3 Tips for Building a Brand

Illustrations by Tony Healey
Julia Carcamo is president and chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates, specializing in brand and marketing strategy. She is also the co-founder of espNOLA, a Hispanic marketing and engagement agency. Learn more at jcarcamoassociates.com and espnola.com.


Many businesses think their branding begins and ends with a logo, mostly because they think of themselves as a business and not a brand. To some, a brand is Tide laundry detergent, not someone’s body shop or restaurant. Most assume branding is for the big boys with big budgets and a large appetite for advertising. As a result, they develop the best logo they can afford, put it on the sign and open the doors for business.

Branding, however, is important for businesses of all sizes. In the long run, it can increase the value of the business by creating trust, improving recognition, delivering a clear message and motivating buyers. The immediate benefit is that it can provide direction for all employees and can make customer acquisition that much easier.

Developing your brand can be a great exercise in truly understanding your business. The following three tips will help you.


Know Your Audience There is a reason this is my No. 1 “Jules Rule.” You want to understand the needs and wants of your target audience so that you can connect with them on an emotional level, beyond the products and services you sell. More than your logo, your brand is how the customer will see you, so you need to make sure you are communicating not only what you want, but what they want to see, hear and feel. This should drive the direction of the development of your logo and brand style guide.


Find Your Voice A great logo is only the start. What you say and how you say it will often be the lasting memory your brand will create. Keep in mind that your voice will come through more than just your ads. It will come to life with every customer interaction, from your website to your on-site customer-service representatives and the policies you put into place. Successful brands speak a unique language. Think about the brands you admire and how their voices ring true and clear.

With a deep understanding of your customer and your voice, you will find that your creative partner (whether an agency or freelancer) will wow you with logos that resonate. At that point the hard, but nonetheless important, part starts.


Operationalize Your Brand The process of building a brand requires you to not only set a strategy and position but to “operationalize” it. Operationalization is how your brand becomes the culture of the organization. To quote Denise Lee Yohn in her book, What Great Brands Do, “It’s about putting your brand to use as a management tool — and getting the most value out of it.” In the book, Yohn points out that “by limiting the definition of your brand to this external, surface level, you fail to realize its full business value.” The brand becomes the driver of decisions because more than just being communicated to employees, employees have internalized it. In effect, it allows your brand to come to life and enables you to deliver on the brand promise.

Unfortunately, few companies actively align the brand with the operations. Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace report indicates only 22 percent of U.S. employees strongly agree that their company’s leaders have a clear direction for their organization. Why? Because a small group of executives often decides vision and purpose for the brand. The vision is then “pushed” down to the rest of the organization in a variety of ways, from memos to pep rallies. The intention and hope are that it will become adopted, but the vision rarely achieves the buy-in needed because due to the failure to include a significant number of people as a company shapes its vision, purpose and direction. This is an easy trap to fall into, but just as easy to avoid by bringing key stakeholders and front-line employees into the brand discussion.

Do you think you’re done now that you know your customer, found your voice, designed a great logo and developed a strategy for operationalizing your brand? “LOL,” as my nephew says. Remember, your brand is a living being that needs to be continually nurtured and cared for.