Oftentimes, most businesses assume that building a brand is all about having well-designed graphics...

Not to mention, catchy slogans, 'creative' taglines, or even humorous social media posts to go viral from by having customers engage and share them with others online.


While that might seem like so from afar, this is often just the tip of the iceberg as it only provides a 'surface' view of the entire situation.


Instead, what’s more likely is that the company is reaping the rewards from weeks & months of hard work in planning, strategizing and execution of their branding activities, causing their business to thrive as a result.

So, if the various factors listed at the start are not sufficient for building a brand that is well-loved, strong and powerful, then what does it take?


In this article, we'll be exploring exactly just that.

What Makes A Brand Strong & Powerful?

Image: Apple

Before diving into the ‘how’, we need to start with a definition of what makes certain brands ‘strong’ and ‘powerful’. While there are several ways to go about that, they are most notably measured by various aspects:

Brand Awareness: How well-recognized the brand is by consumers.

Brand Perception: How positive (or negative) consumer’s perceptions are towards the brand.

Brand Loyalty: The extent of how loyal consumers are to the brand.

Brand Association: The ideas & symbols consumers associate with the brand. For instance, BMW (luxury & sophistication) or Nike (progressive & self-empowerment).


Taken individually, they provide a limited snapshot of how well the brand is doing with regards to their competitors.

But combined together, these four aspects offer something much more valuable - brand equity.


According to Investopedia, brand equity is defined as the ‘value’ (or value premium) added to the company in tangible & intangible means when compared to similar equivalents. These values can be seen in various forms, such as:


Tangible:

  • Higher revenue
  • Larger sales volume
  • Increased sales margin per customer

Intangible: 

  • Ability to charge premium prices
  • Larger market share
  • Industry influence


From those measurements, one can get a sense of how ‘strong’ and ‘powerful’ their brand really is with regards to the industry they are in.

In essence, the results one should see is the company being instantly recognizable and positively favored by consumers.


When the public has a high (and positive) awareness of the brand, it leads to them possessing a greater preference for the company’s offerings as opposed to its many competitors in a globalized environment.

Not to mention, new entrants and industry leaders also pose an ever-increasing threat as they have the potential to disrupt one’s position and capture that large market share of consumers.


But with continuous investment into the company’s branding, it provides one solution to mitigating those risks by ensuring the brand remains the top choice to consumers whenever they are choosing between the many options available.


Moreover, having a strong brand extends its benefits onto various internal functions of the company as well. For instance:


Marketing:

  • More unpaid media buzz (or organic advertising)

           - Due to its popularity, the public will naturally mention the company through word of mouth, media companies, influencers etc.

  • Better defense against negative PR, news & reviews online
  • Competitive market edge
  • Easier introduction of new products

    - Consumers are more likely to try new categories by the same brand due to pre-existing notions developed from the success of other products.

HR: 

  • Easier to recruit top-quality talents

    - The company’s brand will naturally attract the best talents from around the world
  • Decreased time & cost per hire

    - Similarly, potential hires will actively seek out the brand on its own instead of the company having to spend more on recruitment from third-party platforms.
  • Higher employee retention
  • Increased employee morale

Corporate & Business Development:

  • Enhanced teamwork & decision making throughout the entire organization

    - A strong brand unifies various stakeholder groups behind one single cause, leading to enhanced collaboration and focus throughout the entire company.
  • Stronger partnerships w/ suppliers, vendors, distributors, affiliates & other relevant partners
  • Easier to expand (or break) into new markets, regions & consumer segments

    - The company’s brand will naturally generate interest in other countries when they have a commanding presence in their domestic market.


How Do You Start?


Now that we have a clear definition on what a strong & powerful brand is (alongside the benefits of having one), we can begin with the process of creating it. Shown below is a ‘step-by-step’ approach taken to establish one.
 

Step 1: Discovery

Before starting out, a business needs to discover the purpose for its existence. 

Indeed, some might claim that market opportunities or monetary profits are valid reasons for doing so. However, the term ‘purpose’ in this section will refer to something more ‘benevolent’ and meaningful to society as a whole.


For instance, Tesla was founded with the main purpose of helping the world transition to a greener, ‘sustainability-led’ future through transportation (electric vehicles).

