From all the people I have worked with over the years in helping to build their brands, the one thing that they have all been surprised with is how long the process takes. How long it takes to build a brand depends on many varying factors, all of which can change in an instant, but there are some general timelines that I often when building a brand.
Building a brand usually takes anywhere from approximately 2 – 5 years, depending on a wide variety of factors. Smaller, freelance-type personal brands can take as little as 2 years, in some cases even less, while bigger corporations can take anywhere from 5 to 10 years to build up and establish a successful brand.
With that being said, it’s worth diving deeper into the process and examine the factors that can influence your timeline. It’s also worth going through the fundamental steps in the brand-building process and put a timeline on each phase to help you get a better idea of the big picture before you get started.
Factors That Influence Timelines
Building a brand into a successful business is not an easy task and can take a long time. There are however instances where you can find success fairly quickly, largely because of the more modern, technological advantages and the fast-paced environment we’re living in today, compared to more traditional business models from yesteryear.
There are many factors that influence the timeline of building up a brand like the type of business, the industry you will be operating in, the resources at your disposal like capital and manpower dedicated to the process, your competition in the marketplace, your level of commitment, etc.
Type of Business
The type of business you are starting, or thinking about starting, is one of the primary factors that can influence your timeline.
If you are starting a personal brand as a freelance graphic designer, you could essentially build up your brand fairly quickly compared to if you are setting out to create the next big competitor to Apple or Coca Cola for example.
It’s also worth pointing out that just because certain brands can be developed quicker than others, doesn’t necessarily make them easier to build. Each type of business comes with its own benefits and, challenges and it also depends on you, your expertise, your experience, your commitment, and various other factors.
Building up a brand that takes much longer can also end up being vastly more profitable and there are many things to consider. The best advice I can give is to follow your passion and build a brand that you will be willing to put everything into to, in order to make it succeed.
The type of industry can also heavily influence your timeline. If you are considering manufacturing a specific product, then the product itself will have its own timeline in terms of research and development, conceptualization, prototyping, introducing it to the market, etc. If you are creating a brand in a service-based industry, you will potentially have fewer obstacles to overcome, which can influence your timeline differently.
A freelance graphic designer or writer could essentially build up their brands in a shorter timespan than a new car manufacturer for example. But then again there are many factors that could influence this, and benefits and challenges to each industry and business.
The type and amount of resources you have to invest in the brand-building process can also heavily influence your timeline to a successful brand. That being said, the more money you spend on building your brand doesn’t guarantee it will be done quicker or even turn out to be a success for that matter. Similarly, the size of your team doesn’t mean it will be done quicker or better.
But in general having an adequate size, competent, dedicated team of professionals involved in your brand building process, and with an adequate budget to spend, you could greatly speed up the process compared to if you are doing it by yourself with a small budget for example.
It’s is a tricky business to strike the right balance and I’ve been involved in many projects where I had to come in and try to rescue what other creative agencies had done wrong in the early stages of brand building for some clients. So having the right people on board and spending the necessary amount of money smartly is ultimately what could lead you to a much clearer path of success.
Competition is also a very big determining factor in your brand building timeline and path to success.
Like my previous example of creating a competitor to Apple or Coca Cola, your uphill battle will be vast and the amount of time and resources you would have to invest would be much greater than setting up a private law practice in a small town with almost no competition for example.
This might seem like a very obvious factor, but worth highlighting none the less.
The level of commitment from you and your team, if you have one, will have a big impact on the timeline of your brand building process. You could have the most amazing idea and it could completely fall flat due to a lack of commitment and follow-through of the goals set out in the brand-building process.
Steps in The Brand-Building Process
Now that we’ve covered some of the most important factors that could influence your timeline when building your brand, let’s dive into the brand-building process itself and examine how long each phase takes on average.
This particular brand-building process is one that I have personally developed from all my years of experience. I divided the process into 3 main phases: Concept Phase, Creation Phase & Commitment Phase. Each phase is then further divided into various steps, that if followed correctly, should set you on your path to building a successful brand.
Phase 1: Concept (approx. 6 months – 2 years)
Just like the foundation of a house, this first phase is crucial in the success of building your brand.
You might already have an idea of the business you want to start or you don’t and are simply looking to find a need in the marketplace that hasn’t been sufficiently met yet, for which you will create the business to fulfill that need.
You will need to do the proper feasibility studies, competitor analysis, find your key differentiation that would separate you and make you stand out from your competition, craft your brand voice and personality, and create the mission and vision that will drive your business and inspire you, employees and stakeholders, to buy into and believe in your brand.
This phase could take anywhere from around 6 months to about 2 years. In some cases, it could be quicker than 6 months or even longer than 2 years, but this is what I usually see on average. Once again, smaller businesses like personal brands, for example, would normally fall on closer to the 6-month mark on the timescale, where bigger and more complex organizations like a competitor to Apple or Samsung, would fall on the 2-year end of the spectrum of this phase.
Let’s look at the steps involved in this phase and what each step entails.
This step involves discovering and crafting your big idea.
You could already have an idea of the brand you want to create in which case you would do some market research to evaluate the feasibility of your brand while giving you certain indications on how to craft your brand to fit the needs in the marketplace.
Alternatively, you might not have an idea at all and would do the necessary brainstorming and market research to find a need that is not being met in the marketplace, then craft your brand to fulfill that specific need.
