Brand development is the core of many business operations. Separate from company recognition, brand development is one of the primary factors customers consider before buying products.
What Is Brand Development With Example?
Brand development is the process of making a brand and establishing it in the eyes of customers. Proper development includes researching strong brand ideas, obtaining the tools to communicate them, and building a reputation with customers. For example, some companies may develop a product-focused brand (like the recognizable RedBull), while others establish a brand around their values (like the eco-friendly Green Toys).
What Is a Brand, Exactly?
Before we talk any further about brand development, we need to define what a brand is. A brand is everything a customer experiences that relates to a product or a group of products.
Some companies create a brand around each product to distinguish them in the customer’s mind, while others treat the company as a brand and encourage people to buy from them. Businesses may even do both.
Video game company Nintendo, for example, has one of the most recognized brands in the world with its Super Mario franchise. However, Nintendo itself is also a brand, with all of the games they produce known for being high-quality products.
The main thing to remember here is that an effective brand development strategy must consider every aspect of the customer’s experience. If a business makes decent products but has terrible customer service, that’s what the brand becomes.
It’s hard for any brand strategy to salvage a product once people turn against it, so companies occasionally rebrand products to try and escape negative connotations from the past. This type of brand positioning isn’t necessary for a successful brand, but sometimes it’s the right marketing strategy.
Typical brand aspects include values, colors, materials, styles, mascots and logos, and mottos. Fast-food chains focus on portraying themselves as affordable, while sports teams often have kid-friendly mascots. Meanwhile, online crafts retailer Etsy emphasizes handmade goods alongside eco-friendly shipping.
What Is the Brand Development Process?
The brand development process is the beginning-to-end sequence of creating, establishing, and refining a brand until it reaches the status you want. Here’s how the brand development process works in more detail.
Step One: Figuring Out a Target Audience
The first step in the brand development process is picking a target audience. Some companies aim to target as many people as possible, while others have a much narrower scope. A few businesses have only a single high-value customer, like the government.
It is critical to understand that brand management includes establishing exactly what appeals to the target audience and how a brand message can appeal to them. Brand awareness is meaningless if your audience doesn’t care about your products.
Step Two: Deciding on the Brand
Deciding on a brand to make is the hardest part of the process. Companies try many things to make a positioning statement, evaluate any existing brand awareness, and see what competitors are doing.
The ideal brand supports your business objectives and appeals to both existing and new customers while strengthening brand loyalty. Deciding on a brand is also where companies often get distracted by the details.
For some, the business strategy only means picking a name, a logo, and packaging for the product. For them, that is the brand and what they want people to pay attention to.
From the customer’s point of view, though, the brand is everything they experience. That includes how easy it is to find and buy the products, what they pay in shipping if buying online, customer service communications, and how much they like using the product.
Customer loyalty comes in when businesses create a strong brand. A good business brand keeps customers happy throughout their journey and makes them feel like they can extend some trust to the business. You can’t create loyal customers if they have bad experiences, so you can’t create a successful brand that way, either.
In short, deciding on a brand means figuring out how to manage the customer’s entire experience with your products. Anything less isn’t part of the brand development process. It’s just traditional marketing efforts.
Step Three: Testing the Brand
After selecting the brand itself, the next step is seeing how customers react to it. Companies can create brand guidelines and target customers, but it’s easy to get distracted by business objectives and overlook some qualities that a strong brand needs.
Proper testing is why companies may use focus groups or competitive environments to figure out if the brand is strong enough to keep pushing. There are many ways to evaluate this, from checking how many new leads it brings to reading social media posts, but testing the brand often becomes an ongoing process that tweaks and adjusts things over time.
Step Four: Using the Brand
The step after finalizing the brand is implementing it. There are many ways to establish and announce this, but having a good start is vital for establishing a stronger brand. There are two effective ways of releasing the brand.
