We all know that marketing and branding play vital roles in business success these days, especially in the modern retail landscape. With more and more people joining the ranks of the retail profession, businesses rely on and use branding more than ever. Branding is what sets them apart and how it shapes their entire customer experience. Both in-store and digitally native.
Contrary to popular belief, it goes much deeper than just your logo. Branding alone shapes your identity as a business and how you want to be perceived by your customers. In other words, it is a game-changer. It takes your keystone values and pillars as a business and transforms them into an identity to share with customers. It also informs how you communicate—from how your sales associates greet a customer to how you promote and advertise your products.
Simply put, branding is a strategy, and it takes some serious thought and effort. This is why we are going to make it easy for you by outlining some steps that walk you through discovering, designing, and developing a successful brand and brand voice. And it all starts with knowing who you are as a retailer. Your why.
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves here, many of the terms which refer to branding can be used interchangeably, which can make it confusing. But, to make things a whole lot easier you really just need to know that brand positioning is the reason why a shopper should buy your brand versus your competition’s. The only difference that is important to remember is that brand identity differs from a brand image by perspective. The brand identity is how the brand owner wants to be perceived whereas the brand image is the subjective outside perception.
Now, before we can do anything else, we have to start at the beginning. In case you thought this exercise wouldn’t include some introspective self-reflection…well you were wrong! So, first things first.
1. Identify your mission, vision, and values as a retail business.
When creating a brand for your retail store, you need to develop a verbal identity. To do this you will start with the following questions:
Why does your business exist?
Sure, this may seem like an easy question, but it’s often harder than you think. Business owners are notoriously bad at articulating their answers, especially if you don’t already have a mission statement written. And more importantly, if you cannot articulate why you do what you do, it will probably be difficult to convince your customers to pay attention to it. So, having the answer in black and white helps create both some crystal clear clarity in your communication and a sense of unity and purpose for your brand moving forward.
Parachute Home Mission:
To not only offer the best sheets on the market, but to also inspire a community around sleep, wellness and creating a comfortable home.
This is a successful mission statement because it communicates the product they offer and how they set themselves apart from their competition (focus on community and making luxury bedding accessible).
Sid Mashburn (Atlanta clothing powerhouse) Mission:
To enhance people’s lives.
This is another great mission statement, the grandeur of it makes it a great goal / benchmark / standard, but also is very enlightening to this specific attitude towards retail. The attitude that retail is in fact not just a transactional relationship, but a long lasting friendship between retailer and customer. It works for the Mashburns and can serve as great inspiration to others, because they know the secret that it takes most a long time to figure out. They are in the hospitality business. The way Sid Mashburn dresses and carries himself, some of his best advertising is his own outfit.
What vision is your business working towards?
Your vision as a business is a powerful tool. It’s a forward-thinking statement that helps empower and guide organizational decisions, and also helps strengthen your mission statement.
Lands End Vision:
Create products that make lives better, improve whenever possible and, above all else, work tirelessly to satisfy the needs of our customers, our employees and their families.
To build a global lifestyle brand that stays true to its roots. And that means staying true to our customers.
Larger companies like Lands End are no strangers to controversy and their fair share of history. However, most often the brands with the longest staying power are the ones that remain true to their mission, vision, and values despite what changes to the leadership may have taken place. It is up to the new leadership to not make too drastic of changes and try to stick to the identity; and ultimately learn the culture and vision of the company. Lands End does a good job at
This is a successful vision statement because it communicates their goal to build a brand that “stays true to its roots” and their passion for what they do. It’s both inspiring and determined, and it clearly communicates why they exist as a business and what they aim to become.
What values and principles are your business built on?
While your business may change its look and feel over time, your values should always remain consistent. Established core values and principles are very important, because they build trust in your brand, and they also inform your day-to-day activities, from how you treat your customers to how you engage in business. It’s all encompassing.
Magnolia Home Values: Ingenuity, simplicity, risk-taking and a commitment to improving the lives of others – to build a brand that today is known and loved by millions.
We all know and love the Gaines family. They are beyond successful and have seemed to succeed at everything they have done. One of the reasons it is so easy to become a fan of them and their business success is due to the realness they exemplify through their actions. They are not shy or bashful about their faith and use their platforms to help others become successes too. There is a level of trust in what they do, because they pride themselves on all of these values, and these positive attributes are displayed in their communication efforts, employee culture, and product offerings.
Knowing your mission, vision, and values identifies every aspect of your business and helps create a level of consistency in your brand tone of voice. If what you are doing doesn’t line up with these three things, you should probably reconsider it.
What benefit do your products/services offer?
Where do you see your business in a year? 5 years? 10 years?
What values are most important to your business model?
2. Identify your target audience.
Once you know who you are as a retail store, it’s time for you to research your target market. If you’re an existing retailer, who is your current customer? If you’re a new retailer or looking to re-target your audience, who is your ideal customer? How is this different from your existing customer base? KNowing your ideal customer’s wants and needs help you determine exactly what your customers value. You can then work your brand messaging around meeting these wants and needs and delivering information in a way that makes the most sense to your customers.
There is often times a gap between what a retail store thinks is their current customer and who it really is. This just means you could be leaving business on the table. We can help you dig deeper into the data and analytics and make sure your current audience is aligned properly with who you have been focusing on.
Who are you trying to reach?
Who is your competition?
3. Create a positioning statement.
Your positioning statement determines how you set yourself apart among your competitors and the benefit you provide to your customers. How should your products or services appear? Good quality or good value? Affordable or luxury? Modern or traditional? Your positioning statement essentially communicates your competitive advantage. Or differentiator. Or USP. Whatever you want to call it that doesn’t really matter. Without delving too much into all the competitive advantage jargon, you just need to focus on—“What is my organization best at?”
