We’ve all been there. You meet someone new at a networking event, they hand you their business card, and it’s beautiful. You’re envious of the textured paper and embossed text (so much so that you feel embarrassed handing out your own self-designed card). This is just the initial impact good branding can have on a potential customer. When you see the expert care and level of professionalism a company has put into their appearance, you can rest-assured that they take their business seriously. I can guarantee you will put more trust in them over a sloppily printed business card you stuffed into your wallet and forgot about immediately. But it’s not just about printing pretty things. There is a lot to consider when creating your visual brand identity, so I’ve compiled a few tips to help get you started in the right direction.
Photo credit: Alexa Mazarello
Branding Tip #1:
You need a logo and it shouldn’t just be “pretty”
Your logo is the first visual element a client will relate to your business. Whether they receive your business card at an event, visit your website, or check out your social media presence. Many self-employed women use their personal name as their business name and therefore their logo. I am an example of this myself. There is nothing wrong with doing this but it is important to think about your brand as a whole when designing your logo. It’s easy to get distracted and create a cute logo incorporating your favourite design elements (for example: flowers, a cat…you get the idea). This applies to any business but when using your name it becomes even more difficult to separate what you like from what your logo should portray. The problem with this is, your clients may not resonate with your favourite visuals.
That’s why it is important to think about your clients and your final product or service when designing (or hiring a designer) for your logo. What are the key values of your business? What services are you offering? Who are your target clients and what do they like? All of these questions should be answered with care in order to create a brand that speaks to your target audience. Don’t get caught up in what you think is pretty. You put more effort into your business plan and development; your brand identity should have equal importance placed on it as well.
Branding Tip #2:
Be Consistent & Create a Brand Guide
This is one of the most important things I try to train my clients to do. Always be consistent with your branding. Whether it’s a social media image, a blog post, or a printed advertisement, your branding should look the same across all media. Maybe you hired a designer to create a beautiful logo for you but they didn’t create a basic brand guide so you and your team use whatever font you feel looks good with each different project. You use a rag-tag assortment of stock photos and you don’t have a defined colour palette. I beg you – please stop! Consistency helps clients recognize you across the board. If they see an image they like on your social media and then are directed to your website and don’t find the same brand style, they will leave your site without further exploration. Ask your designer to create a basic brand guide when they complete your design project including fonts they’ve used in your logo, fonts for your printed materials, suggested fonts you should use for your website, colour palette (including the codes for cmyk, and web hexcodes) and proper logo usage (when should each logo/ icon be used, minimum sizing etc.). All of these items contribute to your overall brand identity and are very crucial to having a professional visual appearance. This is the most important step in creating consistency as this simple document can be given to any future employee or designer to help create new materials for your existing brand following a simple guide.
Branding Tip #3:
Rebranding is ok!
If you already have a brand that you threw together quickly when first starting your business, you are not alone. It’s smart to have something to represent you when you launch your business. However as you grow and want to start attracting more customers and clients, there is nothing wrong with updating your brand! When rebranding a small business, there is minimal impact on your current clients, if anything they will be excited about the change and you can create a fun launch countdown to get them excited for your new look! Change is good, don’t get stuck with a brand identity that doesn’t represent you or the level of professionalism you want your business to have.
Branding Tip #4:
Branding is an investment
Creating the visual identity for your brand shouldn’t be rushed. It is an investment in both time and money. I know it’s hard to allocate time for extra projects on top of your day-to-day work but it’s necessary to create something great. When I am researching a new business to trust (personally or professionally) I look for one that has put effort into its appearance. I know if a business values it’s own branding and has a thoughtful and professional presence, it will be more likely to take care with it’s products and services as well. If you have the skills to design and create your brand yourself, that is great! Don’t rush the process; try many ideas and work to incorporate the values of your company and appeal to the right customers. If you do not possess these skills, that’s okay too! Designers are here to help. You can work with a designer to give your input and feedback along the way to create a brand that speaks to you and represents your business. A well-designed brand identity will last your business years to come; it’s worth the investment.
Keep these key tips in mind as you tackle your future brand creation and you’ll be off to a great start!