Brand building is a long term business strategy. This is because, as explained in ‘What is branding?’, branding is about building a relationship between your business and your customers. A strong relationship takes time. And though there are a number of important things which contribute to building a strong and reputable brand, there is one very important first step every business needs to take. You must define and know who you are.

Defining who you are

The first step to defining who you are as a business, is to be able to clearly articulate, what you do, why you do it, how, and who you do it for. Many companies have a vision statement, mission statement and list of core values, but not many businesses actually use them or know how to apply this to their branding. These statements can be powerful tools to build a strong brand, both internally and externally. Ask yourself, can your employees repeat your company’s mission statement? Do they know your greater vision; why the company exists and how it makes the world a better place? Do they share and believe in your core values; or more importantly do they see these core values being applied and practised within the organisation?

Step one

Take the time to define and clearly articulate why your business exists and how it makes the world better.

Write a vision statement - A vision statement is a succinct encapsulation of why your company exists and what you want to achieve in the long term. It should be ambitious, and make a statement about who you are and what you believe as a company. For example, Tesla's vision statement is 'to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.' Another good example is TED who's vision is 'Spread ideas'. These are effective because they aren't literal descriptions of what the company does, (ie. sell electric cars, record and distribute lectures) but put the focus on the higher value or benefit they hope to create. When writing your own vision statement, think about the higher reason your company exists. Ask yourself, how does my business existing make the world a better place, and for whom?

Write a mission statement - A mission statement is your company's core offering, how you will achieve it and who your products and services benefit. This statement should function as the answer to the question 'what does your business do?' For that reason it should be succinct, clear and memorable.

Define your core values - Your core values, sometimes known as shared values, are your company's guiding principles. They are a set of values that guide your company culture.  For example, your core values might be honesty, creativity and innovation. A list of 3-5 is usually a good number.

Why is this important?

There's a crucial part of this step that most businesses don't do. Many companies have a mission statement and values. They might publish these on their website, or stick them on the office wall, but they don't put them into practice.  Imagine you had a friend who, every time you saw them, seemed like a different person. Their personality changed, their beliefs, their values, what they liked, what they stood for and what they did - would this be a sustainable relationship? If they made an offer, or a promise to you, would you be able to trust that they would keep it? 

Brand building is about building trust and a reputation. If a brand is a customer's feeling or perception of your company, then you will want to build associations in their minds with particular values, actions and beliefs. When you think of Nike, you probably think of peak performance (or possibly sweatshops). When you think of Adobe, you probably think of creativity and art. The biggest, most successful brands don’t need to sell you their products. Because customers don’t even bother comparing those products among their competitors. They already trust in the brand. The tick on the side of the sneaker is all they need to see to be convinced. Once you've completed step one - make sure that every business decision you make, every interaction you have, every piece of content you produce is aligned and consistent with who you say you are. This is how you create an identity. This is how you create trust. This is how you build a brand.