Target’s Positioning Statement: Style on a budget.
This is an effective positioning statement because it clearly communicates how they differentiate themselves among their competitors. It’s common knowledge that Target offers stylish products at an affordable cost. And as a customer, you can “expect more, pay less”.
Why do customers buy from you instead of your competition?
What benefit do you provide that makes you different and better?
4. Describe your brand’s personality.
If your brand was a person, what would they be like? Not only does this question help humanize your brand, it also helps summarize the overall perception you want customers to have of your retail store. Would they be informative, trustworthy, and professional? Or would they be humorous, relatable, and conversational? Once you have some characteristics listed, write down some expressions of each personality trait. For example, if you want your brand to be seen as upbeat, how would that show up in communication? You would want to use expressive verbs, an active voice, and colorful illustrations or examples.
What words do you want people to associate with your brand?
If your brand was a person, what would they be like?
5. Create or update your logo and branded materials.
Now it’s time to get creative. Developing a visual identity helps bring your brand to life and attaches a graphic association to your business. From your colors and fonts to your business cards and graphics, your brand should be recognizable and consistent among all of your designs. Consistency is important. How do you know if you have a good logo design? If your logo were to show up without your name, would someone know who you were? If your logo is easily recognizable, you’re on the right track. If you already have a logo that’s great, but take a look and reassess if it has been working for you.
If your store doesn’t have a Google My Business listing with an updated picture of your storefront and interior, have professional photography taken and upload them. This is an opportunity for your amazing merchandising to shine so take advantage of it. So many stores have outdated photos or poor quality photos that basically send people seeing it running.
If you are wondering what a Google My Business listing is then we have an even bigger problem!
6. Create brand guidelines.
Once you’ve identified your brand voice, you need to create some standards for anyone who creates content for you to ensure they know what success looks like. Give examples of good content and bad content, and how it can be revised to make it a win. Make sure every employee in your business has access to these guidelines. A consistent brand image and voice is necessary because it demonstrates your ability as a trusted expert. Your brand guidelines aka brand book should reside with your other store processes.
If you do not have processes, then it is going to be impossible to grow or train new employees properly. Just because Becky has all the checkout processes and inventory procedures in her head memorized, does nobody any good when Becky cannot come in and you are stuck having to cover rather than have proper business guidelines already put in place.
Describe your sales/communication process. How do people hear about you, when/how do you contact them, etc.?
How do you want your customers to feel each time they interact with your business?
7. Develop a story narrative.
Storytelling is a powerful and effective way to connect your audience with your brand. Think about the one thing you wish to communicate with your customers. Maybe it’s the history of how your business started or the inspiration behind your brand name. Find ways to weave that big-picture vision into your communication. Call-to-actions are much more engaging when there’s a story leading up to it, and your audience is more likely to engage in content that is inspiring rather than simply informative. So, definitely keep it positive and often writing in a tone as if you were speaking to a friend allows your reader to relate and gain interest.
What is the primary message/story you want to convey about your brand?
8. Create consistency.
So, you’ve created a visual and verbal identity. Now it’s time to develop a consistent message to reach your customers. This is a chance to take your story narrative, your brand voice, and your logo and showcase them all together. It’s also extremely important for omnichannel retailers, as you want to ensure your customer has the same kind of experience across all of your channels, from your website to your print media to your customer service. It will be hard to follow a brand narrative that appears to change frequently.
Be sure to follow your brand guidelines to ensure your voice and message remain consistent across all channels. This also means creating a normal scheduling routine for social media. Whoever will be posting to social media, whether you have a social media manager or this responsibility falls back on you, the owner, it is an important piece of the puzzle, because the consistency falls back on planned out action on your behalf and follow through.
List out all of your communication channels. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Tik Tok, Pinterest, Blog, Website, RSS, Clubhouse, Printed Materials, Signage, etc.) How are you communicating with your customer on each platform/medium? Do they all work together cohesively?
What is your schedule for social media posts?
9. Engage your audience.
Every time you write a caption or reply to a direct message or review, you’re engaging your brand voice. This is brand positioning. You are doing it! Hooray for you. And when you facilitate connection and conversation with your audience, you’re influencing their level of brand awareness and perception of you. One of the best sources of informative and detailed insight is directly from your customers themselves..
Make sure you conduct surveys and ask for feedback to gain more insight on your customer experience. The feedback you receive will be either a to-do list of things you will need to accomplish or a list of positive testimonials to use on your marketing channels. Social proof is one of the most powerful influences upon a prospective shopper.
Your content should also include call-to-actions to encourage the purchase of your product or the desire to learn more information about your company. You do not have to have a functioning e-commerce site to sell products online these days; Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and others all allow you to sell directly from their platforms.
Create a post and have a CTA in it then post it to your social media channels (either for a product or newsletter signup).
10. Measure your success.
It’s great to have a solid brand, but ultimately you want to see some return on your branding investment. You can monitor the success of your brand many different ways, but we think these are helpful metrics to track:
Monitoring consumer behaviors (reach, impressions, followers, website stats)
Monitoring performance [online or in-store] (conversion rates, purchases, referrals, customer satisfaction and feedback)
Monitoring financial data (revenue, profit, brand valuation, market share, gross margin)
Once you have these measurements, you can adjust and refine your branding strategy to meet your overall goals.
With the right planning and resources, branding can be a huge game changer for your business. We truly believe these 10 steps will help facilitate a comprehensive successful brand positioning strategy and help you identify who you are, what you have to offer, and how to share it with your customers.