There are countless blogs and articles on the web that proclaim the importance of building a unique brand. But how, exactly, do you create a brand that’s irresistible to your audience and positions you as an authority? And how do you do it if you’ve never built one before? So, today I’m going to share 125 of the questions and tips I use when developing a brand for my clients.
How to use this list
To help walk you through the process of creating your brand, I’ve grouped this list into five categories: know yourself, know your audience, know your competition, building a brand experience, and implementation tips.
In order to build an irresistible brand, you need to take what you learn about yourself, your audience, and your competition and blend that research with your own personality to create a style that attracts your audience.
The first three sections ask you questions that help you pull together the information you need to create your style, while the rest of the list gives you specific steps you can take to turn that style into an irresistible brand.
Ready? Here we go …
1. What drives you? Is there an emotion, need, desire, or past event that motivates you to take action? How can you infuse some of that energy into your brand?
2. What are you passionate about? What gets you excited, angry, or motivated to take action? How can you let your passion come through in your brand?
3. What are your strengths? Everyone has specific skills or personality traits that they are especially good at. What are yours? How can your strengths help support your brand?
4. What are your weaknesses? Weaknesses are nothing to be ashamed of. It just means you’re not as strong in those areas. In fact, acknowledging your weaknesses instead of hiding them makes your brand more human.
5. What is your personality type? Are you a “type-a” personality? A “pleaser?” Maybe you’re an extroverted sanguine or an ambitious choleric. Getting to know your own personality traits is the first step to infusing your brand with your personality.
6. What is your story? Everyone has a story. Yours might be a “rags to riches” story or maybe an inspirational “beating the odds” story. What elements of your story can you bring to your brand to make it more interesting?
7. What is your background? Where did you come from? What are your training, your education, and your experience in your niche? Did you change careers when you got started in your current niche, or did you grow up doing what you do now? Where does your background fit within your brand?
8. What are you most talented at? What is the one thing you do better than anyone else you know? Is it part of what you’re doing now? If not, why not? Can you integrate your special talent into your brand?
9. What do you have the most experience doing? Sometimes what we’re talented at and what we have the most experience doing for a career are two different things. Does your experience match up with your talents? Where does your career experience fit in your overall brand?
10. Why did you choose your career / niche / topic / market? Why did you start doing what you do now? Was it by choice, or were you forced into it? Are you passionate enough about it to build a brand around it?
11. What do you plan to offer? What products / services do you plan to promote? Are you going to be providing information as a resource only? If you are going to sell something, what will be your flagship product? How does that decision affect your branding?
12. What makes you unique? Are you a punk rocker who munches apples and writes about stories? Maybe you’re a reclusive hermit who writes about social media. What elements of your personality, experience, skills and niche can you blend together to put a fresh spin on your topic? How can you build a brand around that uniqueness?
13. What hobbies or interests do you have? What interests and activities do you enjoy outside of your niche? How can you integrate elements of those interests into your brand to help make it unique? Can you become the “skateboarding CEO” or the “mountain-climbing granny” to infuse some personality into your brand?
14. What are your core beliefs? Remaining true to your core values is an important part of making your brand authentic. How can your brand reflect what you believe and live by?
15. What makes you uncomfortable? Are you afraid of public speaking? Does confrontation make you squirm? Knowing what makes you uncomfortable will help you prepare your brand for dealing with those situations when they arise.
16. If money were no object, and you could do anything you wanted for “work,” would you still do what you’re doing now? This is more of a “gut check” question. Before you spend the time and money building a brand around what you’re doing, are you sure you want to continue in that niche?
17. What are your favorite colors? Colors convey specific messages and affect response rates, so choosing the right colors for your brand is important. How do your favorite colors compare with the colors preferred by your audience?
18. Is there a specific design style that you really like? Do you prefer modern, futuristic, minimalist, or some other design style? How does the style you prefer compare to the style preferred by your audience?
19. What emotion(s) do people associate with you? Do the people around you describe you as happy, impatient, angry, or some other emotional trait? Does that emotion come through in your brand?
20. What brands / designs from other companies make you jealous? Don’t try to copy the look or style of someone else’s brand. However, looking at other brands may help spark some ideas for your own.
21. How do you describe what you do? If you had only one sentence to describe what you do, what would you say? Are you using the same words your audience uses to describe what you do?
22. What are your goals? It’s important to plan for the future when creating your brand so it will stand the test of time. What are your plans for the future, and how does your brand fit into that picture?
23. What is your message? When your audience sees your brand, what is the primary message you want the brand to convey? Is there a specific emotion you want them to feel when they see it?