The first is a gradual rollout. The gradual process involves releasing the product to increasingly large groups of loyal customers and incorporating their feedback to adjust the product and the brand. Releasing products this way is a slower method that could take anywhere from months to years but typically results in an excellent product once it hits the broader target market.
The second option is the big splash rollout, releasing it to everyone at once and trying to bust into community awareness. There’s no consumer loyalty for a big splash, but you can reach many new customers with a solid strategy.
Many businesses favor the big splash rollout because it has the highest potential for a large number of earnings all at once. That transforms the brand into a valuable asset and makes it easier to justify further investment.
However, gradual rollouts tend to result in better products and more loyal customers. This is especially true among the first ones to test it out. When they see their feedback incorporated into the products, they’ll feel important and valued.
Step Five: Maintaining the Brand
The final step doesn’t end until the product line stops or the company shuts down. Brand management is all about keeping a brand identity in the mind of the target market and encouraging them to become repeat customers.
The ease of accomplishing this depends on more than your brand message and brand loyalty. Some products simply sell more often than others. Must-have products like food are easy to get repeat customers for, but low-frequency purchases like home appliances are a lot harder.
The differences in maintaining a brand mean that an effective brand development strategy must consider the company’s positioning and target audience. What works for one company’s brand may not work for another, and failing to account for that when maintaining it can drastically reduce the brand’s value.
What Is Brand Positioning?
The part of the brand development process that focuses specifically on getting it into the mind of customers is called market positioning. We can break brand positioning down into several components.
Most of this happens in step five of brand development, but companies with the resources often start laying the groundwork for positioning weeks or months ahead of launching the product. Any industries that offer previews, like many entertainment companies, are engaging in early brand positioning.
Step One: Pre-Contact
One of the best ways to convince people to buy something is to get them to agree that they have a problem. Pre-contact positioning is where a smart content marketing strategy comes into the picture.
Take a good, long look at your product. What kinds of problems could this product theoretically solve? Some products have obvious solutions, like food alleviating hunger. Others are more complex, such as assistive devices for people with special needs that you want to market to a bigger audience.
Traditional marketing techniques can help you spread awareness of problems before you start mentioning your products. The key here is balancing concern with a willingness to act. If you worry people too much about presenting something as a huge problem, they may search for another solution before even releasing your product.
In other words, the goal of pre-contact brand positioning is preparing people to become customers, not pushing them to act. Any brand strategy that forgets this or tries to go too far here probably won’t become a successful brand.
Step Two: Initial Release
The initial release can reach a target audience of any size, as discussed above. Ideally, you’ll build up brand equity with a smooth rollout and transition into maintaining a successful brand.
Realistically, many things can go wrong during the initial release, and that’s where a smart content marketing strategy comes into the picture. The initial rollout of a product doesn’t always determine brand success.
Instead, success comes from using a solid strategy to target customers and establish market positioning over time. A good positioning statement can help guide this, but brand assets can show their value over time even without that.
What Is a Brand Positioning Statement, Anyway?
A brand positioning statement is an internal company document that summarizes what you’re trying to do with the products. Most companies don’t share these with the public, so it’s hard to give specific examples.
That said, a brand positioning statement might be something like “Quality, affordable shoes.” A statement like this addresses what sort of product it is and two major characteristics the company wants customers to associate with the brand.
To a lesser extent, brand positioning statements are helpful when discussing new products with key stakeholders. They can help demonstrate how the product will meet consumer needs and establish trust by showing how the brand will become a starting point for generating profit.
Step Three: Resolving Problems
Most companies experience problems after the initial release of the brand. You may overlook key areas of concern, make a poor first impression because of technological failure, or even fail on a SWOT analysis for your company.
Everyone wants a perfect rollout, but it makes sense to prepare for problems when you develop your brand. Having a clear understanding of when things go wrong will help your business overcome issues with your first impression and determine the only way to regain any lost trust.
