Building a brand for your food business is no easy task - it takes time, patience, and dedication. Contrary to popular belief, a brand goes far beyond a business’s logo and name. Instead, the brand is the business’ unique identity and strategic image in the marketplace. It encompasses the values, reputation, and distinct personality of not only the business but also the individuals behind the scenes. A brand is what distinguishes one company from another and persuades individuals to buy from that company and not another. As such, building a brand is no simple task and needs to involve careful thought and deliberate organization.
Ainsley Moir, owner of Healthy Food and Beverage Group, has an impressive history of brand building experience under her belt. She joined Camp Castiron to share her wealth of knowledge to help owners build their brands.
To kick off her session and visually emphasize the importance of brand, Ainsley shared an image of three coffee cups — all in the same paper cup.
Consumers of the coffee are likely to choose one of the three cups at random since none of them are distinguishable. Now, if we take those same three cups, but put a coffee brand’s logo on each, consumers will choose the cup that represents them the most.
Putting a brand on the cup gave that coffee a recognizable identity and was the sole reason why one cup of coffee was picked over another. Brands allow customers to connect with a business on a deeper level and form lasting relationships.
You’re probably starting to see why building a brand is so important for your business. Having a strong and well-defined brand will give your business identity, credibility, and recognition in the marketplace. Now that we’ve established why having a brand is so important, let’s break down the aspects of a brand so you can get started building your own!
What is a brand anyways?
Ainsley describes a brand as “The unique, ownable, and identifiable representation of your product or service which touches every part of your business and encompasses everything you do, but lives primarily in people’s minds and hearts.” Phew, that’s a lot to take in! Let’s boil that down to make sure we understand all the aspects of a brand.
A brand is an intangible asset. You’ve probably heard of tangible and intangible assets in business — tangible assets are things you can physically touch, such as your product, and intangible assets are things you cannot touch, such as reputation and name. In a lot of ways intangible assets are more valuable than tangible assets because they cannot be duplicated — they are uniquely yours and cultivated over time, hence why your brand is so important!
A brand is so much more than just a logo or business name. It’s everything a business does such as customer service, email language, social media presence, package, etc. It evokes emotion from your customers and shows them how they’re supposed to feel while enjoying your product. This feeling should be reflected in everything your business does — your customers should feel it while reading your emails, or scrolling through your social media. Your brand is giving an identity — almost like a living persona — to your business that your customers can connect and resonate with.
Your brand should serve as your summit or true north. Every decision you make should revolve around your brand and the path you have made. Straying from this path will confuse your audience as to who you are and what your mission is. Creating a brand kit is an easy way to help stay on this path and help remind yourself and others of the feeling of your brand. A brand kit is an overview of your brand and sets up the “rules” of your brand. It should include logos, colors, fonts, images, usage guidelines, graphic elements, and mission statements. Once created, your brand kit should be reflexed in every decision you make surrounding your business. This helps you stay consistent with your brand.
Building a brand people can trust
Think of a brand you repeatedly buy from. Maybe it’s your favorite clothing brand, grocery store, or coffee shop. Why do you keep going back to this brand?
More than likely, you continue to buy from the brand because you trust them. You know when you buy from their company, you are going to get the same great quality over and over again, or else you would stop buying from them. This idea needs to reflect in your brand and your business. People are much more likely to buy from brands they trust.
So how do you build this trust to start with? According to Ainsley, trust stems from providing consistent amazing quality and service. This means showing up 100% every time a customer orders from you. It also means providing superior customer service that your customers recognize. Another tip from Ainsley? Find something unique to include in your customer service, like a handwritten letter or a discount on a future purchase. This will show your customers that you’re there for them, and that there’s a real human behind your brand.
