We all like to hear and believe the time old adage of "don't judge a book by its cover". But seriously, while we know its all true, do we actually do this in real life? If a shop window looked dusty, run down and nasty, do we really say "oh, but maybe there are some cool items inside?". No, we say "yuck", assume its no good and quickly move on.
This is exactly the same when it comes to your business branding. You can have 10 years of experience in your field or venture, really know your stuff but it if is poorly presented, you will be hard pressed for your client and prospects to believe you.
Branding is a bit of a minefield at the moment as the term is so overused that it is almost lost its true meaning. So in this article, we have gone back to basics to explain what it means in a business sense and how it can work for you.
Branding doesn't start with your logo
Branding actually starts with your audience and your values. Who is your audience? What do they like? Where do they ‘hang out’? How do you think your product or service can add value to their lives? It is very tempting when launching a business or creating a brand to focus on what you like and what you want, but this will result in a brand that doesn’t really resonate with a wide or even niche audience; it will feel like your brand doesn’t connect with either market. The first thing you need to do is put yourself aside, and focus on your target market. It should be one set of people with values close to yours, and the business should align with what they need.
Come up with your 3 main brand values
The best way to start is to look at what is important to you and your audience – then see which values overlap. Write down all the values you feel are right for you and your audience then narrow it down to the three that resonate with you the most. These values are the heartbeat and the lifeblood of your brand. They will keep you focused and be the directional compass for everything, from choosing creatives and partners to work with; and how you interact with your customer, right down to what image and typeface style you use in your marketing communications.
The brand values for an African apparel company.
Try to keep them as unique to your company as possible and avoid generic and overused ones, like professional, innovate, quality. The core values of some of the biggest brands in the world resonate with audiences immediately, even without any interaction. You’d usually pick three and they should align and complement each other. They shouldn’t clash, like simplicity and complexity.
What's your single-minded proposition
This is the single thing or value that your business or service adds to your chosen target market. It needs to be only one main one. Many brands have two to three propositions but they very rarely try and show more than one at a time. This is so that brand messaging stays clear at all times. What is the single most important thing your business or service stands for? Why does your business do what it does and for who it does it for? What’s its biggest benefit to your chosen audience? The emphasis is on the ‘single’. For clear brand message, there should only be one proposition.
Tech company Fat Unicorn wanted to be seen as imaginative, experiential and geeky. These brand values lead to us creating a cool, wacky and very memorable fat unicorn logo. This then weaved its way into other parts of the brand like the wood business cards shown above.
Be clear on what you say
Too many messages around what you want to tell your audience makes for muddled communication, as your brand values are communicated through your messaging. This is done via everything from how you answer the phone to how you interact on social media. If you try and be young and hip as well as serious and corporate you give the impression that your brand doesn’t know who it’s talking to, as you can’t speak to everyone the same way. From your brand values and proposition, choose a means of speaking to your audience that fits with them and your brand values and stick to it. Brand messaging comes through in everything from your image choices, to what typeface you use, even your method of speech.
Ok now you can look at your logo
Once you’ve done the previous four steps you’re ready to think about how to present these values visually, as this will be how you want to say things. It’s at this point that you should work with a good graphic designer who will know how to translate these values into visuals. Don’t just pick anyone. Branding is a creative science so it needs an expert who has worked with a variety of brands and knows how to translate values across various media. This is crucial to the success of your business or venture as it’s the first connection with outsiders, so it’s important to get right. It can require lots of thought and detail, so it’s best to hire an expert to help and not just get any designer to make things look pretty. The logo and marketing collateral all need to communicate your brand values.
Branding suite we did for career training platform Career Sharp. Colours and fonts show a warm, friendly, approachable brand that is still to be taken seriously.
In an environment where everyone can just copy each other, getting your branding right will truly make you stand out from your competition. And in such a fast-paced burgeoning market, you will certainly need to.
I hope that helped a bit in understanding a bit more about branding for business and where you should be starting. All the brands show here were developed by us using the points discussed above and the subsequent logos are strong and unique. Let me know what you think in the comments below!