What comes to your mind when you think of branding? A hot cattle prod? The golden arches fast approaching on the highway? Well, you’d be right! Branding is about making something your own, making it recognisable and identifiable to you personally.
What people don’t often think about though, is that branding can go a lot further than just a logo. Your brand should cover absolutely everything that you do, internally, externally and everywhere in between.
Sure, it may start with a logo and a few colours picked out of a pantone colour guide, but your brand can be so much more - don’t hold it back!
From a designers point of view, strong branding is the most important part of setting up any business. It means a consistency over every medium that you present yourself on and a strong foundation to build from in the future.
A strong brand should eliminate indifference to a product, creating a solid opinion either way. Think about the comparison between Apple products and Microsoft, people are usually big fans of one and firmly against the other. This has a lot to do with the branding created on either side which has generated emotion around the products. You want people to be evangelistic about your brand, just like they are about their favourite smartphone. At the end of the day, the ones who decide how your brand is perceived are the people interacting with it.
There are lots of little elements to consider when developing your brand. If you’ll endure an overused metaphor, you could say it’s like pieces of a puzzle coming together to complete the bigger picture. Good branding can go a long way in developing your business as a recognisable figure.
So what is there to factor into your branding?
The obvious… Logos
Creating a logo is probably your first thought when it comes to branding. It’s a great place to start. It can be a fun process, and can really start to set up some of your brands initial guidelines.
A logo should help people start to align your business with an image and a personality, it will help people start to put name to face and make your business more familiar.
Creating your logo is an important process, it’s going to be all over everything you create and present from this point on. While it can be tempting to try and cram as much as you can into a thumbnail sized design, it’s best to go subtle and simple. Your logo needs to be able to transfer to several different applications. A detailed logo might look great on a letterhead, but would it still translate so neatly when embroidered onto a shirt or hat? A clear and simple logo will be easily recognised as the size of it changes and for any surface it may be printed on.
Alongside your logo creation, comes the choosing of the colours that will represent your brand. These colours will also carry across all your future creations and will help give consistency in your public image.
Similarly to your logo design, it is a good idea to keep your colours simple. I’m not suggesting you just use primary colours, but simply that you stick to just a couple of different colours, max three. Keep it simple and easy to pick out of a crowd of other brands and designs.
You will use the colours that you choose for your brand everywhere. They will be the feature of your website, help create consistency in what you post on social media (through the likes of filters), they can also help you set up your working space so that anyone meeting with you instantly recognises your business and associates it with your brand. Colours are a huge tool in creating a consistent and recognisable brand.
User experience is something that not everyone remembers when it comes to branding yourself and your business. This is where we need you to expand your ideas of what branding really is in its entirety.
Your branding should extend from just a visual element to a whole experience. Remember how we talked about brands generating emotions? User experience is a key player in stirring the emotions of your customers. A good experience obviously leaves a good impression, the way that your users interact with your brand is something that you are able to control.
Say you own a shop, your customers are experiencing your brand as soon as they walk in the door, or perhaps even earlier. The way the products are laid out and displayed, the way they are greeted by whoever is working in the shop that day, the smell, the temperature. All of these things influence the way that your customer feels about shopping in your store. A bricks and mortar shop is an easy example, but the same applies to any business. You need to factor in the way that someone will use your product and the experience they will have when they are looking for a solution to a problem.
The way you communicate creates a lasting impression - there’s a good life lesson for us all! This is something that is good to keep in mind when developing your brand.
You should consider the different aspects of your voice. The personality, the pace and the vocabulary.
The personality of your voice might be lighthearted and fun, or it might be formal and direct. It doesn’t matter what voice you choose as long as it properly represents your brand.
You also need to consider the pace and rhythm of your voice, will it be short and sharp? Will it be smooth and poetic?
And then there’s vocabulary, tying it all in. Will you use a lot of industry jargon in your communications? Will you make everything plain and simple? Or maybe you want to use all the big words you possibly can!
You need continue to use this same voice across all your communications for it to become a recognisable feature of your business. We’ll say it again… consistency is key to creating a strong brand.
Essentially, the whole point we’re trying to get at here is that your brand IS your personality, it is you distinct identity and character, it’s what defines you from the rest and makes you unique.
For people to be able to relate to your brand, they need to feel like they are dealing with real human beings. You can reassure them of this by being consistent with your personality, the way that you project yourself to the public and the way that they receive your brand.
Your personality comes across in every way that you communicate with your target audience. Through your advertising, the copy on your website, the way you respond to feedback and complaints (of course you’ll never have any complaints though), and especially in what you post on social media. Social media is one of the biggest areas where personality and the human element can shine through.
Beyond that, your brand’s personality is something that gives you authenticity and relatability, developing a relationship with your customers and giving them something to remember.
I know we’ve talked about consistency a lot, but it really is the key to creating a strong brand, and we’re all about creating strong brands! Creating a branding guidelines document can be a good way to stay on top of all of these puzzle pieces.
You should ensure that the people involved in your business and the people creating material for you are familiar with your branding guidelines to the point of it being second nature. This is the key to ensuring that the development and strengthening of your brand is seen through.
This is why it can be a really good idea to build a relationship with an agency that can help you develop your brand. Not only will they have worked with you through all the concepts and ideas that have birthed your brand, they will have a strong understanding of how to apply your branding to everything you need to use it for. They’ve been with you at every part of that journey and will have a full history of how your brand has been used before.
Building your brand is a big deal and a lot of time and detail goes into it. You need to trust any future employees, designers and marketing specialists to stick to your brand to keep its strength.