Your Ultimate Guide to Designing Your Brand
The Ultimate Guide to Designing Your Brand
1. That Ol’ Zing: What is Branding?
2. Making the Connection: Why is Branding Important?
4. Know Thyself: Your Unique Selling Proposition
5. Be Yourself: Your Brand’s Personality
6. Don’t Be That Guy: Show Up & Be Consistent
7. Who do you Want to Attract?
Knowing Your Target Market & Audience
8. Finding Your Voice: Your Brand Messaging & Tone
9. Your Image: The Look & Feel of Your Brand
That Ol’ Zing: What is Branding?
Branding is more than a logo, font, or colors. It’s that Zing. The feeling of butterflies when you hear that special someone’s name.
Close your eyes and think of Disney.
What comes to mind? A logo? Do you hear the song “When You Wish Upon a Star”? A warm fuzzy feeling from your childhood? The first movie you ever saw in a theater? Maybe Mickey and the gang? A theme park? A dole whip?
Disney is an experience. A feeling.
Even those who don’t like Disney know the logo, who they are, and what they stand for.
Branding is your company or product’s identity, its personality, and what you’re known for. It’s the feeling or emotion you elicit from your audience when they interact with you. It’s your reputation preceding you.
Building a brand takes time and attention; it’s a labor of love and there isn’t a love potion you can mix up to make your customers fall in love with you.
So how do you build a brand that stands the test of time?
Making the Connection: Why is Branding Important?
Branding shows your target audience, or your Mr. Right, who you are and what you stand for. Without a strong brand, you’ll struggle to connect with your audience, reach your sales goals, and earn the trust of your customers.
Ever been cheated on? Once you lose trust you know it’s hard to recover from. The same goes for your brand. Be consistent, honest, and human and you’ll find it much easier to manage your brand when it does hit the inevitable rough patch.
You can also use your brand’s leverage to grow your company. Hiring is hard enough right now. But if your audience loves your brand, like Crocs, which has a reputation for being a fun place to work and values creativity. It’ll be a breeze to find top-notch candidates to fill positions and keep the momentum of your company’s growth going.
If you’re new to the dating game or a startup, your brand identity can be anything you want it to be. You get to mold it. Starting from scratch is hard, but the more you invest early on, the more you set yourself up to succeed and you’ll attract your ideal customers.
Saying I Do: Brand Loyalty
Great romances and marriages don’t happen by luck and neither do great brands. Brand loyalty is the ultimate benefit of branding. It’s the equivalent of your sweetheart saying I do and choosing you over and over again instead of someone else (aka the competition).
Brand loyalty is a coveted spot to be in too. 65% of revenue in most companies comes from repeat business with existing clients.
Brands with loyal customers grow their revenues by 2.5x more than the competition, and they also deliver 2-5 times the returns to investors in a 10-year time period.
Know Thyself: Your Unique Selling Proposition
Your relationship begins with knowing who you are even before you get a chance to make a first impression. Your strengths, your weaknesses, and what makes you and your brand unique. In marketing, we call this a unique selling proposition or a USP.
Your USP is what you have to offer the other person or your customers. It’s your brand’s promise and what you say you’ll do and how you’ll deliver it. Your USP should be defined and defensible—meaning you have proof to back up your claims, and it’s clear to your customers and specific.
To get to know yourself you’re going to have to do some deep introspection. Here are some questions to ask:
- How will my customers’ lives be better if they buy your product or service?
- Why did my customers choose you over the competition?
- What benefits do my customers get when choosing my product or service?
- Do my customers care about the benefits?
- What makes my brand different?
- Who does my brand serve or help?
Carhartt is a great example of a clothing brand with a great USP on their About page they say, “We exist to serve and protect hardworking people.” Their USP seeps into every aspect of their brand, from images to messaging.
Be Yourself: Your Brand’s Personality
Let’s be honest. You aren’t for everyone. But somewhere out there is the perfect person who needs your product or service. So you need to “be yourself” in order to attract your people.
Your brand identity or personality is how your target audience experiences your brand. It’s who you are—your company or product’s personality, strengths, weaknesses, talents, values, colors, typography, messaging, and voice.
Like a real-life person, it should be special and the perfect match for your target audience. Choose the characteristics you want to be recognized for upfront and build your brand’s personality from there.
Your audience will feel more connected to your brand if you bring your own flair to it, and it will positively shape how they think and feel about you. The end goal, after all, is to have them commit and make a purchase.
Below are some examples of how you might describe these brands if they were real people.
Need Inspiration? Check out this video my GenZ daughter shared with me, “If Car Brands Were People.”
Don’t Be That Guy: Show Up & Be Consistent
Don’t be that guy. You know the guy, the flakey one. The one that said he would call and never did. Or the one who shows up late or honks the horn from the driveway for you to come out to the car.
Be a gentleman and show up with some manners. Be dependable and consistent in your branding. Sure, you can refresh your look and message as times change. Your brand should grow and evolve over time. But no matter whether you’re wearing straight, bootcut, or skinny jeans, the core of your brand should be consistent.
