Some marketing blogs say branding is your ‘visual representation’. They say it’s the combination of a logo, a website, and a schmick name. Others disagree, they say it is all of those, but a colour palette and a fancy tagline too.
Think of brands like people. A person isn’t their size, facial features, and a name. A person is made up of those, a personality, a voice, thoughts, feelings, they’re complex. So are brands.
Metaphors aside, branding is everything. To create and build a brand, you need to encompass all of those assets but throw in a unique voice and a personality as well, maybe a mission and some values too.
The first step to building your very own brand, is thought and consideration. Have a brainstorm. You need to figure out your target audience and their personas, and go from there. Some questions to ask about your target audience to get the ball rolling are:
In your brainstorming session, you should work out what your branding assets will be based around. Think about you and your team, who you actually are, and what would feel natural. Think about your existing branding and why you want to change it. Is it attracting the wrong kind of customers, not enough customers?
Have a look at your competitors, similar companies, and industry-relevant brands. Look at their designs, how they communicate, what they say they stand for. Does it seem legit? Does it make you cringe? Do some stand out and make you think “I wish I thought of that”? From doing this you can work out what you want to avoid and which direction you’d be excited to go in.
Everything about your new brand matters, including the nitty gritty of your design assets. There are hard lines to toe. On one hand, you don’t want to look like every. other. brand. On the other hand, there’s a reason so many brands look the same, there’s a reason we have ‘trends’ in design: because it’s working.
Working out your physical branding and design assets starts with the broader things: your key colours, your logo, and your website. Then you need to get specific; which fonts will you use, what about an icon set, and what should people recognise your brand by.
Colours can say a lot. We’ve all seen the Colour Emotion Guide. Brands can use colours to subtly inform their customers what they’re about by using the psychology of colours to spark an emotion in the user. Warmer colours like yellow, orange, and red are bold and energetic, they’re exciting. Think Coca Cola, McDonalds, Nickelodeon. Whereas cooler colours like blue and purple are more calm, they’re reserved, they have a sense of authority. Think Oral B, Dell, Hallmark.
Fonts are the same. The stylisation of your copy, or typography, can tell a user what they’re in for before they’ve read the copy. A fancy, cursive font tells the user you’re elegant or a bit classier; maybe a jeweller or a high end fashion brand. A lawyer or an accountant on the other hand, would work better with a modern, clean, and easy-to-read font like Baskerville.
Your logo should set you apart, be recognisable, but be appropriate. There are a few core types of logos:
All of these design assets will then contribute to the design of your website. Your logo, colour palette, fonts, and even your little icons come together to create a sweet website that matches your branding.
A Case Study: Stripe
Stripe is a leading online payment software company. Sonder’s designers love their website and their branding. Stripe’s colour palette is full of light, breezy, pastel colours. Named Stripe, like the stripe of the back of a credit card (get it, an online payment company), they’ve used stripes throughout the background of their site. As a software company, they’ve ‘proved’ their technical ability by having an incredibly ‘techy’ website. The little icons are well designed and interactive, so when the user hovers over them, they move. They’ve included a lot of drop shadows to create the illusion of depth. While their website is a lot of fun and really creative, they’re still a B2B company that needs to be professional. They’ve done this by using a responsible font set, a responsible (but pretty) logo, and a lot of white space.
Your brand isn’t just what it looks like. It should have a personality and a voice too. It should suit your industry or niche, it should speak to your target audience, and it should be relatively natural. As a law firm, using law jargon and big words makes sense. Anyone would probably be less inclined to go with a law firm that greeted you with ‘yo’ or casually dropped an ‘okeydokey’.
To establish this, ask who your brand would be if it were a person. Would it replicate your founder or would it be someone a bit different? Who’s your target audience? How do people in your target audience talk to each other, how do you think they expect to be spoken to?
You can create a rulebook or some guidelines for this. Pick a few words that describe your brand, describe the qualities of each word, and then how you can implement that into your voice.
Description: We’re young people who want to help other young people.
Do: Use casual, conversational language.
Don’t: Use cringey, on-trend words (ie. YOLO, tea)
Read through your existing marketing material. If you’re rebranding or creating a brand now, there’s a good chance it isn’t consistent. So pick out a blog, a section of copy, a social media post, or even a sentence that you think is on-brand. Pick out the parts you think work, work out why they work, and implement them into your style guide.
Remember that it’s no longer unique to just cut the corporate stuff and be funny. You need to be individual, on brand, and speak to your audience.
A Case Study: Frank Body
Frank Body is a beauty and skincare brand that’s marketed predominantly towards young women. Its personality takes on that of a smooth-talking, charming guy that’s hitting on you, his name’s Frank. They tell their story of how Frank Body came about and it ties up with, “So they called me frank and I’ve been getting babes dirty ever since.” Frank refers to you as ‘babe’ and features suggestive copy all over the website, packaging, and basically any piece of marketing they have. Frank couples cutesy flirting with a pastel pink and white colour palette, a distinctive, clean logo, and a hectic, influencer-based social media strategy to absolutely nail their branding.
Building your brand and further establishing who you are is important too. Content marketing and social media is perfect for showing your audience who you are, what you can do for them, and showing that you care for them.
Authentic and helpful content, or content that just sends a good message, can lift your brand and get people talking about it. Content marketing can encourage authority, brand trust, and make your brand seem more personable.
All of your branding should come through in your content (whether it’s a video or blog) and in your socials (from LinkedIn to Instagram). Everything from your colour palette right through to your brand voice should bleed through.
A Case Study: Gillette
Gillette’s most recent ad aimed to bring another voice to the #MeToo movement. Gillette’s target audience is men, particularly young men. Gillette’s brand is all about masculinity and encouraging men to be ‘the best they can be’.
Their ad, which targeted young men (their target audience), asked them to call out inappropriate behaviour around them. From a marketing perspective, they established that their brand is trustworthy because they’re encouraging a positive change in male behaviour. They’ve taken an issue that affects young men: toxic masculinity, which isn’t spoken about on a public platform very often. They’ve created an advertisement around it and marketed it in a public space.
The advertisement resonated with so many people worldwide that it became a Twitter moment and has nearly three and a half million views on Youtube. They had people that don’t even use their products sharing their content, their name was in headlines and all over social media. Plus, it was really good PR. With one ad, that didn’t really mention shaving, they established authenticity and trust in their brand and created an insane amount of positive talk around them.
Another essential aspect of your branding is establishing your mission statement and your values. Your mission statement is the reason you exist. It shouldn’t be ‘to sell our products’ but ‘to help a group of people with our products’. It’s saying who you’re looking to help, what your offer is, why it’s unique, and how you’re going improve someone’s life. Your mission statement should sound good and be accessible to your customers. But it shouldn’t be made with them specifically in mind, because that’s how they seem forced.
Your values should have a competitive edge. They shouldn’t be the same as all your competitors’. Your values should be based around your personality and voice, your target audience, and the culture your company fosters to achieve your mission.
A Case Study: Dove Self Esteem Project
Dove sells hygiene products, while they have a male line, their core target audience is women. Dove started their ‘Dove Self Esteem Project’ in 2004, a series of advertisements, social campaigns, and shareable content (even body image resources for schools) on women’s body image and self esteem.
All of their campaigns and efforts are directly informed by both their campaign mission statement and their ‘Our Vision’. These revolve around Dove wanting to change how women view themselves. Openly talking about the issue, creating content around the issue that aims to spark change, and making it ‘their mission’ puts Dove in a really positive light. Much like with Gillette, their content is easily shared by millions, it creates positive talk about their brand, and it makes their target audience feel like this big name company cares for them.