Practically speaking, what does branding yourself look like and what are the components of your brand?
Before any design work is started, there are some key elements to branding yourself that should be figured out first. Some of the key elements to crafting your brand:
- Knowing who you are as a business and where you're going
- Knowing who your audience is and what they want
- Knowing what you can offer your audience that no one else can
- And knowing HOW you're going to offer it to your audience
All of those elements have to be figured out before you can even start to think about the visual aspect that communicates that foundation. I don't mean to keep repeating myself, but please remember that branding goes SO far beyond just the visual design of your company. It has to do with your heart, the way in which you work, and your audience. Your visual identity should just communicate all of those things.
So you've established your foundation as a business, have a name that embodies who you are, and have been able to nail down exactly how you want to function as a business and who you want to appeal to. NOW it's time to focus on your visual identity.
The main components of your visual brand are:
- Your logo
- Your tagline and/or company description
- Your website
- Your overall marketing experience
This is your mark, your seal, your icon that wraps all of your branding up into one, clear little package. This will often be the first visual touchpoint your potential client has with you—which makes it pretty darn important.
Your tagline and/or company description
Your tagline is kind of like an explanatory sentence to your business name. I've actually been watching taglines fade over the years, and I think if you do a great job with your business name and brand identity to tell people who you are, you don't need one. But it's still something you should consider. I actually have a tagline because I thought at first that it was necessary to explain my business name since often the word finicky can be taken negatively. I only include my tagline on my proposal sheets and some of my other client worksheets. What is it? "Positively particular."
But regardless of whether or not you sum yourself up in a tagline, you should always have a company description and it should be easily accessible to your customers.
It's critical that your business has a website. Now-a-days, it's far more important to have an online presence than it is to have a brochure. Think of how many times you talk with someone about your business, and the only thing you leave them with is a .com? (Or hopefully a business card with your .com on it.) Want to know something crazy? It's takes on average of 7 to 13+ touch-points with a potential customer to make a sale.* If you don't have a website, those touch-points become really difficult or impossible to make.
Your marketing experience
In one word: consistency. Across all of your marketing: your blog posts, your newsletters, letterhead, business cards, brochures... you name it—it should all look and feel coherent within your visual brand. It uses color, imagery, fonts, and language to give your audience an experience. Think of your favorite brand experience. Why do you just LOVE that brand and the way it makes you feel? Does their visual identity communicate that? Does even a part of their visual identity HELP you to have that experience? Despite all of the marketing approaches (shock, humor, entertain, touch your heart strings), they should all be representative of their brand.
Let's take a look at a few brands that have done it right (these should be of no surprise):
I know, Starbucks. Oh, how I love thee and I hate thee all at the same time. Their branding is brilliant and gives the end user a consistent, enjoyable experience from initial advertisement to sipping on their product in their trendy store. Think of everything iconic that Starbucks does and how that shapes what you experience with them. They not only rock the consistency and enjoyability of their brand, but they're social media rockstars and know how to simply CONNECT with their consumers. Here's to Starbucks (raise your over-priced lattes)!
Coca-Cola: Talk about a company that knows what it means to keep a consistent brand. Can you believe they started back in 1886? And that from the early 1900's and on, their brand has undergone very little change? Just the essence of Coca-Cola and their up-beat promotions says 'Merica. They've even associated themselves with cute poler bears and Santa Clause. Consistent, vibrant, and appealing to their consumers (the American people). They're also all about human emotion, making people connect through their product. Oh, and what color comes to mind when you think Coca-Cola? Brilliant.
(Now probably wouldn't be a good time for me to admit that I like Pepsi better...)
Of course I have to end on Apple. They've set trends for a lot of what we're seeing in advertising today, and have always centered themselves around the idea that less is more. Simple, uncomplicated, transparent, timeless... sometimes I like to joke that their brand today is their recovery from their 1970's rainbow Apple logo. Just proof that even the most exemplary companies have a rough start.
But once again, Apple is a brand that's more about experience than it is about a logo of an... apple.
If you have a moment, check out this site! It walks you through some of the most famous brands and shows the progression of their logos over the years. Very cool.
But not as cool as THIS. Interesting visuals to bring the most competitive of brands together.
So what does all of this mean for YOUR company, YOUR brand? And what does the journey to a good brand look like for YOU? Part 3 will answer those questions on this coming Thursday!
Did you miss Part 1? You can find it here. And remember, if you want to receive Part 3 (plus other blog posts) in your inbox, make sure to subscribe: