Everyone is trying to get ahead these days and many are doing it by starting their own business so they can finally be their own boss. Whether you’re a blogger, a baker or a maker that is amazing accomplishment. And as an entrepreneur you hear it over and over: you need branding in order to grow your business. Brand awareness, brand presence, brand recognition… But honestly, what does all that really mean? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there and opinions can vary. So what is branding, exactly, and why is it good for business?
BRANDING IS MORE THAN JUST A LOGO
As a designer I hear it often. “I started a business but design seems like a waste of time and money so I just need a logo.” Sigh… I’m sorry to break it to you, folks, but that’s far from the truth—and trust me, that’s not a sales pitch. A logo does play a large part in representing your business it is only one aspect of many components that come together to create a brand and will not serve you well if it stands alone. A logo by itself does not create trust, does not help you build a relationship with your customer and does not inform them about your purpose or message. It is true that a well-designed logo may insinuate a high level of quality, for example, but if you don’t back that up with consistent, supporting elements and actions then your audience may never give you the chance to prove if it’s true.
Branding is how you accomplish all of this. There are a ton of different elements that go into building a brand but there are three key factors that must be defined in order to be successful: your purpose, your message and your visual voice.
Building a strong, comprehensive brand lets your customer get to know you. It can help set you apart from your competition by identifying qualities your audience may also deem important, like trust, dependability and honesty. This may lead them to select your product or service over another because you have built a solid relationship with them by consistently telling your story, keeping your message clear and supporting it with recognizable visual elements. These three aspects carry equal weight when it comes to branding and consistency is key! When executed well, solid branding can create loyalty, repeat customers and referrals which equal a total win for you.
Have you asked yourself the “why”? Why are you in business? Perhaps it’s because you want to educate or give back. Maybe you want to show others a path to success, share your skill or enlighten them. Whatever your goal is it is important to establish the “why” so that your purpose is clear and you can better speak to your customer with intention. Not sure how to clarify your why? Simply try describing what you do to a friend or family member. This is not an elevator pitch; speak about your business honestly. What are you trying to achieve? Who does it serve? What value do you add? Get down to the absolute clearest sense of why you do what you do. Clarifying this will help you establish the heart behind your brand and give you a much better sense of how to connect with your audience.
Now that you’ve figured out exactly why you do what you do, you need to communicate it. A strong brand carries a consistent message across all channels. If you run a business that sells party goods, for example, you may use a very playful, conversational tone when you address your customer. You may build your Instagram with fun, bright colors and happy captions but if your website is much more serious and lacks that same playful message, your audience may not recognize your brand or understand the connection and look elsewhere. Branding is all about how you’re perceived and while you can’t force your audience to see you one way or another, keeping the same message throughout will help them understand what to expect and learn to recognize your business no matter what platform they encounter you on. Consistency is key!
YOUR VISUAL VOICE
Humans are visual people. We eat with our eyes first, want to touch things that look soft and make snap judgements based on appearance. It’s not cruel, just nature, and it plays a big factor in branding. I use the term “visual voice” because in today’s world of social media and smartphones you often only get to make an impression through visuals. It is a way of communicating that requires no words or conversation but can say so very much. Your visuals speak to your audience in support of your purpose and message and should carry the same values throughout your brand. Now, this doesn’t mean simply posting the same photo over and over, which will get boring very quickly. Your visual voice is achieved through sharing images that have a similar mood, establishing an expectation of style, sticking to a color palette, utilizing the same lighting style, etc. The most important thing is that throughout all of these channels you maintain consistency. Have I mentioned consistency is key? Your visuals speak to your customer in a way that nothing else can. They provide an immediate opportunity to decide if they can relate to what your business is about.
All of these elements create brand recognition, brand awareness and brand presence. When it’s all said and done you’re running a business and trying to establish a reputation. You need to share what you stand for and build a relationship with your audience and a logo alone cannot do that for you.
DEFINE YOUR 3 KEY FACTORS
These can be difficult areas to narrow down so here is a printable worksheet for you to use as you work through what your brand is all about. I like to curl up with a glass of wine and really think it over, scribble down all of my thoughts and refine it from there. So, break it all down and try to land on your purpose and message. The visual part may be a little tougher but I encourage you to cut images out of magazines, or print from your printer and make a mood board that inspires your visual approach. Here’s a link on how to create a killer mood board using Pinterest if you want to take it a step further!
If you work through all of this and have a great sense of your purpose and message but find that you'd really like a professional brand designer's help when it comes to the visuals, please get in touch! I would love to chat with you about your brand and design needs and see if we might be a good fit to work together.
If you liked this post, would like more posts like it or just have a question or comment please email me. I'd love to hear from you!