Communication is valuable here. One of the key differentiators in how customers respond to problems is how quickly and effectively you communicate. Customers feel better when they have the sense that they’re listened to, and you’re not just marketing to them to try and get more money.
In mst cases, resolving problems can use the following format.
#1: State the Problem
Be specific here and explain it in a way that ensures customers feel like you genuinely understand the problem with your business. You don’t need to give valuable information that competitors could use against you, but a well-defined problem is easier to solve.
For example, let’s say that 10% of your products are missing a critical component. Explain this number and as much as you can say about how it happened.
#2: State How You’re Solving the Problem
Many brands offer vague assurances like “we’re looking into this,” but that’s not what customers want to hear. If things are missing a part, they want to hear that you’ll be mailing replacements. If you don’t have addresses, tell them how they should contact you.
Being specific is always better here. A fundamental brand promise is that the product will do what it claims it will do. If you fail here, forget about your brand development strategy. Your brand identity will be mud, and your target audience will likely abandon you.
You might recover, but failing to resolve a problem correctly isn’t the first of your issues to many customers. It will be at least the second problem in a row, and that will make many people who gave you the benefit of the doubt give up on you.
#3: Give a Timetable for Resolution
Just like the first two areas, it’s better to be specific here when possible and honest about any potential delays. Worldwide shipping issues in 2021, for example, have delayed delivery of some goods by weeks or months. If that kind of thing affects you, just say it and give your best estimate for when it will be resolved.
Timetables are one area where you can be a little vague. You won’t hurt your marketing strategy if you say you hope to deliver a resolution by May 1st, but shipping issues outside of your control could push it back to June.
#4: Thank the Customer for Their Support
If possible, make them an additional promise that you can follow through on. If people feel like they’re getting something extra, they’re usually willing to wait.
Step Four: Maneuvering
A brand isn’t set in stone once it reaches the market. Once you launch, you may have to deal with threats from a new business, changes in your core message, or additional feedback about things customers experience when buying your product.
There are two main routes for a company here. The first is changing the market positioning, which means aiming for a different result than the one you’re getting. Most companies aim to get more customers, but if you’re expecting problems or a sudden drop in inventory, you could also aim to shrink your customer base until you’re ready to expand again.
The other route is maintaining the brand and its position. Many business owners hate the idea of staying in place. Still, there’s often a point for small companies where you’re saturating the market, and the return on new investment drops significantly.
Finding a spot like this means it’s time to transition into a holding pattern and emphasize steady sales. This doesn’t have to be permanent because you can develop new products to try and find new customers, but pretending a brand can keep growing when it can’t is just wasting time.
What Is a Brand Development Strategy?
Brand development strategy is the part of brand development that companies use internally to guide the process. A good development strategy includes everything from researching a target market to clarifying a brand promise, figuring out search engine optimization options, and collecting actionable insights to guide the brand.
In short, this is how you go from the starting point to launching a powerful brand.
The tricky part here is figuring out how your business is different from others. Some companies focus on brand development involving business cards and new web visitors, while others may send out products for review or negotiate with retailers to offer special promotions.
Things to Consider
Brand development strategies need to consider their core message, a SWOT analysis, and even how client work may factor into things. Brand development also requires a marketing strategy that’s realistic about resources and timetables.
Every company wants to have a perfect launch, but honesty about what you can do to reach your target market can keep expectations realistic. A key element of a good brand development strategy is setting a fundamental goal to define success, then additional goals to indicate performing better than anticipated.
Brand development strategies should consider relevant content, potential search content, and whether you want to try and get a valid email address from each customer. More information is directly connected to marketing performance because when you know what people want, it’s easier to create a product for the market that matches customer expectations.
The best brand development strategies have marketing options for different results. If things perform better than expected, a good strategy can use things like SWOT analysis to determine how much more the company should invest in marketing. If things do poorly, the strategy may direct you to see if you’re creating relevant content for customers.
