The world is bursting with brand after brand. There are 30 million small businesses in the U.S. alone, which is more than the entire population of Australia—the world’s sixth-largest country. Even if only a small percentage of those companies are your competitors, that’s still an enormous number to find yourself up against. To succeed, you’re going to have to set yourself apart from the off, or else face drowning among the deluge of brands.

Be original

The most obvious way to stand out is simply to be original. Copying your competitors or using tired clichés in your messaging will make you instantly forgettable and won’t encourage anyone to pick you over other brands. You need to find an angle of your own, and emphasize it in any way you can, from your brand name and logo, to your company mission and advertising campaigns.

Since your name defines your business and is what people will first associate with your brand, this should be your starting point. Devising an original brand name can be as simple as creating acronyms (think HSBC, which stands for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation), using foreign words (think Häagen-Dazs), or making a portmanteau by combining words (think Netflix).

It is important these days to think about if your brand name is original enough to for the corresponding .com domain to be available too. If it’s already taken, online domain generator tools can be a great way to gain inspiration for alternatives, and many will also tell you whether your chosen brand name has a free domain name to match. Brandable domain company Novanym’s business name generator is intended for prospective business owners, taking a user’s chosen keyword, brand sector, and selected name style to offer a range of relevant domain names and their prices. This helps identify potential business names and gauge the cost of buying the corresponding domain, informing any future purchasing decisions.

Your logo is equally important, as a visual symbol that people associate with your brand, and should again encapsulate what your company is all about. Again though, it can’t be a derivative design if it is to scream ‘you’. It is certainly worth consulting professional designers who can help turn your initial ideas into fully-fledged designs before actually creating the logos.

Tell a compelling story

A compelling brand story does so much more than just sell products—it connects people to your brand and makes it memorable. Storytelling is a powerful tool of communication and puts us as an audience into the place of a story’s subject, allowing us to feel and experience it. Indeed, research has shown that stories activate a release of neurotransmitters in our brains, which creates a chemical connection to the storyteller, and solidifies in our minds what they are saying.

What’s more, by conveying your brand’s personality and what it stands for, you demonstrate that you represent more than just your products and making money—you have a mission. This lets you show your human side, and build up empathy and trust among your audience, which ensures that they care about your brand. Most pertinently, it is unique to you, which helps further differentiate between who you are and what you do.

To create your own brand story, you need to present your brand journey, what is at its core, and exactly what it stands for. A good example of a brand story is that of SoulCycle, a US-based fitness brand. SoulCycle says its original vision was “to create an alternative to the fitness routines that felt like work”, by delivering “an inspirational, meditative fitness experience”. This narrative of eschewing boring fitness classes anchors all of its marketing campaigns, capturing the company’s essence and distinguishing it from the other fitness brands. So, think about the story behind your brand, and find a way to convey this to potential customers.

Create memorable customer experiences

Customer experience (CX) is a cornerstone of brand memorability—in fact, a study by CX consulting company Walker states that it will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the end of 2020. A positive perception of these experiences helps to build memories and good-will among customers, again making your brand more likely to stay in their minds ahead of your competitors.

There are a huge number of ways you can create memorable customer experiences. One crucial method is creating an engaging website—for instance, incorporating chatbots to handle customer questions right away, or making use of interactive images or timelines. Another is by using social media to engage with your followers. It’s essential that you respond to queries and complaints on any platform, but social media also lets you encourage further interactions, such as incentivising followers to post content about your brand, which you can retweet in exchange for a promotional gift, or running contests.

If you have a physical store, providing memorable customer experiences is just as important there. That’s why many retailers host in-store events —for instance, some bookstores host signings with authors, while sports retailers often run fitness classes. You could also create immersive experiences. Take Virgin Holidays, who allow customers to view prospective holiday destinations through virtual reality goggles, giving them a taste of their dream destination.

Simon Davies is a freelance journalist interested in marketing, tech and small business. Follow him at @SimonTheoDavies.

Brand stock photo by design36/Shutterstock