You can probably name some of your favorite brands off the top of your head. Disney, Coca-Cola, Nike…the list is endless.

And each of these brand names immediately conjures a clear image in your head.

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What makes this branding so effective? Is it just the logo or the color choice? Buyers choose one brand over the next because that brand connects with them on a level you might not even recognize.

Developing a brand for your business involves more than colors and graphics. It’s learning how to share a story that encompasses the customer experience, outstanding service, and a promise of quality. Once you master your branding, customers will recognize your business instantly and trust it to be consistent.

But if branding is so important, why do so many new businesses miss the mark? This scattered messaging is a result of not fully understanding the importance of building a brand.

This guide will address not only the most important reasons to build a strong brand, but also crucial tips for getting started with your brand even as a new business.

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Branding in Action

Perhaps the best way to understand branding is to see it in action. You probably already know key players like Disney and Coca-Cola who have spent 50+ years creating a strong story to market to their audience. Disney has successfully coined itself the “Happiest Place on Earth” while Coke challenges soda drinkers to “Open Happiness.”

While the key players like Coca-Cola are great long-term examples of successful branding, it doesn’t have to take decades to create brand awareness this powerful.

Look at Airbnb, for instance, a platform that has taken off on a global scale.

The idea itself is a hard sell. Staying in strangers’ homes in new places around the world? Not likely. Despite this, Airbnb is now one of the leading travel rental platforms around, and has changed the tourism industry as we know it.

How has Airbnb found so much success? Branding. Airbnb’s successful brand strategy focused on the idea of a global traveler. Global travelers choose authentic experiences over cookie-cutter hotels, and that’s how they convinced millions of people around the world to stay in strangers homes.

Airbnb didn’t just market an affordable alternative to hotel fees. They sold a community of hosts and travellers.

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Another global example that took the world by storm is Starbucks. What started as a small coffee shop in Seattle now is a staple in street corners around the world. Starbucks has over 20,000 stores in 63 countries, and it’s now the world’s most famous coffee shop.

Starbucks even made a name for itself in tea-dominated nations where coffee drinking is not universal.

It achieved this success by making every location feel local. Starbucks branded itself as your local, neighborhood coffee shop you can find in every area of the globe. It also took a digital approach by offering rewards through its popular app.

Starbucks isn’t an impersonal, intimidating coffee shop. It’s for everyone, no matter where you are in the world.

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Building a brand that’s recognized around the globe isn’t easy. Whether you’re trying to attract a global audience or your local neighborhood, you can learn a thing or two from these big players.

How Good Branding Sets Your Business Apart

Now that you’ve seen branding in action, we can discuss the ways you can use branding to set your business apart from the crowd.

In this digital age, there are more businesses than ever before. While it’s becoming easier to start your own business, it’s not easy to stand out. You have a lot of competition no matter what industry you choose, so successful branding is necessary.

Branding is what makes your business unique. It’s what helps your audience identify your company against your competitors. It’s how you target your unique audience effectively. Even niche markets need branding in order to be active contenders today.

Let’s evaluate the top ways branding helps to set your business apart from the noise.

Create a strong first impression

First impressions matter a lot in business. One bad first experience with a company will keep you from using them ever again. Your branding acts as this first impression. If there are two products on a shelf, your customer is going to choose the product they feel most connected to.

Your branding says something about your business values and your audience. Make sure that’s the right first impression.

These are the top ways your branding affects your audience. By taking your business and your brand seriously, you can connect with the right customers at the right time. You can also attract more referrals and create a genuine perception of your business whether you’re taking on a global stage or a local niche.

Give your business direction

No matter your business’ age, it’s easy to lose direction. You add new products or services over time, and soon the entire company takes a new shape.

You can tell when a company lacks direction because they aren’t consistent. Staff aren’t sure what to do, and nobody seems entirely clear about what it is they’re trying to say or who they’re selling to.

