What is a brand?

You’re in the grocery store, shopping for cereal. The breakfast foods aisle looks exactly as it should: neatly-faced shelves stacked to the ceiling with grey box after identical grey box, with no differentiating features. You purchase one, crossing your fingers in the hopes that the randomly-selected cereal inside will be diet-appropriate. The next morning, you pour yourself a bowl, only to find you’ve accidentally bought a box of flour.

If the world didn’t have brands, it would be difficult for your purchases to connect with your needs; you could waste a lot of money buying irrelevant products.

That’s why, in Auckland at least, our cereal aisles are not stocked with blank grey boxes, but white boxes, with bold black text that matter-of-factly describes the contents, nutritional information, and the consumer goods corporation responsible for its production.

Just funning. Our planetary cereal aisles look like this:

This cereal promises excitement, with health as little more than a footnote.

This one promises to be part of a health-conscious family lifestyle, with many badges touting the ways this cereal will improve the inner workings of your body.

 

In addition to big, basic text, the cereal box uses design techniques such as bright colours, an interestingly-shaped bowl, and a big, tasty image to communicate the implicit feelings and experience you’ll get out of purchasing this cereal.

As I was writing that last paragraph, our lead Website Designer at Zyber Auckland walked past my computer and said, “Mmm, Cheerios, my favourite!” This demonstrates another function of brands: awareness. (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/brand-awareness) We form memories and emotional connections with brands. These are recalled when we are ready to make another purchase, or just when exposed to the brand by chance, as the lead Website Designer just was. Sometimes brands can even seem to have personalities.

There are many benefits to customers having a positive association with your brand. For one thing, customers who love your brand will be more willing to seek it out, and recommend it to family and friends. You can justify a higher price when your brand has a higher perceived value.

At Zyber, we have a structure we recommend as Shopify Experts to our clients who are starting new brands. This is a method geared towards the relationship and feelings side of branding. I all starts with determining…

 

1. What is the Point of Existence? (Of your Brand.)

This question can be answered with a Mission Statement: a paragraph explaining what your business intends to accomplish and whom it intends to serve. Superman’s Mission Statement is that he is “a strange visitor from another planet who fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!”

You should use your Mission Statement to inform all branding decisions you make. It dictates what you are to the world.

Let’s start a brand. We don’t have a supplier, website, or existing customers. Hopefully, we should have an idea for something the world needs.

Looking at this stuff.co.nz article, we can see that a lot of eco-friendly brands don’t really deliver on their promise. I’ve noticed a few people I know question the effectiveness of eco-friendly products. So maybe our brand could provide the NZ market with environmentally friendly, kiwi-made products that deliver on their promise.

 

Stealing is always a good idea.

Let’s borrow the Mission Statement of one of the best premium product brands in the world; Ferrari:

“To be the reference company in the market of small and medium-sized industrial fans.”

 


(Look at that gorgeous Ferrari.)

They want to be the bar by which all other industrial fan manufacturing concerns are measured by. But we want to be in a different position in the market- unlike all eco-brands, we want to be the real deal, instead of posing as such.

“Offer eco-friendly products that harm the environment less than competing brands.”

Ferrari’s mission statement clarifies the position in the market that they want to achieve by acknowledging their proverbial “hole in the market.”

“The market demands complete solutions: [A] quality product with a suitable pre-sales support, an impeccable delivery service and a timely assistance of the installed fans.”

So let’s say during our market research we found that customers were wary of eco-friendly products that talked a big game but didn’t actually provide benefit for the environment. If that’s the case, our clarification can be:

“New Zealand consumers are wary of greenwashing, and want an eco-friendly brand that delivers on its promise to minimize harm to the environment, and takes action to improve Aotearoa rather than exploiting environmentalist sentiments for profit.”

Ferrari tops it off by defining how they will achieve their promise:

‘[Ferrari Industrial Fan Technology] maintains an high level of competitiveness focusing on… expertise, [improving our] organization, [a] keen understanding of the market, [“on the ground”] innovation, [and] professional ethics.”

So for our eco-brand, we can decide to set our mission to be:

“Our brand will commit to constantly monitoring our competition, using independent evaluation of our products to ensure their environmental safety, using advertising campaigns that put environmental stewardship at the forefront, and providing customer service that demonstrates a high level of satisfactory feedback.”

It’s up to you to take your mission statement seriously and use it to guide concrete action for your business.

You can take small initial steps towards achieving your brand goal straight away. As far as monitoring the market goes, we could set up alerts using an app such as BuzzSumo to see what people are saying about products like the ones we want to offer. To start using environmental stewardship in ad campaigns, we could start a social media page such as cleancoast_kiwi, making promotional instagram posts out of trash gleaned from a beach.

