How to Build a Brand in 2018: Transparency, Authenticity, and the 80’s

Successful branding is essentially a matter of capturing a) the zeitgeist, and b) the essence of your product and philosophy.

Think of how Nike’s developed the Air Jordan brand right at the cusp of Michael Jordan’s legendary NBA run (which also helped popularize basketball — and by proxy, Nike’s shoes — further).

Air Jordan I was a massive success and helped Nike dominate the basketball shoe market (image credit)

As a small business owner, the question you should ask is: what does the zeitgeist hold for 2018? How can you tailor your brand to it?

In this post, we’ll show you how to build a brand by developing a 2018-ready branding strategy for your business.

Embrace Transparency

In today’s social media dominated world, there are no more secrets. Customers want, even demand honesty from their favorite brands. They want to know what your products are made of, how you make them, and even how much they cost to make.

As Ashley Deibert writes in Forbes:

Those that have embraced authenticity and transparency (Dove, Airbnb) find consumers will do the marketing for them. Those that have fought it (Uber, Pepsi) continue to struggle to regain footing with an audience who will watch their every move, waiting to pounce when the first signs of negativity arise.

Take advantage of this fact by making transparency a core part of your brand. Instead of hiding behind a facade of sophistry, show your customers who you are and what you care about.

Transparency in pricing

Businesses have long obscured their pricing in an effort to boost their margins. Their assumption is: if a customer knows how much a product actually costs to make, why would they pay our markup prices?

However, in a world where wholesale prices for any product are just an Alibaba.com search away, obscuring your pricing doesn’t always make sense.

In fact, by making your pricing transparent, you can brand yourself as a more “authentic” retailer.

For example, the fashion brand Everlane shares detailed pricing for all its products. This includes the cost of materials, labor, duties, and shipping. The price you see is the price after Everlane’s margins — which customers are happy to pay for.

Everlane shares exact prices for all its raw materials, labor costs, etc.

Everlane calls it “radical transparency”, and it’s a model that has helped the company get to a valuation north of $250M.

Related: How To Set Your Pricing Strategy

Transparency in production

Although it makes for powerful branding, transparency in pricing isn’t for every business. (Particularly for small businesses that want to maximize their margins.)

What you can do instead is share how you make your products.

How much (or how little) you share is up to you. You can share details of the factories where you make your products (great for businesses that want to emphasize their ethical sourcing), the design and development process, etc.

H&M’s new label, Arket, uses this approach. It lists the exact factory where each product is manufactured.

Arket lists the name and location where each product was made (you can sort products by their manufacturing location)

The clothing business is often accused of exploiting low-wage labor in poor countries; listing the factory helps assuage customers about Arket’s sourcing practices.

You can take this a lot further than simply listing the factory name and location. NeedWant, a startup that runs a number of brands, shares detailed stories about the design and manufacturing process for each of its products.

For example, for its “Primary” line of bed linen, it shares pictures of the design process. It goes even further to share photos of the factory and its workers.

Primary shares pictures of its factory, its workers and even the factory owner on its product page

This helps NeedWant brand “Primary” as a sustainable, socially conscious brand. With social justice an important issue in 2018 and beyond, this approach can be particularly impactful.

Related: How To Find a Manufacturer for Your Product Idea

Adopt Video in Your Branding Strategy

There is no doubt about it: video will continue to dominate in 2018 (and beyond). If you aren’t on this medium yet, you are missing out.

However, how and what kind of videos people consume has changed a lot in the last few years. There is a stronger thrust on storytelling and authenticity. Being immediate and live is more important today than to be polished and professional.

Learn more: Sell the Story: How to Get Started with Storytelling for Your Brand

Show off your production process

Showing off how you make your products (for physical products, of course) does two things:

Additionally, the production process can give you several content pieces of varying lengths you can share across social media.

For example, Mission Bicycle, a small bicycle manufacturer based out of San Francisco, regularly shares “behind the scenes” videos of its manufacturing process.

Not only is this great for transparency, it also shows customers the care that goes into each product. Perhaps even more importantly, it positions the business as an authentic, socially conscious brand that employs local people.

You can add videos to product descriptions if you have an Ecwid store.

Instagram is a great medium for sharing short-form behind the scenes videos. For longer videos, however, you’ll want to turn to YouTube (and increasingly, even Facebook).

Saddleback Leather, a small manufacturer of leather bags, does great behind the scenes videos of their production process. Their how-to videos show viewers  how they source their raw materials and the care that goes into making a single bag.

Note how often the narrator (also the company’s founder) emphasizes their environment-friendly sourcing and expensive equipment.

Given that the company positions itself as a “premium” manufacturer, this behind the scenes footage is crucial for underscoring its quality and authenticity.

Related: How to Use Video in E-Commerce Marketing

Use live video to reinforce your brand personality

Live video is the new frontier of video marketing. Led by Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Periscope and YouTube Live, this video format has shown sharp growth in the last few years. On YouTube alone, live video consumption grew 80% YoY in 2016.

Unlike recorded video, live video is immediate, raw and authentic. There are no scripts, paid actors or army of brand managers.

This rawness terrifies large businesses (where every brand decision is made by committee).

For small business owners, however, live video is a tremendous opportunity. You can be authentic, human, and let your brand personality shine through — all without a script or big production budget.

