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Seven un-skippable steps to building your brand

Need help building your brand? We’ll get you started with all the building blocks like brand identity, personality, picking a business name—and more!
By Meghan Graham
Digital Marketing Manager

I often get asked, “What is a brand?”  

To which I reply, “It’s your identity.”  

“Your identity!?”  

Seriously! Think about yourself for a second. What’s the first thing you would want people to recognize and remember about you?  

Is it your penchant for plaid shirts? Your encyclopedic knowledge of ‘70s soft rock?  

What about your unfailingly upbeat and positive attitude or willingness to always try something new?  

Now, take that same thinking and apply it to your business. If your business could walk and talk, what are the main things you want your customers to come away with?  

Branding is a big part of how your business presents itself to the world and also acts like a set of guiding principles. Whether you have a small business, or the business is you, your brand is the foundation upon which you’ll build everything else—like your .CA website!  

And good branding? It’s about way more than logos. We’ll dig into all of that now.  

Start with the building blocks of your brand  

Yes, a logo and a .CA website are all part and parcel of making your brand and business live and breathe, but here we’re going to focus on the “building blocks” of your brand.  

These are the essential, foundational pieces that shouldn’t be rushed or overlooked.  

Give these building blocks your undivided attention and energy…and you might even find yourself having a little fun along the way! *gasp*  

Speaking of building blocks, here’s what we’re going to cover:

  1. Write your brand story
  2. Determine your target audience 
  3. Take a good hard look at your competitors 
  4. Come up with a brand positioning statement 
  5. Find your brand personality and voice 
  6. Pick a business name and register your .CA domain 
  7. Let your brand evolve, if needed 

Write your brand story  

Your brand starts with a story that you’re telling the world.  

And with any story worth reading, there’s usually a compelling “what,” a “who,” “why” and a “how.” Think about the following:  

  • What’s your mission?  
  • What are you trying to accomplish and why?  
  • Are you solving a problem or, perhaps, backing an important cause? If so, how are you doing it?  
  • Who are you trying to reach with your brand?  

Your brand story is important because it makes you relatable and authentic. It makes people feel something and, perhaps most importantly, remember you above all the other noise out there.  

Determine your target audience 

If a brand launches and no one is around to react to it, does it launch at all?  

Sorry—couldn’t resist.  

But in all seriousness, you need to establish a target audience or audiences. Getting a handle on your audience will help inform how you engage and connect with them through your brand.  

One of the best ways to find this out is by looking at who might already be buying your product or service right now. Key things to consider: 

  • How old are they?  
  • Where are they located?  
  • What other things—like job status, gender identity or even common interests—make them unique?  

Take a good hard look at your competitors  

Another important step that I can’t stress enough is researching your competition. This is what will help you discover what’s truly unique and special about your brand.  

Ask yourself: what are my competitors doing well? What products or services do they offer (or not offer)? How do they position themselves in the marketplace via their website and social media presence?  

Come up with a brand positioning statement  

Here’s where the rubber starts meeting the road, so to speak. Your brand positioning statement clearly sets out:  

  • What you offer—a.k.a your unique selling proposition  
  • Your target audience or market  
  • Why you’re better, different or special  

A brand positioning statement shouldn’t be some longwinded treatise or anything fancy; a few impactful sentences will do. Also—don’t over-promise and fill your statement with empty-calorie marketing buzzwords. Rather—be as direct and authentic as possible—even if it doesn’t read like poetry.  

Now, let’s create a sample positioning statement outline to help get you going:   

For [target market] looking for [need or problem you’re trying to solve] 

[your brand] provides [main reason your product/service is different/better], 

because of [proof point/reason to believe].  

So now, let’s fill it in. Say, for example, your company creates the greatest, comfiest toques around.  

Here’s how could that look: 

For nature-loving and eco-conscious Canadians looking for the ultimate protection from the elements, Sweaty Grizzly provides the most comfy, warm and sustainable toques hand-crafted in Canada from 100% recycled wool. 

Again—we’re not looking for polished perfection here, just a good first take. You can always go back and sharpen up your positioning statement as you continue developing your brand. 

Find your brand personality and voice  

Remember what I said about your brand being your business’ identity? Your brand’s personality is the set of memorable, human-like characteristics you want people to pick up on.  

When done well, your brand’s personality (and voice) should come through loud and clear in things like your website copy, advertising, social channels, imagery—and more. 

Once you’ve landed on a brand personality, be consistent with it. 

If you’re playful and goofy across all your social channels, but ultra-buttoned down and formal on your website, it’s going to confuse your audience. In some cases they might even wonder, “Is this the same company, or some sort of parody account?”  

Staying as consistent as possible in all your communications makes for a strong, clear brand identity over time. 

Pick a business name and register your .CA domain  

It might sound a tad obvious, but one of your first steps should be to make sure your business name is available.  

Start with a quick web search, and if you really want to be sure, you can also look through Canada’s business registries.  

But definitely do all of this before you create an Instagram account and order the hand-embroidered fanny packs with your new business’ name on them.  

Ideally—your business and domain names should go hand-in-hand. To ensure your domain is also available, use our .CA domain search tool below!  

A .CA domain declares your business is proudly Canadian

Speaking of domain names—what separates the good domain names from the bad? 

A good domain name:  

  • Is catchy, memorable and brand-able. How many domains do we see plastered up on signage, stickers on the daily? Create something that sticks and stays in your audiences’ minds.  
  • Is short n’ sweet. Aim for somewhere between 5-14 characters max.  
  • Relates closely to your brand. Remember that masterpiece brand positioning statement? Go back and see if you can mine that for inspiration or incorporate a catchy call to action.  

Now, let’s talk TLDs: 

Top-level domains, or TLDs, are the letters that appear “to the right of the dot” in any domain name—like .CA. A TLD can tell your audience a lot about what kind of business you are and where you operate.  

The “where you operate” part is especially important, because when you choose a .CA TLD, you’re saying that you’re a proudly Canadian company that does business within Canada and in Canadian currency. There are a loads of other excellent reasons why you should pick .CA, too.

Register your domain!  

Once you’ve got your dream domain name in hand, go ahead and register it, along with any variations or alternate spellings. This is just smart, inexpensive protection for your brand against would-be imitators or competitors. 

Let your brand evolve…if needed 

All in all, your brand should be fairly solid, but some change and evolution is a healthy and normal thing—especially as values and consumer trends shift.  

Honestly, if you’re doing it right, brand building is something that you will carry out for the life of your business.  

Another important piece is to collect as much data as you can about how customers perceive you. Whether through surveys, reviews, testimonials or feedback forms, it’s important to get an understanding of how your brand is perceived.  

If people are loving what you’re putting out, that can make your life easier if you decide to branch out and launch new products or services under your brand umbrella. As we’ve seen time and time again, customers are far more willing to go the extra mile for brands they like and trust. 

With these brand building blocks set in place…you’ll be well on your way to creating a brand with staying power that’s uniquely true to you. Looking to share your brand with the world? Read our guide on personal branding sites.

About the author
Meghan Graham

Meghan Graham is the Digital Marketing Manager at CIRA. She brings over 10 years of experience in marketing and communications in non-profit, technology, SaaS, and UX. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Ottawa joint program with Algonquin College.