In a highly competitive world of business, the only way to survive and grow is to build your brand. You must create a desirable perception of your business in people’s minds. However, launching your business, products, or services is not going to help establish your business. You can grow only if all the basics of building a brand are put in place first. In this event transcript, branding expert Seema Batavia shows the way.
Many business owners come into a market with their products or services in a hurry and without any strategy. They depend on some miracle happening for their businesses to grow fast. Most such businesses wind up short due to lack of strategy and vision. They fail to come up in a market as a brand, and therefore, people do not trust them much.
But, what should you do to lay a solid foundation for your brand? This question sometimes remains unanswered if businesses are launched without a detailed preparation.
To discuss this issue, Designhill, the leading creative marketplace, conducted a AMA session with branding expert Seema Batavia on 15th Oct 2020 on the topic – How To Build a Foundation For Your Brand.
Seema Batavia is a marketing and branding expert with a rich experience of more than a decade in helping different brands grow. She has so far helped four industries in the three countries.
During the AMA session, Seema shared her experience on varied issues related to laying a solid foundation of a brand. She showed how to build the base and choose a target audience. A lot of other problems she delivered on include creating an offer, optimizing an online presence, developing the content strategy, building community, and building a credible visibility strategy.
Here Is The Video Of The AMA Session With Seema Batavia
Here Is The Strategy You Should Follow To Build A Strong Foundation For Your Brand
Designhill: What is the definition of a brand?
Seema Batavia: The brand is the perception of you. So, the perception that other people hold a view in their mind, that is the brand. So, this comes from a cumulative effort of your background, your expertise, and your efforts you are making. This also comes from the space that you are occupying in their mind. That is a Red.
Designhill: What are the key components of a solid brand foundation?
Be clear about who you are
Seema Batavia: There are two things you should consider. One is a personal brand, and the other one is a corporate brand. I will talk about a personal brand because that is a thing that I am a big proponent of. As far as the foundations of a personal brand go, you have to be very clear on who you are as a person. You have to be clear on what others perceive you as and what is your big purpose. So, you have to be clear on what it is that you want to accomplish as a whole in life before you set out to do anything else.
You should ask yourself a set of questions and lay the groundwork, find your vision, mission, and values. Make sure that you ask such crucial questions before you proceed with creating personal branding. I would say understanding who you are and how others perceive you, what you want to do in life, and the impact you want to have are crucial to understanding the foundations.
Corporate branding is a bit complex
Corporate brands have similar foundations as personal brands have but in different ways. So, if you think about a corporate brand, as an entity, a personal brand is a singular person. The same principle applies, but it’s a bit more complex. For corporate branding also you have to understand the impact you want to have and layout your core values. What is important to you as a company is what things mean to you the most.
You need to understand your mission, which is what you want to accomplish. Also, know what your vision is and where you want to go as far as your brand goes. You have to understand your methodology and positioning. What do you want to have in people’s minds? So, the personal brand is on a singular level, and the corporate brand is on a larger level.
Designhill: How to determine your brand core messaging?
Know your brand values first
Seema Batavia: Your brand core messaging comes from your values and you. So, It all depends on the impact you want to make and the values you have, as a person or a company. For example, it shows what is important to you, and also shows what your big goals are, right. When you map out your goals, mission, vision, and values, you can put them together to come up with a core messaging. And you cannot do this without having the others first.
Designhill: How did you get to know that you were so good at it and everything?
Seema Batavia: I have been in the marketing and branding field for about a decade. But, I discovered my love for branding when I started launching brands for companies. I have worked with several companies in my career. And I have launched several brands for them in the food, furniture space, and I’ve done a lot.
Worked for Free
I started working with people around me for no charge who needed help with their branding and career. I helped people for free who were trying to position themselves in a certain way to get to a certain place. I discovered that I loved creating brands, doing the foundation work, mapping out the visual identities, and understanding where they were and where they wanted to go.
