Brand Secrets for Standing Out in a Crowded World

These days, we live in a world of infinite supply…

In just a few clicks, anyone can start a business. Anyone can create products, build an online store, publish ads, and reach an audience online. This means that every market is becoming flooded with businesses offering similar products, features, and solutions. 

So to stand out you need to have a brand that your customers connect with, and care about deeply.  In this post, we’ll be sharing some tips and strategies to help you to build your brand.

What exactly is a brand?

Before we jump into some strategies and tactics for creating a brand your customers will truly care about, let’s first look at what exactly a brand is. 

The word “brand” is used a lot in marketing today. But what exactly does brand mean? That question that might sound simple… but is actually pretty complex, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

David Ogilvy describes a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.”

Marty Neumeier, an author and speaker who writes about branding and innovation, says “a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”

And Camille Baldwin, one of the Pattern Brands founding team, and star of  Breaking Brand, says “brand to me is identity. It’s all of the things that make up identity, your values, your principles, who you are, your characteristics and your intention.”

Brand to me is identity. It’s all of the things that make up identity, your values, your principles, who you are, your characteristics and your intention.

Camille Baldwin, VP of Brand, Pattern Brands

So to summarize… Your brand is the identity of your business, and how it makes people feel. 

Now, let’s dive into some takeaways from Breaking Brand to help you build a buzzworthy brand that stands out against your competitors.

4 Ways to build a memorable brand

1. Know what your consumers care about

Most people are really good at explaining the “what” and the “how” of their business. For example, say you’re an accountancy company, describing the what and the how is pretty simple…

  • What you do is you help individuals and businesses to ensure their finances are in shape.
  • How you do it might vary, but it tends to involve some form of account management where you assist with invoicing or balance the books every month or quarter.

And the thing that will help one accountancy company stand out from its competitors is moving from the what and the how to the why.

The why” is what will make a potential customer choose your business over another. The “why” is your differentiator. 

In general, consumers aren’t too fussed about how you do your work — the tools you use, your internally processes, and things like that. What consumers care about is “why does this business matter in my life?” 

And to go back to the accountancy example — we already explained the what and the how — but the “why” might not be so obvious. For example, if an accountancy company mostly serves small businesses, the “why” might freeing up time for the business owner to spend with family and friends. 

So how do you find your why? 

Customer research is a great place to start.

At Buffer we often do research interviews with customers to learn how our product helps them, and to better understand how they describe the benefits of Buffer. We’ve even had teammates spend the day with customers at their offices to see first-hand how Buffer fits into their routines and workflows.

And in Breaking Brand, Emmet Shine, co-founder of Pattern Brands, talks about the importance of knowing the customer when it comes to building a brand consumers will care about.

Before starting Pattern Brands, Emmett helped over 50 businesses launch to market, and one of those businesses was Sweetgreen, a restaurant chain selling healthy salads and grain bowls.

When working on the Sweetgreen brand and trying to understand its customers, Emmett and his team spent countless hours at Sweetgreen restaurants. They would watch how the staff would prepare salads, listen to how customers would place orders and immerse themselves in how the company works.

Essentially, they were trying to understand every tiny detail about what made Sweetgreen unique and special. 

This enabled the team to craft a brand that really emphasised what customers were looking for from Sweetgreen and helped them to find their “why”. 

Now Sweetgreen has over 75 restaurants and reportedly generated in excess of £100 million in 2018. So they clearly have a brand that fits what consumers are looking for.

2. Find the technical, functional, and emotional benefits of your business

Once you’ve done your customer research, you can begin to think about the various types of benefits your business offers consumers.

In episode one of Breaking Brand, Pattern’s VP of Brand, Camille Baldwin shares how the brand pyramid framework can help you to define those benefits. 

Brand pyramids have been around since the late nineties, but still play a key role in brand strategy. Pyramids help you to answer fundamental questions about your business and its place in the market. Here’s an example brand pyramid from Insead Knowledge:

Three of the key elements of any brand pyramid are the technical, functional and emotional benefits your business offers consumers. 

Technical benefits

At the bottom of your pyramid, you’re thinking about the technical benefits of your brand (labeled ‘Features and attributes’ in the above image). Essentially this will help you to define what you do as a company. At this stage you’ll want to ask questions like: How is this business benefiting the consumers? How will it make money? What are we offering? 

For example, at Buffer we might say the technical benefit of our product is to manage all of your social media content and profiles in one place. 

Functional benefits

Then, with the technical benefits of your brand defined, it’s time to look at the functional benefits you can offer consumers. Functional benefits are essentially what your customers get when they buy your product or service.

Functional benefits tend to focus on things like how a product can improve your life, help you stay connected to others or help you to make forward progress. 

At Buffer, a functional benefit might be not having to hit publish manually every-time you want to share to social media. Or in the case of a car: a big, spacious family car will offer the functional benefit of space for your whole family to travel in comfort. 

Emotional benefits

Next up, are emotional benefits. And these are really what makes one brand stand out from another.

Emotional benefits are how your brand makes someone feel based on the stories you tell consumers. 

One emotional benefit of Nike, for example, is that its equipment will make you feel like a professional athlete. And at Buffer we might say the emotional benefit of our product is peace of mind knowing that your content will be posted to social media platforms at exactly the right time every time. 

As you go through everything you’ve learned during your customer research phase, start looking out for emotion-based words your customers, or potential customers, use to describe your company or the problem you’re solving. 

Whenever someone says “I feel” or “it made me happy, relaxed, proud, or healthy”, for example, this helps you to identify the emotional benefits your company delivers. 

 3. Craft a simple tagline and message

Just Do It, Think Different, I’m Lovin’ It… 

Those are all examples of great brand taglines. By saying just two or three words, I bet you knew exactly which businesses I was talking about. And that’s the power of being able to boil your message down to something simple, and memorable. 

In episode three of Breaking Brand, Emmett Shine, co-founder of Pattern Brands explains: “The thing about branding and marketing, is you can do years worth of research. But if you can’t boil it down to this thin sliced tagline it doesn’t matter.”

The thing about branding and marketing, is you can do years worth of research. But if you can’t boil it down to this thin sliced tagline it doesn’t matter.

Emmett Shine, Executive Creative Director, Pattern Brands

But this isn’t easy to do.

It took the Patten Brands team months of ideating and back-and-forth to land on their tagline “Enjoy Daily Life”.

But now that simple statement acts as a guiding light for everything they do. From the content they post on social media to the products they sell. 

Boiling your whole business down to one sentence, or even just a couple of words can be very tough. And you can’t force it. One of the best ways to craft the perfect tagline is to facilitate brainstorms and create space for idea sharing. Another thing the Pattern Brands team has done was to journal about their business and riff on ideas in private too. 

And sometimes the best ideas will come to you outside of the office. So don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and away from your desk. 

Communicating a clear message in just a few words is very difficult. One way we’ve found to come up with taglines at Buffer is to start long and edit down.

So to begin with, write exactly what your business delivers for customers in as many words as it take — this could be a paragraph or two, maybe even longer. And remember to think about the emotional benefits here too, not just the technical and functional benefits you offer. 

Next, you’ll want to take what you’ve just written and edit it down to just one or two sentences. Repeat that process to make it one sentence, or just a few words. Then take that final piece of copy and play with a number of different versions: Rewrite it, change out words, and experiment with different lengths. This process will help you to distill all of the thoughts you wanted to share about your business into a short, memorable tagline. 

Now you might be wondering: “Why is a tagline so important?” 

From personal experience, I know I’ve never bought a Mac because their tagline is “think different.” But having that tagline in places means that Apple has a clear mission, and everything it does — from the adverts it makes, to its keynote launches — is guided by that vision.

4. Ensure your business lives and breaths your brand

To be successful, and for consumers to trust your message, you have to live your brand. 

For example, Nike says its mission is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” And the company sees every single person as an athlete, not just the pros. 

But Nike doesn’t just say that, it lives by it. 

That’s why the company focuses on creating the most innovative clothing and footwear, and why its advertising revolves around inspirational messages and stories.

Nike’s brand is reflected in every piece of content it puts out on social media. Just before writing this, I jumped over to Nike’s main Instagram account, here are just a few posts I spotted:

  • An IGTV video with Saquon Barkley sharing where his NFL dreams started.
  • A photo of women’s marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei with former record holder Paula Radcliffe.
  • A photo of Rafael Nadal sharing his ambitions as a child.

Of course, not all businesses will have the resources of Nike, or the access to global superstars for that matter. But it still serves of a great example of ensuring the essense of your brand shines through on every platform. 

To go back to the accountancy example I mentioned earlier. If your “why” or emotional benefit is giving small business owners more free time to spend away from work, you could ensure all of your messaging and content supports this mission. This could mean Instagram posts with clients enjoying themselves away from the office or blog posts about disconnecting from work. It could even mean you rethink the imagery and copy you use on your website.

As I mentioned right at the start of this post, your brand is the identity of your business and how it makes people feel. So every single touchpoint where someone can interact with your business should represent what you want your brand to be, and how you want people to feel. 


Marketing vs. Branding: what’s the difference?

When you’re building a business, there are so many buzzwords that get thrown around, it can be hard to keep them straight. And there are two concepts in particular that have a tendency to get lumped together—marketing and branding. So, what’s the difference between marketing vs. branding? In this article we’ll break it down for you.

The truth is, marketing and branding are two very different concepts. And if you want your business to succeed, you need to understand the differences between the two—and how to effectively use each to take your business to the next level.

So, what exactly is branding? What’s marketing? What are the differences between the two—and how can you use both to build a successful, impactful business?

illustration of marketing and branding in everyday life

Definitions of marketing vs. branding

First things first—before we jump into the differences between marketing and branding, let’s first cover what, exactly, marketing and branding are.

