Whether you’re a multi-national corporation, or run a business out of your home, you need to have a brand and brand identity. And regardless of whether you created one or not, your personality and the way you conduct business form a brand. A brand is more than just a shiny logo, and today we’re going to go through the basics of building your brand!
Before the Brand
Before you start making logos and writing ads, you need to figure out who you are and why you are. Take some time to not only define what you do, but why you do it. Most businesses start out of more than a desire to make money. There is usually a passion behind it, and you should let this passion define the brand! Decide what it is you want to accomplish, whether that’s empowering a group of people, making an aspect of life easier, or providing entertainment.
You also need to figure out how you want to convey these messages. This is called brand voice, and is the language and personality your brand uses. Do you use memes? Do you swear? Do you use technical jargon? Do you use run-on-sentence monologues? These are the kinds of questions you should answer when deciding who your brand is. Imagine the brand is a person (maybe it’s just you), and decide how they would communicate in real life.
The last thing to figure out is a basic aspect of marketing – how do you differentiate yourself from everyone else? You need to figure out what makes you unique, otherwise you will have a hard time gaining traction. You don’t have to revolutionize an industry. You could inject comedy into a normally humorless field, combine disciplines in a non-traditional way, or add a personal touch that is missing in competing businesses.
Brand identity is the visual cues that will inform someone what your brand is and what you do.
The first thing a business needs is a name. This can help inform customers what you offer, or it can serve other purposes. For example, McDonalds doesn’t really mean anything if you’re not familiar with the brand, but Burger King tells you everything you need to know! If you are worried about customers not knowing what you’re all about, consider a name that explains itself. If you’re a graphic designer, include the word “designs” in the name. If you do massage therapy, consider using words related to relief and relaxation. Also make sure your name is short, sweet, and rolls off the tongue. Don’t get too clever, and make it relatable. This will be a first impression for many people.
After the name, comes the logo. Often the name will inform the design of the logo, as you may want to incorporate elements of the name into the symbol itself. Or you may just want to use imagery that is evocative of your brand name. Apple’s logo is literally an apple. Sports associations like the NFL and NBA use a silhouette of the ball or a player in their logos. You can be subtle or on the nose. Logos with double meanings are very popular among graphic designers, and are a great way to combine your name and your look. Unless you have some mad graphic design skills, you should probably pay a professional to create a logo for you. This is a piece of imagery that will be used on everything, so you want to ensure that it looks good and can be used in a variety of situations.
How to properly use your logo is also a major aspect of creating a style guide. This booklet will describe proper use of brand assets, and your logo is the most important of these. You don’t want someone to wrongly use your logo!
That’s right, font. Of all the many things that go into a brand, font is one of them. This is another thing that you may need to consult a professional designer for. The fonts you use will help solidify your brand personality. There are serious fonts, and silly fonts, as well as cold fonts and welcoming fonts. Ultimately, you should pick something that “feels” like your brand. Don’t try to be something that you aren’t. But also try to stay modern, so you don’t risk looking like an old, outdated brand before you even get started.
Color is another important factor of brand identity. Identifying a strong palette of colors, or even just two, will give you a jumping-off point for any graphics. This is of course relevant for your logo, but it will also help you create banners, ads, and more.
Not every brand needs a tagline, but they can be very useful. A tagline is usually a short, catchy sentence. It can be anywhere from Nike’s vague “Just Do It”, all the way up to something like “We are top-rated in the country at our craft”. This sentence reminds people what it is you do, or evokes some sort of feeling. “Just Do It” is more of a call to action, but sums up the athletic wear that Nike sells. You can choose whether to be literal, appeal to emotion, or not have a tagline at all.
Your website is a place to assemble all of the color, typography, and other visual branding ideas. It should also expand on it. Animations, site layout, and backgrounds should all feel like the rest of your brand and create a cohesive user experience. Your website could be one of the main interactions someone has with your brand, so you want it to look good and accurately represent the brand.
Emails give you the opportunity to really use your brand’s voice. Visually, they should be reminiscent of your website or another place that users will see how your brand looks. You can get creative with the email subject line. This is a great place for experimentation, and you can still come up with a lot of clever headlines within your brand voice. Be careful not to deviate too far though, because you will still want the receiver of your emails to recognize your style upon first glance.
Using Your Brand
Okay, great, you’ve designed your brand. Maybe you have even gone the extra mile and created a brand style guide. Now what? Well, when you combine the new branding elements you created with marketing practices, you will love the results.
Rolling out these new designs on social media will look great. Each social network may require a little something different in terms of image dimensions. You can individualize each network’s imagery, or use a modified version of the same graphics for each. If you choose to do something different for each, still make sure that the colors and shapes in your graphics remains consistent.
When making video content you can use an intro sequence and thumbnail template that encapsulate your brand and immediately inform a viewer that this was a video created by your brand.
Ideally, your goal should be to hone in on a specific style, so that someone can tell a piece of content is from you even before they see a logo. This goes back to one of our first points: what differentiates you? If you can visually represent this difference, then you’ve struck gold!
No one ever said starting a business was easy. In addition to actually coming up with the idea and executing the business, you also need to create a compelling and detailed brand. But through visuals, voice, and customer interaction, you can create something that is worth looking into. If you have any insights into the branding process, or have experience building brands, please let us know in the comments!