That brought me a lot of joy. And, it’s something that I keep doing as much as they can.
Designhill: Can you share one of your insights or one of your favorite parts, which you did it for free also?
Seema Batavia: One of my favorite brands that I launched is a food brand. But beyond that, I love working with people. I helped a friend position themselves to land their dream job. That brought me a lot of joy because you come out from having no direction and no hope. The problem is your positioning and not you. It’s because you do not know how to leverage your skills to make sure that you are showing them the right way.
So, we were able to map that out together and at the end of it, they had their dream job. They had a solid brand and they are quite sought after. Projects bring me a lot of joy. If you have a certain skill set, passion or determination, or wanting to make an impact somewhere, you can put all that together and craft this brand that people see right. They perceive you as an authority and you become an expert. And that entire process for me, that’s something that stands out to me is I love doing it for people.
Designhill: What are the things to consider when designing your brand identity?
Put the fundamentals in place
Seema Batavia: Designing a brand identity should come in the end. So once you have your foundation, core values did, positioning statements, target audience, and competitors, where you stand. That is when you can proceed with the visual identity design. Otherwise, I see this mistake being made a lot where people just jump to make a logo and make a big, elaborate brand because they have a name already. They start when everything else is not done yet.
Consequently, once the brand evolves, there’s a mismatch. Once you get closer to your goals, that visual identity doesn’t match anymore. So, you need to make sure all of your foundational pieces are in place. Make sure that you have mapped out your target audience, competitors, done benchmarking, positioning, and elevator pitch.
Then, you should think of embarking before you embark on anything visual. The rest of the work doesn’t take as much time as foundations do, because the foundation is the core of your brand. And everything else is the clothes you wear that can be changed quite easily.
If your brand is hollow, if it has no positioning, tone, voice, value systems, vision mission, then you do not know where they want to go. Such brand owners do not know their audiences, how to speak to them, what their core offering is, and everything else.
But, then you have got this pretty brand. It is you see a very attractive person, and we all love this example, where you see pretty people who look amazing. But when you get to know them, there’s no substance. That is an analogy, where you want to make sure that there is substance as well as attractiveness.
I wouldn’t say that you make it deceptive. If you map everything right, you can reflect your brand very clearly. But, when you do it wrong and there is a mismatch, that is when the looks are deceptive, where you feel the expectation didn’t meet the reality.
Designhill: How to build a great base for your brand?
Talk about yourself
Seema Batavia: I will talk about personal branding because that is what I am doing a lot. So, the first thing I do is talk about yourself, who are you as a person? What are your skill sets on paper? What did you learn in school? What is your professional degree? What is your professional experience and what certifications do you have? You have to map everything out to make sure that you have certain skill sets and what do you have. This is to ensure that you have that in place.
Tell about your passions
Then you have to talk about your passions. What do you do? You can easily transfer this to a corporate which I can discuss after this, but as a person, what are your passions? What do you enjoy doing? What do you do? So what would you do for free, for example? What did you enjoy doing as a child? Because what happens is that for most of us, our pure passions come as children. , and when we’re children, we love doing things without any bore restraints, or any issues. When we become adults, that gets diluted, because responsibilities sit in, we start adulting.
Set people’s perception for you
Sometimes we are unsuccessful, but it is what we do, and you have to map out your skills, and then your passions. That becomes a robust question of who you are, as a person. You also have to look at how you are perceived by the people. Make sure that you understand how people around see you. What do your friends say about you? What does your family think about you? What do they think that you are good at? What are your strengths? These are very important questions to ask because sometimes we do not even see our strength.
When other people see it, or other people point out for us, that is when we know this is a strength. If other people are saying it, then I probably am good at this. Then you look at professional relationships. So, it is important that what people, suppliers and customers who you have worked with in the past are saying about you. That is a good indicator because you get to know how you react in a transactional setting, as opposed to a professional setting.
