Step-By-Step Guide To Branding
Did you know that in the U.S., over 500,000 new businesses are started each month? With so much competition, it can be challenging to stand out in the crowd. But just as each individual person has unique strengths, each business has unique strengths. Your promise to your customer, as well as what customers perceive about your company is called branding. This can be a little confusing, because it’s not a tangible thing!
Your brand identity differs slightly – this is the visual representation of your brand, including your logo, promotional materials, and so on. We will talk about that more further down.
Although some of us might wish we were good at everything, the fact is we cannot be all things to all people – and the same goes for a company! Branding tells customers what to expect from your products and services, and explains how you are different from your competitors. Branding can also take place on a personal level – for example, a recent art school graduate will “cultivate” their own personal brand to communicate to a prospective workplace their unique talents and skills, and what they can bring to that workplace.
Let’s explore these topics further by developing a fictional dog walking company called Healthy Dogs Hawai‘i. First, we will define our brand and figure out our promise to our customers. Second, we will make decisions about how we will deliver on our promise, also known as developing a brand strategy. The third step is to develop your identity, including your logo and style guide.
Define Your Brand
All major companies, from Apple to Zillow, employ many full time staffers to define their company’s brand, and mindfully make decisions to keep their brand messaging consistent and in line with their company’s values and goals.
Defining your brand is just as important on a smaller scale. However, when you are part of a small organization or working on your own, it can be challenging to find the time to do this. If you take the time, it will be worth it and will pay off many times down the road. These answers will guide nearly all of your decisions. Chances are you may already have a business plan, so you can draw from that to help craft your answers.
Healthy Dogs Hawai‘i, our fictional dog walking company, has been around for just under a year. We’ve slowly added a handful of new clients, and have the desire and capacity to expand. We’ve set aside time to brainstorm, and have our business plan in hand. Here are just a few questions to get started, with example answers thrown in:
- What is our company’s mission and purpose? What is our promise to our customers?
- To serve an underserved community of dog owners in our town, thereby improving the health of the dogs and their owners
- What are the benefits and features of our products or services?
- Unparalleled excellence in dog care and exercise
- What do our customers and prospective customers already think of our company? What do we want them to think?
- Exceptional service
- Great affection for dogs
- What makes us different from our competitors?
- We offer pick ups and drop offs to any location on the island
- What is our company’s personality?
- Fun and energetic
- Passionate about the health of our community
- How do we describe our company?
- We go above and beyond to treat your dogs like our family, and deliver great service with a smile
It’s important to do research. Learn all you can about the preferences and habits of your current and prospective customers. Learn all you can about your competitors. If you’re really serious about scaling your business, because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, you may want to consider consulting with a branding and marketing professional.
Now that you’ve defined your brand, your brand strategy is the plan you make to communicate with the world about your brand. What you say, how you say it, where you say it, and when you say it are all important.
- Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? What is your brand’s personality? What are some keywords that describe your brand? Are you “exceptional”, “trustworthy”, “energetic”?
- Pay attention to your competition. What works for your competition? What doesn’t work? How can you use their successes/failures to inform your decisions?
- “Live” your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business. This includes how you answer the phone, what you wear when interacting with customers, your e-mail signature, everything.
- Create a “voice” for your brand. This voice, which reflects your brand’s personality, should be used in all written and spoken communication, and all marketing materials. Is your brand friendly? Use a conversational voice. Is it professional? Be more formal.
- Be true to your brand. Customers grow to trust you, and feel loyalty to your brand. Treat your customers well and cultivate that loyalty by being true to your brand and your values, and make sure to tell your customers “Thank you!”
- Be consistent. This is a very important tip – be mindful about what you say and how you say it, and make sure it aligns with your brand’s message. Schedule regular communication through your marketing channels.
- Decide on your brand standards. Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent. We’ll explore this topic next.
Design guidelines (The fun part!)
Like we mentioned earlier, companies work hard at defining their brand, creating their brand strategy, and combining that information to build their style guide, also known as a brand kit. This simple guide includes the specific logos, fonts, colors, imagery, taglines, etc. that you will use in all of your communications and marketing. Here’s an example from Best Buy:
Let’s take a minute to analyze this style guide. What stands out?
- Logo – Company name with a price tag background, symbolizes their large selection and emphasis on customer service
- Style – Modern and bold
- Colors – Yellow exudes energy, warmth, and is hard to miss; blue is a favorite of technology companies
- Visuals – Lots of white space, clean layouts, smiling employees, “Geek Squad”
This example illustrates a very successful brand identity. Many consumers are familiar with Best Buy, what type of business it is, and possibly even recognize its marketing materials, even if they aren’t regular customers. What else can we notice from this example? The foundation of their brand is their logo. The colors, the fonts, the style, the visuals – they all take their cues from the logo. This in turn guides their website, packaging and promotional materials – everything that communicates their brand.
When we develop our style guide, we ask:
- What logo? Aim to create a logo that is: simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, and appropriate
- What style? Use your company’s personality as guidance
- Which colors? Choose a main color and a secondary complementary color, and make sure they are aligned with the personality of your brand? Just like your color selections – choose a main font and a secondary complementary font, and make sure they are aligned with the personality of your brand
- What visuals? These should have a slight reference to your brand colors so they look when they are used together, and should have a consistent “look”. This look can be achieved by blurring, adjusting saturation and brightness, using filters, etc.
Here is the beginning of a style guide for Healthy Dogs Hawai’i created by answering these questions in addition to defining our brand and planning our brand strategy:
Do we need to answer all the questions in order to complete our style guide? We might not; it depends on how robust a brand strategy you’ve put together. For many small businesses, this can be just enough. As time passes and your business expands, remember to revisit your brand strategy and style guide to stay current.
Do you want personalized help creating or amplifying your brand on print or digital? We can help! Simply use our contact form and we’ll have someone reach out to you.