For example, BareNecessities, a clothing retailer for women, regular shares live videos where its hosts answer viewer’s questions and share insights on fashion trends.

Bare Necessities’ live videos position the brand as helpful, informative and inspirational

Doing something like this connects you to your customers. It also shows your brand as more authentic, improvisational and “real”.

Update Your Design and Messaging

The two biggest branding mistakes small businesses make is a) inconsistency in design and b) a lack of clarity.

For 2018, resolve to update and align your design and messaging. Your design should reflect the core value propositions of your brand. Every single aspect of your customer experience, from the packaging to the website, should have design/messaging consistency.

While you’re doing this, also update your brand design to reflect newer trends.

If you added Ecwid to your website, change the design as often as you want — Color Adaptive Mode will match the store colors to the main website theme.

Authentic images

Although still widely used, stock images are losing favor with both consumers and brands. Even if they resonate with your brand’s mood, the lack of authenticity and product visibility counts as a negative.

The new trend for 2018 is to create your own images and graphics. Ideally, you’d want to include your products in the images in some way.

For example, Pura Vida, a bracelet manufacturer, creates these images for its Instagram page:

Here’s another example from Daniel Wellington, a watch manufacturer. It might look like stock imagery, but it actually has the company’s product in it.

This is true for virtually all of Daniel Wellington’s images on Instagram. They all incorporate the brand’s watches in some way.

Every image Daniel Wellington shares has the brand’s watches displayed prominently

Related: Simple Product Photography Tips to Beautifully Showcase on Your Store

Bold colors

Blame it on the resurgence of 80s nostalgia, but bold, bright colors are back in fashion in a big way. And brands have taken notice. From Nutella to Dropbox, brands across verticals are embracing strong colors.

There are many ways to customize an Ecwid online store’s design, from basic and simple tweaks to profound and sophisticated changes.

Here’s Nutella’s new packaging as an example of this trend:

Nutella’s new, experimental packaging has strong “80s vibes

The good thing about this trend is that it can fit most brands. A lighter pastel color palette goes well with more elegant brands, such as Glorioso:

Glorioso’s is a great example of using bold colors without overpowering the brand identity

If you wonder how to brand your business, remember that brighter, bolder colors go well with lively and younger companies.

Even Starbucks has jumped aboard this trend:

Starbucks uses color liberally — a departure from its minimalist origins

Lifestyle, clothing and accessories related brands can make good use of this trend. For example, Kokosina, a maker of minimalist bags, uses bold colors in all its marketing images:

The brand uses the same color to create ‘color themes’ on its Instagram page

80’s themed designs

Along with bold colors, 80’s themed designs have made a huge comeback in the last few years as well. Think of bright colors, artistic typography and bold patterns. A number of brands have adopted this decidedly optimistic design theme.

For example, consider Write Sketch &’s bold colors and patterns. Their notebooks and stationery have a clear 80’s vibe.

Write Sketch &’s noteboks and stationery have bold ‘80s inspired patterns and colors

Brands are also ensuring that their physical products and website designs align.

For example, Gallery & Co.’s products have the same ‘80s-inspired design as the website.

Gallery & Co.’s products and website have the same ‘80s inspired theme

The goal is to be consistent with your design and messaging across all mediums.

Related: How to Develop a Visual Theme for Your Instagram Business Profile

Retro, vintage and floral-themed designs

Nostalgia continues to be a big draw across verticals. But if the ‘80s-inspired designs are not for you, you can go even further back and adopt vintage and floral-themed designs.

This is already a popular design trend and promises to grow even further in 2018. The influence can be seen across verticals and mediums.

For example, Polaroid’s website and product designs evoke a distinctly retro vibe. This is in line with the brand’s heritage and messaging — ‘the original’.

Polaroid’s marketing images have a clear retro vibe, reinforcing the brand’s nostalgia-inspired messaging

The vintage and floral-themed design trend is clear in this rebranding for Fiore:

Fiore’s vintage and floral-inspired design match the brand’s positioning as an old-school restaurant

For a sampling of vintage-inspired design with a modern take, take a look at this craft beer rebranding for Marina:

Marina’s craft beer brand uses bold, modern fonts with vintage-inspired backgrounds and colors

That’s for physical products. What about online shops?

Here’s one example of floral design use from Folklorious, an online boutique. Note how the brand blends ‘80s, retro and vintage themes to create something truly unique:

Folklorious’ branding uses floral motifs and strong typography

If you do update your brand design for 2018, ensure that you also update your messaging to match the new design. A retro-themed design with future-inspired messaging doesn’t work (and vice-versa). There should be consistency in how you use your brand design.

Related: How To Create An Awesome Logo For Your Brand

Conclusion

New marketing and branding trends emerge each year. Some fade away, some stick around. As a small business owner, you should seek to spot trends that have staying power, yet are unique enough to help you stand out from the competition.

Start by picking up a few trends for 2018 listed above. You can adopt transparency and authenticity in your messaging and back it up by embracing live video. If your brand hasn’t had a refresh in a few years, it might also be time to update your designs and messaging to some of the trends shared above.

Also read: Why Being Strange Is Good for Sales: Lessons From a Bikini Brand

About The Author
Jesse is the Marketing Manager at Ecwid and has been in e-commerce and internet marketing since 2006. He has experience with PPC, SEO, conversion optimization and loves to work with entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality.

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