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How to start your own brand from scratch in 7 steps

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You can use godaddy.com to get your website domain & app.dropship.co/register to import products to your store at a marked up price.

Building a brand from the ground up that stands out is no easy task.

"What should it look like?”

“How should it make people feel?”

“Will it resonate with my target audience?”

These are questions that inevitably come up when you start thinking about how to connect the dots between what you’re selling and who you’re trying to reach.

Whether you’ve got nothing but a business idea or want to pivot your existing brand, here’s what you need to know about building a strong brand identity for your business.

What exactly is a “brand”?

A brand isn’t just a recognizable name and logo that distinguishes you in a crowded market.

When you think about it, people have personal brands too. We each have a name, a face, a style, a way of communicating, and with these traits, we make different impressions on different people.

Likewise, businesses have names, products, logos, colors, fonts, voices, and reputations that make up what they are and affect how they’re perceived.

You can’t build a brand without being consistent and maintaining that consistency as you extend your brand to every part of your business.

But it all starts with establishing what that consistency is going to look like and the feeling you want it to evoke.

Building your own brand essentially boils down to seven steps:

Research your target audience & your competitors

Pick your focus and personality

Choose your business name

Write your slogan

Choose the look of your brand (colors and font)

Design your logo

Apply your branding across your business

While you might revisit some steps as you pivot your brand, it’s important that you consider each aspect as you shape your brand identity.

Let’s start by laying the groundwork to inform the way you go about building your brand.

1. Research your target audience & your competitors

Before you start making any decisions about your brand, you need to understand the current market, i.e., who your potential customers and current competitors are.

There are many ways to do this:

Google your product or service category and analyze the direct and indirect competitors that come up.

Check subreddits that relate to your customers and eavesdrop on their conversations and product recommendations.

Talk to people who are part of your target market and ask them what brands they buy from in your space.Look at the relevant social media accounts or pages your target audience follows and are receptive to.

Go shopping online or offline and get a feel for how your customers would browse and buy products.

As you go about your research, make a note of:

Who your “lowest hanging fruit” customers are—the ones you could most easily sell to.

Who your top-of-mind competitors are—the brands that are established and known in the market.

How your customers speak and what they talk about—the interests they have and the language they express them in.

It’s important to have a handle on this before moving forward, as it will inform what your brand should focus on and how it can position itself apart from competitors.

2. Pick your focus & personality

Your brand can’t be everything to everyone, especially at the start.

It’s important to find your focus and let that inform all the other parts of your brand as you build it.

Here are some questions and branding exercises to get you thinking about the focus and tone of your brand.

What’s your positioning statement?

A positioning statement is one or two lines that stake your claim in the market. This isn’t necessarily something you put on your website or business card—it’s just to help you answer the right questions about your brand and aids in creating your brand’s tagline.

Your unique value proposition is the one thing you’re competing on. Find it, go in on it, and make it a part of your brand's messaging.

Alternatively, if the company you want to start has a cause at its core (e.g., if you’re starting a social enterprise), you can also write this out as a mission statement that makes a clear promise to your customers or to the world.

What words would you associate with your brand?

One way to look at brand building is to imagine your brand as a person.

What would he or she be like?

What kind of personality would your customers be attracted to?

This will help inform your voice on social media and the tone of all your creative, both visual and written.

A fun and useful branding exercise is pitching three to five adjectives that describe the type of brand that might resonate with your audience.

I compiled this list of traits to help you get started.

What metaphors or concepts describe your brand?

Thinking about your brand as a metaphor, or personifying it, can help you identify the individual qualities you want it to have.

This can be a vehicle, an animal, a celebrity, a sports team, anything—as long as it has a prominent reputation in your mind that summons the sort of vibe you want your brand to give off.

For example, if I wanted to create a brand targeting entrepreneurs, I might choose to use the raccoon as a starting point: They’re scrappy survivors who will do anything to thrive.

If your brand was an animal, what animal would it be and why is it like that animal to you?

3. Choose your business name

What’s in a name?

Depending on the kind of business you want to start, you can make the case that your name matters very little or it matters a lot.

As we’ve said before, a brand is so much more than a name. The personality, actions, and reputation of your brand are really what give the name meaning in the market.