Using your Brand Mission Statement, you can start delivering on your promises and become the Ferrari of your industry, and grow your business from Auckland to a worldwide influence. When you are faltering, you can refer to your Mission Statement and ask yourself where you’ve fallen short, and what you can do to amend this. Your Brand Mission statement helps you measure up, and helps your customers know if you’re measuring up.

If Superman is not living up to his mission statement, he’s probably been hypnotized.

 

2. Actioning your Brand’s Mission Statement

Let’s take a look at an SME and compare its mission statement to its branding. The company we’ll be looking at is called Headframe Spirits.

This company’s mission statement is:

“To produce quality spirits; to promote responsible alcohol consumption; to create jobs in our community; and to use the history and culture of Butte, Montana to inform our production and product marketing.”

They also say, on their about page:

“Our company is a mouthpiece for our values.”

Do they live up to these sentiments? According to their About page, they’re:

  • A Certified B Corporation- meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance
  • Recognized by the state Governor as Entrepreneurs of the Year
  • Small Business Champions of the Year

Are they using the history and culture of Butte, Montana to inform their production and product marketing? On their website, they have a timeline demonstrating the heritage of Butte:


Their design is cohesive and incorporates historical photographs and informational tidbits so that, as you wet your whistle, you’re also whetting your interest in Butte.

 

Their website emulates their packaging, and includes more information about their story on the back:

“First named for her unusually cool temperatures, The Neversweat’s name became more ironic among Butte’s miners as her depths grew and her temperature rose. Likewise, our Neversweat Bourbon Whiskey, with its richness of body and depth of flavor, will make you understand why even immigrants who didn’t speak a word of English asked for The Neversweat by name.”


Do they deliver on the social responsibility aspect of their mission statement? They have an entire page on their website dedicated to their social responsibility efforts.

“In our first two years, Headframe Spirits has proudly donated over $40,000 to local non-profit organizations, community events and other groups whose missions line up with our own.”

We also host regular charitable drinking events in our tasting room where $1.00 from each drink sold goes toward a local non-profit.

What about SEO? While it’s still useful to include keywords in all of this branding content you’re creating, keywords are no longer a critical ranking factor in SEO, as Google is able to determine what your page is about based on synonyms and context. What we’ve found from our years of being Shopify Partners is that a nice website design is a container for good branded content, and SEO is best when you are focusing on user intent.

 

Let’s make our branding match our mission statement

We can extrapolate our branding from our mission statement, which is:

To offer eco-friendly products that do less harm than competing brands. New Zealand consumers are wary of greenwashing, and want an eco-friendly brand that delivers on its promise, and takes action to improve Aotearoa rather than exploiting environmentalist sentiments for profit. Our brand will commit to constantly monitoring our competition, using independent evaluation of our products to ensure their environmental safety. We’ll use advertising campaigns that put environmental stewardship at the forefront, and providing customer service that demonstrates a high level of satisfactory feedback.”

Given this, our brand style could be:

  • Feedback-focused
  • Demonstrates benefit to New Zealand
  • “Real”
  • Action-oriented; delivers on its promise
  • Literate in environmental news, research, facts
  • Educational

Each of these elements can be used to inform decisions on website, social media appearance, packaging, basically any way that our abstract brand will appear in our physical realm.

 

For instance, on the back of most eco-products include a Consumer Information Services number on the back:


So we could up the ante by making this call to action much more obvious. Maybe in addition to a freephone, we could include the email address of a particular person, perhaps even including a photo of them. This would be an easy way to position ourselves as customer-focused.


We can also implement an app like feedbackify to get quantitative data about what pages on our website need attention.

To demonstrate benefit to New Zealand, we can source our ingredients from here, as well as manufacture them here. Maybe like Headframe have done, we could commit to putting money back into the community. How can our products be action-oriented? What about a compostable plastic bottle? There is an Australian standard for this called AS 5810, signifying that a bioplastic can be used for home composting.

Maybe our packaging can use these home-compostable bottles, and could be printed with statistical educational information about New Zealand environmental issues:

“According to the Ministry for the Environment’s Our Air 2018 report, “The national emissions inventory indicates burning wood and coal for home heating was the biggest single human-made source of particles suspended in the air…  on-road vehicles were the single biggest source of human-generated nitrogen oxides”

So with just three strokes of our branding brush, we’ve established ourselves as open to feedback, action-oriented, concerned with delivering on our promise rather than just appearing as eco-friendly but really greenwashing.

We can continually take action to ensure we are embodying the principles espoused by our Mission Statement.

