The Basics of Building a Strong Brand

Branding - Fundamentals of building a strong brand

The term branding gets thrown around a lot these days and can seemingly reference anything from a logo to a company’s color palette to their tagline and advertising campaigns. So, what exactly is branding and how does it apply to regional publishers?

What is branding?

Branding is what gives your company a personality, clearly conveys what you do, why you’re different from all the rest and acts as your promise to your audience. In a nutshell, your branding lets everyone know what to expect from you. When branding is done right and works well, you’ll attract customers within your target audience. If you haven’t ever done any brand strategy exercises to clearly define your brand, there are a lot of free toolkits and resources out there to do it yourself.

What goes into branding?

In short, everything that is associated with your publication. Your visual identity is the foundation of your brand. This includes your logo, tagline and if you have a particular font and color scheme associated with your publication. Everything you do in terms of presence should clearly integrate your logo and visual identity.

As recommended in our article about getting the most from your publication’s website, your brand should be obvious online. And, your brand should be obvious on any of the social channels you’re using to reach your audience or to generate revenue.

You can also create standards for your brand when it comes to any marketing materials. This would include:

  • Color scheme
  • Logo sizes and options
  • Logo placement
  • Standard email signatures
  • Standard information to include in communications

Your brand strategy is what will inform everything else. As mentioned above, there are myriad free ways to do these exercises on your own to define your brand. The strategy part is identifying the what, when, how, where and to whom you are communicating.

Where do I start?

Start by taking a look at other publications like yours to understand how you’re unique and stand out from all of the others. Competitive awareness is something that allows you to gain insight into what’s working within your publication’s market landscape.

Take note of how other publications are positioning themselves to see if you can carve out a space that nobody has claimed. If, after surveying the other publications like yours, you realize that no one is doing what you do, leverage this information to differentiate your brand. Incorporate language like ‘the only magazine focused on Santa Fe County living’ or ‘the premier magazine for hiking enthusiasts’ into your media kit, communications and messaging.

Knowing what your competitors are doing allows you to build on your specialty as much as it allows you to keep tabs on trends that might affect your content selection.

Once you have a sense of your competitive landscape and you have your visual identity set, move on to brand strategy. Think about your company’s mission, service offerings, personality and positioning among other publications like yours.

Then, move on to thinking about your messaging. Consider the topline messages that you want to communicate about your publication. For example, if your magazine focuses on gardening, do you want me be known as the garden magazine for beginners or for experts, or for gardeners of all skill levels. Are you just focused on flowers vs. anything you can grow? Are there other attributes that set you apart from other magazines focused on gardening?

Piggybacking onto brand messaging is a tagline. If you have one for your publication, be sure to evaluate if it’s doing its job. If you don’t have one, develop one. It should be something concise and memorable that immediately communicates what your brand is all about. Nike’s tagline, Just Do It, is one of the most recognizable in the world and immediately evokes brand recognition.

Once you have an idea of your brand message, think about your voice and tone that best reflects your brand. Are you friendly, laid back and knowledgeable? Or maybe an expert that uses a more formal tone? Your brand’s voice will carry not only through all of your written communications, but also through your visuals. If you’re more formal, your visuals might be less artsy and lean more toward striking images without much flair. If your voice is more laid back, perhaps your imagery is more of a documentary style that’s off the cuff.

Along the way, be sure to integrate everything. Your tone, voice and messaging should be incorporated into your sales calls, email communications and any customer service exchanges. No matter where, how or when your audience interacts with your publication you want them to have the same, consistent impression of who you are and what you do.

Why does branding matter?

Consistently strong branding leads to name recognition and thus, higher brand equity, adding value to everything you do. When your publication’s name is easily recognizable and valued by your audience, it often elevates the perceived quality. Take, for example, Coca-Cola versus a generic soda. What’s inside might be very similar, but consumers willingly pay more for Coca-Cola in part because of its high brand equity. Having a strong brand leads to more interest, which in turn can lead to a larger audience and a driver for more ad revenue.

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