But as a small business owner, your company’s name is probably one of the first big commitments you have to make.

It’ll impact your logo, your domain, your marketing, and your trademark registration, if you decide to go that route (it’s harder to trademark generic brand names that literally describe what you sell).

Ideally, you want a store name that’s hard to imitate and even harder to confuse with existing players in the market.

If you have any plans to expand the product lines you offer down the road, consider keeping your business name broad so that it’s easier to pivot, rather than choosing a brand name based on your product category.

Make up a word, like Pepsi.

Reframe an unrelated word, like Apple for computers.

Use a suggestive word or metaphor, like Buffer.

Describe it literally (caution: easy to imitate), like The Shoe Company.

Alter a word by removing letters, adding letters, or using Latin endings, like Tumblr (Tumbler) or Activia.

Create an acronym from a longer name, like HBO (Home Box Office).

Combine two words: Pinterest (pin + interest) or Snapple (snappy + apple)

Since your brand name will also affect the domain/URL of your website, be sure to shop around to see what’s available before you decide.

It's also a good idea to run your name by a focus group of close people, if for no other reason than to make sure it doesn’t have an unintended meaning or is too similar to something else that you might’ve missed.

4. Write a slogan

A catchy slogan is a nice-to-have asset—something brief and descriptive you can use as a tagline in your social media bios, website header, business card, and anywhere else where you’ve got very few words to make a big impact.

Keep in mind that you can always change your slogan as you find new angles for marketing—Pepsi has gone through over 30 slogans in the past few decades.

A good slogan is short, catchy, and makes a strong impression.

Here are some ways to approach writing a slogan of your own:

Stake your claim.

Death Wish Coffee: “The World’s Strongest Coffee”

Make it a Metaphor.

Redbull: “Redbull gives you wings.”

Adopt your customers’ attitude.

Nike: “Just do it.”

Leverage labels.

Cards Against Humanity: “A party game for horrible people.”

Write a rhyme.

Folgers Coffee: “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

Describe it literally.

Aritzia: “Women’s fashion boutique.”

Try our Slogan Maker to brainstorm some ideas, or play off of your positioning statement to generate potential one-liners to describe your business.

5. Choose the look of your brand (colors & font)

Once you’ve got a name down, you’ll need to think about how you’ll visually represent your brand, namely your colors and typography.

This will come in handy when you start to build your website.

Choosing your colors

Colors don’t just define the look of your brand, they also convey the feeling you want to communicate and help you make it consistent across everything you do.

You'll want to choose colors that differentiate you from direct competitors to avoid confusing consumers.

Color psychology isn’t an exact science, but it does help to inform the choices you make, especially when it comes to the color you pick for your logo.

This infographic offers a nice overview of the emotions and associations that different colors generally evoke.It’s important to consider how legible white and black text will be over your color palette and how colored text might look over white and black backgrounds.

Try using a tool like Coolors to brainstorm colors that work together. Grab the hex codes to keep handy, and sift through different shades to find the ones you like.

Choosing your fonts

At this point, it’s also good to look at fonts you might want to use on your website.

Pick two fonts at most to avoid confusing visitors: one for headings and one for body text (this doesn’t include the font you might use in your logo).

You can use Font Pair to browse from a wide selection of fonts that go well together.

For inspiration, use Stylify.me on your favorite websites to see their visual style at a glance.

6. Design your logo

A company logo design is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when you think about building a brand.

And for good reason: it’s the face of your company after all and could potentially be everywhere that your brand exists.

Ideally, you’ll want a logo that’s unique, identifiable, and scalable to work at all sizes (something often overlooked).

Consider all the places where your brand’s logo needs to exist, from your website to your Facebook page’s profile picture to even the little “favicons” you see in your current browser tab.

If you have a text logo as your Instagram avatar, for example, it’ll be almost impossible to read.

To make your life easier, create a square version of your logo with has an icon element that remains recognizable even at smaller sizes.

Notice how the Walmart logo has both the “sparks” icon and the wordmark, which can be used separately.

Walmart's logo is used as an example for how to build a brand because it is an icon and text which can be used alone.

Invest in a logo that can appear anywhere around the web and in physical print.

The following are some of the different logo types you can choose to help you communicate with designers and find a style that makes sense for your brand.