There’s one more aspect we need to consider:

 

3. Determining your Brand Voice


Brand Voice is an important part of Brand Strategy. Wendy’s, on social media, has decided that they don’t want to advertise to people, rather they want to have a conversation with people. Thus, they have adopted a specific brand voice- that of a real (if smart-mouthed and uninhibited) person.

 

The marketing manager of Wendy’s “ identify what a specific brand is, and then represent that genuinely to customers.” This is critical, because many people will be responsible for writing on behalf of your brand. You can’t have one person write like they’re Wendy’s, and another write like the IRD. This extends to images, too. When people are designing assets for your brand to use, they need to be using the same colours and styles of imagery, so that your brand has a cohesive feel

We need to define our tone with a set of rules that will define how any customer-facing writing will appear, by creating a Content Style Guide:

My favourite resource on this is from Mailchimp. They’ve created a style guide on how their communication should be structured

The first step is to determine who you are writing for, and how that aligns with your Goals and Principles. Here’s how Mailchimp determined that:

“We know marketing technology is a minefield of confusing terminology. That’s why we speak like the experienced and compassionate business partner we wish we’d had way back when.We treat every hopeful brand seriously. We want to educate people without patronizing or confusing them.”

This takes into account the experience they’ve had with customers, and/or customer research they’ve done. So let’s think about the people who inspired us to make this brand:

“A lot of people have lost trust in eco-brands because it seems that they don’t back up their ethical claims with anything tangible. We want to that earns business by demonstrating a positive effect. In an industry that panders to emotion, we want our products to be presented as a logical decision, and to provide value by educating our consumers. Though we will communicate clearly, we will not talk down to our customers”

Refer again to your mission statement to find your guiding principles. With this statement, we now know who it is we’re talking to. How do we talk to them? We need to define the correct tone.

“Mailchimp’s tone is usually informal, but it’s always more important to be clear than entertaining. When you’re writing, consider the reader’s state of mind. Are they relieved to be finished with a campaign? Are they confused and seeking our help on Twitter? Once you have an idea of their emotional state, you can adjust your tone accordingly.

Mailchimp has a sense of humor, so feel free to be funny when it’s appropriate and when it comes naturally to you. But don’t go out of your way to make a joke—forced humor can be worse than none at all. If you’re unsure, keep a straight face.”

So in a similar vein, we can define our tone as:

“Since our brand aims to differentiate itself from false advertising, we will use product research to our advantage, aiming to educate consumers on the purpose of each of the ingredients, and what it is acting as an alternative to. E.g. “the key ingredient in soap is called a surfactant- a molecule where one end binds to oil, and the other end binds to water. Some surfactants can be toxic to animals if they get into the water supply, which is why we use Alkyl polyglycoside as our surfactant- it’s derived from sugar, and the European Union ecolabel program reports this substance as readily biodegradable”

That’s the wording, but how about artwork, color schemes, and logos? There’s a lot of research into color psychology, the idea that certain colours have certain effects on consumers.

Let’s also consider our mission statement: we want to position ourselves as eco-friendly, but also we want to show that we know what we’re talking about and not lying to customers.

According to this paper, consumers tend to perceive brands that use yellow as having a quality of competence. We could use this instead of the colour green, in addition to, or mixed with the colour green to create a unique colour scheme in the eco-friendly product space.

You can use a colour scheme generator website such as Coolors to play with different variations of your color scheme.


You should also consider finding a few fonts that look good together and work with your brand. It sounds inconsequential, but determining a font and colour scheme can help when you are communicating with designers to make more complex elements such as your website design. We recommend using Google Fonts, as these are all web-safe (guaranteed to work on anybody’s computer).

 

Another good idea is to create a mood board of how you envision your brand to appear. Spend time looking at competitor’s sites for package designs, labels, website designs, and photography you like (or want to avoid). You can use software such as PureRef to organize your images.

 

Conclusion

You’ve finished our Brand Strategy guide. As we say in Auckland, “good on ya mate!” But now it’s on ya to implement these changes for your own business. To help you with this process, use this bullet-point list as a checklist for the tasks you need to complete.

 

  1. Create a mission statement.
  2. Start delivering on the promises in your mission statement.
  3. Make your branding complement your mission statement.
  4. Determine your Brand voice
  5. Create a style guide.

Great, now you are set up to be a great brand! That’s not the end of the story, however. We have a  comprehensive guide on how to create the best Website Design you can. Check out that guide for more useful articles like this one!

 

Let’s talk about how we can double your conversion rate. 

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Written.

by Ross Ozarka
April 14, 2019

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