This is another area where companies are often overly optimistic about launching brands. Remember, chances are something won’t go according to plan. Having contingencies for each point as part of a comprehensive style guide for your company can ensure that you’re in the best position to take advantage of the market.
What Is Brand Identity?
Brand identity is how customers feel about your brand after you develop it and they engage with it. Their engagement may or may not involve knowing your company name, but it does typically include knowing the name of your product.
Here are some examples of how brand identity works in practice.
Case Study: LEGO
When was the last time you bought a LEGO set and the right pieces simply didn’t fit together?
Probably never, because LEGO has stringent quality control standards. Only about 18 pieces out of every million produced have problems. Even then, manufacturers catch most of them, ensuring they don’t even make it into the playsets. On the rare occasion that a bad part slips through, LEGO replaces it on request.
Size tolerances on LEGO products are within 0.001 millimeters. For context, the average piece of paper is about 0.1mm thick, so LEGO products are accurate to within 1% of the width of paper. That is a truly impressive rate of precision, and it’s so precise that every single part they produce is compatible with bricks from 1958.
Quality control standards aren’t one of the things that LEGO advertises much. They focus most of their marketing on new sets and collections, often made to coincide with releases from partner companies. However, people who play with LEGOs naturally learn that everything fits together.
These things result in a degree of trust in the company and brand that you can’t get from basic marketing or business practices or search traffic. LEGO doesn’t need to be as precise as they are. However, going the extra mile makes them a trusted brand despite the high prices of their products.
Case Study: NFL
The National Football League is an interesting example of branding. They go even further than Nintendo, with three primary levels of branding that each have their own characteristics. The NFL is a good sample because it shows how multi-level branding can offer additional benefits for companies.
The top level of branding is the NFL itself. Their branding includes the claim as the primary company managing football as a sport and being the only real professional league. They sell NFL-branded products and make sure everyone knows that the organization itself is on top. League-wide events like the Superbowl are part of their branding, too.
The next layer of branding is the individual teams. They encourage people to support specific teams and buy merchandise from them, attend their games, and care whether that team wins or loses. The NFL does not care about the teams except to the extent they contribute to the sport, but marketing helps ensure that customers care.
Finally, individual players can have their own branding. Individual branding is another marketing trick that can drive up business, especially among children who may favor players over the sport as a whole.
Splitting the branding also insulates each of them from problems that the others have. If a player is a problem, the team can distance themselves. If an entire team is having problems, the league can punish them in the name of maintaining the integrity of the sport.
The resilience of the NFL’s split branding strategy gives their business an incredible level of resiliency in the face of problems. The inclusion of team owners in making most major decisions also makes it hard for any wild, external forces that upset the whole thing.
Case Study: Hololive
Let’s talk about something a little more unusual. Particularly famous brands are all well and good as case studies, but they’re not as useful for small businesses that can’t operate on such a level.
Hololive is a Japanese entertainment company operating as a subsidiary of Cover Corp., a technology company. Since late 2020, they’ve focused on expanding outside of Japan and providing content that’s more accessible to the rest of the world, and with resounding success.
The company itself consists of several groups of variety entertainers that mostly use digital avatars and stream material over the web. After about two years of minimal success, Hololive managed to take advantage of viral content to attract interest.
Since then, it’s become one of the most well-known streaming companies, functioning differently than individual, independent streamers have in the past. As of late 2021, according to records, Hololive owns all of the top five worldwide channels for YouTube’s Superchat donation system and eight of the top ten channels.
This success is astounding for a brand that’s only four or five years old. Cover is not a huge company in terms of staff, but they’ve expertly applied their skills to dominate the charts and bring in impressive revenue.
That’s not the reason we’re using them as a case study, though. What makes Hololive worth studying as a company is how they did it.
Broadly, each new group of entertainers they release has done better on launch than the past group. The success here is because the previous entertainers each attract followers (i.e., customers) individually, and those customers often go on to support the new entertainers and continue the cycle of growth.
