What makes a brand last? Every business owner has asked themselves this exact question before. If you haven’t, then you’re likely asking the wrong questions.
Another frequent question is “what creates brand longevity?”
Well, the answer is relatively simple. Process. More specifically, a lifecycle.
See, brands go through stages, much like humans do. They grow and shrink, improve, and decline – again, much like humans do. It’s natural and a part of the lifecycle, with peaks and troughs being the sign of a sustainable, successful business.
To expand, a brand lifecycle is composed of two sections. These two sections each refer to a different stage; holding different responsibilities and purposes.
Let’s expand further.
The 2 sections of a brand lifecycle
1. Brand Development
2. Brand Implementation
This refers to the course of action taken before launch of your brand, usually consisting of a lot of groundwork and foundation building from which to build your business on top of.
This step must come first because it builds the base of your brand, allowing you to further develop your business knowing there’s a sturdy structure residing beneath it.
However, there are 3 sub-stages of brand development. Let’s explain further.
The investigation phase occurs when the business is all but a concept.
The investigation is also known as the research phase, and this is arguably the hardest part for many first time entrepreneurs.
Brainstorming, planning, and researching can be very time consuming and confusing and, as a consequence, many business owners gloss over them quickly.
This often leads to businesses being built on rickety foundations that collapse as soon as the firm itself starts to grow.
If you skip past, or lack focus in this area, you’re essentially building a skyscraper on wooden legs.
The issue is that investigation is the very first stage, and if you start on the wrong foot you end up building a business that is unsustainable from day one.
3 forms of research should be completed in the investigation phase, and they’re all crucially important.
- Market Research
- Competitor Research
- Customer Research
Market research involves a lot of industry assessment, notably the market itself.
Your focus should be on the potential of the industry. If you’re unsure what this looks like, here are several questions you should ask yourself during this phase:
- How big is the market?
- What is the growth potential of the market? Is it declining or rising?
- What are the sunk costs of the industry?
- Is the industry scalable without too much capital investment?
Answering these questions helps you to gain a clearer picture of the industry you’re entering. The clearer the picture, the better decisions you can make and assessment you hold.
Competitor research is somewhat related to market research, however, there are some stark differences. The most notable one is you’re no longer looking at the industry as a whole, instead, you’re looking at individual players within it, and their performance.
This means an in-depth competitor analysis is needed.
Make sure to research your competitor’s website, social analytics, content, etc to gain a comprehensive understanding of exactly what their business is about.
It’s important to do this so you can understand what they’re doing successfully and where their weaknesses are. Doing so helps you to find gaps in their strategy and consequently gaps in the market.
Customer research is different to the previous two, but that by no means equates to it being less important.
To fully understand your customer you need to create one.
Designing an ideal customer profile (ICP) helps you to envision your target audience and allows you to position yourself accordingly. Now, while this does help you imagine your ideal customer, it doesn’t make them real.
For this to happen you need to find this demographic.
Search forums, social media accounts, communities, etc. that you think will relate to your ICP and spend time asking them questions. Dip your toe in the water of their interests before diving in wholeheartedly.
Ask questions and analyse responses. Doing this should help you gain a clearer picture of your target audience and allow you to create a brand that best applies to them.
Positioning and Messaging
Now you’ve done your research. You have insights into the market, you’ve analysed your competitors, and you’ve found your target audience.
It’s time to move on.
Brand positioning relies heavily on the research conducted earlier; notably competitor and market research.
Where you position your brand is dependent on the gaps in the current market. Do you want to be seen as a premium brand? Is there a gap in the seniors market, or are Gen-Z your prime audience?
Questions like these are important to ask when positioning your brand.
Look for the gaps, even if it involves niching down further. It’s much easier to establish your brand in a niche market, then expand from there, than it is to start broad and try to claw away market share from already established players.
Be specific in your positioning. It makes things A LOT easier.
Alongside this you need to settle on a brand message that reflects your brand image and displays it in the light you wish to be seen in.
Outline company values and philosophies you hold, then combine this with the social personality you wish to showcase.
Your message should describe why you operate as a business, with a strong focus on how you do so.
Make sure your intent is clear and obvious, making it easy for new and potential customers to understand exactly what you offer.
The easier it is for consumers to understand, the stronger your brand is.
