In this world where the marketplace for people’s attention is busier than ever, where more and more companies are battling for customer engagement, there is little more important to your marketing than solid branding. Great branding will not only make your business memorable to consumers, it can also help build trust by engaging customers in a deeper and more purposeful way.
What is Branding?
When most people hear the word branding they think it begins and ends with a logo, or at most a visual style. While your logo and the aesthetic you choose for your marketing materials, such as business cards and social media tiles, are very important aspects of your branding, there is so much more to consider. Your branding should also include and be reflected in areas of your business such as advertising, customer service, social responsibility and reputation. All of these elements and many more work together to create one unique and attention-grabbing profile.
Your brand gives you personality. A brand is more than a physical mark. It’s an emotional mark or more specifically, an emotional experience. Every interaction a customer has with your business will determine just how strong their engagement with the emotional experience of your product really is.
Creating a Brand
There are so many elements to consider when devising the visual style of your product or business. It may seem daunting at first, with a whole world of logo, font and colour possibilities at your fingertips, so a good starting point is to consider what makes your brand your brand. What are the emotional and ethical tenets of your business? What is most important to you? Key terms like: family friendly, natural, reliable, strong - these can all be valuable first steps to deciding the visual language you would like to represent your brand.
It is then time to consider how to reflect that ethos in your branding; in your logo, your choice of fonts and your colour palette. While there are layers upon layers of colour psychology at play, sometimes the most obvious choices are just that because they make sense. A brand trying to appeal to families can opt for a welcoming and easy-to-read font, with soft and fun colours: baby blues, pinks and yellows. A brand existing in the natural beauty space may look to show off that side of themselves with nice greens and earthy tones, accompanied by some stylish leaf or plant motifs. While someone looking to portray a more powerful edge to their brand may opt for bold colours and a bold typeface. A good source of direction in this area is to seek out companies that occupy a similar space in the market and with branding that resonates with you personally.
While it is never a good idea to carbon copy the branding of another business or product, doing your research and understanding what it is about the brands that appeal to you and incorporating those same ideas into your own design is definitely encouraged.
The Importance of Having a Style Guide
Once you have made these decisions about the visual aesthetic of your branding, it is time to record them in your style guide. Having a comprehensive and precise style guide is integral to ensuring that your branding choices are reflected in every aspect of your business. Usually presented as a PDF, your style guide can be easily shared and distributed to graphic designers or anyone who is creating content for you, to make sure the decisions you have made are adhered to.
The elements that are a must in your branding style guide are:
- Logo: This should be accompanied by easy to use high resolution files of your logo. (PNG or JPG for digital use, EPS or PDF for large scale or print)
- How your logo can be used: Are there different colour versions of your logo to account for light or dark backgrounds? Are there any colours you do not want your logo to be used in conjunction with? Do you want there to be a minimum amount of space around your logo at all times? (A good tip is to use an element with your logo as the measurement. E.g., “There should always be the equivalent of the letter “e” in padding around the logo”.
- Colour Palette: It is important to define not only the main colours used in your logo but also the colours to be used for text, backgrounds, blocks of colour, etc. General practice is to include 3-8 colours in your palette, ranging from light to dark tones. You want to include enough colours that your content creators won’t ever need to improvise, but giving too many colours may provide them with too much choice. A good middle ground is recommended. It may also be worth determining which colours should be used for which elements. For example: Colour A is for text only. Colour B is only to be used for backgrounds, etc. Make sure to include hex codes and/or RGB/CMYK codes with your colour palette to ensure accuracy. For more information on hex codes check out this great explanation from Opus Design: https://opusdesign.us/wordcount/what-are-hex-codes-for-colors/
- Font: Define the fonts you want used in conjunction with your brand. As above it is best practice to provide options for your designer, but clearly define the uses for each option. For example: Font A is to be used exclusively for headings. Font B is for body text. Font C is for highlights. It is also best practice to not only define the font by its specific name, but supply font files with your style guide to ensure accuracy.
Other elements you may wish to include in your branding style guide:
- Graphical choices to reflect your visual language, such as only using sharp corners or rounded corners on blocks of colour. Or perhaps you don’t want any blocks of colour and instead prefer all materials to be simply text over a coloured background, or text over a photo.
- If you are leaning towards photo based graphics it is a very good idea to define in your style guide the type of photos you would like associated with your brand. Defining the subject, photographic style and emotional resonance of the photos will help to maintain the vibe of your branding.
