Updated: Feb 4
What are the essential pieces you need to start building your brand, and why are they important?
You probably know by now that your brand is essential. And if you don’t already know it, give this blog post a read, and then you can come on back for another dose of “brand importance reinforcement.” Because it really and truly is important.
But it is important to note that building a brand takes time and is definitely something you can’t suddenly have in place overnight. Like any good structure, it’s important to lay a solid foundation and then build brick by brick on top of it.
What are the parts that will help you build your brand? These three pieces are the categories that you’ll need to focus on:
Let’s think of your brand as a dartboard with your business at the center of the bullseye. The potential customer is throwing darts at the board, and they are more likely to hit on the larger portions of the board, outside of the bullseye. But the more often they throw, the closer and closer they get to the center. Each of the darts thrown at the board are google searches, social media posts, advertisements, personal meetings, or any other type of contact you have with potential customers.
These touch-points can be digital or physical, but they are equally important. Each of these instances can influence how the public sees you and can either bring them closer to the target (you) or push them further away (toward your competitors).
First, let’s start with the innermost circle on your dartboard, your logo! Think of your logo as the most prominent representation of your business. Placing your logo at the center of the bullseye is like putting your business there. You want people to end up in your store, sign up for your services, or make a purchase online.
Once you have your logo on lock, you can start pulling different pieces together that mesh with your vision for your brand. That leads us into the next ring, Visual Identity.
After you’ve established your logo, it’s time to consider all of the visual pieces that supplement it. A logo by itself is a strong asset, but think of these additions as the icing on top of your delicious “business cake” – or the cherry filling in your “business kolache” – either baked good reference will suffice.
Color choice can be significant. In addition to your logo's main colors, you can choose some supplementary colors that will enhance your brand and make it more unique.
There have been entire studies done that focus on the psychology behind colors and the impressions people have from them. For instance, colors such as red, orange, and yellow reflect either passion, joy, and happiness. But on the flip side, these colors can also express rage, anger, deceit, and anger! It’s all in how the color is used, so be careful.
Choosing the right images to portray your business is also important. Your best option would be to hire a photographer who specializes in branded photoshoots. They will know the best way to incorporate your colors, set up the shots, and show off your business in a way that fits your brand.
If a custom photoshoot isn’t within your budget, you can purchase some stock photos with a look and feel you want. You could even take your own photos. DSLR cameras shoot in professional quality resolution, and the cost of these cameras has come within reach for regular consumers in the past decade. Just be sure to get really familiar with the camera and its settings. A bad picture is a bad picture, no matter what camera you shoot it with.
In a pinch, you can even use images from your phone. However, the resolution (while greatly improved over the last few years) still won't have the quality you need for most uses. Again, it really depends on your brand. If you run an animal shelter and want snapshots of the dogs and cats listed for adoption on your site, maybe phone photos are the way to go. If you’re selling high-end hair care products at a premium cost, then stay as far away from snapshot photography as possible!
A bad picture is a bad picture, no matter what camera you shoot it with.
As important as colors and images…actually, all of this is important, there is no hierarchy of importance here… anyway, TYPOGRAPHY! As a designer, I absolutely love typography. Fonts, typefaces, ligatures, x-heights, ascenders, and descenders all make me go weak at the knees.
Your font has the ability to make your brand a knock-out. While the style of font you use may seem like small potatoes, it can make a difference in your future customers' perception. This applies to your logo's font choices and the text you use on other branded items such as your website, advertisements, flyers, etc.
There are some wonderful, standard font pairings out there and a few general rules to follow.
Never use multiple script fonts within your brand. Choose one for all your header information and follow it up with a simple sans serif. A pairing that can never go wrong!
Using a serifed typeface for headers and sans serif for the body is always a pleasing combination.
Find a typeface that has multiple widths and weights. This will allow you to maintain consistency throughout your brand while giving you room for creative emphasis with bold, italic, light, condensed, and wide options.
Try to never use more than 2 typefaces on an item (your logo doesn’t count in this case unless it says so within your brand guide). The viewer's eye doesn’t know where to look, and it ends up as a confusing mess. Stick to rule 3, and you can avoid this altogether.
Now, these are just guidelines, and if you can find a way to make things work outside these rules, then good for you, and you should run with it!
Your Brand Elements consist of all the things that pull together to make your business's supporting items. These can be items that don’t necessarily have your logo on them, but they are vital to your business just the same. These features are highly impactful to consumer perception.
Mission, Vision, Values - These business plan staples should have more presence in your day to day operations than being tucked away in a document somewhere.
Display them on your website, teach them to new employees, and make sure that your company actually represents what it says in your Mission. Work on the goals that will get you to the main vision you imagine for your company. And finally, be sure that you adhere to your values as a person and a business; your customers will see it and appreciate it.
Personality - The personality of your business can be whatever you want it to be. Think of how your customers react to a style of talking, response, attitude, and incorporate it into your marketing strategy. Some companies can get away with a snarky personality, while others are better off with a rustic or playful business style. Whatever personality your business has, always keep it professional.
Product Quality - Always strive for the best quality items. Customers will keep coming back if they perceive value and quality, even if it’s at a higher cost than your competition. Those same customers will then become ambassadors for your brand and recommend you to others.
Customers will keep coming back if they perceive value and quality even if it’s at a higher cost than your competition.
Customer Service Experience - The saying “the customer’s always right” has never held water for me. It’s a ridiculous saying since the customer is seldom right. But just because they act aggressive, demanding, or wishy-washy doesn’t mean that you should act similarly toward them. It’s difficult, and it takes a lot of practice, but a calm and cool attitude and endless wells of patience can do wonders to solve problems.
Don’t think that customer service is only for problem-solving! This can also apply to how the customer is treated before and during a sale. It can even come in handy on a post-project follow-up. Touching base at a series of intervals after a project can keep you in a customer's mind longer than just cutting ties, and it could also lead to more sales.
Associated Brands - An associated brand can be any other business that is connected to yours. Think of a boutique clothing store that carries known luxury brands or a fast-fashion store that sells knock-offs. You view the value of these clothing lines in a certain way, and that view is reflected upon the business that carries those brands. I’m not knocking one business style over the other because both of these store types have their place, and both can be successful.
Tone of Voice - How does your business sound? When you are choosing the voice for your radio spot or writing an article for submission in your local paper, the way these pieces are read and perceived are considered your business's “tone of voice.” This ties closely to your business's “personality” and should be consistent throughout your company's promotion.
Business and Social Networking - Keeping in contact with the wider world can seem like a challenge when you’re trying to stay on top of your day-to-day business responsibilities. But it’s important to take time and post to social media or attend your local chamber of commerce meeting. It lets people know that you are still active in your business, and more importantly, it can lead to connections that wind up in new and better business for you!
Now that we’ve circled each ring of the target, let’s recap. Having a logo for your business is ideal, but it’s not the only thing that makes up your brand. It is an important piece of a larger puzzle, and without those extra pieces, like colors, images, typography, and the items that make up your Brand Identity, your picture will never be complete.
So grab your darts, step up to the line, and let's focus on that bullseye!