24. What are you really selling? Someone once said “people don’t buy drill bits, they buy holes.” What is your audience really buying from you, and how can you reinforce that with your brand?
25. What is your level of commitment? This is another “gut check” question. Building, implementing, and maintaining a brand requires commitment. How committed are you to the brand you’re building? Will you still feel confident you made the right decisions about your brand five years from now?
Know your audience
26. What gender is your audience? Are they mostly male, female, or a pretty even mix? How does that affect the styling for your brand?
27. How old are they? The age of your audience makes a big difference in the styling and presentation of your brand. It also affects the voice and message you use when you connect with your audience.
28. What generational values do they have? Baby Boomers respond to brands differently than Generation X does – and Generation Y (the Net Generation) responds differently than either of them. Do you know what generation profile your audience is from?
29. What is their household income level? Is your audience middle-class, wealthy, or barely able to pay the bills? How does price and affordability affect the brand you’re building?
30. Where do they live? Is your brand targeted to an audience that’s national, worldwide, or just your local neighborhood? Will that affect how you present your brand?
31. What are their hobbies and interests? Does your audience share any of your hobbies and interests? Can you convey that with your brand?
32. What is their marital status? Are they married, single, divorced, widowed, or engaged? Does their marital status affect they way they will perceive your brand?
33. Do they have kids? Having children changes the way you think about life and money. If your audience have kids, will that help your brand or present some challenges?
34. Do they have pets? For many pet owners, their pets are their “surrogate kids.” How does pet ownership figure into your brand? Does it present any advantages that will help your audience connect with you?
35. What kind of computer are they likely to own (if any)? As you build your brand it’s important to think about what type of technology people are most likely to be using when they interact with you. For example, will your audience spend more time with your brand on a laptop, iPad, or smart phone?
36. Do they have any special needs or health issues? It’s important to take special needs into consideration when developing your brand. For example, some people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury can have seizures if presented with bright, flashing colors. Does your audience have any special needs you need to be mindful of?
37. What TV shows do they prefer? Which television shows people watch can tell you a lot about their personality. For example, according to a study done by Mindset Media, people who watch the hit show “Mad Men” are creative and socially liberal. Knowing what shows they watch can give you clues about how to build a brand that they relate to.
38. What blogs do they read? Is your audience avid blog readers? Do they even know what a blog is? Knowing what blogs your audience frequents will help give you insight into the topics that interest them so you can incorporate that into your branding.
39. What other websites do they visit most often? Again, knowing what websites your audience spends the most time on helps you understand what topics, issues, and leisure activities are important to them. It also gives you some clues about how and where to promote your brand.
40. Are they active in social media? Is your audience addicted to Twitter and Facebook, or scared to death of them? Does your audience intentionally boycott social media as a frivolous waste of time or invasion of privacy? How does that affect the plans you have for your blog?
41. What career level are they at? Aspiring college graduates that are new to the workforce have a different perspective than experienced “veterans” of the corporate world. Where does your audience fit into that spectrum, and how does that affect your branding?
42. What is the highest education level they’ve achieved? Is your audience high school dropouts, college graduates, or do they have a PhD? How does their level of education change the way you present your brand and its sophistication?
43. How much of their shopping is done online? Knowing how comfortable your audience is making purchases online is important if your brand will have a heavy online presence, or if you plan to sell anything online.
44. Do they subscribe to any magazines or publications? Knowing which magazines your audience subscribes to can be a great source of research. For example, most magazines have media kits available on their websites that detail the demographics and lifestyle of their readers.
45. What is their greatest fear? Developing your brand around something that reduces or eliminates the fear your audience feels over a topic or situation is a powerful means of attracting them to your brand.
46. What is their greatest frustration? If your audience is frustrated over a problem, how can you build your brand around the solution? If you can do that, your audience will feel excited they’ve found the answer to their problem in your brand.
47. What is their greatest hope or dream? Does your audience have a common hope or dream you can incorporate into your brand that they relate to?
48. What event or need causes them to search for what you offer? Do you know what causes your audience to seek your help in the first place? What problem or event triggers their initial search? How can you position your brand as the solution to that problem?
49. Are there any products or services they buy regularly? Does your audience always shop at high-end luxury retailers, or technology stores? Knowing where your audience shops will help you craft a style that feels familiar and inviting to them.
50. Is there anything you have in common with them? Sharing a common interest, problem, skill, or passion with your audience can give you a huge advantage when building your brand. The common ground you have will help your audience identify with your brand and engage them faster – encouraging interaction and more sales.
