How important is having a brand? Well, if you’ve ever opted for the pricier brand-name medication instead of its generic version—despite both having the same thing in them—or paid a pretty penny for a designer handbag, you know firsthand the power a brand can hold.
One study found that the average consumer buys the more expensive brand-name headache medication over the generic one 26% of the time, whereas pharmacists do so only 9% of the time. That’s because pharmacists are well aware of the fact that the FDA says both products do the same thing.
This preference for brand names extends to fashion too. A series of experiments found that people wearing clothing featuring a luxury brand label are more likely to be treated better and perceived as having a higher status than people wearing identical clothing without the luxury brand label.
So why do we love recognizable brands so much? The answer to this is one of the keys to your ecommerce store’s success. We’re about to dig into this phenomenon with an instructional video and blog post, and figure out exactly how you can use it to your advantage Read on!
What Is a Brand, Anyway?
When we see the word “brand,” most of us think of logos, colors, taglines, and the like. But as serial ecommerce entrepreneur Gretta van Riel points out, “A brand isn’t just your branding—it’s not just a name, a logo, or even a product.”
To help you understand why having a brand for your online store is so crucial to its success, we asked Gretta to record a video for the Foundr community on this very topic. Gretta has founded four multimillion-dollar ecommerce stores and is the instructor of Foundr’s Start & Scale course.
Before we dig deep into the details of creating a strong ecommerce brand, be sure to watch Gretta’s video below:
Now that you’ve got the bird’s eye view, let’s walk through each of Gretta’s points in detail.
So, what is a brand? There are many definitions out there, but the best one I’ve found is from Seth Godin, who says, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Your brand is certainly made up of your name, logo, and product, but as Gretta added in the video, overall, it is people’s perception of your business—the associations they tie to it, the experiences they’ve had with it.
Why Is Having a Brand Important?
As Seth Godin pointed out in the quote above, your brand has the power to persuade a consumer to buy your product over someone else’s.
If you just want to make some money in the short-term, as Gretta says in the video, then having a brand isn’t important. You can just put up a website and sell someone else’s items. But if you want to create something that lasts, having a brand matters immensely.
“I want to build something longer-term and more sustainable,” Gretta says. “Then, one day, if I want to, I want to be able to sell it, not just for a sales multiple. I want to be able to create the brand equity and goodwill that will skyrocket the valuation of my company.”
In short, having a brand creates equity in your business, builds trust with your audience, and boosts the value of your company.
Want to Learn How to Start & Grow a Profitable Online Store in 12 Weeks? Sign Up for Our FREE Masterclass taught by Gretta Van Riel!
How to Create an Ecommerce Brand
So now that you see why having a brand is important, let’s dive into how to create an ecommerce brand.
The Four V’s: Vision, Values, Voice, and Visuals
In her video, Gretta walks us through “The Four V’s,” which are vision, values, voice, and visuals. “The end goal is to build a memorable and long-lasting relationship with your customer,” she says.
According to Love + Money—an award-winning digital branding agency that’s worked with Polaroid, Frank Body, and the Sydney Opera House—brand vision is what your business aspires to achieve beyond your bottom line. You should be proud to share this vision with shareholders, employees, and consumers.
To find your brand vision, revisit the problem your product set out to solve. For example, let’s look at a reusable coffee cup company. It solves the problem of environmental damage caused by waste from disposable cups. So the brand vision could be to encourage the use of reusable items to decrease disposable waste and protect our environment.
Unlike a mission statement, a vision statement focuses on the future, on the world you hope to see if your business keeps solving the problem you set out to solve.
Think about what’s truly important to you and your audience. Following the reusable coffee cup example, the brand values might revolve around the environment, transparency, and the customer. Gretta especially loves Warby Parker’s values.
To find your brand values, take a look at what you’re already doing in your business operations, and ask yourself why you’re doing it. For example, do you have a policy that says every customer support email must be answered within one hour? If so, one of your brand values might be to give the customer the best experience possible. Or, do you donate 10% of your proceeds to a charity that teaches girls to code? If so, one of your brand values might be to empower women to get involved in tech.
For every value you write down, find a concrete example of how your brand is living that value. Native, which sells natural deodorant, does a great job at this. One of its brand values is “unquestionably safe ingredients.” That’s a bold claim—and they back it up with proof of how they do it. They work with PhDs and former NASA rocket engineers to investigate ingredients.
If you’re still struggling to come up with values, Gretta recommends researching other brands you love. It’s likely their values will resonate with you and give you some inspiration.
Your brand voice could be corporate, funny, irreverent, friendly, casual, or any other number of descriptors. To find your brand voice, Gretta recommends starting with your brand’s personality. According to Love + Money, “Every brand has a personality. If it doesn’t have a personality, it’s not a brand—it’s just a logo.”
To delve into a brand’s personality, Love + Money uses the Millward Brown index, which breaks down human interests into traits that form 10 brand archetypes. These archetypes are:
- Rebel: Rebellious
- Hero: Adventurous, brave
- Wise: Trustworthy
- Stability: In control, assertive
- Mother: Caring, generous
- Friend: Straightforward, friendly
- Maiden: Innocent, kind
- Seductress: Desirable, sexy
- Dreamer: Idealistic, creative
- Joker: Fun, playful
As you read through that list, you might have thought of some brands that would fit into each label. For instance, with its tongue-in-cheek videos and hilarious copy for its “butt wipes” product, Dollar Shave Club might fit the Joker archetype.
