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How to Build a Brand: Best Practices From 'Breakthrough' Brands

In business, branding is everything. Establishing a distinctive voice and image is especially important for new startups hoping to differentiate their company from the competition. Branding and marketing experts recently converged at the New York Stock Exchange to discuss just how critical branding is and how certain brands have managed to quickly build customer loyalty despite being the new kids on the block.

At the Interbrand Breakthough Brands summit, Alex Lirtsman, founding partner and chief strategist at digital agency Ready Set Rocket, reviewed the key considerations for assessing a brand’s impact, “How strong is their brand? How differentiated is their brand? How well do they understand their audience?”

“I think any successful business, whether you’re large or small, you have to start with a forensic understanding of your customer,” said Jez Frampton, global CEO at Interbrand.

Consumer tastes and preferences in related product categories can also provide companies with a more complete picture of their customer. Fashion designer John Varvatos has long aligned his brand with rock and indie musicians. According to Scott Lux, VP of digital and e-commerce, looking at what’s trending outside of one’s industry can provide worthwhile insights. “We met with a potential partner a couple weeks ago, that pulls in all type of pop culture data and affinity to that. So for example, we can take our customer profile and match it with their data, and that can guide partnerships. It can guide who we look at for musicians that we work with at events.”

For many brands, authenticity is essential for sustaining brand loyalty. “We are all about creating a dialogue and being ourselves, that’s what people want, right? They don’t want to talk to some faceless, corporate brand,” said Edwin Bragg, VP of marketing and communications for the mega-popular hamburger chain, Shake Shack. The company has an active presence on all of the major social media platforms. “We really have fun with it, and our personality and our voice shines through. People want to see the behind-the-scenes, the whimsical moments and really get access to everything we’re about,” he added.

“I actually hate the word ‘customer acquisition’ because it makes it sound transactional,” said Jennie Baik, co-founder and CEO of online fashion retailer Orchard Mile. “It’s really about customer cultivation,” she noted. “My co-founders and I write thank you notes individually to every single person who shops on the site.” In another effort to move beyond purely transactional exchanges, visitors to the Orchard Mile website will also find a “Stories” section that includes interviews with fashion designers and influencers.

“Ultimately brands are stories,” said Frampton, “They should be a story that unfolds every single day. Any social media strategy, any strategy, related to the building of your brand and your business has to build on that story.”