Inclusivity is a strategy in itself.
Creation and Application
Now it’s time to move onto the visual identity of your brand.
Many regard the visual aspect of a brand to be the most important part of effective branding. While it’s not the single most important thing, it certainly is crucial.
Creation refers to several factors, most notably:
- Brand colours
- Brand content
Your brand’s visual identity should be created with the previous two stages in mind.
Use your research to create a logo that is different from competitors. The uniqueness is one way to set yourself apart from the crowd. Also, ensure the colour and style of the logo fit the market you’re in.
For example, if you’re in the healthcare industry you’ll want to avoid the colour of red due to its connotations of danger, injury, and blood. The style should also be one that radiates professionalism and reliability, as this ties into the desired perception of the healthcare industry.
Alternatively, if you were positioned in the kids’ toy industry you’ll want a fun, vibrant logo. Creating a sleek professional look will just look strange. Aim for bold colours and an immature appearance in this case.
See, visual aspects such as logos and typography are very centred around customer and market appropriation. In short, ensuring your visual identity suits the position you’ve chosen.
In regards to customer research your visual identity should appeal to your ideal demographic. So, if your audience is older, say parental age, then the content you create should appeal to those of a more mature taste.
Avoid unprofessional appearances and immature designs. Keep the language used slightly more advanced, but still easily readable, and ensure the information in it is beneficial to those aged 30+.
Create content that can be published on sites most used by your target audience, in this case, this would be LinkedIn and Facebook – both social platforms that are more commonly used by an older demographic.
After all this planning there’s only one thing left to do: Launch.
You’ve researched everything from the market to the customer; your visual identity is unified, consistent, and relevant; and finally, your position and message resonate with the consumer and reinforce your brand’s values.
Apply your planning to action and launch your brand.
Now for the second part of the brand lifecycle.
You’ve spent time researching, planning and creating and now you’ve launched.
What’s the next step?
The Implementation Cycle
As you can see from the diagram, the cycle is never-ending. Instead, it’s a constant journey of analysis and improvement, starting with “implement.”
Implement is another word for execution.
You’ve spent time planning, researching and building, now it’s time to execute the plan.
Bring it to life.
So, you’ve just implemented your new brand strategy, what’s next?
Well, according to the brand cycle you need to test.
Test your strategy over a few weeks. Stick to your guns and final decisions for around a month then conduct a full brand audit.
- How well has your content performed?
- How recognisable is your brand to consumers?
- What’s the success of leads, traffic, conversions, etc.
Asking questions like these is the perfect way to accurately assess the success of your brand strategy.
This leads us nicely into the “Analyze” section.
Break down each section of your branding strategy and analyse its success. Conduct further research and read analytics reports to build a complete understanding of the strategy’s results.
Test your branding with current customers through quizzes, survey, etc.
One idea could be to conduct a small quiz at the end of the month where you ask customers to name the 5 brands on screen. Pixelate the logos and include yours as one of them.
If the majority of participants name your’s correctly then you know the logo branding has been a relative success. If the majority fail to name it, it’s probably time to work on that.
Also known as “refine” this section focuses on the optimisation of your brand development.
Using the information collected from your “analyze” phase, make necessary changes to your brand development. Whether this is pivoting your target audience, switching up the colour scheme, or tweaking the company voice – do what’s necessary.
After you’ve refined the strategy and made the necessary improvements, you’re now back at stage 1: Implement.
This cycle never ends because there’s no such thing as a perfect brand. The lifecycle is ever recurring, at least until the business ceases to exist.
If you’ve nailed it from the beginning, don’t be complacent. The environment, both internally and externally, can change rapidly so always be on the lookout to improve your business.
The brand lifecycle.
Constant analysis and improvement are required to sustain a long term brand, however, longevity can only be achieved with thorough planning and research.
Both stages play an equally important role, one cannot work without the other and vice versa. The interdependent nature of the lifecycle sections means that the full process must be executed to see success.
But above all what is the most important takeaway from the brand lifecycle?
Keep all aspects of your branding consistent with one and other. From visual identities to the message you portray, it all counts. Also, stay consistent with your focus on brand innovation by always adhering to the “Implementation Cycle” – The consistent improvements compound and will pay off in the long run.
Not all lifecycles are finite.