Build a Brand5
When we talk about a "brand" for your business, in this case we mean the materials and collateral which represent your business. This is more accurately called the "brand identity", which includes things like the logomark, colours, typography and document layouts. These play a vital role in communicating your business to the consumer.
Keep in Mind, Branding Isn't a Science
Take this chapter with a grain of salt; elements such as personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, context etc. often muddies the effect which branding (and marketing) decisions have on consumers.
Before We Start, Here's Some Inspiration
To get the creative juices flowing, take a look at these resources before you continue:
- Under Consideration (a graphic design blog) has a Brand New column dedicated to from-tos for various brands.
- Awwwards (an awards community for digital creatives) has inspiration for brands based on their favourite entries.
- Logoed is an inspiration community for graphic designers, specialising in brands.
Matching Your Brand to Your Target
Chapter 4 touched on targeting in terms of marketing. Now it's time to double click on this and really identify who it is you're selling to. This is important because your branding and materials should map directly to the target audience you are marketing to. Typically branding is targeted at one (fictitious) person. We call this person the "who".
Example: We are targeting Sandy. She's 26, grew up in metro Sydney and has an undergraduate degree in commerce from the University of Sydney. Sandy earns ~$135,000 per year as an analyst at a retail bank, but isn't too passionate about it. Sandy's real passion is in fashion and culture, and she spends her weekends reading fashion blogs and attending fashion markets, like those held monthly in Surry Hills.
As you can see above the "who" is extremely specific, but in reality the people who purchase the good or service will likely be from a wide-ranging demographic. Nonetheless, we need a specific "who" so that we can tailor our marketing choices (e.g. colours) effectively.
Doing it Well
The true complexity of branding is being mindful of elements and language which might ostracize a particular group of people. For example, using exclusively pinks and purples in a colour scheme would be detrimental if you wanted to serve both male and female markets. Be aware of biases you may have towards certain elements or colours, and be conscious of inclusivity when developing your brand.
Simplicity is in fashion - what do your favourite brands look like? Using simple elements in a thoughtful way will have you in great shape.
Elements of Your Brand Identity
There are three key elements to a brand identity: the logomark, the colour scheme and the typography. These things together are enough to communicate a brand to the public. For a portion of this chapter we'll use an example brand: Spotify, a digital music service that provides access to millions of songs.
The "who" for the purposes of Spotify's targeting is Tom, a 29 year old graphic designer who lives in metro Sydney and earns enough to own an iPad and a new pair of Wrangler jeans. Note this is not the official "who" for Spotify (this information is rarely made public, as it forms part of a business' strategy). However, based on the marketing material produced by Spotify, this is directionally correct.
A logo is the unique visual identifier for a business. It comes in three main formats, and may be a wordmark (i.e. text which is used as a logo), a logomark (i.e. a mark which represents the brand) or a lockup (i.e. the combination of a logomark and a wordmark). Examples of these formats in Spotify's case are shown in the exhibit.
For optimal use, logos should be unique, simple and practical. Unique logos are recognisable, simple logos are easy to read and practical logos look good across all mediums (e.g. print, digital).
Depending on the use, you may see the wordmark, logomark or lockup being used - this is the beauty of having a suite of logos.
In developing a logo you should consider the purpose and values of the business, as well as the "who". Crack open a blank notepad and a pen, and get creative.
If you don't know how to use Adobe Illustrator, there are a number of tools you can use to develop a logo:
- Canva has a logo design tool which registered users can try out.
- Squarespace has a logo design tool which anyone can try out.
- Drawing your logo with a pen and paper, and then contacting a graphic designer on Freelancer to digitize it (note that getting an unknown Freelancer designer to design your logo from scratch is not recommended).
In branding theory, colours are extremely important. Colours are an emotional mechanism for your brand which convey feeling immediately, even without words or symbols. You can learn the basics of colour theory in this Entrepreneur magazine article.
While there are no rules in branding, typically having two dominant colours and a gamut of secondary colours is helpful. Spotify uses green, black and white as dominant colours, as well as variety of secondary colours. As shown in the graphic, Spotify has also developed a gradient which it uses as a secondary colour. Using catchy gradients is typical of contemporary brands.
Dominant colours should be able to be used in concert. For example, text should be one dominant colour, overlaid on top of a background which is the other dominant colour. Secondary colours should be selected to support or pop in addition to the dominant colours.
Adobe Color CC is a wonderful (and free) tool which you can use to create a colour gamut. Note that on screen colours are typically recorded with hexadecimal codes (e.g. #FFFFFF for white, #000000 for black).
Typography is the group of fonts which a brand employs to convey messages. Typically brands have one dominant font, and one secondary font. There may be two serif fonts, two sans-serif fonts, or a combination of both. To get up to speed on all things typography, you should read Typography 101, an article by Kontra.
Nailing your typography comes down to choosing sensible fonts which play well together, and then being completely consistent. Sometimes the answer is using just one font consistently.
To find fonts which suit your brand, you may wish to:
- Look through the basic system fonts (e.g. Arial, Calibri) in Microsoft Word (or another word processor).
- Look through Google Fonts, a free database of fonts which you can use.
The End Product
The end product of your brand development should be a collection of files in JPG/PNG ("bitmap") and EPS/PDF/AI ("vector") format, as well as a set of fonts (if not standard systems fonts). You'll be able to hand these files to a graphic designer anytime you need some graphic material developed (designers like vector formats best [EPS/PDF/AI]).
An example of a brand identity can be seen using the button below.
Website and Social Media
Your website and social media presence is a huge part of how your brand appears to the public. The good news is that it's not hard to nail this once you've completed your brand identity, as there are plenty of user-friendly resources to help.
The key is consistency. As long as your brand is completely consistent (i.e. never using a font or colour which isn't brand-approved), your audience won't notice.
Developing a website which communicates your brand and offering is incredibly powerful. If you aren't a software engineer (and don't know one), the best option is typically to use an off-the-shelf design from a service provider:
- Squarespace has great designs which are very user friendly, including for webstores.
- Shopify is a particularly good webstore platform.
- Wix is good for basic websites.
As with most things, less is more. Having as few pages on your website as possible is critical, but you must also show all information that a potential customer or client would want to see.
There are a number of social media platforms which you may consider using:
- Facebook: Useful as a catch-all placeholder for retail-facing businesses.
- Instagram: Useful for communicating visually-based brands, products or services.
- LinkedIn: Useful for business-to-business based brands.
In general, it's prudent to maintain a social media presence on each social media platform that your target market uses. Posting your own content is the key to success, and of course, be professional at all times.
Maintaining consistency can be a pain across several different social media platforms. There are solutions like Hootsuite and IFTTT which can post simultaneously, at certain predefined times (e.g. to preload posts for distribution across the day) or based on external factors.
Now your brand identity has been developed. We'll review a few crucial skills for success in the next chapter.