~by Eileen O’Shanassy~
Branding is an important consideration when you’re just starting your business. If you get it wrong, it can drag your entire company down instead of helping it grow. You’ll thank yourself later if you spend the time now to come up with an original visual identity for your brand. After you create your preliminary visual branding, you’ll also need a marketing strategy that clearly communicates your brand’s image to your audience.
Branding Starts with Your Brain
The first thing you’re going to do to come up with your brand is probably some good, old-fashioned brainstorming. Before you even start visually mapping out your brand strategy, you need to have a clear idea of what you want your brand to stand for. Ask yourself some questions about what exactly you want your brand to communicate to your target audience.
- Who is my target demographic?
- What words do I want people to think of when they see my brand?
- What are the brands that I admire and want to model?
- What colors and visual design cues will help communicate my brand to my audience?
Once you narrow down what you think your branding should look like, you’ll want to start collecting pictures that are inspirational or close to the vibe that you want your brand to communicate. Keep in mind who you are targeting, where they will see most advertisements and what will pique their curiosity. Place these pictures in a folder on your hard drive and use the gallery view for folders to create a digital inspiration board. Look for themes to start developing as you go through your board. These could be shapes, colors or any other repeating pattern that catches your eye. You’ll want to use the colors that your inspiration board suggests to create a color palette for your brand. A simple palette of two to three colors should be sufficient.
Once you have your color palette, you want to move to the next step of creating a mood board for your brand. You can use design software like Adobe Photoshop to mock up designs, or you can print the most striking pictures that you’ve collected. Placing your strongest pictures together with your color palette will give you a feel for the energy that you want your brand to convey. You can go back to this mood board for your brand when it’s time to create a new product or if you just need a refresher on what you want your brand to communicate. Be sure you collaborate with the whole team at this point. You’ll want to agree on an image that fits with everyone’s perception of the company and your brand. You’ll also want it to fit in with your culture.
Working on Your Logo and Graphics
With your color palette finished, it’s time to move on to your logo and graphics. This portion of your work will be compiled into what’s known as a brand board. To get started on your logo, sketch out a few design patterns that you have in mind. You don’t have to be Picasso; just crank out a few ideas as part of the brainstorming process. After you’ve created a few promising logo designs, start playing around with the words of your business name. You want to make sure your logo and company name end up working well together. Throw in a few patterns and design elements to complete your brand’s design. You’ll use these design elements to build a cohesive branding to be used on your business cards, on social media and on your website.
This is also a stage where you’ll want more than just one pair of eyes going over your ideas. Have each design or graphic reviewed by other members on different teams. You might have someone from sales notice that something is missing, or another from production point out a small mistake. Make sure your goals and branding are all aligned as a company and that every department is on board with the ideas you put out there with your initial designs. Check to make sure these graphics stand out from the competition as well. You don’t want to be stuck with something too similar to a competitor or that is too generic for your market.
Branding Strategies for Getting Noticed
Now that you’ve got your logo and color palette picked out, it’s time to put an actual identity to your visual brand. When you see a Nike swoosh symbol, most people usually think of elite athletes and weekend warriors who push their bodies to greatness. These associations aren’t accidental: they’re created by a consistent marketing strategy that helps build the brand. Here are three different branding strategies you can use when developing a brand for your own business. Choose to relate your products or services to the right crowd. If you can use celebrity or other types of endorsement, do it. It might seem old fashioned, but these older methods still work wonders in getting a new business ahead of the game.
Be Candid and Real
Being real means your business is not afraid to be awkward or quirky. You don’t have to be overly formal to create a successful business identity. If you’re not a big corporation, why pretend to be one? People don’t need more big corporations in their lives; they want more real people. If you’re a small team of ordinary folks who’ve come together to form a company, then when not flaunt that? Being real means being conversational in a way that’s unusual in business dialogue. If you’re going to be real as a brand, let that shine through on every page of your website. You don’t have to hide who you are just because you’re running a business.
Find Creative Ways to Sell
Getting sales is extremely important as you are just starting out. Without any sales, you won’t have a business. But here’s the paradox: you can’t come across as too “salesy” when you’re trying to promote your brand. Doing so will likely turn off your potential customers, especially in the online world. Instead of relying on overly promotional sales tactics, try to lead with your culture and your enthusiasm. If you’re a clothing line that sells foul weather gear, then perhaps look into sponsoring mountain climbers or kayakers. If you really love your products and brand, lead with that enthusiasm in all of your social media and ad campaigns. Once you communicate the culture that your brand represents, the selling should take care of itself.
Build Trust by Being Transparent
Consumers are more likely to buy from businesses they trust and believe in. And consumers are more likely to trust businesses who let their customers know where they source their products and how they endeavor to be ethical in their business practices. You build this trust in your business by being transparent. What struggles have you endured as you’ve tried to grow your company? What part of your story will customers appreciate hearing about? Is there anything you could share that could help them know you better? Anything you share that resonates with your target audience might help you build a customer for life. Use reviews from other customers as well. A potential sale could come from being transparent through what others really thought after experiencing what you have to offer. Take advantage of sites like Trustpilot. Users can then leave reviews of what they thought of your product, and it builds trust to new or potential leads. Companies like Underfit undershirts already use this method with great results. They can show what features they are most proud of through what their customers thought of them.
Your visual branding is crucial for a cohesive brand identity that extends to all elements of your business. Once that comes together, make sure your marketing strategy reinforce the brand experience that you want your customers to have when they come in contact with your company’s products. Branding is essential for young companies. Without it, you’ve only got a product without any soul. These tricks should help you as you get started and help put a name out there that you and your whole company can be proud of. Don’t skimp on advertising and branding right. Getting the perfect look is what can propel you forward and ahead of the competition.
Meet the Author: Eileen O’Shanassy
Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking and kayaking. Check her out on Twitter @eileenoshanassy.