And as a marketplace for handmade goods with an emphasis on empowering makers to do what they love, Etsy seems like the Dreamer archetype.
Gretta advises you to pick one or two archetypes that you think your brand should embody. This will help guide you to your brand voice.
It also helps to consider to whom your brand is speaking. If your target audience is corporate executives, you might consider a formal brand voice, whereas if your target audience is college students, a casual voice makes more sense.
We’ve finally arrived at the thing most people think of when they think of a brand—the visuals! This could be your logo, color palette, typography, fonts, or visual branded content.
When creating your brand visuals, should you hire an agency, a freelance designer, or do it yourself? The option you choose will largely depend on your budget. Obviously, doing it yourself will be the cheapest option, but if you lack a design background, there will be a steep learning curve, and quality will probably be low. Hiring a freelance designer for a branding package will likely cost you a couple thousand dollars. And hiring a branding agency will easily cost you in the five digits.
If your budget is tight (or nonexistent), here are some resources to help you hire someone for relatively cheap or DIY your brand visuals:
- 99designs – With this contest-based platform, you can submit a request for what you need designed, and then multiple designers will compete with their submissions. From there, you get to select the winner from the pool of designs. Plus, there’s a 100% money-back guarantee. A logo design contest starts at $299, while a logo + brand identity pack starts at $599.
- Fiverr – If you’re looking for something a lot cheaper, try Fiverr. You can search its pool of freelancers, and gigs typically start at just $5.
- Canva – Canva is great if you want to design social media graphics, flyers, or other marketing collateral on your own—even if you have no design experience! In fact, Canva is made for the non-designers out there who still want to create their own beautiful visuals. It has a host of free templates, icons, and photos you can use. Canva has a free version, but upgrading to Canva for Work allows you to save your brand colors and logo and upload special fonts.
But what if you’re ready to really invest in your branding? Then you should look into hiring a freelance designer or working with a branding agency. Gretta spoke with Charl Laubscher, the director of Love + Money, about what a good starting point is for ecommerce startups.
“Not all businesses need a full brand strategy,” Charl says. “What all businesses do need is a clear idea of what, why, and how they’re doing.”
Because of this, Love + Money offers most startups a Brand 101, which is:
- Short enough to be understood easily
- Sharp enough to clearly differentiate your business
- Fluid enough to include what will be pertinent for your business
And remember, if you’re in the early stages of your ecommerce business, it’s completely normal to start with DIYing your brand visuals. Once you’re turning a profit, you can think about investing in a professional.
Brand Positioning and Unique Value Proposition
At the end of her video, Gretta brings up an essential part of successful ecommerce stores: brand positioning. According to EquiBrand Consulting, brand positioning is “the conceptual place you want to own in the target consumer’s mind—the benefits you want them to think of when they think of your brand.”
To develop your positioning statement, try this template from HubSpot:
For who , provides because
So using Gretta’s example of a disposable coffee cup, we could create a positioning statement for a fictional company that reads: “For coffee lovers who want to reduce waste and protect the environment, Koffee Kontainer provides a reusable coffee cup that gives back to the earth by reducing disposable cup waste and donating 10% of proceeds to environmental charities.”
Gretta also encourages you to create a Unique Value Proposition, or UVP. Entrepreneur Steve Blank defines this as “a single, clear, compelling message that states why you are different and worth buying.”
For example, Gretta’s watch company The 5TH is different, because it sells only on the fifth of each month for five days.
So find your point of difference and make sure your audience knows it. A UVP will help you get clear on what makes your brand special as well as help you communicate it to others succinctly.
If you’re having a hard time finding your point of difference, Gretta urges you to think about the problem you’re solving and play with four different aspects to see how you can solve it in a different way. Those four aspects are:
- Design. You could look at personalization or customization trends. For example, The Daily Edited allows you to customize their accessories by choosing a font and the text.
- Function. Try solving an existing pain point with your product. Gretta gives the example of if you drop your iPhone a lot, creating a protective phone case, or if you take a lot of selfies, creating a case that offers the perfect lighting.
- Price: Ask yourself if you want to sell at a lower, direct-to-consumer price point (which makes your product more accessible to the masses) or a higher price point (which is ideal for luxury brands).
- Time: Experiment with when you sell your product and how long it’s available. This was a huge reason Gretta’s brand The 5TH took off so quickly. By limiting the watches’ availability to only five days per month, the brand created scarcity and increased the watches’ perceived value.
Want to Learn How to Start & Grow a Profitable Online Store in 12 Weeks? Sign Up for Our FREE Masterclass taught by Gretta Van Riel!
Your Ecommerce Brand Is Why Your Customers Will Choose You Over Your Competitors
By now, I hope you’ve come to see that a brand is so much more than pretty colors or fancy logos—it’s what sets you apart from businesses selling similar products.
As Gretta covered in her video, creating an ecommerce brand begins with defining your Four V’s (vision, values, voice, and visuals) and then deciding on your brand positioning and writing your UVP.
Whether you choose to DIY your brand or hire a branding agency, you now have the tools to lay the foundation that will help you create the associations and experiences that will draw customers to you, and have them choose you again and again.
Have you created a brand for your ecommerce business? And if so, did you DIY or hire a professional? Share your experience in the comments below!