Marketing is defined as the set of tools, processes, and strategies you use to actively promote your product, service, and company. Think of marketing as the actions you take to connect with your customers and get them to buy your products or services.

Branding, on the other hand, is the marketing practice of actively shaping your brand. Branding is about defining who you are as a company. It’s your mission, your values, and what makes you special and unique. It’s your key brand elements, like your logo, your website, and your brand style guidelines. If marketing is what gets people to engage with your company for the first time, branding is what keeps them coming back for years to come.

Think of it like this: if your brand was a Big Mac, your branding would be the “special sauce”—and your marketing would be anything and everything you do to get your customers excited to take a bite (like your commercials, social media ads, and other campaigns).

Differences between marketing vs. branding

Alright, so now that we know what they are, let’s talk about the key differences between marketing and branding:

While marketing is used to promote your product or service, branding is used to actively shape your brand and who you are. You need a strategies for both and they have different goals and different results.

  • Marketing get’s a customer’s attention, branding is a way to keep their attention
  • Marketing drives sales, branding drives recognition and loyalty
  • Branding comes first, marketing comes second
  • Marketing strategies come and go—but branding is forever
  • Branding has just as much of an impact on your team as it does on your customers

Marketing can be a great way to get a customer’s attention, but branding is a great way to keep their attention

No matter what industry you’re in, chances are, you’re just one company in a sea of competition. And if you want to make waves and get your customers attention, marketing is an absolute must.

But once you have your customer’s attention, you need something that’s going to keep that attention—and that’s where branding comes in.

People want to do business with brands they can get behind and brands they believe in—so while marketing will help break through the clutter and get your brand in front of the right people, if you want to keep it there, you need to build a brand that people can connect with.

So, in a nutshell, you need the right marketing strategies to set your brand apart from the competition and say to your customers “Hey! I’m here!”—but you need branding to foster a relationship, creating a long-term connection, and keep them coming back after that initial “hello.”

Marketing drives sales, branding drives recognition and loyalty

At the core, most marketing strategies (think SEO, content marketing or advertising) are meant to drive results—and, more often than not, the results those strategies are trying to drive have to do with sales.

Which is great! If you want your company to succeed, you (of course) need to drive sales.

But branding takes a different—and more long-term—approach. Branding isn’t the best solution if you’re looking to drive sales. But it is the best solution if you’re looking to build brand recognition, drive positive brand sentiment, and foster customer loyalty, which is just as (if not more) important—and which, coincidentally, will have a major impact on your ability to drive sales in the long run.

So, when it comes to sales, think of marketing as a sprint—while branding? That’s more like a marathon.

Branding comes first, marketing comes second

You know the old saying “which came first—the chicken or the egg?” Well, if we’re talking about the business version of that saying, it would probably be more along the lines of “which comes first—branding or marketing?”

In the grand scheme of building your business, branding always comes before marketing. And for good reason! You can’t exactly market a brand you haven’t designed yet.

Before you even think about putting a marketing strategy in place, you need to focus on your branding. Who are you as a brand? What do you want to bring to the marketplace? What are your core values? And, most importantly, how are you going to communicate that to your target customers?

Only when you have the answers to those questions does it make sense to start thinking about marketing. Because once you have your branding in place, you’ll have a better understanding of who you are, who your customer is, and the best ways to connect with that customer—and can build a marketing strategy that brings that to life.

Marketing strategies come and go but branding is forever

Now, don’t get us wrong—as long as you’re trying to build a successful business, you’re going to need to actively market that business (#captainobvious). But the strategies you use to market your business are temporary; each marketing tactic is going to have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Branding is different. No matter where you are in your business, you’re always going to be working on defining who you are as a company, shaping your brand’s perception with your audience, and fostering a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your customers. As your company grows and evolves, you’ll need to grow and evolve your branding right along with it.

Bottom line: marketing strategies will come and go (as they should!) But branding? Branding is forever.

Branding has just as much of an impact on your team as it does on your customers

Your team is going to be the people responsible for developing and implementing your marketing strategies. But outside of that (which is, you know…their job), they’re not really going to be impacted by your marketing.

But your branding? That’s an entirely different story.

Your branding can have just as profound an impact on your team as it does on your customers. Just like you need your customers to believe in your brand in order to do business with you, so do your employees. When you build a brand that your team truly believes in, they’re going to be more passionate about and committed to their work. They’ll work hard, push themselves, and bring their best ideas to the table—and your business will thrive as a result.

So, it’s your team’s job to develop your marketing strategy—but if you want to take your business to the next level, it’s your responsibility to create a brand your team is excited about.

Use marketing and branding to take your business to the next level

Now that you understand the difference between marketing vs. branding, you have the tools you need to use both to take your business to the next level. So what are you waiting for? Get out there, building your brand, and develop the marketing strategies you need to get that brand in front of your ideal customers!