Image: Tesla

Other examples of a business’s ‘purpose’ can also be seen in other industries as well:

Coca-cola: To refresh the world and inspire moments of optimism and happiness

Disney: Create happiness for people of all ages, everywhere.

Google: To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

L’Oréal: Create the beauty that moves the world. 

Lego: To inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. 

Netflix: To entertain the world.

TikTok: To inspire creativity and bring joy.


In essence, this ‘discovery’ phase is about asking the critical and ‘big-picture’ questions, such as:

Company

  • Missions & Vision: Why does it exist?
  • Personality: What are its core values, value proposition, messaging, voice, tone, brand promise etc?
  • Current perception (if applicable): What is the company's current perception of its own brand?


Doing so establishes a ‘north star’ or solid foundation for the company that guides them in all the decisions (macro to micro) they make going forward.

This unifies all stakeholders behind one ultimate goal, so they can work towards realizing the desired impact or change in the broader social, economic, and environmental context as a whole.

Furthermore, this phase is supplemented with additional market research & SWOT analysis to better define the environment they will be operating in, such as:

Customers

  • Demographics: Who are they? How old? Where do they live? What’s their level of income?
  • Psychographics: What are their interests, needs, lifestyles, and challenges?
  • Behavioral: Where do they buy such products? How often? Why do they buy it?

Competitors

  • Competition Profile: Who are they? What are their USPs? Which region are they operating in?
  • Perception: How do they position themselves? How do consumers perceive the company?
  • Feature Matrix: What are the features of each competitors' product & service?

Threats

  • Risks: Besides competition, what other risks & obstacles will negatively affect your business?
  • Trends: Are there any current (and emerging) trends that could harm the business?

Opportunities

  • Market Segments: What market segments can we explore?
  • Trends: Are there new market trends for the business to tap into?
  • Untapped Opportunities: How else can we market the company, products & services?

Strengths

  • Natural Strength: What is our competitive advantage?
  • Resources: What useful resources does the company have & can tap into?

Weakness

  • Improvements: What can the company improve on?
  • Resources: What resources does the company lack? How do we make up for it?

From there, you will have conducted a brand audit, which helps evaluate your brand’s position in the marketplace, alongside its strength, weakness and opportunities. 

Doing so provides an overview of the company’s current condition in relation to various internal and external factors that contribute to the success of its brand going forward.


Furthermore, this helps cover (3) three areas related to the branding of the company as well:


1) Internal branding
- Your brand's purpose, unique personality and internal organization culture.


2) External branding
- Your brand's perceived image, reputation, market position etc.

If a brand was previously established by the business, it also includes a current audit on the value of its branding assets as well. For instance:

  • Logo
  • Advertising & Marketing materials (Print & Digital)
  • Public Relations
  • Website
  • Social Media Presence

3) Brand Experience - The combined perception from internal and external stakeholders regarding the overall experience of interacting with the brand. These are formed through various aspects over a period of time, such as:

  • Company Culture
  • Sales Process
  • Customer Policies
  • Product Quality
  • Customer Experience
  • Perceived Brand Value


Alongside others, these individual factors form a holistic and ‘sensory’ experience of how positive or negative the brand is, from the many perspectives of those that interact with it.

As such, the discovery phase aims to help businesses better understand their own brand as a whole, from a broad bird’s eye view to the microscopic, granular level.

Step 2: Design


After discovery, comes the development or rather, the ‘design’ of the brand itself. 


This means bringing those ideas to life by embodying them through:

  • Logos
  • Colors
  • Typography
  • Brand Guideline
  • Physical Brand Assets (Stationery Kits, Printed Deliverables, Packaging etc.)
  • Digital Brand Assets (Websites, Explainer Videos, Social Media etc.)


In this phase, working with a branding agency is highly recommended as they have a strong professional expertise in visual creation which greatly benefits companies that are looking for assistance in developing a strong & powerful brand.

Aside from providing the deliverables, the main reason for doing so is to leverage their accumulated industry experience as they have the ‘know-hows’ on what works best with regards to building up the company’s brand for success.

For instance:

Wolf Gelato is a brand that wanted to position its business and products as a healthier alternative to traditional ice cream. 


As conventional knowledge holds, indulging in large quantities of ice cream without the fear of weight gain and potential health issues is a dream many wish to attain.

However, treating ourselves to such simple pleasures in life need not be restricted by such reality, let alone the guilt and regrets that follow if they do indulge in those desires.


