be established. This may include where your ideal customer is located, your customer’s age group, a typical customer’s salary and more.

The Competitor Landscape

Unless you’re offering something completely revolutionary, there’s a high chance that other companies offer products and services similar to yours to your chosen target market. You can really benefit from examining your competitors - take a look at their own brands, find out their most used methods of marketing and see if you can figure out what is working well for them and if it would work well for you.

Intellectual Property Policies

Before beginning your branding, you should find out what intellectual property policies apply to your situation.

A minimum basic understanding of intellectual property law is important for any branding exercise as you’ll need to ensure you aren’t stepping on the toes of other brands while also protecting your own brand for the future.

Step 2: Define your Company Vision and Culture

This can be a big process and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly as your company vision and culture will determine your customer base, the type of people that you employ and the type of companies that you do business with.

Put some proper thought into where you want your company to be in the future and how you will operate. For example, do you see your company as trendy and hip? Or perhaps it’s more serious and influential? Or maybe you’re all about employing traditional time-tested practices? Carrying out this process with a strong element of design thinking will ensure your visual branding fits your company message.

Establishing this early on is a must for your branding strategy.

Step 3: Documentation and Testing

Once you’ve carried out your initial research and you have a clearly defined company vision and culture, it’s important to test that this is right for your market, that your company culture is sustainable and that the goals you have put in place are achievable.

Testing should be carried out on a decent segment of your target market to ensure that you have a good impression of whether your strategy will work well and that your goals and culture align with the needs and wants of your chosen market.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Branding is a very important part of your business and an area that can be detrimental to your company’s success.

The danger of carrying out this planning in-house is that you may be missing out on insights from professionals whose jobs revolve entirely around brand strategy and see examples from a large number of companies in a range of industries.

There are many branding companies that can help you with your brand strategy and many of these offer a free initial consultation to figure out if they are the right company to be working with you.