Know the online perception
You also need to understand that you have an online presence. So, how are you perceived online? Do you have an online footprint? Do you have an online presence? What are your search results saying? Are any search results, embarrassing you, or putting you off? , what results are there which are causing you to be a bit off?
Then you have to understand what you believe in as a person. This is where the core values come in? What is important to you. What are the beliefs that you stand by in life as a whole? If there are certain rules that you believe in life, what are those rules? You have to map out those core values as well. And understand your core beliefs that are static and never change.
Know the impact you need to make
You also have to understand the impact that you want to have. So, you should try to understand how you see yourself. Ask yourself what am I setting out to do?
For example, if you are the next Uber or the next Apple, are you trying to change the world in some way? Are you trying to eradicate hunger or to become the next tech company that’s going to take over the world? Why do you need to be there? And on the back of that, you need to have the vision to know where you want to go. So, if you say you are going to eradicate hunger, that’s still a big promise and a big goal.
Set a clear vision
But vision allows you to have a clear direction. If you are saying I want to eradicate hunger, then, you want to make sure there’s no hunger left in the world. Your vision would be to make sure that no children go without food in all countries. That’s a bit more actionable. Then, your vision starts to take shape after you answer your ‘why’ questions. This is because you have your core values in place and what you have. Then, you think about your mission, which is how you get there.
If your big concern is eradicating hunger, your mission will be to find out how they will not go without food. This means you will eradicate hunger, by making sure that no child goes without food by ensuring that every household has access to food. You need to look at how you are going to make this happen. So, you need to make sure all of these questions are answered and in place before you set out to do anything.
This preparation builds the core of your brand. And the combination of these will be your message. I just stated that I want to eradicate hunger by making sure that all children have access to food by making sure that every household gets food. You just need to make sure that you answer these core questions and all of that shapes that one message.
You should also have a grand plan in place to execute implementation. You do not know what the execution is going to be tomorrow. It may be very different. But your core mission of, for instance, eradicating hunger will guide you to go forward in your strategy. You need to make sure that the core, the heart of your brand and that is solid before you start anything.
Designhill: How to deal with a strategy failure?
Seema Batavia: I would say, for example, your strategy was Tik Tok, which is no longer there. But your why part of the mission was not Tik Tok. What was your WHY? Your why was to just spread the knowledge or influence of design. The means and plans were Tik Tok. So your core Why has not changed, the impact you want to have is not changed. You are talking about results versus features and benefits. The means were Tick tock, which is not there today. There are other marketing means. You could use reels, shorts that vid YouTube has come out with.
The core reason to use influencers matters
But, your core reason for using those influencers has not changed. So as long as you do not change why you wanted to use the TikTok influencer, you can use whatever means you need to write your strategy. That is business acumen.
For example, consider what people you employ and how they can come up with creative ideas. So as long as you do not lose sight of the why on why you wanted to use a TikTok influencer, then you can pivot easily and come up with alternatives.
But the way you do it, that will depend on your strategic team. I hope that makes sense. There are several alternatives to TikTok. No real is completely everywhere. So use real people.
Designhill: How to choose your target audience?
Seema Batavia: Your target audience will depend on your offer and the impact you want to make. Let’s take the hunger example. If your target and impact are to eradicate hunger, your target audience is the hungry people. This is where your research comes in. Make sure that you’ve done all the primary and secondary research about what markets are hungry, so to speak, where this problem is more prevalent, and where the pain points are. You understand using a lot of market research through online or social media, checking forums, all kinds of systems to understand where this particular impact that you want to have. Then, where the most impact is going to have.
If I say hunger, we immediately know that Africa might be a market because we all know collectively that that is a market. If we choose, I want to create the next bionic robot. We have to go deeper and understand and research where that might be most beneficial. If you created a bionic robot, which market would benefit most from that?
So, you would look at places where technology and streamlining systems are coming up. Also, you come to know about the places where more people are accepting of new technologies. They have maybe a lower cost population in need of help.
