Creating a strong brand is more than having a great logo and well defined products or services. A brand is about how your customers feel and what they say when they interact with your brand. Be bold, be you, be different and develop your own style and voice. A distinct visual style, a unique voice, and consistency are key to creating a strong and memorable brand. The process can be uncomfortable, but it's necessary. Look inside before you project your brand out to the world and it will guide you in creating a brand that you can stay true to.
As a designer that works with small businesses to develop brands, I've seen the benefits countless times for my clients. There's nothing better than seeing a small business start strong with passion and vision, great products or services and a solid brand. These are the 3 must haves for all strong brands:
While your visual style isn’t just a logo, it’s a solid place to start. Invest in a great logo and use it everywhere (almost). Integrating your brand means extending your visual style (and voice) to every aspect of your business. From packaging, photography style, postcards to your email campaigns and everything in between. Truly. Think of everything as something that can be branded. It can be subtle.
Tip - Use style guidelines and well designed templates for your marketing materials. Having the same colour palette, logo, type, and general look and feel throughout will set you apart and save you time. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent. Don't be afraid to "police" your visual style and when in doubt, keep it simple.
Create a unique voice that reflects your brand. This is just as important as your visual style. They actually go hand in hand. Your voice isn’t just copy, but how it sounds in your consumer's mind and how it makes them feel. This voice should be applied to all written pieces from social media posts, email campaigns, product descriptions to bios. Your voice inspires visual imagery as well. Don’t be boring. Be bold.
Example - An example that I love about voice by Ann Handley, goes a little something like this. You have a hotdog and you're about to use the condiments. You can say "Give me the mustard" (authoritative), or "Can you please pass me the mustard?" (standard, but polite), OR "Pardon me. Do you have any Grey Poupon?". Great, right?
You can have a distinct visual style and unique voice, and mess it up here. Consistency of your brand is paramount. Once you define your visual style and unique voice, stick to them. Seriously. Of course, they will evolve over time; but being consistent is the most important part of developing a strong and memorable brand. It may be tempting to add another font, a new trendy colour, or a new message; but it only adds confusion for your customer. Go back to your style guide and ask yourself if it’s a good fit.
Tip - Hire a trusted pro to guide you through the process and bring you brand to life. A good designer will help you launch your brand confidently. Better yet, they’ll empower you with tips on how to drive it forward consistently.
Now it's time to flex your branding muscles and do a little exercise. Again, branding yourself is a big process, but this will help you get a good start. Think of it as a warm up.
- Describe your visual style. Write down simple words. Edit down to a few.
- Describe your business and how it makes your customers feel. Again, write down simple words. Edit down to a few.
- Define your brand messaging. Using the edited words you collected above as a guide, what are the key messages you want to share about your brand? Be thoughtful, concise and develop your voice. Your brand messaging should consider the following: Who are you? Why do you do what you do? What is it like to deal with you?
- Define your customer. Don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think by doing research. Your branding should speak to actual customers, not “dream customers”. Knowing them will help you define your brand and messaging.
These questions are inspired by a process Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes, suggests when it comes to voice and branding, and from Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press on visual style and branding.
Thanks for reading! If you'd like to chat about branding for your small business, get in touch. I'd love to help! You can see some of my recent work here.