Holistic Visual Branding Basics for Entrepreneurs and Small Business owners.
As a small business owner or a start up entrepreneur, you’re driven to succeed in your business while facing many challenges along the way. You need to wear multiple hats and prioritize your spending as you are dealing with a limited budget.
This article will cover 5 Practical Branding steps needed to differentiate your company from competition, position your business as a premium provider and instill trust and confidence in your clients.
1. BRAND ESSENCE
Think of your favorite brands. How do they make you feel? What do they represent to you? Do you have an emotional connection with them?
As Scott Montgomery, Creative director for Bradley and Montgomery Advertising puts it, “A brand is exactly two things: it’s the promise your offering makes to people, and the clothes that promise is dressed in.”
Branding is about what your customers feel with regards to services you provide or products that you sell. This includes their overall experience with your company from the very first contact to seeing your visual materials, using your product or service and staying in touch.
You can influence what your target audience feels by carefully distilling answers to some of the following questions and delivering on your Brand promise every time a customer interacts with your company:
- What does your business stand for?
- What are your company’s essence, deep conviction, long terms goal?
- How unique are you from your competition?
- What is your target audience?
2. BUSINESS NAME
Once you understand your business’s brand essence, it is time to come up with a name. The name needs to be meaningful, unique, memorable, and easy to pronounce.
There are multiple brainstorming techniques you can use to come up with various words. Some could be metaphoric, based on company’s place of origin, descriptive, others consisting of two words combined into one or completely new sound combinations.
Then compare your ideas and see which name:
- Sounds stronger
- Feels right
- Works internationally
- Has a strong emotional appeal
- Easy to read and pronounce
Other important considerations also include the chosen word URL availability as well as Trademark availability.
3. LOGOTYPE DESIGN
Logotype is one of the most important steps in your business’s visual identity. It’s the face of your business and the main visual icon that signifies all of the business essence that you’ve discovered. Visual execution of a logotype design shouldn’t be taken lightly and needs to be based on all of the discovered information about your brand, competitors, and the target audience.
Each industry has its own visual language, it is important for the designer you work with to:
- Explore the existing competitive landscape to make sure your logotype stands out
- Brainstorm and use free association as those are valuable techniques that help to arrive at the unique combinations
- Sketch multiple ideas to insure that your logotype will go beyond the common ideas
- Skillfully design/draw the final logotypes
Final logotype selection should be based on how well the visual represents the brand essence. On a more practical note, you need to make sure that the logotype works well in smaller sizes as well as black and white for use in various applications.
4. CORPORATE STYLE
You did a great job on discovering your business’s unique personality, came up with wonderful name and gave it an essence-filled face… You now need to discover its aura, its style and emotional/visual presence. This step is important as it works as a foundation for all of the visual materials to be based on.
Your choice of imagery is important to consider when creating a style. Have you seen photos of people with fake smiles that just don’t look genuine? Or, perhaps, you’ve encountered clip art imagery that just doesn’t communicate professionalism?
Your choice of visual language should be true to what your brand stands for. It needs to communicate your values and your true convictions.
I find that it is always better to:
- Showcase real people with genuine emotions and a caring attitude
- Carefully choose royalty-free illustrations and photography on the basis of professionalism and genuineness of the imagery
Typography is another major component of the overall brand. Like brands, fonts have personalities – they could be serious, light-hearted, casual, and friendly. As with imagery, you need to practice caution when selecting fonts – some (Comic Sans) just don’t communicate professionalism and others (Arial) just lack in personality.
Look through multiple font resources to purchase:
- Unique fonts that highlight your brand and have a great personality to them
- The fonts are inexpensive and worth every penny
The last Corporate Style consideration is the Color. Colors don’t just visually influence us, they make us feel and behave differently. Various colors are used in healing environments to help aid patient’s recovery or for pain management. Colors are also known to induce appetite (orange), relax (green) or excite (red-orange).
- See which color combinations work best with your brand’s essence:
- Choose a couple of primary colors that would be used as main identifiers for your brand
- Also pick some secondary ones for the background elements
- Select accent colors that could be used in limited amounts to highlight important elements
Once the overall style has been established, all of the findings should be entered into a Brand Guidelines document. It could be as basic or as elaborate as needed.
The basic ones usually contain the above mentioned Corporate style elements and help in creation of consistent and professional looking visual materials.
5. VISUAL MATERIALS
Depending on your Sales and Marketing strategy choose various venues of customer communications.
You need to consistently and creatively apply your established corporate style to:
- Social networks pages (Linked-in, FB, Twitter)
- Website +Online communications (depth of information and credibility)
- Stationery (business cars, letterhead and envelopes)
- Print materials (brochures, handouts, ads)
- Presentations (PowerPoint)
- Business documents (Invoicing, Estimates and Forms)
Following the above 5 steps will ensure that your business’s true essence successfully shines forth. You will have done a great job by putting your minds, hearts and souls together. You will have created a visual foundation for your business to succeed in differentiating your company from competition, positioning your business as a premium provider and instilling trust and confidence in your clients.