Look for factors that make an impact
You have to look at determinants of what impact you want to have. Then, you can map out the entire strategy. Also, know that if this is the impact, who would benefit the most from your strategy. And, you have to research as many means as possible, depending on the sector that you are in. You will have to use those means, and depending on the offer that you have, you can create a bionic robot.
But there are 10,000 types of bionic robots. Is this bionic robot that is waterproof or underwater? Is this a robot that delivers UI UX? Is this someone that is in the food space? There are several iterations to this. So, you need to make sure the target market that you are looking at addresses your big impact, and your offer. And once you combine these, you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact audience because the audience will have a need that you can solve that your bionic robot consults.
Start with impact
Any product or any service that you come up with should start with the impact. You should know why you want to make an impact. Then think, if you want to have this impact, who would benefit from impact. Who am I trying to impact? And once you have a vague idea, this is the type of person I can impact.
You should do deeper research online to know what is being said and who’s using these resources and services. Is there even a market for the service or not? And if there is a market, who would be using it most, and then pinpoint that one person who is mostly to buy your product or service.
Designhill: If someone in the graphic design industry can’t come up with ideas, what do you suggest?
Your vision is your visual identity
Seema Batavia: First, I am sure that is not true. I am sure your visual identity is banging, so do not worry. But, I would move away from the visual first as your visual identity is not you, what’s you as the court that we just discussed. Whatever core values, vision, and mission you have, write down them. In that way, you will see a brand on paper and its perception.
Now, let’s say for example if your core value is education, transparency, and future thinking innovation. When you think about the three of these and you map out them, the impact you want to have as a graphic designer, where you want to use the colors is going to start taking shape. This is because colors have meaning and are associated with value. That’s the first step that you start taking shape with colors.
You should be asking some questions with specific answers. Ask questions: are you a feminine brand? Are you a masculine brand? Are you a technical brand? Are you a funny brand? Are you an approachable brand? Are you a premium brand? Are you a sophisticated brand? Come out with a precise answer. This is because your logo design is going to come through. Do you prefer sketches, or illustrators, or dedicated lines, or quick handwritten lines? These questions will help what you stand for.
Once you know what you stand for, then it’s easier to create a visual identity for yourself. So, map all of your core foundational stuff on paper, and then do the visual identity. The visual identity comes from knowing your values and where you stand in the market in comparison to others. It also comes from how you want to position yourself because doing it blindly is doing yourself a disservice.
You should do it according to what you want others to see you as. So I would recommend doing the foundational work and then embarking on the visual and then you’ll see it’s going to match perfectly.
Designhill: What are the steps to creating an offer?
Seema Batavia: First, understand that your offer is the value that you are providing. It is a combination of what you are good at, what your skills are, what your background is, and what there’s a demand for. You need to make sure you have all of these in place. And you’ve done a thorough mapping of the market and thorough mapping of the industry to understand whether what you have to offer as a person is going to coincide with what other people want. I recommend that whenever you are trying to create a signature offer you outline what you do, and what is it that you are good at doing?
Number two, consider what do you do best? What do you have the skills to do? We look at what we mapped out on paper.
Third, the third thing is what do we have the professional training for, what skills we have, and talk about what your audience wants. You have done your market research, mapped out exactly what the people’s pain point is, and what you can do to address those pain points. That’s how you create a big offer. Do not create an offer until you have these three things in place.
If you create an offer with just what your skills are and what the audience wants, you are going to be miserable, because you do not enjoy doing it. But if you enjoy doing it, and your skill set is there and you create an offer, then there’s no market for it. So, you are gonna lose out, you have to make sure you have the combination of all three of these because then you’ll be able to have a profitable offer.
Designhill: How can I brand myself to get noticed by the brand locally and internationally?