Ultimately, Hololive is a higher-level brand that benefits from each of its subsidiary brands. They’ve done exceptionally well for an organization that’s primarily people working from home and being entertaining online.
Hololive vs. Nintendo
Hololive is structurally similar to Nintendo when it comes to branding. As we discussed earlier, Nintendo has a setup where each franchise is generally high-quality, and those all reflect on the broader Nintendo video game brand. People expect every Nintendo-published game to be good.
Many companies treat a brand as ultimately disposable. If a product fails too hard, you can just rebrand and try again, and that’s how business goes. However, brand development that focuses on supporting other brands has enormous potential for success, and it’s an opportunity that too many businesses overlook in their marketing efforts.
On another level, it’s good to look past marketing efforts and pay attention to how a successful business truly operates. The way a company uses and applies its branding is almost as important as the branding itself, with just as much impact on the company’s overall success.
Case Study: Amazon
Amazon is so massive that it’s awkward to use them as a study, but we’re bringing up their business because they have a different type of branding than most companies.
Specifically, Amazon’s authentic brand is its service. Sure, they have things like web hosting and entertainment, and those can draw customers in. They even have their own store brand of products, but that has almost no impact on what people think about them.
Amazon’s brand is essentially the following: “sell everything and deliver quickly.” You can buy almost anything you want on their site, with consistently fast shipping even if you choose their slowest option. Amazon is a relatively rare example of a service-based brand – rather than a product-based one – which makes it so interesting.
Of course, that speed doesn’t come without problems. Problems that escalate too far can destroy a brand overnight, so you can also think of Amazon as a high-risk, high-reward proposition.
On the internal side, Amazon has its well-known “Day One” branding statement. Despite the company’s age, this statement encourages people to act almost like the company is a startup, focusing on innovation and ways to achieve significant growth.
The result is consistent brand development that’s made their business into one of the most valuable companies in the world. At this point, most of their marketing goes towards specific products rather than the site itself. People don’t need to be told that Amazon exists, so marketing money can go elsewhere.
Case Study: Superhero Symbols
Superman is an interesting brand because many people have interacted with it over the years, each leaving their own mark on it. However, the stylized S on Superman’s chest is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. The same is true with variations of Batman’s logo, usually a black bat shape on a yellow background, often with a black border around it.
Effective visual branding is one of the most powerful tools a company has. People who recognize a symbol can pick it out of a crowd of other symbols. They pay attention to it almost subconsciously, making it a symbol of both trust and engagement.
The best visual brands are usually simple, with two or three colors and a unique design. There’s a reason apps and social media sites prefer simple graphics for their logo rather than something elaborate.
Brand development is complex. Figuring out target audiences, deciding what to do with the brand, and buying the technologies necessary to make it work may require years. That doesn’t even consider the new marketing tactics it may need to maintain the brand after launching it.
However, creating a complete brand development guide can help any company understand the way forward, measure its success, deal with problems, and ultimately establish a lasting and powerful brand among its customer base.
In even simpler terms, it’s garbage in, garbage out. The more you put into brand development, the more you’ll get out. Going halfway on the planning and stopping there will prevent a brand from reaching its full potential.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have about brand development.
What Are the 4 Steps of Branding?
The four basic steps of branding are:
- Selecting a target audience you want to market the brand towards
- Positioning the company to sell to that audience
- Clarifying your company’s approach to the brand
- Finalizing the details about the brand
As discussed above, proper branding requires evaluating the entire sequence of interactions that customers have with your company.
What Is a Brand Developer?
A brand developer specializes in working with new or existing brands to improve them on behalf of a company. A business may hire brand developers to fix problems with an existing brand, help them rebrand, or provide input on developing the brand for a new product.
What Is Brand Strategy Development?
Brand strategy development is figuring out how the business will approach a specific brand and deal with any problems that arise in the future. A brand is most successful when a company understands where they are and where they want to take the brand in the future.