Building a brand? Think present, and future.

As a business owner, the term “brand” must have sounded familiar to you. Indeed, in recent days, “brand” and “branding” have become two of the most frequently used terms among business leaders. It’s undeniable that when built and utilized correctly, a brand could bring about great success for a business and its shareholders. However, start with the wrong step and that same brand could significantly damage your business. In this article, I will share with you my tips for what you should consider to determine if your business is ready to build its brand. Along the way, I will also chip in some of the tips to help you start out on the right foot. Let’s take a look together.


Despite common expectations, branding is not a quick fix for immediate business issues. Business owners often seek branding to remedy declining sales, market share, or customer engagement, but building a brand is long-term. A brand's development takes time to shape users' perceptions, exemplified by Nike's two-decade journey to global recognition. The process requires consistent investment, management, and business vision alignment. A brand's success hinges on financial stability, dedicated effort, and a clear sense of the business's future trajectory. Initiating branding efforts should be driven by a deep understanding of the business's present situation and its long-term goals. Evaluating readiness, conducting thorough analyses, assembling an informed team, and recognizing the sustained investment needed are essential steps in preparing for successful branding.

A brand is not an immediate solution

Too often time, business owners would approach a branding agency or form an internal brand management team in the hope of solving an issue in the present. Some of the few issues that you may want an answer to are decreases in sales, decreases in market share, a drop in customer engagement, and difficulties in expanding into new markets. From a business perspective, these issues are, indeed, issues that require immediate action. And while good branding can help to increase sales and market share and improve customer engagement, can branding be a quick solution to these issues? No.

Let us come back to Marty Neumeier’s definition of a brand. A brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” And it takes time to form a person’s gut feelings. Think of Nike. Started out as Blue Ribbon Sports, a sportswear distributor, in 1964, Nike only became known as Nike in 1978. Although the “Swoosh” symbol was designed in 1971 (by Carolyn Davidson), the symbol and its accompanying bold capital letters only came into the current form after 1978. What’s more interesting is that the brand only gained broader recognition in its home market starting from the early 1990s, and only after the early 2000s did the brand gain worldwide recognition. So, if we consider 1978 as the official birth year of Nike as a brand, it took a whopping two decades for the brand to get to where it is today.

Although the widespread of technology has helped to speed up this process, a brand still requires a long time to build up recognition. As a result, you should never expect branding to be an immediate solution to your issues. Instead, branding should be considered a long-term investment that requires significant resources. Resultantly, the decision to build a brand should be made carefully with consideration of the business’s current status, future visions, and possible market changes.

Think present. Is your business ready to build its brand?

Many branding experts recommend business owners establish their brand as early as possible. This is sound advice. Like Nike, many brands require a long time to establish themselves in their target audience’s minds firmly. Starting early will help the business build and align its image in time for the success and take-off stages (refer to the model invented by Neil C. Churchill and Virginia L. Lewis for more information), giving a significant boost to the overall success. That said, it’s no doubt that branding requires a considerable amount of investment, time, and effort. Consequently, as a business owner, you must consider if your business is ready for branding carefully.

Consider the following aspects when starting a branding project for your own business.

  • Is your business financially stable?
  • Can you or your team dedicate sufficient effort and time to managing the brand?
  • Do you have a clear image of where you want your business to be in the next 3 years? How about 5? And 10?

If you answer no to any of these questions, your business is not ready for a branding project. Let me explain.

A brand requires consistent investment over a significant amount of time to mature. Even after its maturity, a brand will still require a dedicated budget to maintain its status. This means a business must dedicate a fixed portion of its budget annually for branding purposes. Depending on the scale and type of the business, this portion could range between 2% to 10% of the total budget. Failure to allocate this constant budget due to unstable financial situations may damage the brand.

The same line of reasoning can also be applied to time and effort. A brand requires proper management throughout its lifetime. Depending on the phase, a business may need a dedicated management team to ensure that all business decisions are properly aligned with the defined brand. Without proper management, a business may risk making decisions that undermine the brand, causing confusion among its target audience. Although you may sometimes be required to make a decision that deviates from what the brand stands for, such a situation should be limited as much as possible.

For the last question, allow me to explain my reasoning in the next section.

Think future. Where do you want your business to be?

Having a clear vision of where the business should be in the future is one of the most crucial factors that may decide if your brand will be successful or not. Like it or not, a business owner’s vision will determine the direction of the business and its brand. Do you want your business to become #1 in the industry? Do you want it to be the pioneer of a new niche market? Do you want your business to dominate the domestic market? Or do you want your business to become a globally recognized name? These are but only a few questions to consider when you are attempting to create a brand. The answer to these questions will become the constraints that gradually shape the identity and the path forward for you and your business.

Allow me to elaborate. Let’s assume that your business manufactures and sells canned orange juice. Your selling point lies in the technology to maintain the full flavor of the extracted orange juice. This means your orange juice does not need to use any additive to achieve a delicious taste while maintaining high nutrition values. As the business owner, you have the choice to compete against other brands such as Tropicana or Minute Maid to aim for the #1 position in the orange juice market. You also can deviate from the traditional market and create a new niche market where you manufacture and sell your orange juice to young female consumers looking for non-additive healthy products. At the same time, you will have to decide if you want to stay within your domestic market, where the size of your target user may be smaller, but you have a better understanding of them. Or you can try and internationalize your business, create a different message, and aim to become a global name. As you can see, each of these decisions has its pros and cons and requires different strategies and actions to succeed.

Of course, just having a vision is not enough. As a business owner, you must also account for possible market changes, shifts in trends, and technology innovation. While there is no good method to accurately predict the future, business owners can obtain good insights from industry news and careful market research.

Some last words

A brand is not an immediate solution to business issues. While a well-built brand can bring tremendous success to a business in the long run, starting a branding project with short-term expectations is never justified. Instead, as a brand owner, you should carefully consider the current status of your business and your long-term vision before starting a branding project.

Here are a few tips. Before starting a branding project, consider conducting a PEST analysis (PEST stands for Political, Economical, Social, and Technologies), a 3C analysis (3C stands for Company, Competitors, and Customers), and a SWOT analysis (SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats, and Opportunities). Thorough analyses will give you insights into your business, what your competitors are doing, industry trends, and the needs and wants of your target audience. Once done, try facilitating meetings with your employees and other managing members to decide if you will start a brand. Consider establishing a dedicated team (preferably with a flat communication structure) with members from different levels in your organization who are willing to become the brand’s advocates. If required and your budget allows, bring in external experts to fill in the gaps in your expertise.

Don’t be anxious if your brand requires high upkeep while still being unable to bring back significant profit. Remember that a brand is a long-term investment. What you are building today isn’t for the present but your business’s future. If you are concerned, try to fine-tune your brand development and management processes. Improving the processes will help improve your investment efficiency, helping to lessen the temporary burden on your budget.

That’s it from me, folk. It’s now your turn to launch your brand. Good luck.

Published on
June 29, 2022