You could also have a unique idea that doesn’t exist anywhere in the marketplace yet and for which the need is not their either. You would need to not only develop your idea but also develop the strategies of how to realize or create the need for your products or services in the marketplace.
Once you have decided to pursue your specific idea and compiled all the data from your market research, you would spend time on developing your basic idea.
Your market research and competitor analysis should give you some sense of where the gaps are in the market where you could place your brand. At this stage, it’s important to just put all the ideas on the table and work through it one by one over a some time until the more prominent ideas begin to take shape.
At the end of this step, you should have a basic layout and structure of your idea and where your brand would fit into the marketplace.
Defining your brand is a crucial step and forms the foundation on which your entire company will be built, along with your short and long term goals, and strategies.
This step involves defining your audience to have a clear idea of the consumers who will most likely be engaging with your brand or the customers you want to attract to your brand.
It also involves defining your key differentiators that would separate you and make you stand out from your competitors.
This is also where you would craft your brand personality, the type of emotions that you want your brand to convey along with the values that your brand represents.
Once you have all of these things, you will then craft them into a brand positioning statement, which is a unique, 1-2 sentence statement that in the simplest, yet most comprehensive way describes the service or product that your brand delivers to your specific target audience in a way that is unique in the marketplace and thereby differentiating you from your competitors.
Check out my article on How to Write a Personal Brand Positioning Statement to learn more about this important part of the brand-building process.
Phase 2: Creation (approx. 3 months – 1 year)
Once your foundations are solidly in place, it’s time to design and build your brand, just like you would your dream house.
This phase involves all of the creative designing as you work to create a visual representation of your brand’s personality, values and brand positioning in the marketplace.
This phase usually takes anywhere from about 3 months to around 1 year depending on your business but could take as little as a few weeks only or even longer than 1 year up to about 2 years. But then again, from my experience, personal brand and smaller companies take on average around 3 months on this phase whereas bigger corporations take around 1 year, typically because they have more resources pouring into the process and require so much more in terms of designs and collaterals.
The design step is where your brand’s visual identity is created, which would be a visual representation of your brand’s core principles, values, personality, and positioning.
Your brand’s visual identity is made up of your brand colors, the typography you will use throughout your brand communication, your logo, and your primary and secondary brand marks.
Once you have your brand’s visual identity designed, you need to deploy the visual concepts to all of your brand’s various collaterals that you would be using.
These collaterals include things like business cards, letterheads, envelopes, invoices, company brochures, promotional flyers, signages, email signatures, uniforms, advertisements, etc.
We are living in a digital age and it is crucial for any brand to have a solid digital presence and to utilize this medium to its fullest.
Many brands would be exclusively digital, online businesses and would not need the deployment step.
This step includes the designing and development of websites, social media accounts, social media marketing campaigns, search engine optimization, etc.
Phase 3: Commitment (approx. 1 – 3 years)
The third phase is where you have to deliver your brand to the market place through marketing and awareness campaigns, digital marketing campaigns, product launches, store openings, etc.
I have created the four steps in this phase as a big feedback loop from delivering your brand in the various campaigns, to driving those campaigns on the various media channels, to collecting and analyzing data to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your campaigns, directing and re-aligning the campaign elements in a way to be more effective in achieving the short and long term goals of your brand, to finally redesigning your campaigns based on the new directives and delivering your brand again.
This phase could take anywhere between about 1 year to around 3 years, once again depending on many factors. Although this is the average I have experienced over the years, personal brands and smaller business could take less than 1 year whereas bigger corporations could take much longer than 3 years.
This step is where you deliver your brand to the market through various campaigns and other methods.
Examples of these are traditional marketing campaigns, experiential marketing campaigns, digital marketing campaigns, search engine optimization, social media marketing campaigns, product launches, store openings, and can also include things like specific staff training on how to communicate with customers, specific promotions that communicate something about your brand, etc.
This step focusses on crafting the overall campaign strategies and designing of the campaign material and collaterals.
Now that you have your campaign ready to be rolled out, you need to find the drive them through the right channels to achieve the goals set out for the individual campaigns.
The channel selection is set out as part of the overall campaign strategy from the previous step, but this step is about ensuring that all the relevant elements are driven through the various channels in the most effective way.
Once your campaigns and/or other initiatives have been working its magic in the marketplace, it is vital to assess the impact and effect of your efforts through various assessment methods to collect the necessary data to make your determinations.
The advantage that you would have from your digital marketing campaigns compared to more traditional methods, is the sheer volume and quality real-time data you can access to assess the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. You can also make fairly quick adjustments to your digital campaigns compared to more traditional marketing methods, which is why I always encourage my clients to invest in digital while it is still very inexpensive compares to traditional media.
Just like a director on a movie set will direct the actors until they get exactly what they are looking for from a scene, you need to re-align your marketing efforts for maximum effectiveness.
This step is all about strategizing the necessary adjustments needed to improve your marketing efforts in general or towards a specific campaign, after which you will loop back to the delivery step and start again.
Whether you are just starting out and still working on some ideas or if you have an established business already, I hope you find value my brand-building process and the time it takes on average to build your brand from zero to hero.
If you have any queries about the process or any other branding related matter, feel free to make use of my Ask Anything section on this site and I’ll try to answer all of your questions. Alternatively you can contact me for any consulting needs related to branding and marketing and I’d be happy to assist.