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).
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
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.
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 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.
The clothing business is often accused of exploiting
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.
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.
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.
Show off your production process
Showing off how you make your products (for physical products, of course) does two things:
- Authenticity: It makes your products come across as more authentic. This is especially important if you advertise the quality of your ingredients/raw materials.
- Storytelling: It gives you a chance to share the story of how you came up with the product, its manufacturing process, etc.
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.
It was the the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of cycling, and we were Charlie Bucket’s grandpa. This #moviemonday we’re giving you a rare sneak peek inside the @brooksengland factory in Smethwick, England, where everything operates just the way it did about 60 years ago. Be on the lookout for the full post on our blog this upcoming month. . . . . #bikeporn #missionbicycle #brooksengland #fabrication
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
Saddleback Leather, a small manufacturer of leather bags, does great behind the scenes videos of their production process. Their
Note how often the narrator (also the company’s founder) emphasizes their
Given that the company positions itself as a premium manufacturer, this behind the scenes footage is crucial for underscoring its quality and authenticity.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
Brands are also ensuring that their physical products and website designs align.
For example, Gallery & Co.’s products have the same
The goal is to be consistent with your design and messaging across all mediums.
Retro, vintage and
Nostalgia continues to be a big draw across verticals. But if the
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.
The vintage and
For a sampling of
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:
If you do update your brand design for 2018, ensure that you also update your messaging to match the new design. A
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.