- If you have a certain pattern or graphical element you would like included in your content you should define it here as well. Once again, do your graphic designers a huge favour by including the files for these patterns. This will cut down on their workload and also ensures the accuracy of the content.
This feels like a huge step and a lot of information to take in, but defining these aspects of your branding will go a long way to ensuring that the choices you have made are reflected in all of your content and materials. The practice of creating a style guide can also help you to make those key decisions that will take your branding from great ideas to clear and defined choices.
Pro tip: Make sure your style guide itself reflects your branding choices. Seeing your branding in action in the design of the style guide helps designers and content creators to visualise what you are looking for in a final product. You definitely don’t want to see any of your own branding rules broken in the design of your style guide.
Why Does Branding Matter?
When a customer is mindlessly scrolling their news feed, or driving past a billboard, the opportunity to grab their attention can only be measured in nanoseconds. To have any chance of stopping the scroll or perhaps even just carving out a little part of that customer’s memory, it is important to have branding that is memorable in a positive and meaningful way. A business that doesn’t really have any cohesive branding isn’t going to stick out to a customer, and naturally won’t be memorable to them.
However, if your business has a distinctive logo, attractive and well-thought out colours and other visual elements that are representative of your emotional ethos, this will be far more likely to stick in a customer’s mind. Someone might see your brand for only a moment, but if it stands out in a positive way, there’s a good chance they won’t forget it, even if this person isn’t ready to use your products or services just yet. Eventually, when they’re ready to make a purchase, it will hopefully be your product or business that occurs to them in that moment.
Brand Perception and Recognition
A customer’s trust is both one of the most important and often most difficult things to gain, as a business, and a business that is missing key elements of branding will have an even harder time getting people to trust them. When you see a business, you expect to see cohesive branding, so when this is not immediately apparent it can act as a red flag for customers. Showing customers clear and comprehensive branding tells them that you are an established and well-cared for business, building immediate trust in your product. If you were deciding between two companies to give your custom and one had engaging and attractive branding, while the other didn’t, it’s very easy to see which one you would choose.
How Your Branding Can Attract and Maintain Loyal Clients
You don’t just want customers who recognise your brand and use your business once — you want to create customers who continue to come back. Solid branding will give your brand a more human side, which your customers can relate to more than a company that’s strictly all business, giving you the ability to appeal to the emotions of your customer through branding and make them feel more connected to your company. Branding allows you to build relationships with your audience, which can eventually turn them into loyal customers. If you can build that emotional connection with a customer, it will immediately give you a head start over other companies that fail to do so.
Different Ways You Can Express Your Brand
Since you have put all that work into defining your brand and building your brilliant comprehensive style guide, it’s time to look at all the different places you can put it to good use. Any time your product or company is represented visually, it should be under the guidelines of your branding style guide. In the physical sense, this may include items like staff uniforms, flyers, business cards, even the design and layout of your store or workplace. Maybe your office needs a feature wall painted in your brand’s colour? Small steps like this will help your staff and customers feel like they are a valued part of your company.
Every single aspect of your digital presence should reflect your branding correctly and purposefully. Your website presenting a cohesive version of your brand is obviously integral, but another key area where your presence is a must is social media. This is where decisions need to be made as to what your social content will be. Do you want your Instagram grid to be all photos or videos? Or do you also want instantly recognisable and unique social media tiles that will not only gain your customer’s attention but also their loyalty? Collaborating with a graphic designer on social media templates that can be reused and repurposed can be a lastingly valuable investment.
Solid and defined branding can go a long way to creating an emotional connection with your customers, and with so many product choices and options in front of customers it is this emotional connection that will be what directs a customer to choose you over a competitor. Using your own personal emotional and ethical tenets to guide your branding and then ensuring your branding is both comprehensive and concise, as well as eye-catching and engaging is integral in the modern day business world.
Anthony Webster is a graphic designer and videographer who specialises in branding and content creation.
Anthony cut his teeth in the music industry, working with artists and labels on album artwork, merchandise designs, tour posters and all manner of promotional materials. With so many unique projects, Anthony saw the importance of zeroing in on what it was that made each artist different and ensuring that was represented in their visual language.
As an Account Manager with Poppy Seed Media, Anthony is able to bring those worlds together. He enjoys working closely with clients to find out their goals and what they're passionate about, and pouring energy into hard-working and eye-catching content for them.