When you have strong branding, you’ve honed in your messaging, your story, and your tone. Because you’ve determined all of these things, your staff and your marketing can move in a single, clear direction. When employees know what you’re moving towards, they feel motivated to reach new goals.

Branding as a referral channel

In business, referrals carry a lot of weight. They’re free marketing you don’t have to work for. And your branding is a sort of reference.

By being consistent in your branding, your audience will learn they can expect a certain quality of service or experience when they interact with your business.

The next time they come across your business, they’re more likely to make a purchase or recommend you to someone else.

Support your marketing

As a business, you dedicate a certain amount of funds towards marketing effort. How you choose to market your business should correspond with your branding. If you’re not clear on your brand, you’re also not clear on your marketing. You need a clear focus that attracts the right customers.

As the saying goes, “if you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody.”

Tips for Effective Branding

Effective branding doesn’t have to be expensive. It also doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes the most influential branding is simple and to the point.

No matter how large or small your business, you need to create a brand strategy.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Identify your audience

Your first step is to know your audience. Without knowing your audience, you can’t make any decisions about your branding.

And you need to go beyond the surface layer. It’s not enough to know a few basic demographics.

Where do they shop?
What do they look for in products or services?
What are their most significant problems?

By answering these questions, you can hone in on the type of branding that will speak to them.

The Samsung Galaxy knows its audience. Its latest “Growing Up” campaign targets current Apple users who aren’t satisfied with their current phones and are looking to “upgrade” to a Samsung.

By addressing each of the standard Apple user’s concerns, Samsung demonstrates that it understands what users want in a phone today.

Build an online platform

Your brand means nothing if you don’t have a platform to express it. Start with your website. Your website should focus on the user experience as well as deliver high-quality content your audience will find valuable.

From there, distribute your content across social media platforms. Keep your tone, messaging, and story consistent across these platforms whether you’re posting an Instagram photo or writing a Twitter post.

A well-known brand that dominates both online and in-person is Disney. They have their Disney Parks and Disney Film websites and pages, which we all know well.

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They also relate to their Disney-loving audience with themed posts and fun interactions with their audience through their Oh My Disney blog and related pages.

Explore new mediums

As the digital age grows and changes, so do our forms of communication. New ways of expressing your branding area appearing across social media and beyond.

Video marketing is being seen now more than ever, for instance, especially on Facebook where video performs really well. By experimenting with new mediums like video marketing, you’ll be able to communicate directly with your audience in a new way.

One example you might have already noticed on social media is the makeup brand Glossier. This brand has been targeting young women in Instagram and Facebook with their how-to videos featuring their latest products.

These videos are informative in that they highlight the best ways to use these makeup products, but they also stay committed to Glossier’s easy-breezy makeup branding.

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Don’t try to make everyone happy

You’re never going to please everyone. Branding can be polarizing, and this can work to your advantage. An eco-conscious company isn’t trying to appeal to people who don’t like to recycle. Similarly, a budget-conscience brand isn’t trying to attract those who value luxury over anything else. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, try to be the best version of your brand for your audience.

The Onion’s original web series “Tough Season” is sponsored by computer brand Lenovo, who isn’t afraid to be unapologetic themselves. Throughout the season, Lenovo is featured in the series -, though not always in the most flattering light.

Characters mispronounce Lenovo and continuously poke fun at it. This shows that Lenovo understands that not everyone has to like their branding for it to be dominant.

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Final Words

Is your brand strategy up to par with the competition? Whether you need to find a reliable marketing agency to bring your marketing to the next level, or take a deep dive into your target audience, your brand is the foundation of your business.

By creating branding that speaks to the right audience, you promise your customers the same level of experience every time they interact with you online or in-person.

These tips above not only prepare you to compete in this competitive market, but they also show you the best examples of branding today.

Don’t be afraid to take a look around at the ways different brands are reaching their audiences. Who knows? They might be onto something.

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Ashley Lipman is a super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. Her professional interest lies in ecology and nature and she often writes about perks of spending more time outdoors, adventure activities and exploring the planet.