Establishing a brand can be a complicated process. It requires looking at your business from every possible angle in an attempt to tell your story in a compelling and consistent way across all touch points. The value of building a strong brand identity from the outset cannot be understated. It gives you the right foundation to make all future decisions upon. Unfortunately, this process is often overlooked against other necessary aspects of running a business. While not everyone has the skillset to create a brand from start to finish, we do think that a few small adjustments to your thought process can go a long way. Here are just a few high level pieces to keep in mind.
Just like people, brands have a unique personality that helps them navigate the business world. This helps with building a culture, finding strategic partnerships, and making the right decisions. To illustrate this, let’s quickly look at a couple of the world’s largest brands: Nike and Apple. Nike might describe their brand as fit, powerful and athletic; whereas Apple would describe themselves as trustworthy, simple and creative. Two brands, two very different brand personalities. Before jumping into figuring out a name, logo, or what your office is going to look like, take some time to establish your brand’s personality traits because these are the foundation for everything else.
After understanding your brand’s personality, it’s time to figure out how your brand is going to communicate with the outside world. The voice of a brand becomes integral to your overall messaging. A brand’s voice is not a literal voice - unless you are in the intelligent assistant space - but it represents how you express your brand through words. The type of vocabulary sentence structure you choose will stem from your personality and be fundamental in creating all your content. Are you going to be direct? Formal? Poetic? Will you use business jargon or casual language? When thinking about voice you need to always remember both your personality and your customer. You will be able to create a strong voice when you understand your ideal customer while being authentic in your personality.
If voice is what your brand says than tone is how your brand says it. While the voice should remain the same across all messaging, the tone has the freedom to change a bit depending on the particular channel you are using. Are you writing an email newsletter? Creating memes on Instagram? Your tone has the liberty to adjust depending on who is listening, but the voice should remain the same.
The visual part of a brand identity is where most mistakes happen. Just because another company has a cool logo, funny commercial, or trendy icon, doesn’t mean it will work for your brand. It’s vital to remember that every visual element you create needs to flow out of your brand’s personality. If the personality, messaging, and visuals are disconnected it will confuse your customers. This sort of confusion can lead to a Brand Identity Crisis; which basically means your visual identity is not in sync with your brand’s core identity. People can tell when a brand is not being true to who they are and that can lead to negative reception, publicity and reputation.
There’s all sorts of elements that play a role in defining a brand’s visual identity. Some of these foundational pieces are your logo, colour palette, typography choices, and any icons you use. As you go on to market your brand these elements may expand to include photography, illustration, video, and other more detailed design pieces.
I cannot reiterate enough, the visual elements exist to support in the story telling of the brand’s personality. If you want to create visuals that your customer will understand, you have to make sure they match your brand’s core personality.
Finally, creating a brand guideline is what ties all of these pieces together. It acts as a guide for anyone who will be communicating on behalf of your brand across a variety of channels. It covers things like the size of your logo, what colour backgrounds to use it on, the colour/s of your icon etc. It also is a great place to house your brand narrative, the story you’re trying to tell. Think of it like your brand’s bible. Whether you’re dealing with a new employee or a contractor, make sure you have this readily available.
A great brand guideline will include:
- Company overview
- Approved Logos
- Logo Usage
- Colour palettes
- Voice/Tone (Messaging)
- Image style/photography