Many people think that branding is about having the perfect logo or using just the right tagline. Although these things are important, there's actually a whole lot more to branding than that. It's not just about the look and feel of your business, it's also about the impressions you make, how people feel when they see and interact with your business and what they eventually come to expect from you. All of these aspects together create a brand.
That's why branding takes a lot of thoughtful, considerate work. It's an ongoing process that evolves continuously. With that said, it's very important that once you've established a brand identity that you stay consistent. So how do you get started creating your own brand? Here's a list of several helpful tips for branding your business or yourself:
1. Be intentional
Contrary to popular thought, getting a logo is not the first step. You can't decide what your brand should be about before you do the homework. You have to think about the purpose of your business, about the importance of your products, services, etc. What is your mission? What do you bring to the table? What is special about what you're doing? What qualities and values do you want associated with your business or yourself? Knowing the answers to these questions will help lay an intentional foundation upon which you can build an authentic brand that is represented throughout your entire business, not just your logo.
This is also when you brainstorm names for your brand. You want the name to be coherent with your product/services. This is an exaggeration but if you're selling organic products you don't want the word "fake" or "synthetic" in your brand name. Keep an eye on available domain names. You'd be surprised which URLs are already snatched up.
2. Get graphic
After you're clear about your purpose, the values you want to represent and the motivations that drive you, you can get to the fun part: your logo concept! And colors, fonts, variations, embellishments and more! There are loads of tips about designing a logo: you want it to be simple yet memorable, it should utilize the right colors, be in vector form so you can scale it to any size, saved in different file formats, etc, etc. Those details could use a whole post on their own. For now it's just important to know some basic guidelines, mainly that it's important to develop consistency for your brand. This means picking 1 or 2 fonts that you'll always use and committing to a color story that communicates your brand. It might seem like common sense at first, but trust me, once your website is covered in Brandon Grotesque and shades of blue, it won't be so easy (or look very professional) to suddenly start using Josefin Sans and fushia.
3. Define your voice
This is a critical stage where you determine the tone of your business. Do you want to come across as outgoing and friendly? Professional? Formal? There aren't any steadfast rules for this - except for consistency. You have to be you and go with what feels right, but in a way that is consistent and authentic.
Here's an example of brand voice that is particular to my experience in Germany, but you'll get the gist: way back when, when I wrote my original copy for Etepetete Design Co. (in English) it was relaxed, fun and friendly. Definitely not formal and definitely not overly professional. Several months later I wrote and launched the German site. I used the German formal "Sie" instead of the informal "du" bc that's what I've learned in my German classes. But when I showed it off to my German friends, they were really confused bc using the formal "Sie" made it sound unnatural and kind of weird. There was a disconnect between my product/style and my voice which confused my brand. So be careful not to undervalue the importance of a consistent and appropriate voice.
4. Put it everywhere
Once you've thought through your brand, visualized it with graphics and further developed it with a distinct and unique voice, you have to integrate it. Use your brand everywhere! Register your social accounts, distribute your email address. Tell your friends and family. Tell strangers you meet. Make business cards and hand those babies out. Make flyers. Get your brand out there in front of others.
This isn't always an easy thing to do. If you're like me, you prob care way too much what other people think and it can be scary to put yourself out there. But the more you promote yourself the more natural it will start to feel, and soon enough you'll be an advocate for your own legit and awesome brand!
5. Walk the talk
Finally and perhaps most importantly, you have to walk the talk. Is your brand based on high-quality, great value products? Excellent customer service? Or maybe a straightforward approach to something? No matter what it is, you have to fulfill what your brand promises to deliver. In the same way that your voice needs to be consistent with your brand, your actions do too.
If you tell people that you'd "love to hear from them" but when they reach out you're unfriendly or slow to respond, they'll recognize the disconnect. Nothing can undo all the hard work you've already put into building your brand faster than falling short on your brand expectations and promises.
I hope these tips help you when developing a brand for your business (or yourself). Do you have others tips/tricks when it comes to brand development? I'd love your thoughts on this topic!
Note: This is an updated version of a former post, see the original here.