This is the first post in a series of articles about "must-haves" for your small business. Whether you are just starting out, or your company has been around for a long time, these topics will be relevant to you and to the success of your business.
First up is a huge topic: Branding. And more specifically, maintaining consistent branding throughout all channels of your business.
Unless directly tied to the creative or tech fields, many business owners are unaware how important their branding is for business growth and identity within a marketplace. Additionally, if an owner has identified a problem, they may have a hard time determining the best place to start in order to fix it. That's where we come in! First off, what is the difference between a logo and a brand?
Is there a difference between a logo and a brand?
Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealised, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character and no public trust.
– Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group
How do you build a brand?
The best way to begin thinking about your brand is to start at the beginning. In a complete brand system, everything radiates out from the center: your core identity. From there, adding on layers of brand elements and brand applications combine to form your entire brand concept.
A mission statement is a written declaration of your business' core purpose and focus. It gives your brand direction, strengthens your values, and effectiveness. Your vision is something to be pursued for that purpose. Next come values. What attributes are important to you and your business? Followed by goals. Having a clear understanding of your goals is important. What made you start this business? What problem(s) are you intending to solve?
Lastly, we come to brand story. If your brand was a person, how would you tell their story? What would their experiences be and how would they feel? The story is a whole picture made up of facts, feelings, and interpretations. Personifying your brand makes it easier to identify with the overall concept. This narrative is a key part to your core identity because it is the base of your business' personality. These five elements make up your core identity.
All of these elements are things to consider when thinking about your brand: logo, shapes, language (voice and tone), layout, style, imagery and illustrations, taglines and slogans, motif, colors, and type. In conjunction with your core identity, making intentional decisions about these basic design principles will help give your brand life. Additionally, having a well-defined brand identity will help differentiate your business from the competition.
How does your brand message translate to different media channels? When brainstorming or developing a marketing plan, make sure you consider all of these brand applications:
- Signage (outdoor, indoor, trade shows and events)
- Web presence (website(s), landing page(s), badges, banners, email)
- Stationary (letterhead, business cards, envelopes, stamps, invoices)
- Merchandising (stickers, swag)
- Collateral (menus, catalogs, flyers, brochures)
- Content Marketing (social media profiles, ebooks, infographics, blog headers)
- Advertising (online ads, print ads)
- Internal Use (annual reports, memos, guidelines, handbooks, uniforms)
- Packaging (bottles, boxes, bags, tags)
Put these three layers of the circle together and you have a complete brand system! A good brand is built over time and requires thought, strategy, and consistent implementation.
Need help getting started?
Download this worksheet to begin brainstorming about your brand system.
What makes a brand consistent?
In the case of your brand, consistency ≠ boring. Being consistent in your branding actually allows for greater creative impact and increases the value of your business by continually reinforcing your position in the marketplace. Make the strategic commitment to maintain consistency across every medium, every advertisement, every package, every poster, and every social media post. Brand consistency does five things:
- Helps manage perceptions
- Conveys your attitude and personality
- Eliminates customer confusion
- Protects your investment
- Builds upon past successes
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.
– Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks
3 keys to consistency
Achieving brand consistency across every application may feel overwhelming at first, especially if your business currently has many different looks. Now is a great time to get all key decision makers on board and start reigning in your overall brand identity. Follow these three easy tips to get on the path to brand consistency:
#1: Set standards
One common way to set standards is to develop a brand style guide with your designer. This document will map out how your brand elements will be used a multitude of applications. Include your brand story, main logo and any versions, color palette, typography scheme, layout preferences, audience (who is your customer), tone for marketing materials and written content, approved supporting imagery, sample applications, and finally examples of "what not to do" with your logo/brand.
#2: Understand your message
A consistent brand message that clearly defines your company's positioning will allow customers to trust you. Alternatively, if your messaging is inauthentic or wavering, customers will be left disappointed or deceived. Tone (the spirit, voice, and point of view of your message) plays a huge part in this topic. If your tone changes often, this may also lead to confusing your customer's opinions and expectations of your business. Understand your message, find your unique voice, and stick with it!
#3: Design and deliver!
Developing a plan for your marketing and brand applications will help make delivering a consistent design less intimidating. Some easy ways to ensure consistency in your designs is to:
- Choose a set of appropriate fonts
- Apply a cohesive and visually appealing color palette to all assets
- Place your logo in the same general area in the layout (when possible)
- Find imagery that matches your voice
The timing, frequency, and delivery of your designs or messages across different marketing channels aids in the consistency of your brand experience and creates expectations in your customers minds.
10 tips to help you build a brand
According to the extremely popular marketing blog Duct Tape Marketing, there are 10 tips to help build a successful small business brand.
- Be unique – What’s your story and what do you do that others in your industry don't?
- Grow your community – If people trust a brand’s community (online and offline), they will extend trust to the brand.
- Build great products and services – People write about brands to share experiences. Give them something good to pass along!
- Have a good name and logo – A strong brand is easily recognizable and recognition starts with first point of contact, usually your business name.
- Find your voice – Everything you say is important. Don’t overlook how you say it.
- Be consistent – No matter the audience, your messaging should be the same. Brand consistency leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to trust.
- Keep your promises – It might seem simple but happy customers who feel good about your business are your best source of referrals.
- Stand for something – Develop a reputation and connect with your customers emotionally.
- Empower your customers – If you help your customers succeed, your customers will in turn help your brand succeed.
- Deliver value – What sets your product, service and company apart from your competitors?
Possibly the most important piece to the brand consistency puzzle is the commitment by everyone in your business to follow and maintain the brand standards that are decided upon. It will take proper planning and preparation to maintain your messaging, however the results will be well worth the hard work and dedication.
Need help with your brand?
If you are looking for more articles about small business branding, here are some great ones to check out. Read 'em and then contact us to see how we can help create a consistent brand for your business.
- Ten Ways to Build a Brand for Your Small Business by The Marketing Donut
- 5 Things You Must Know About Branding Your Small Business by Huff Post
- 10 Tips to Help You Build a Successful Small Business Brand by Duct Tape Marketing