Know your competition
51. Who is your competition? Everyone in every niche has a competitor. Even if you don’t have someone in your niche that offers the same products / services / information as you do, there’s always someone you compete with in search engine rankings for your keywords. Know who they are.
52. What makes them a competitor? Are they offering the same things you are to the same audience, are they competing with you for the same keywords, or are they a friend that you compete with for fun?
53. How do they describe what makes them unique? What words and tone of voice are they using to convey what they do? How does their description differ from yours? Do you need to adjust your branding to make your description more appealing to your audience than theirs is?
54. What do they offer? What services, products, and information do they offer to their audience? Do they offer anything you don’t? How can you adjust your branding accordingly so what they offer seems outdated, inferior, or irrelevant?
55. Do they charge for what they offer? If so, how does their pricing compare to yours? Do you need to tweak your brand to look more / less expensive than what they offer, or look like a better value for the money?
56. Are they marketing to the same audience as you? If it appears they’re marketing to a different audience, you might need to re-evaluate whom your audience really is.
57. What are they better at than you? Take an objective look at their business, their services, and their brand. What do they do better than you? How will that affect your branding? Do you need to compensate for that weakness, or display it proudly?
58. What are you better at than them? Which of your strengths can you emphasize in your branding to give yourself a competitive advantage?
59. What colors do they use in their brand? Pay attention to the colors your competitors are using. If they’re all using similar color schemes, it could be because your audience prefers those colors. You also want to make sure you don’t use the exact same colors as a competitor and confuse your audience about who’s who.
60. How would you describe the design style of their brand? Is it modern, conservative, futuristic, or funky? How does their style compare with what you’ve learned about your audience’s tastes? Do you need to adjust your style to connect with your audience at a deeper level than they do?
61. What kind of Internet marketing presence do they have? Do they seem to be everywhere, or do they barely have a functional website? Does that make it easier for you to launch your brand online, or more challenging?
62. Are they trying to attract an audience from a specific geographic area? Are they targeting a local, regional, national, or international audience? Where do they have gaps in their coverage that you could fill?
63. How active are they in promoting their brand? Is their brand a household name in your industry, or has nobody heard of them? How can you position your brand as the leader in your niche?
64. Does your niche have a national or regional trade association? Are they a member? Trade associations are great sources of research on your niche. Many of them have online membership databases that let you view the websites for each member, giving you a wider sampling of data.
65. What “voice” do they use in their branding? Do they communicate with their audience in a formal or informal manner? Does their style seem to be more conversational or professional? How does that compare with your brand?
66. How much of a “threat” are they as a competitor? Do you expect to be competing with them for the attention (or money) of your audience, or do they pose no threat to you? Is there an opportunity for you to position your brand as the leader in your niche?
67. What is their value proposition? Is the value they provide their audience obvious, or is it difficult to find? Can you do a better job of conveying value to the same audience with your brand?
68. What are they really selling? Just like you, what they offer and what their audience really wants may be two different things. Does it look like they understand this point, or is there an opportunity for your brand to outshine them in this area?
69. What is their style? Are they corporate or informal? Do they seem cold, distant, and mechanical, or do they seem warm, approachable, and human? Do you see any obvious reason they chose that style? How does their style compare with the one you’ve planned for your brand?
70. Why do you think their audience likes them? This is somewhat speculative, but do you notice a predominant reason their audience is drawn to them? Does that need to be addressed with your brand?
71. Is there anything they might have overlooked? Is there something they’ve overlooked in their branding you can capitalize on to connect with your audience better, and make them irrelevant at the same time?
72. How strong is their relationship with their audience? Is their audience highly engaged with them, or is there an opportunity for your brand to take the top spot in their audience’s mind?
73. How responsive are they? Do they keep their audience waiting and wondering, or are do they have stellar communication skills? How will you need to address responsiveness with your brand to be competitive?
74. Is what they offer readily available? Does their audience have trouble getting what your competition offers, or can they easily get their hands on it? How will you position your brand in relation to that level of availability?
75. What emotional need do they fill for their audience? Are they satisfying the core need their audience has, or is there room for your brand to provide a higher level of satisfaction?
Build a brand experience
76. Branding is more than just design and corporate identities. Branding is about the experience your audience has when interacting with you, in addition to the identity elements like your logo, colors, etc. Don’t just stop at developing the logo, build an experience if you want an irresistible brand.
77. Be accessible. Nothing frustrates your audience more than not being able to reach you when they have a need for what you offer. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you.
78. Build goodwill. If you want to build referrals and word-of-mouth advertising for your brand, you need to foster goodwill with customers and your general audience. This involves delivering positive experiences and being a good “corporate citizen” with your brand.