Who Do You Want to Attract?
Get to Know Your Target Market & Audience
Like dating, you should know what kind of person you want to attract. We all only have so much time on this earth and do you really want to spend your precious time and resources courting someone who you know doesn’t want kids or doesn’t have the same values as you?
The same goes for your knowing your target market and audiences. You want to spend your time and hard-earned cash attracting the right people. The first step is figuring who those people are. Knowing your people is essential before you jump into anything too fast, so you don’t get burned.
Target Market vs. Target Audience
Aren’t they the same thing? A target market is the broad set of people who are your customers. For example, for Sashco, an adhesives and stain company, contractors are a target market, and a subset of that group is log home contractors, a target audience. Target audiences get specific and are a subset of the larger target market.
Wondering how you get to know your target market? Read this blog post.
Pro Tip: Try a survey to your audience or talk to your sales team or customer service and warranty department to see what problems and questions keep popping up.
Finding Your Voice: Your Brand Messaging & Tone
By now, you know who you are, what you want, and who special someone is, aka, your target market and audience.
It’s time to craft your messaging.
Talk to your audience like a trusted friend or someone who has their best interests in mind. Here are some quick tips:
Find Their Love Language
If you’ve read this popular self-help book, you know that not everyone expresses love the same way. Use the words your target audience uses so they can understand and relate to you. Speak to them in their own geek speak. Abbreviations like LOL might work, but use them sparingly. If they can’t relate, don’t talk about it.
Mind Your Manners
Avoid topics your audience finds offensive. Is your date a vegetarian? Don’t try to push them into a carnivore lifestyle. Instead, ask questions — what led them to become a vegetarian? Do they have food allergies? Maybe it started as a way to save money? Who knows, but be curious and find out.
Gen-X knows what it means to take a chill pill, but a Millennial might not. Keep slang minimal when crafting your message. Ask yourself, will my target audience understand what I’m saying? Or can they relate to it? Find common ground.
Be Where They Are
How does your target audience like to communicate? Email, social media, face-to-face, other? What do they use the most? Find the channels they use the most and be where they are. You don’t have to be everywhere, just where your target audience is.
Make It Memorable
From your tagline to your social media updates, your tone and messaging should be saying the same thing in the same tone across all your marketing efforts. You should also deliver it in multiple ways—in print, on your packaging, website, and on social media. Make it easy for your audience to remember who you are and what you offer.
Pro Tip: I like to pick an actual person in my target audience who I know I can help and pretend I’m talking directly to them when I’m writing. If you give your audience an identity, you can turn yourself from just a company to a trusted friend.
Your Image: The Look & Feel of Your Brand
Like your tone and messaging, it should be true to who you are and what you offer, and tell the story of who you are.
The beauty of it is you get to decide what kind of first impression you’ll make. Your colors, images, and fonts will tell the story of your brand without saying a word.
So when your brand walks in the door, will it say to your target audience, “Hi I’m one wild and crazy fun guy” or, “I’m the sweet sensitive type that cares about the environment”? You get to decide.
Like your tone and messaging, it should be true to who you are and what you offer and tell the story of who you are.
The beauty of it is you get to decide what kind of first impression you’ll make. Your colors, images, and fonts will tell the story of your brand without saying a word.
So when your brand walks in the door what will it say to your target audience, “Hi I’m one wild and crazy fun guy” or “I’m the sweet sensitive type that cares about the environment?” You decide.
Let’s start with your logo. Your logo is a graphic symbol that identifies your brand. Keep it consistent, don’t change your logo every other month or year. Pay a designer and get a good one. Learn more about what makes a good logo here.
Pro Tip: Create logo variations early on so you can be consistent and they work together and look like they’re part of the same brand. The core of your logo should be included in all your variations. Also, make sure your logo looks good in black and white. If it passes that test you can reproduce it everywhere from hats to your website.
True Blue: Your Brand Colors
When you see red, what do you think of—passion, love, Target? Red is perfect for brands that want to be seen as passionate, energetic, or show vitality. But red wouldn’t be a good choice for the Sleep Number Store, whose beds promote a restful night’s sleep and are dominated by blues.
Different colors have different meanings.
They evoke strong emotional responses. Consider how your colors can strengthen your brand and messaging and help create a quick connection with your audience.
The list below gives you a quick overview of colors and their meanings.
- Red commands attention and represents passion, excitement, and anger.
- Orange is playful, energetic, and friendly. It pops when combined with greens and blues.
- Yellow beams happiness, youth, and optimism. But it signals danger when paired with black. Think of the stripes on a wasp or a bee.
- Green signals stability, luck, growth, health, and a connection with nature.
- Light Blue exemplifies tranquility, trust, and openness.
- Dark Blue signifies professionalism, confidence, security, and trustworthiness. You see this color used in healthcare and finance frequently.
- Purple is regal, creative, and luxurious. Hallmark and Cadbury are excellent examples of logos designed in purple.
