First + foremost, I'm sorry it's taken me this long to get this post together! Last time, we spoke about the very first step in starting a business; identifying the customer. In case you missed it, the first part of the 'How to Start a Fashion Brand' series can be seen here. This time round, we'll look at how to brand your business in a way that'll make you stand out, connect with your target audience + create loyal followers.
So, what is branding exactly? Contrary to popular belief, branding is much more than some graphics + a logo. Entrepeneur.com say that branding is 'the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products....Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be'. I completely agree with them + consider brands as a personality that evokes feeling in people, rather than something 'quantifiable' like a colour scheme or font. Let's take the example of Nike for instance; we're all familiar with the famous tick symbol + can almost subconciously assosiate it with sportswear + the notion of 'just do it'. The logo alone didn't do that, the whole brand that Nike have created, from their products, to photography, social media presence + instore experience, we know what to expect from them as a brand + they've created something that resonates with their customers.
How to decide on a brand
In the same way that you made decisions about your target audience, you'll also want to make decisions about your brand from the start. There's nothing to say that your brand can't evolve over time, but you need to start off with a clear direction, if you don't, there's a real danger of confusing people + not presenting yourself as a cohesive, reliable brand. Of course you can incorporate your own preferences, but you really need to focus on your target audience's expectations + preferences + also what you're offering. For example, if your dresses are £2500, you need to have a high end, luxury feel that people will associate with that pricepoint. Once again, customer research is really important for this to try + get inside the customer's head as much as possible. You could even try using surveys or focus groups to test your ideas on potential customers, to try + understand what will appeal to them; you could try different colour scheme ideas, logo options + 'mission statements' on them, to see what the reaction is.
Remember that in the digital age where you're competing with the whole world, you need to have something to set you apart from the competition (last year in the UK, 80 new companies were being registered EVERY HOUR according to The Telegraph). To have a successful fashion business you need more than just some nice clothing designs. Successful labels have a compelling brand story, which not only appeals to their customers, but also the press, meaning they can get extra exposure from the media. Think about what will set your brand apart, perhaps it fulfils a need amongst your target audience, it helps the community in some way, or provides some revolutionairy fabric features.
What you need to create for your branding
As well as graphic items, often known as 'collateral' (things like logo, colour scheme) you'll also need to create a personality + mood for your brand. Branding is the opportunity to communicate with potential customers + position yourself in the market. Good branding can help people to perceive your brand as an authority, good quality, a leader in your niche, often creating an emotional bond between your company + the customer. I'd suggest creating a moodboard for your brand, using emotive images that convey the personality of your brand (which translates into everything, from the products themselves, to the logo, customer service, advertising + more), which you can regularly refer to, to ensure that everything you're doing is in line with what you want your brand to achieve. I'd also suggest putting some written information together, including a mission statement. A mission statement should inspire both yourself + also your customers + as Goalcast.com puts it, your statement should include 'your company’s purpose, its reason for existence, and the difference it strives to make in the world should all be defined'.
As a minimum, I'd suggest considering the following for your brand;
- The aesthetic - colour scheme, logo, product styling, etc
- The personality - think of this in human terms, for example, is it bold + fun like Boden, or perhaps classy + sophisticated like Reiss
- The tone of voice - how will you communicate with your customers, will it be formal, relaxed, corporate + distant, or highly personalised
- The values - for example, sustainable, ethical, family oriented, high quality, etc
- The USP (unique selling point) - what sets your company apart from others?
- Features + benifits - what makes your product/offering better than your competitiors?
- The 'why' - why are you doing this, what do you want to achieve?
What do I do with this information?
Basically, as with the customer, your brand must be the centre of everything you do. For a startup, here's some initial steps you can take to get your brand personality across to your target customers;
- Design a logo that expresses your brand + use it across your work - from social media profiles, to business cards + the labels in your clothes.
- Create your brand guidelines, which include your colours, fonts + any effects or important icons you want to use - I have one of these + it saves so much time
- Develop templates for your social media posting. I have developed a series of about 20 templates for Instagram, which I use in conjunction with my brand moodboard. I can quickly put together Instagram posts using these, along with my brand guidelines by simply updating text + images. Another huge time saver that also helps me to keep my Instagram feed cohesive.
- When communicating with customers in any way, (eg replying to customer emails, writing copy on your website, or annotating social media posts), ensure that you write in the same style + refer back to the work you did on defining your tone of voice.
- Keep it up - whatever you do, make sure that you're consistent across everything you do for your brand, for example, don't design a fun + bright fashion range + have monochrome photography, or don't have a chic, sophisticated range + have kitch styling. Make sure it all makes sense, so you don't leave customers, or the press, confused.
Remember, good branding really increases sales, visibility + often price points, so it's not something that should be left until later - there's a reason we're happy to pay twice as much for a Coca-Cola vs a supermarket option (which lets face it, tastes pretty much the same) - the branding subconsciously caught our attention. As always, if you have questions on anything I've said here, feel free to leave a note in the comments...
The next step of the process will be coming to the blog soon. But, if you can't wait to get started on your fashion brand, all of the key steps, from design through to production are outlined in my 'Quick Start Guide to Planning + Producing a Fashion Range', which you can learn more about here if you'd like to.