79. Create positive experiences. You can’t please everybody, but try anyway. Always do your part to give your audience the very best experience you can each time they interact with you. Give them the “rockstar treatment” and make them feel special.
80. Keep your word. If you promise something to a customer on a certain date, make sure you deliver on or before that date. Following through on your promises is important if you want a positive reputation for your brand.
81. Deliver more value than they expect. What can you do to surprise them with added value they weren’t expecting? It doesn’t have to be anything big. Making your customer smile is the goal. For example, I once ordered a pair of shoes from Zappos with standard shipping, and received an e-mail about an hour later saying they had upgraded me to express shipping at no extra charge.
82. Be a good “citizen”. Don’t be the type of brand that people only hear from when you’re selling something or want something from them. Contribute to the larger community by being a “giver” as well.
83. Show up. Don’t get lazy about your brand. If you want to build a brand that your audience respects as an authority, you need to put the work in to earn that respect. Be there when your audience expects you to be, and put your best effort into everything you do.
84. Try to help people. One of the most powerful ways to connect with people is to help them. If you can incorporate this into your brand, you’ll find your audience much more receptive to you. But your efforts must be based on a genuine desire to help. People can spot selfish generosity in a heartbeat.
85. Be generous. Don’t be stingy with how you share your time or talents. Incorporate a little generosity into your branding and it will help you build trust and goodwill with your audience.
86. Be gracious. You will encounter people who are rude, irate, or misunderstand your intentions. Be gracious in how you respond. By taking the “high road” you’ll gain the respect of your audience, and might even convert that rude naysayer into a true fan.
87. Cultivate relationships. Don’t think of your brand as a facade or decoration to what you do – that’s what paint is for. Build relationships with your audience if you want to foster brand loyalty.
88. Seek feedback. Let your audience know, in no uncertain terms, that you want their feedback so you can improve and serve them better. And when you get feedback, don’t be shy about letting your audience know you’ve acted on it.
89. Be honest. Most people instinctively know not to lie outright, but many more are willing to conceal facts or bend the truth to suit their needs. Once your brand’s reputation is damaged, it’s time consuming and costly to repair. Be honest with your audience and maintain their trust.
90. Encourage participation. Acting on the feedback of your audience in a public manner helps them feel like they’re involved. For example, Conan O’Brien recently made a public change to the opening credits for his show based on a YouTube video from a fan. You can check out the story here. Get your audience involved and they’ll quickly become fans.
91. Keep the big picture in mind. Always consider your overall brand in everything you do. Make sure that what you provide your audience, whether content, services, products, or free stuff serves to build your brand, not detract from it.
92. Relax. Avoid presenting yourself in a stiff, formal manner unless your audience is also stiff and formal. You want your brand to seem human and approachable, not cold and aloof. So relax a little and let your audience see your human side.
93. Have fun. Victor Borge used to say, “a smile is the shortest distance between people.” The same is true for your brand. If you’re having fun, your audience will sense it and start to have fun themselves.
94. Connect with people who can promote you. Tooting your own horn will only get you so far. If you want to gain exposure, build authority, and get more people interested in your brand, take the time to connect with people who can promote you.
95. Take the lead. Your audience doesn’t always know what they need from you, they just know they have a problem they need solved. Guide them. Help them understand how you can solve their problem or meet their need.
96. Always give your best. To help build positive experiences, always put forth your best effort. I once hired an attorney at the rate of $250/hr who kept overlooking important information I had already provided him because he was rushing through his work. Bring your “A game” to everything you do for your audience.
97. Be informative. Help your audience see you as a resource by providing them with information that is useful to them. Keep them informed of your progress on their project. Help them understand your niche and what you do. Educate them about what you offer.
98. Be accommodating. Everyone’s life is hectic these days. Sometimes the best way you can create a positive brand experience for a customer is to just be accommodating to their situation. Maybe they can only meet after hours, or need a few extra minutes with you to understand how to use what they purchased. Regardless of their need, if you make it easy for them to do business with you, they’ll remember it and tell their friends.
99. Be reassuring. Understand that when your audience buys something from you, they’re vulnerable to a certain amount of buyer’s remorse. Help them feel good about their decision by reaffirming the reason they bought it in the first place.
100. Avoid hard sell tactics. No one likes those “in your face” salesmen. If you get pushy about your sales, your audience will back away. Stay away from hard-sell tactics if you want to keep your audience interested and buying.
101. Be consistent. A key component to any successful brand is consistency. Always present yourself and your brand in the same manner in whichever media you’re using. That means using the same imagery, tone, style, and message in print, on air, in person, and online.