- Pink is feminine, soft, innocent, and kind. One brand that uses pink well is the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
- Brown is rugged, earthy, and dependable, like an old boot. It’s a stabilizing and grounded color. UPS uses brown to its advantage in its trucks’ color and the tagline, “What can Brown do for you?”
- White evokes feelings of purity, cleanliness, and virtue. It’s refreshing and can invoke feelings of balance, clarity, and hope. There’s a reason wedding dresses are white, after all.
- Gray is neutral. It can take on many looks — classic, profound, mysterious, or mature. And it can have a calming and soothing effect.
- Black symbolizes power, sophistication, and mystery. It can seduce or intimidate.
Pro Tip: You’ll be using your brand colors everywhere—store signage, your logo, website, t-shirts, social media posts, advertising—you name it. So pick your colors carefully. Don’t just pick your favorite colors—be intentional.
The Home Depot practically owns the color orange. From its gift cards to its website, you find it everywhere.
What’s Your Type? Picking a Typeface for Your Brand
Your brand’s font or typeface should communicate your brand’s personality. Start off by brainstorming words that describe your brand. Is your brand educational? Playful? Serious? Quirky? Cutting edge?
Look at other brands and your competition. What’s the impression you get from their fonts? What message does the font send without reading it? The below are examples of how you can set the mood with your fonts.
Pick only a few fonts to start
Less is more. 2–3 fonts are the perfect start. You’ll use them for everything—titles, headers, and body text. So test them out together. Do they complement each other? Make sure your body text is simple to read in large chunks and not hard on the eyes—serif or sans serif are fine.
Pick a flexible font
Does it come in a bold, extra bold, italic, or light version? This will help you apply font across mediums like billboards, advertisements, or your website. Your selections should complement each other. Is it easy to read? You want your target audience to understand what you’re saying. Don’t make them guess.
Customize your typeface
If you want to really go whole hog, you can create a custom font. Do you have a brand that has a lot of history but the logo doesn’t have a font? Create it. The Craftsman logo below is a good example of a logo that uses a custom type treatment to stand out. If you’re going for a more organic feel you could also hire someone to hand letter a font for your design. Are you selling toys? Have a kid hand letter some type for you to bring a human element to it.
Create a hierarchy
Consider what you’ll use for titles, headers, and body text. You don’t want to have too many ornate or playful fonts. You’ll want to choose something that’s easy to read in large chunks for your body text. Even your titles and headers should be easy to read.
Your Image: Photography, Graphics, & More
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do you want your images to say about you? Indirectly they tell your dreamboat your brand’s story and elicit an emotional response. The images and graphics you choose reinforce who you and your brand are without saying a word. Consider the following when developing your style:
Consistency is key
You’re probably tired of hearing it, but consistency is key in your images too. There should be a common thread running throughout all your photos. Maybe it’s the lighting and editing treatment you use in your photographs. Or do your images always include your brand colors, people, or no people? Are the colors saturated or muted? Maybe it’s the background?
Think quality over quantity
Ever dated someone who left you a bazillion messages? Sooner or later, you tuned them out, right? You want to stand out from your competition. Whenever you can, curate quality content that is unique to your brand. Hire a professional photographer or illustrator for content unique to your brand to help you stand out in a sea of sameness.
Textures, shapes, and icons can help support your brand. They can be used to increase interest and highlight your messaging. Are they curved or soft? Or edgy and hard? Choose a handful of elements that will add depth to your brand.
Recycling and repurposing
You don’t need new graphics for every piece of marketing. Reuse and repurpose what you have. This isn’t only budget-friendly, but it creates consistency.
According to Starbuck’s style guide:
“The goal: every photo and video is identifiably Starbucks. Product stories are clear about the product. We use people sparingly, thoughtfully, and with intention.”
Pro Tip: Once you have your look and feel down, create a style guide to pass on to vendors and to onboard new team members. This will ensure everyone is following the same brand guidelines and help you stay on brand no matter who has their hands in the pot.
The Long-Term Commitment
Nurturing & Engaging Your Audience
Congratulations! You’ve hit that point in your relationship where you’ve won your love over. You’re exclusive. You’ve built a brand that has a loyal customer base and you’re getting repeat customers. That’s it, right?
I hate to break it to you. The work isn’t done. It’s just hit a different phase.
You’re now in maintenance mode.
Maintenance can be harder in some cases than attracting your sweetheart. In this phase, you’ll need to keep nurturing and engaging your audience. You’ll need to keep showing up consistently over time and doing all the things did before to attract them in the first place.
Step back and look at your relationship or brand as a whole.
How can you keep that ol’ Zing and spark alive?
Look at your strategy, messaging, customer pain points, fonts, images, colors, and graphics. Are they all working together to support your brand’s value and mission? Is your audience still connecting with your brand? Do you need to make any adjustments?
In the end, branding is a long-term commitment and promise you make to your customers, and like any relationship worth its salt, it will grow and evolve over time.
Your customers’ needs will change, technology will change, and you’ll adapt together or grow apart. But if you continue to show up, connect, and engage with your people, you can build a strong and successful brand and business.
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