Seema Batavia: If it’s a brand new industry, that means you can be one of the first people. You have to show them the value that you are bringing as an influencer. I would make people see why you are a viable influencer. What can you do that other people cannot. This has to come through the way you present yourself, what you do, how you do it, how you talk to people, and how you can convince people or influence people. You have to walk the talk. You should influence before even becoming an influencer.
Now, I do not know if you are trying to do this on Instagram, or other platforms. But Instagram or other social platforms thrive on community. I would start doing a lot of outreach by talking to a lot of people, showing your true personality, building this community, friendships, and relationships. Then, people will take notice of who you are and where you come from. They will think that you are prominent as people are listing to you. And that’s when the brands start listing to the influencer. They all come once they see that you can influence people.
Designhill: How to optimize your online presence?
Have own website
Seema Batavia: To optimize online presence, I always tell people to have their website, first of all. So the thing about being online is that social media or other platforms, I call them rented space, as they are not yours. They are someone else’s platform. You only occupy space. But your website is your own home. It’s your real estate. For example, in TikTok, your hard work is not wasted. A lot of people have lost their livelihoods because of that, they built entire careers on TikTok, and then they lost it as it was suddenly shut down.
The first thing I would do is safeguard yourself and create your online presence. So, create a landing page website and make sure you have your hub, where you can drive people to. This is where your offer is going to live. You are going to drive your traffic to your place because you need to make sure they are coming to your home. Use social platforms as a traffic generator.
Know where you stand online
To optimize your online presence, first of all, do a massive Google search on yourself to see what’s coming up. You need to go search the internet to see what’s being said about you and what search results there are what people are saying about you. If there is something that you do not want people to see, make sure that it goes offline.
And you need to make sure that you start from a clean slate. Once you do that, then you can start building on that identity. You need to make sure your website is set according to the portrayal you want to give other people. That same portrayal of your identity needs to be across the board.
You do not need to be on five platforms. That’s a misconception. You do not need to do this. Choose two or three platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram where your core audience is active. Just pick two or three platforms that are most important to you. Then, you should have the same name identity of your brand across the board, so that anyone who goes to Twitter knows exactly that it is you.
Create trustworthy content
So make sure you have a professional photographer that is not too shabby. Depending on the type of positioning you have and the portrayal you want to give other people, make sure that your internet records are clean. The server should find that you are legitimate and trustworthy and create content.
Also, know that our online identities thrive on content, which is mainly for SEO, and to establish yourself as an expert. Therefore, more content you post will mean Google will crawl you more, which will make you more searchable. But use the right keywords. Consequently. more people will see your content. This is the way to project yourself as an expert in front of your target audience. So, make sure your presence across the board is uniform.
Designhill: How to develop the content strategy in place?
Consider your goals and values
Seema Batavia: Your content strategy is going to depend on your goals. A lot of people think that content strategy is posting whatever content they want to, which is wrong. So, depending on how you want to be perceived, your content needs to flow accordingly. For example, if you are an influencer and your main goal is to get brands to come on board, you need to make sure that through your content. You should convince people that brands are using you to influence.
Tell how you are useful
Therefore, showcase the results and benefits that you are giving as an influencer. You should map out content clusters depending on your goal, the impact you wish to make, the intended perception, and the way you want to project yourself as an expert. Keep your goals such as educating people or just entertaining them also in mind to make an impact. So if your goal is to influence, then your content clusters might show the results that you’ve gotten for brands. Show the other influencers with whom you have worked with. Tell about your interests, passions, and values of your brand.
So, you will develop content geared specifically to these content pillars. This is because by reading your content, someone is going to become convinced that this person aligns with me and I want to work with them. People think that you are showcasing exactly what I am looking for. You should think of the impact you want to make. Think of the big reason you want to do it and what are your goals before creating your content.
Designhill: What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting a brand?
Seema Batavia: Starting something new is scary for most people and they also get imposter syndrome. I know exactly what I need to do. But I do not think I could do it. What are people, my family, and my friends going to say? Who am I to start this? I’d rather just not do it all together. Such things come to our mind and we develop an imposter syndrome. So, it is not about skills and your capability.
But the main thing is the affirmation. You have to tell yourself that you are capable and worthy of this. A lot of people say the target of older people is not doing things, rather than doing it and failing. So, think what’s the worst that can happen to you? You may fail, that is all. People are going to talk, they are talking anyway, whether you do it or not do it. So, you might as well do something fun for us to do something that you want to do, take calculated risks, because those are the ones that pay off.
Designhill: Can you start or launch your brand without having a huge budget for it?
Seema Batavia: If it is a brand, then pinpoint if that is a corporate brand, a private brand, or a personal brand. A corporate brand is a product that can take manufacturing, inventory, and a lot of backend stuff. So, you may need a budget for that. Similarly, if you are starting small, you can get away with a lower budget. I am just talking corporate because you need to give service to somebody to develop trust in your brand.
Now, the brand-building itself doesn’t have to cost much. But providing the service and for your brand to take shape, that can take a lot of work.
For personal brands, you do not need a budget. All you need to do is pick a platform, have your website, which can be free, you do not even need a lot of money for that, and start creating content. Once you create content and spend a lot of time the only investment here is time so you can build a robust personal brand.
Designhill: How important is brand positioning and how do we do that?
Seema Batavia: Brand positioning is the position that you as a brand are taking in other people’s minds. Depending on how you are perceived by people, that’s the value that they are going to place on you. Brands such as Apple and Motorola occupy very different positioning in your head because that’s the way that they have crafted their positioning. They did this through consistent messaging, the way they talk, through the quality of their images, product, customer service, and their overall customer experience.
In the same way, you create your brand positioning through the overall customer experience, from the moment that they learn about your brand. How are they learning about it? What message are you putting out? What is the quality of messaging? What is the quality of the photos that you are using? What is the quality of advertising that you are using? What is the quality of your posts that you are posting online? What is the quality of the actual service or your product? What is the quality of your after product? What is the quality of your full customer service? What is the quality of your loyalty programs?
The entire experience is going to craft your positioning, the better you do on all of these, the barrier positioning is, and the worst you do on all of these, the worse your positioning gets. So you should prioritize what’s important to you as a brand and what you want to focus on and what positioning you want to have.
You can have premium positioning, you can have cheap positioning, you can have sophisticated positioning, you can have funny positioning, you can have feminine or masculine positioning, you can have in, they are all types of positions across the board. But it all comes down to the experience that you are giving to the customer from the moment that they learn about your brand, to the moment where they become loyal fans and loyal brand loyalists.
Designhill: What is your advice to someone who is beginning a brand but doesn’t want to get out of the box before launch?
Seema Batavia: They do not want people to know about it before the launch. I would say that, keep it under wraps. You need to make sure that the people who are working on the brand are trustworthy. People do not replicate things that are extremely different, because sometimes it scares them. They replicate it after it becomes successful.
So, do not get out of the box or let people know about the launching of your brand right away. Make sure that all of your research, your core team and brand building process is very locked down.
Pay attention to the advice from the branding expert so that your brand can grow in your target market. But, the results will take time to realize as brand building a gradual but steady process.
Meanwhile, make sure that your visual identities of business make an impact on your target audience. Your logo, business card, website, brochures, and other visuals must adequately represent your business with a message.
Designhill can help you in creating your logo, etc. brand identities with the help of professional graphic designers. Just launch your design contest for them with attractive prize money. Shortly, you will have your impressive logo or other design that is so important to grow your brand. So, get started now to have your visuals designed.
To build a competitive brand, first, you must lay its strong foundation on which it can grow in the future. Seema Batavia emphasizes knowing what your business is all about and how it can resolve customers’ issues through its offerings. Then, make sure that the messaging part of the brand is clear and concise. You must pick your target audience cleverly and position your brand with a strategy.