102. Develop a logo. Your brand needs an identifying mark. It can be artwork, nicely styled text, or a combination of the two – but create a logo so your audience can visually identify your brand.
103. Create a corporate identity package. You may never use them, but develop a business card, letterhead, and envelope design for your brand anyway. Doing this step will help you solidify the design style for the rest of your brand, and you’ll have the designs ready to go if you ever need them.
104. Use colors that convey the message you want to send. Each color of the rainbow conveys a specific meaning, and affects how people respond. Make sure the colors you choose for your brand will have the desired effect with your audience.
105. Use a design style your audience relates to. Your audience is likely to respond better to one design style over another. Use the research you’ve done on your audience to craft a style that resonates with them.
106. Choose a design style that enhances your credibility. In addition to creating a style your audience likes, you need to make sure your design strengthens your brand and its position in your niche.
107. Develop design elements that can be used on all your marketing. As you create your design style, develop specific design elements that will work across your whole brand to tie it all together visually.
108. Be original. Don’t try to copy what someone else did with his or her brand. Create your own style based on your research and your personality if you want to build a brand that’s interesting to your audience.
109. Let your “freak flag” fly. Don’t be afraid to infuse your brand with your personality. Your individual personality is what will make your brand unique and interesting.
110. Create a web presence that is consistent. Make sure your Internet marketing is inline with the rest of your brand. Build your website using the same design style and colors as the rest of your brand. Customize your social media profiles and avatars in the same way.
111. If you struggle with creativity, find help. Your brand will be central to your marketing, and will be at the forefront of your audience’s attention. If you’re not good at creative thinking, invest in some outside help. You’ll enjoy better response to your brand with a professionally designed style than something you settled for because it was the best you could do on your own.
112. Keep your audience at the center of all you do. Never lose sight of your audience and their needs. Without them, your brand is worthless.
113. Get specific with your style, right down to fonts. The style you craft for your brand needs to be specific and detailed. You should drill it right down to the specific colors, fonts, and even paper stock you plan to use. Being that specific will help you maintain your branding down the road.
114. Create a “creative standards manual”. A creative standards manual is a simple document that spells out the design details of your brand. This manual becomes indispensable for making sure your branding is consistent when you need to hire a different designer, printer, or other creative services company.
115. Be mindful of your stage presence. Whenever you’re in the public eye (in front of your audience), make sure you present yourself in a manner that’s consistent with your overall brand. Never make the mistake of diminishing your brand or damaging your credibility by getting careless with your actions.
116. Use the language your audience uses. If your readers use industry jargon, you should too. On the other hand, if they’re confused and annoyed by industry buzzwords, shape your copy accordingly. Make it easier for your audience to understand what you do by using the same terminology they do.
117. Never roll out a new brand in stages. Conducting business with part using your old brand, and part using your new brand will confuse your audience. Wait to roll out your new brand until you can rebrand everything with your new look.
118. Don’t try to promote more than one brand to the same audience at the same time. Again, promoting multiple brands to the same audience will only serve to confuse that audience. Pick one brand to move forward with and promote that.
119. Develop brand ambassadors. Put extra effort into encouraging, educating, and supporting members of your audience who send you lots of referrals. They are your brand ambassadors and are better at developing quality leads for your business than a sales team.
120. Never settle for good enough. Mediocrity is the cancer of branding. As soon as you start to settle for “good enough” instead of your best, your brand will begin to decline. Always insist on excellence.
121. Be informal. Remember that people buy from people, even in the business-to-business world. Make sure your brand doesn’t distance you from your audience. Instead, focus on building a brand that’s warm, informal, and inviting to your audience.
122. Don’t go overboard. Some people take the advice to “be unique” too far and create things like business cards that don’t fit in any Rolodex or cardholder, or promotional mailers that can’t be saved for later reference. Make sure your uniqueness is balanced with usefulness.
123. Adapt. Over time, your audience will grow and change. Make sure the brand you build will be able to grow with them if you want it to remain relevant.
124. Give your brand a face. There’s a reason corporations hire spokesmen and create mascots. Your brand needs a “face” your audience can connect with. That might be you, an employee, or a mascot you create, but you need to give your audience someone that can be the face of your brand.
125. Infuse everything you do in your brand. Your brand needs to permeate every aspect of what you do in order to have the desired effect. Make sure nothing slips through the cracks unbranded or displaying an old style.
Believe it or not, this list barely scratches the surface of tips for creating a brand.
About the Author: Logan Zanelli is the author of How to Go from Boring to Rockstar in 30 Days, a course that teaches you how to build a unique style and become the “rockstar” of your niche.