How to define and build brand DNA in 9 practical steps

Brand DNA

Have you clearly defined your brand DNA? If not, now’s the time to start. After all, a strong brand is crucial in today’s competitive world. Your brand is how you connect with your target audience, attract loyalty, and differentiate yourself from endless similar companies. 

Now, more than ever, your brand determines the success of your organization. Consumers have access to countless different companies, all selling similar products and solutions. They only way to convince your audience to choose you over the competition, is to connect with them on a deeper level.

A brand allows you to do this. It helps you craft a narrative that tells your customer everything they need to know about your mission, and purpose. Most importantly, it builds connections by showing your customers that you share their values and interests. 

Around 77% of customers now say they specifically buy from brands who share their values. 

But a brand is more than just a name and logo. Your identity is made up of various different building blocks, just like the DNA in a human being shapes their image, behaviors, and other factors.

To build a truly effective brand, you need to get every strand of your brand DNA aligned. Here’s your step-by-step guide to defining and building brand DNA. 

What is the definition of DNA for brands?

To fully understand brand DNA, we first need to take a closer look at DNA on a broader level. So, what does DNA stand for? On a scientific level, DNA stands for “deoxyribonucleic acid”. It’s basically the substance that carries genetic information in the cells of a body. 

DNA makes people, animals, and even plants what they are. Real DNA carries the genetic information for how you look, behave, and function in the world – it’s the essence of you

Similarly, brand DNA is the stuff that shapes your brand. It’s made up of all the little components that make your business unique, from your brand purpose to your promise, and positioning. 

Strong brand DNA guides the growth and development of your company, defining who you are as a company, what you do, and how you’ll evolve in the years to come. 

If you can define your brand DNA effectively, and share it with your customers, you can build an emotional connection with them that lasts a lifetime. 

Think of defining and building brand DNA as establishing the genetic code that shapes the way your company presents itself to the world. 

Brand DNA

The benefits of strong brand DNA

Brand DNA is something that develops in any company, whether you like it or not. Every company has a brand identity, even if it hasn’t invested in choosing a target market, or developing a clear messaging strategy. 

When you launch a business with no brand DNA strategy, you have no control over what your customers think about you, and how you’re perceived. On the other hand, if you invest in developing the right DNA for your brand, you shape the “entity” your business becomes. 

Unlike actual DNA, brand DNA is something you can control to a certain extent. You can shape your personality and image to reach the right potential customers. 

Building a strong brand DNA strategy means your company benefits from:

  • Consistency: When you define your brand DNA, or the core components of your brand’s identity, you can align your team and marketing strategies around a specific vision. This ensures you can deliver consistent experiences and messages to your audience. 
  • Brand loyalty: Components of your brand DNA, such as your tone of voice, messaging strategy, and behaviors influence how customers feel about your brand. You can build an emotional connection that drives greater brand equity, and ensures successful growth.
  • Differentiation: Strong brand DNA helps you to showcase and define what sets you apart from your competition. It’s a way to make yourself more memorable in the eyes of your customers, and earn a larger market share. 
Brand DNA

How to define and build brand DNA in 9 steps

Now you know what brand DNA is, and the benefits of developing a successful brand code, it’s time to define and develop your own brand’s DNA. There are quite a few steps involved in this process. After all, there are different strands of your DNA to consider. 

You need more than just a compelling logo and a great set of brand colors. You also need to think about your marketing strategy, tone of voice, brand personality, and more. 

Here’s your step-by-step guide to defining and building brand DNA. 

Step 1: Find your mission, values, and purpose

Various internal positioning documents form the foundation of your brand DNA. Before you start working on logos or marketing strategies, you need to get to know your brand on a fundamental level. In other words, define what you stand for, what you do, and what you want to accomplish. 

For most companies, it makes sense to start with the “why” behind your brand, or your brand purpose. What do you want to accomplish with your business aside from making money?

Nike doesn’t just want to make money selling activewear. They want to inspire everyone to become an athlete and improve their physical health. 

Once you understand the reason that drives your existence, create your:

  • Mission statement: Highlight what you want to achieve in clear terms, and outline how you’re going to accomplish your goals. Your mission statement should outline what your company does, how it does it, and why it does it. 
  • Core values: Your brand core values dive a little deeper into “how” you’re going to achieve your purpose. For instance, if your technology company values innovation, then you’ll invest heavily in research and development strategies. 
  • Positioning statement: How will you position your company in your chosen industry? Are you building a luxury brand? Do you want to be seen as a friendly, accessible, and affordable brand for a specific market?

Step 2: Define your target audience and customer personas

Although we’re calling this step 2, you’ll usually define your target audience and user personas when you’re building your initial mission and positioning statements. After all, your brand should be built to specifically appeal to a certain group of consumers. 

Knowing your target audience, their needs, pain points, and expectations, ensures you can build a brand DNA that resonates with the people you want to reach. 