Another aspect of trust which Ainsley brings to our attention is the look of your brand. When it comes to shopping for a product, the packaging and look of the product matter a lot to the consumer. People are more likely to buy a brand that looks professional because it gives the idea the product has been thoughtfully developed and cultivated. When your product is sitting on a shelf next to the big-name bands, your product needs to look like it belongs there — because it does! We know how amazing your food is, so create a brand that corresponds to the taste of your food. Your food deserves a beautifully crafted brand! Although people are buying what’s inside the container, what sells to them is the look of your brand, so give them a reason why they should spend their hard-earned money with you and their trust will follow.
Finding Your Brand
So we’ve established what a brand is and why it’s important, but how do you develop your brand so you can start selling? As Ainsley points out, finding your brand is a lot like finding the perfect campsite. There are a multitude of options so you need to find the perfect one for you and your business. Your brand needs to find a unique, niche spot in the market where you can succeed and beat the competition. To find your niche brand, you’ll want to start by looking at two different aspects - internal pieces and external pieces. Internal pieces are things such as your goals (what you want) and your gaps (what you don’t want). External pieces deal with the market’s needs.
New entrepreneurs have a habit of skipping over external factors because they are so passionate about their goals. These factors are extremely important because it focuses on how you are going to be different from the rest. Ainsley suggests paying attention to the three C’s - category, consumer, and competition:
- Category: Research your food’s category - is it generally crowd-pleasing or niche, who are the dominant players?
- Consumer: What is the ideal consumer profile you’re trying to reach - where are they located?
- Competition: Who is your competition in the market - how are they similar or different from you?
To find your sweet spot in the market, you’ll want to find where your internal and external pieces overlap - this is where you’ll find the greatest success. Your brand needs to connect not only with you but also with your consumers so finding this perfect alignment isn’t going to be easy - but with time, patience, and a lot of brainstorming, you’ll find it!
Let’s walk through an example to help guide your brainstorming.
- Your goals = what you want - “I want to create a vegan, protein-rich food brand”
- Your gaps = what you don’t want - “I don’t want to be limited to only sweets and desserts”
- The market = What’s the market hungry for - “There are no workout-focused vegan protein-rich food brands in my area”
So you create a food brand that specializes in vegan, protein-rich snacks that can be eaten at all hours of the day. By doing this exercise you’ve created a niche brand that not only fulfills your goals but finds an open opportunity to succeed in the marketplace. You’ve also set yourself up very well to start creating your unique brand based on goals and market research.
Don’t Be Vanilla
First off — no shade to vanilla. We love vanilla, but not when it comes to branding. Your brand should be the rocky road of ice cream flavors or the red velvet of cake flavors. Your brand is what makes you unique from everyone else in the room. It demonstrates your values, story, process, personality, values, mission, the people you serve and so much more! The more you own your brand and rally behind it, the more people will trust and support your business. Be bold and show how passionate you are about your brand. People will notice this passion and be inspired to buy from you.
Just like in all aspects of life, establishing a bold, unique brand will create lovers and haters — that’s how you know you’re doing it right! Be so far into what you do and what your brand stands for that people either say “heck yes” or “heck no” when they look at your brand. Your brand should be so unique that it’s only meant for specific people who will also love your brand as much as you do!
Bear-Proofing Your Brand
When you’re ready to turn in for the night on a camping trip, you zip up your tent to prevent any critters getting into your tent. Your brand should have the same protections! Don’t leave room for swaying in your brand — don’t be “sometimes I’m like this, sometimes I’m like that.” Consistency is king! Knowing and establishing the guardrails of your brand will help others identify your brand and help you to operate within them. This will also prevent competitors from finding cracks in your brand and exploiting them. There is no room for compromise!
Having a great brand comes with a multitude of benefits. Shoppers will pay more, retailers will say yes to putting your products on their shelves, and you’ll sell more with ease. Additionally, there will be fewer internal decisions you have to make and you’ll be protected against new entrants. Creating a great and bold brand starts with connecting emotionally with your customers, which will in turn establish a loyal customer base. These customers will propel your brand forward through their word of mouth and loyalty to your brand. Doing all this well lets you sell more, charge more, and do it all with ease.
Ready to own your brand? Watch Ainsley’s Camp Castiron session to learn more about developing a bold brand: