Branding – where do I begin, and what is ‘brand DNA’?

When it comes to the topic of branding, one can get slightly uncertain on where to start and how to bring about the essence and identity of your business or product. Branding experts have coined the term ‘Brand DNA’ to explain how some brands of the same product can stand apart from each other. From cars to food (e.g. Pizza Hut VS Dominoes), phones to spectacle shops, paper notebooks (e.g. Moleskine) to laptops, how can you offer something different, something unique that a customer can remember, it all depends on your brand.

Branding is intangible, but fret not, these steps below will help you get your footing right on the essence of branding. There are 2 questions that you should ask yourself,

1. What are you selling? Utility or experience, or both? – product

2. Who are your customers? What are they like, what do they like? – customers

The steps below go in-depth on the two questions about your customers and your business.

1. Purpose of your business – (product)

Be it a product or a service, your business is out here for a reason. Aside from making money, you are serving a gap in a market, to a consumer who hopefully will be your loyal customer in the long run. Is your product a utility that helps customers solve daily problems, or it is more of a lifestyle item like a leather bag?

If it is a utility centric business, something ‘boring’ like a set of drilling machine, look at existing branding campaigns, e.g. how Home Depot showcases their DIY tools, humour usually helps in bringing life to mechanical items for the masses. If your business falls under lifestyle category, find your niche and profile your customers into personas, which brings us to our next point.

2. Profile your customers into personas – (customers)

Good design is liken to good customer service. You may argue that the definiteiton of ‘good’ is subjective to many, and to all.  Some people prefer the fuss-free and quick service, like a 10mins QB House express haircut, while others prefer a more personalised offering, a two hour blow-dry service coupled with a head massage, preferably with his or her favourite magazines in tow. Profiling your customers into personas helps you to understand the kind of images to include in the website. Personas include age, gender, profession, interest, hobbies etc.

3. Mass appeal vs Niche – (customers)

Whether or not you’re just starting out or already an owner of a few stores, acknowledging your consumer preference is key to developing content on site.

Let’s compare these two spectacle brand in Singapore, OWNDAYS and O+, as case studies:

OWNDAYS is a spectacle brand name that has a number of stores around the island.


OWNDAYS website caters to a variety of consumer profiles, from streetwear to office professionals. The site itself reflects functionality, fuss-free and have a more mass appeal. Notice that their website are more product centric, with zoomed-in and detailed images of the products they carry, reflecting durability and quality.


O+ on the other hand is a niche spectacle brand that probably appeals more to the creative types.


Their main site shows a scene of cafe-goers, both wearing spectacles, an image which emphasise more context than the products themselves. For niche brands, using emotional appeal with images and content serves a more lasting impression in the consumers mind. Emotional brands tend to have a more push factor, which means it creates word of mouth from one buyer to another. Functional brands tend to have a pull factor that triggers in a consumer mind when there is a need for purchase “eg. I need XY now, oh, yes brand XY-functional is nearby, i’ll grab it on my way home..”. On the other hand, an emotional brand would bring about memories such as “do you remember that wooden casing that comes with the spectacles? i love it..”

4. Create a brand story – (from product to customer)

Next, how can you create a story that will follow through your product offerings to appeal to your potential customers?

We all love a good story and we remember the good ones, like movies.

A brand is essentially a short story.

How did the business or the product came about? Where can you find it? Who are the faces and personalities behind the business? Is it family-run, home-grown or a franchise from far-away land? What is the process behind creating those products? Where does the materials come from?.. Celebs who have endorsed your products, non-profit organisations that you contribute to as a social cause, what do people say about your products, weave them all into a couple of paragraphs, a short film perhaps, and put them up onsite.

Here’s a great example by an Australian lifestyle leather accessory brand Wootten,


image via Pinterest

We recommend that you spend and invest sometime thinking about how your brand would bring about a reaction from a potential customer, a site visitor or a shop passerby. Good design, personalised photography and a good brand story goes a long way.

Zee Ng

Zee is a digital strategist who have worked in a number of online enterprise. She believes in technology and creativity that change lives for the better. When not blogging, she enjoys cafe-hopping, nature trails, being near the ocean and discovering films. Get in touch, for collaboration.