Thus, the company worked to change that narrative by partnering up with a branding agency to bring their idea to life through its brand identity and various deliverables (physical and digital). 

Without getting too caught up in the details, the brand experienced a successful launch and solidified its position in the market through a multi-channel approach using branding, advertising and marketing. 


For more details on the project, please head over to this link.


Coming back to the design phase, most of the heavy-lifting will come from the creatives in translating those ideas in visual forms.


As mentioned above, those brand assets will usually be listed under these categories, such as:

  • Brand Identity (Logo, Typography, Stationary Kits, Letterheads etc.)
  • Print & Digital Marketing Materials (Brochures, Social Media Graphics, eBooks etc.)
  • Product Packaging Design (Physical Deliverables)
  • Website Design & Development (Digital Deliverables)


Several rounds of revisions are also expected as the process is constantly evolving with regards to the inputs and feedback provided from both parties on the brand assets themselves.

For web design, you can refer to the section titled ‘The Process of Web Design’ in this link to better understand how the overall process works.


In short, the second phase is about bringing the ideas of the first phase to life through design from the expertise of creative professionals. Particularly, those who possess the industry experience that are crucial to the company they are working with.

Step 3: Implementation

After design, it’s time to implement it by launching the brand across various platforms.

In this phase, it is all about execution of the company’s strategy, especially all the activities that are related to branding and marketing.

For some companies, they would be handling this on their own. Others however, could be short-staffed or might lack the necessary experience in this aspect to ensure a successful launch of their brand.

Luckily, there is a solution to this problem - a ‘full service’ creative agency.

Like their branding counterparts, a creative agency offers graphic design and branding-related services as well. But what makes the 'full-service' version highly-sought after is their extensive range of solutions provided from start to finish.  

To emphasize, they will assist with planning, strategizing and executing all the business activities related to building the brand of the company. This also applies to businesses with an existing brand as well.


For instance, from designing, strategizing and executing a social media marketing plan to build awareness and interest towards multiple products of a business:


Shown in the example is STABILO, one of the brands that leads the writing instrument market around the world. 


In 2020, a social media campaign (Beat The Study Mess) was launched in Malaysia & Singapore to help their online followers gain better focus during their study sessions.

They did so by partnering up with a full-service creative agency to orchestrate a fun experience that was designed to engage with their followers through various social media challenges.


Some of which included trendy TikTok challenges, online workshops, gamified social media posts, and more, resulting in constant engagement and an increase in brand awareness and loyalty throughout the entire campaign when most were confined to their homes during the pandemic.


For more details on the project, you can refer to this link.

Moreover, businesses can take inspiration from this and further expand their advertising and marketing activities by slowly employing a variety of tactics as well. For instance, the different types of digital marketing, such as:

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Email Direct Marketing (EDM)
  • Content Marketing

This is especially important when a company is in the process of building up their brand online, as the various digital channels (social media, search engines, websites etc.) can bring about high returns in ROI when properly executed over a longer-term horizon.

For those unfamiliar with digital marketing and its benefits, you can learn more about that in this link.

With that being said, the third phase focuses on the implementation (or execution) of the brand through a company’s marketing strategy

They can either be handled in-house or delegated to a full-service creative agency for added assistance to ensure a successful launch of their brand. It can even be followed up by consecutive approaches to develop and build up their brand’s equity going forward.

Step 4: Evolution

Image: The Being Group

After some time, companies will need to think about evolving their current brand by updating it. This is done so by giving their brand identity a refresh. In more extreme cases, rebranding might even be considered if the company's main target audience are no longer resonating with the brand in a positive manner.


This aspect is important because keeping up with current trends and staying relevant with consumers is crucial for companies to maintain the brand equity generated from its birth to the present day situation.

After all, when people see an outdated logo, they perceive the business to be out-of-touch with society, alongside all its important events and issues that surround it.


To illustrate this point, take a look at this example:

Kokuyo is an organization that aims to enrich the world through innovative products, designed to transform work and all aspects of office life into a better, extraordinary manner.


After 20 years from its inception, the company recognized how far they’ve come in that journey and wanted to commemorate that occasion by celebrating its achievements and the valuable progress made thus far by all its internal stakeholders. 

To do so, they partnered up with a branding agency to launch a multi-channel communications campaign internally for its 20th anniversary.