There are a few ways to start gathering information about your target audience. You can start with market research, looking at the different groups, segments, and potential buyers in your industry. It’s also worth taking a closer look at your competitors. 

Think about the types of customers they target, and how they position themselves to align with those groups. If you’ve already launched your business, collect insights into your customers and their preferences, goals, and pain points through surveys and interviews. 

Using all the information you collect, create “ideal customer” profiles, that outline all of the behavioral, psychographic, and demographic components of your perfect customer

Step 3: Clearly outline your value proposition

Now you have a clear view of your customers, and the core building blocks of your brand DNA (mission, values, and purpose), it’s time to differentiate yourself. 

The best way to do this is to start with a competitor analysis. Find the companies who share a similar audience to you, or offer similar products, and ask yourself what they do best. What do they offer that your business doesn’t, and what can you offer that they can’t?

Which specific brand characteristics are going to make you more appealing to the customers you want to reach. For instance, other companies might offer similar products at cheaper prices, but you might differentiate yourself with an excellent approach to customer service. 

Maybe your products or services feature different benefits, or unique aspects that set you apart from other vendors in your market. 

Your value proposition should also contribute to your positioning statement, helping you to define where you exist in the context of your wider chosen market. 

Step 4: Clarify your brand personality

Your brand DNA essentially gives you a way to humanize your brand. It turns a corporation into an entity people can resonate with. This means, just like a person, your brand needs a personality. 

Defining a brand personality can be a little complex, but if you already have a clear view of your purpose, and your target audience, you should already have the building blocks you need. A good personality will convey the essence of your brand to your customers. 

It should also resonate with the people you want to reach, sharing aspects of the “personalities” of your customers. Just like you built a persona for your customers, build a persona for your brand.

If your company was a person, how would it think, act, and behave? Would your company be a rebel, like BrewDog, or an innovator like Tesla?

What’s the story behind your company? How has it evolved over the years, and what is it striving towards in the decades to come? 

Once you answer these questions, think about your tone of voice. How will your company speak to your target audience? Will you use slang and simple terms in your content, or are you going to be more formal and authoritative? 

Step 5: Build your visual identity

A lot of business owners make the mistake of trying to create a “visual identity” before they really have a strong brand strategy in place. However, you can only really decide how you’re going to present your brand to customers visually once you’ve built the foundations of your brand DNA. 

Your brand image, such as your logo and color palette, isn’t just there to attract eyes. It should contribute to the story you’re telling your customers about who you are and what you stand for. 

It needs to highlight the essence of the brand you’re building, resonating with customers through the use of evocative colors, and shapes. 

Using what you already know about your brand story, promise, and personality, your target audience, and your unique selling proposition, create your:

  • Color palette: Which colors will define your brand? Colors have an emotional impact on any audience. Different shades convey different ideas and feelings. Blue is calming while red is bold and energetic. Choosing a signature color palette increases brand recognition by 80%
  • Typography: Just like colors, the typography you use on your website and other marketing materials can convey your brand’s style and personality. Sans-serif fonts are more modern, while serif fonts appear authoritative and professional. 
  • Imagery: What kind of images will you use in your marketing campaigns? Will you rely heavily on photos, or animations and illustrations? What kind of colors and filters will you use to help convey your brand identity?
  • Logo: How will you combine all of the elements of your brand DNA into a single image that reflects exactly what you stand for? What shapes will you use? How will you ensure your logo is easily identifiable and recognizable?

Make sure you have a clear set of brand guidelines that provide insights into all of these visual elements for your team. This will help to ensure consistency in your brand story

Step 6: Review your brand DNA

Before you start sharing your brand DNA with your team, and your wider audience, it’s worth getting together with the executives in your business and conducting a quick review. 

Check to see whether your brand DNA is:

  • Sustainable: A brand DNA should be enduring and durable. Your entire identity can’t be built around a trend. You need to ensure your brand’s values, mission, purpose, and personality can all grow with your organization.
  • Authentic: Honesty and authenticity are crucial to the success of any brand. Make sure you can live up to your brand promise. Don’t just tell your customers that your brand is all about innovation, then avoid ever making any changes to your product line. 
  • Unique: Is your brand uniquely yours? You can take inspiration from other companies in your industry, but there should always be core elements of your company that make you exceptional or different. 

Step 7: Master internal communications

Your brand DNA doesn’t just influence what customers think and feel about you. It also acts as a guiding compass for your employees, stakeholders, investors, and other internal contacts. For your DNA to be strong, you need to share your brand codes with your team effectively. 

Start by making sure your employees and other stakeholders have a clear view of your brand strategy, mission statement, purpose, and values. You can create documents and training resources that cover everything from your brand story to your future business plan. 

Create documents that show your team members how to convey the unique aspects of your brand in marketing materials. These could include visual brand guidelines, with insights into color palettes and hex codes, and editorial guidelines that outline your tone of voice. 

Encourage feedback from your team too. Ask them to share their insights and ideas about how you can elevate your brand and business strategy. Allow new team members to ask questions about your brand DNA, and make sure you constantly monitor internal alignment.

