I have a guest post for you all this week and I think you’re really going to like it.
Kelsey Frizzell, Co-Founder of KR Digital Solution, is here to share with us why branding is so incredibly important for entrepreneurs to get right and how you can make improvements to your company’s branding right now, without spending any money. She shares 6 simple (yet not easy) steps that you should take – right away – to make sure that you’re presenting the image you want to be presenting.
Full disclosure: most of the links in this guest post from Kelsey are affiliate links…don’t let that scare you away though, because the tips she gives don’t require any spending; you can implement them yourself, for free, right now.
With so many businesses on the market today, making yours stand out from the crowd is crucial to success. A strong brand message and visual identity is the key to your voice being heard above the noise.
So what is branding?
To understand what branding is, we first need to understand the meaning of the word brand. By brand I don’t mean the logo or the color scheme of your company; no, the brand is much bigger and more conceptual. The brand is the promise, the big idea, the reputation. It’s the emotional connections your company makes with its clients that inspire a sense of loyalty.
Therefore, the brand is not something we can create; it is created by the public’s perception. Products may be created in the factory, but brands are created in the mind. This is where branding comes in.
Branding is the process of aligning what the public thinks of your brand with what you want them to think. Just take a minute and think about that; it’s a powerful statement!
We may not be able to create the brand, but we can influence it through creating a clear and cohesive visual system that represents the values and mission of your company.
That way when someone sees something from your company, whether it’s an advertisement, social media account, website or product, they will immediately associate it with the values that you have carefully selected to portray in your brand image, such as customer service, eco-friendliness, consistency or tradition, to name a few.
What is a Visual Identity System?
The diagram above shows all of the factors that go into influencing the public’s opinion about your brand. For a strong brand, it’s equally as important to have both strong customer service and product quality as it is to have a consistent visual language that projects clarity, confidence, and unity.
This visual language is the visual identity system, the combination of all the pieces that work together to maintain a singular voice for the brand. It is made up of the logo, color palette, typefaces, image style, website, printed material, signage, and tone of voice.
When done correctly, the customer will be able to identify your brand without needing to see the logo. This is crucial when your client is passing by a shelf full of different products with a variety of packaging, colors, and typography. Being able to know which is yours with a glance gives your product a huge edge on the competition.
How can you improve your brand’s visual identity?
In theory, all of this may seem complicated, but I’ve included some steps below that you can take on your own (and without spending any money!) to improve your business’s brand identity.
- Make a list of your company’s guiding attributes
These are the core values of your company, the kind of message or vibe you want your clients to feel towards you. Some examples would be organic or fair trade, trustworthiness, innovation, community involvement, etc.
Brainstorm as many as you can think of and then choose between 5 and 8 of the most important ones. These will form the basis of your brand message.
- Evaluate your current brand material against your attributes
Collect some of your current brand materials, such as your logo, advertising materials, social media profile/cover pictures, website (if you have one), product packaging, or any other visual representation of your brand.
Using your new list of guiding attributes, cross reference your collection with your desired brand message. Does your current visual identity support the guiding attributes of your brand? Is there any conflict in the messages you are sending to your clients? If so, what are these conflicting messages?
If you have several different styles conveying different messages, the client may become confused as to what your brand stands for. When it comes to branding, consistency is key.
- Create a strategy for your brand’s visual identity
This doesn’t have to mean you design a completely new logo and visual identity; however, in some cases this may be necessary. On a simpler note, it means reevaluating your visual identity by choosing only the styles that match your guiding attributes.
It may mean culling some of your other artwork, but it’s for the best! Try to choose the direction that best fits with your core values, choosing a consistent font, color scheme and image style for all of your future brand materials.
For example if you’ve chosen earthy tones and a handwritten-style font to reflect your company’s all-natural product nature, an advertisement using red and big block letters probably wouldn’t be a good idea!
- Develop your tone of voice
Something often overlooked when it comes to branding is the tone of voice, which you can think of as your brand’s personality. If your brand were a person, what kind of things would it say? Would it be funny and witty or more reserved and serious?
Write out some phrases that you think capture this personality. One of these may even become your next tagline!
- Draft up a basic mood board of your visual style
This is a great way for you to stay consistent with your future publications. I like to use Pinterest for this since it offers tons of great images and resources at the click of a button, but you can use other websites, magazine clippings, your own photography or anything else!
Make a collection of 8-15 images that reflect your brand’s new visual style that you’ve refined based on your guiding attributes. If you’re familiar with a photo editing software, bring all the pictures in and start arranging. If not, you can always print out the images and do it the old-fashioned way!
Add your color scheme (between 4-8 colors), font selection and your tone of voice phrases. Arrange all of this together as if it were a big scrapbook page.
Your mood board will serve as a great reference for you in the future when you are creating new brand material. Remember to always check to see that something is consistent with your brand values and identity before publishing!
- Echo this style through your online platforms
If you have a website, now is the time to evaluate if it fits with your new brand message and visual style. If not, it might be time to consider some improvements – your website is, after all, your most important conversion tool!
This also goes for social media – your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media profile pictures and cover photos should be in line with your visual identity.
And there you have it – 6 easy steps to help you improve your brand’s visual identity and message consistency. Your annual reports – and future clients – will thank you!
Kelsey is a graphic designer, developer, and co-founder of KR Digital Solution, a branding, web and online consulting agency. She has worked on a huge range of projects, from local businesses to multinational organizations like Greenpeace.
An entrepreneur that gave up everything to become a digital nomad, she is passionate about helping people turn their dream businesses into reality through beautiful visual identities that tell their brand stories. You can find her on Facebook or on her boutique branding site, Wild Side Design Co.