"Your brand is the magnet that draws consumers to your product or service," says Ken Carbone of Manhattan design and branding firm Carbone Smolan Agency. Here are five rules of attraction:
1. Understand the value of designing your brand identity.
"Make it a priority and find money to invest in it right away," agency co-founder Leslie Smolan says. "So many people have a business idea, ask their cousin to design a logo and say, 'That's my brand.' It's a mistake. Your brand often is the most important thing beyond the product itself."
2. Know yourself.
"Start with your company's identity," Smolan says. "What is the singular expression of your brand distilled down to its simplest form? You must define the essence of your philosophy."
3. Consider branding from the outset.
"Aether Apparel came to us before they started product development," Carbone recalls. "They had the idea to create highly technical garments used for outdoor sports, but with high-quality design. Because they understood the spirit of the company and its value to potential customers, we were able to help them build the brand first, and the messaging and strategy were in place before the first product came off the production line. The brand is now a huge success."
4. Choose your design partner carefully.
"Chemistry is important," Smolan says. "Sometimes small entrepreneurs don't get the attention they need, so make sure you work with someone who cares about you and your business, and who really gets you."
5. Stay true to yourself.
"Brands evolve. Apple has changed quite a bit, but those changes are always planned and have been very well-nurtured over the decades," Carbone says. "You must make sure that your company's fundamental tenets and beliefs are intact, and only fine-tuned by changes in culture, society and customer taste. Authenticity is the keystone of any successful brand."
Chicago-based writer Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of Fiercemobile content, a daily electronic newsletter dedicated to mobile media, applications and marketing.