Remember, more than two thirds of businesses say a consistent brand has helped them grow their revenue by at least 10%. Team alignment is crucial to preserving a consistent identity. 

Step 8: Develop your marketing collateral

Now you have all the basic elements of your brand DNA in place, and your team members are on the same page, you can begin to highlight your brand assets through your marketing collateral. 

You might start with offline assets, such as business cards, signage for your stores, and employee uniforms. Or you could focus initially on the online world, developing your business website, your social media profiles, and your content marketing strategy. 

Ensure your marketing department is clear in your brand positioning, and the tone of voice they should be implementing into each campaign. 

All of your marketing materials shouldn’t just boost brand awareness, they should also consistently draw attention to your value proposition and personality. Make it easy for your customers to identify your brand values, unique selling propositions, and your vision. 

Step 9: Monitor and measure brand success

Unfortunately, developing your brand DNA isn’t something you can just do once and forget about. There are various factors that can cause your brand DNA to mutate over time if you’re not careful. Changing economic environments and perceptions can influence your brand identity. 

With that in mind, ensure you have a strategy in place for constantly tracking your reputation, your connection with customers, and the perception of your brand. 

Pay attention to brand awareness metrics, like website traffic, social media reach, and search engine visibility. Examine your evolving brand equity by looking at customer loyalty metrics like referrals, customer retention, and repeat purchases. 

Additionally, keep your finger on the pulse of brand perception. You can use social monitoring tools to track brand mentions and discover how consumers are talking about your brand. Or you might read reviews, send out surveys, and connect with customers on social media for more insights. 

If your brand DNA starts to become disjointed or problematic, make sure you have a plan for how you can bring everything back into alignment. 

Brand DNA

Brand DNA examples: Insights into brand DNA

Developing strong brand DNA can be a complex process. The DNA of your brand is a dynamic thing, made up of multiple factors that can change and evolve over time. If you’re struggling to develop your own brand DNA, taking inspiration from other companies can be helpful. 

Here are some great examples of companies with clearly defined brand DNA.

Brand DNA

1. Apple

Apple isn’t just one of the most successful companies in the world, it’s also one of the most recognizable. The company’s brand DNA is rooted in a mission and purpose to create cutting-edge technology that enhances the lives of its users. 

Apple showcases its brand DNA through a clean, minimalistic, and modern visual identity, from its iconic logo to its streamlined color palette. Apple’s brand positioning strategy focuses on luxury and innovation, setting the company apart from its competitors. 

Even the brand voice of Apple is instantly recognizable. The company uses simple language, and speaks in an authoritative, confident tone. 

Brand DNA

2. Starbucks

Another of the best brand DNA examples comes from Starbucks, one of the world’s leading coffee companies. Starbucks positions itself not just as a coffee maker, but as an experience company. Starbucks stores are designed to deliver a distinct, community-driven atmosphere. 

The Starbucks logo, featuring the iconic siren, reminds us of how compelling and seductive the company’s products are. Plus, the company’s strong brand identity is enhanced by its approach to interacting with its community and customers. 

Starbucks invests heavily in community involvement, promoting social responsibility through initiatives like environmental stewardship and ethical sourcing strategies. All of these factors allow Starbucks to dominate the coffee industry, with a loyal customer base. 

Brand DNA

3. Patagonia

Outdoor clothing and gear company, Patagonia, built its unique identity around a powerful mission to not only produce clothing, but protect the environment. Patagonia’s brand DNA drives its strategy of developing high-quality, durable products, without harming the environment. 

The company’s purpose, and concept of sustainability is deeply ingrained into everything Patagonia does. The brand transparently shares insights into its business practices, supply chains, and environmental initiatives, to earn the trust of its consumers. 

Plus, the company stands out in a competitive landscape by focusing less on “selling products” and more on activating a community of followers that care about the environment. 

Defining your brand DNA

Your brand DNA is the culmination of all the things that makes your company unique, impactful, and powerful. Just like real DNA, your brand’s DNA shapes the essence of your company, defining your image, actions, and behaviors. 

With a strong insight into your brand DNA, you can ensure you’re building an entity that resonates with your target audience on a deeper level, strengthening your market position. 

Throughout the life of your brand, your DNA will influence everything you do, from your content strategy to the new products you create. It’s one of the most important elements of building a successful business. 

Of course, identifying and refining your brand DNA isn’t without its challenges. If you’re struggling to find the genetic code of your brand, reach out to Fabrik, to find out how we can help you with the creation of brand DNA that will help your business thrive for years to come.

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Stewart Hodgson
Stewart Hodgson
Our co-founder, Stewart, is responsible for content strategy and managing Fabrik’s publishing team. It’s up to Stewart to bring Fabrik to busy marketers’ attention. As a regular contributor to Brand Fabrik, Stewart creates articles relevant to anyone in branding, marketing and creative communication.

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