Through a combination of branding, social media marketing, print, and packaging design, the company breathed new life into its brand, resulting in creating a positive perception from various stakeholder groups that are crucial to the company’s success going forward.

For more details on the project, you can refer to this link


In essence, these are some of the benefits experienced when a company’s brand is given a refresh (or rebrand):

  • Ability to differentiate itself and stand out from the competition
  • Making the brand feel more relevant with current day consumers
  • Easier to re-engage current audience or to connect with completely new ones

However, this begs the question - when should a company evolve its brand? As a start, one can begin using these indicators as a guide to do so:

a) After making a big change

Image: Facebook

These are fundamental or structural changes that occur within the company, such as ownership changes, mergers & acquisitions, reassessing one’s product architecture (i.e. having too many different products which requires establishing sub-brands) and more.


For instance, Facebook’s many M&As since it’s inception:

This led to establishing their new brand identity (ex: logo change) by including all the companies acquired under their most recent ‘brand resource’ tab in their website.

b) When it doesn't reflect the company's current direction

Similar to the first point, when the company’s business direction changes, then this is a clear sign that the brand should evolve

The difference however, lies with the changes that are more niched and focused rather than a large-scale transformation mentioned above.


For instance, Coca-cola changing their target audience to also include customers from the ‘health-conscious’ segments:

Image: Coca-cola


c) When it's not in sync with current times

Image: PC Mag

Keeping up with the latest market trends is important so the company won't fall behind its competitors & lose touch with their hard-earned customers.


For instance, Mozilla Firefox’s 2019 rebrand:

Image: Firefox

Aside from a modern, sleeker logo, the brand evolved itself in order to keep pace with issues surrounding consumer privacy and data protection in the 21st century


Mentioned in their website, the icon was designed to represent the brand’s entire family line of products:

  • Firefox Browser 
  • Firefox Send (encrypted service for sending files) 
  • Firefox Monitor (online service for alerting users about their data’s breach)
  • Firefox Lockwise (password manager)


Alongside that, they also provided a rationale on what each design element signifies within their brand identity system as well.

d) When the brand is infamous

Image: Volkswagen

If the company has gone through several crises & developed a bad reputation, then a rebrand might be better-suited to help fix that.


For instance, the Volkswagen brand after their 2015 emission cheating scandal:

Image: Marketing Week

To put the major crisis behind, the brand needed a fresh start, to which they rolled out a new logo to mark the start of a new era for the company as a promise to do better for consumers and societies around the world.

Image: Apple

As such, when the time and need for evolution comes, having a branding agency by the company’s side will come in handy. 


This is due to their ability to provide an outside perspective to the business when coming up with new ideas, which helps eliminate certain cognitive biases such as groupthink and confirmation bias

Typically, they tend to occur when one has been working too closely on the business itself for a prolonged period of time.


Moreover, the valuable knowledge and industry expertise possessed by the agency can also be a boon to companies who are uncertain on how they can help their brand safely and successfully transition its evolution in relation to modern best practices. 


In short, the fourth phase is about maintaining the positive value generated by the brand thus far, while also getting rid of any ‘negatives’ associated with the company through evolving the brand to current-day standards.


Conclusion


In summary, if a company aims to create a strong and powerful brand for their business, a step-by-step brand-building approach is laid out to help them do so.

Step 1: Discovery

Understanding the company’s main purpose, as well as the internal and external factors that define the type of brand to be created.

Step 2: Design

Bringing to life the ideas from the first phase through the expertise of creative professionals with industry experience that are relevant to the company.

Step 3: Implementation

Implementing the marketing strategies and executing various branding-related activities planned by the company (or with the help of the agency).

Step 4: Evolution

Maintaining the positive value and eliminating any ‘negative’ associations generated by the company through evolving the brand to modern-day standards.



Doing so helps place the brand of the company in a secure position to confidently compete against their industry equivalents, while also capturing the hearts and minds of consumers wherever they go. 

Moreover, getting a branding agency on board can greatly lighten the load associated with this approach, as well as reducing the difficulties that arise from planning to the execution of tasks and activities that are branding-related.


After all, the long term benefits of investing in one’s brand can clearly be seen in those who have done so on a continuous basis (i.e. Apple, Coca-Cola, Netflix etc.), as opposed to the ones that refuse and will likely not experience the true potential of what their company can achieve.

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