Keep the colors and fonts you chose in mind to make sure they work together with your logo to convey your brand.

Google Chrome logoAn abstract logo has some meaning, but really, it’s just a shape and colors that you can’t easily tie back to anything in the real world.

The benefit of an abstract logo is that it has no innate meaning—you can make this up yourself and bring it to life in your customers’ minds.

Mascot logos (Wendy’s for example) are often represented by the face of a character.

They may humanize your business by creating a brand personality, but be aware that they are an antiquated style now and only recommended in certain contexts (e.g., you’re deliberately going for a retro look).

Emblem: Starbucks

Emblem logos are often circular and combine text with an emblem for a bold and regal look.

If the design is too complicated, however, they can lose their impact when you shrink them down.

But done right, they can play a big influence on brand building and make for a memorable style of logo.

Lettermark: IBM

Lettermark logos turn the initials of your full business name into a logo.

If you chose a business name with 3 or more words, this might be a style you’d want to consider, especially if the initialism is catchy.

Icon: Twitter

An icon logo is your brand represented as a visual metaphor.

Unlike an abstract logo, an icon logo suggests something about the product (Twitter’s bird is suggestive of the frequent short “tweets” on the platform).

As an unestablished brand, you should stay away from using an icon logo by itself. However, if you’re not sure about the kind of logo you want, pairing an icon logo with a wordmark is usually a safe bet.

Wordmark: Facebook

Wordmark logos turn your brand name, colors, and font into a visual identity.

The problem with wordmarks is that they’re often hard to create in a scalable square design and easily lose their legibility when shrunk.

However, you can fix this problem by simply getting an accompanying icon logo or turning the first letter of the wordmark into a separate-but-connected logo, like what Facebook does with its F.

Combination: McDonald’s

Because of the limitations that exist for each logo type, many logos are a combination of styles.

As a new small business experimenting with a logo, you don't need to choose an icon over a wordmark when you feel they’re both essential to represent your brand as a combination logo let’s you get the best of both.

This makes it easier to satisfy the condition of creating a scalable logo while still putting your brand name front and center.

McDonald’s, for example, can use its iconic golden arches wherever its full wordmark doesn’t fit. Unless you’ve got design chops of your own, you’ll probably be delegating the creation of your logo.

You can outsource it for a low cost on Fiverr or run a logo contest on 99Designs.

Check out Seek Logo for even more logo inspiration, or use our Hatchful logo maker to start generating some ideas.

There’s also our comprehensive guide on how to design a logo, where we walk you through the process step by step.

7. Apply your branding across your business

Applying your branding across your business gives it a cohesive brand story. A brand story represents who your business is and what it stands for.

It sets the stage for every interaction customers have with your brand, in-store and online.

We found that buyers shopping on an online store for the first time often look for a business’s mission and purpose to see if they share any values with the business (e.g., sustainability).

They will turn to its About Us page to learn more about who they’re buying from and, for more socially conscious customers, how the business is run.

If your business has a brand story, share it, because it can help the shopper feel reassured yours is a legitimate business.

Your positioning statement can get you started, but to craft a brand story ask yourself a few questions:

What motivated me to start my business?

Why does the company exist?

How do we contribute to the world?

What is the story behind my business the customer should know?

Not every business is mission driven, but if yours has a mission or values, share your brand story and tell customers why the business was started.

Look at the businesses TOMS and Coca-Cola, the first a mission-driven brand, the second not so much.

Evolve your brand as you grow

Building a brand doesn’t stop with creating a logo or slogan, or even with your brand launch.

Your brand needs to exist and remain consistent wherever your customers interact with you, from the theme you choose for your website, the marketing materials you produce, all the way to how you package and ship your products.

You’ll continue to shape and evolve your brand as you expose more customers to it and learn more about who your customers are and how to speak to them.

It’s important to appreciate that you will never have 100% control over how people perceive your brand.

You can tug customers in the right direction, make a great first impression, and manage your reputation, but you can’t control the individual perceptions that exist in each person’s mind (say, if they had a bad customer service experience).

All you can do is put your best foot forward at every turn and try to resonate with your core audience.

But hopefully, at this point, you have the tools, knowledge, and resources to start.