In most articles about “How to start a business“ branding is stressed as an important requirement. But do you know how to build a business brand, and what a brand is exactly? Most people don’t!
In this post, we’ll discuss what business brand strategy is and why it’s so vital to have a strong brand. We’ll also give you some tips on how to create a brand strategy that will help your business stand out from the competition.
What is business branding?
Business branding, also known as brand identity, is the method by which a company creates a unique name, design, and identity for itself. A brand identity allows customers to easily recognize the business and its products or services. Branding is more than just a logo, however. It’s reflected in everything from a business’s customer service style to its advertising.
Why does your business need a business brand strategy?
A strong brand identity is important for several reasons.
- It helps customers remember your company and what it offers.
- A strong brand identity can help you attract new customers and keep current ones loyal.
- Third, a well-branded business appears more professional and credible to potential investors or partners.
- Branding can help you differentiate your business from competitors.
When it comes to doing your business branding, there are typically two options: either you can do it yourself, or you can hire someone else to do it for you. If you choose to go the DIY route, you will need to have certain skills and the right software to create some of the elements that make up your branding, such as your logo. Fortunately, the content creation software you’ll need to create your logo and other brand items is the same software you’ll use in parts of your business marketing strategy.
How to create your business branding:
Step 1: Define your business clearly
Your brand identity should be based on who you are, or want to be, as a business. What makes your business unique? Why should customers choose to do business with you instead of your competitors? Are you planning to stay a small business or do you have goals to expand much more?
Corporate branding can be more complicated than small business branding—this article is written with more of a focus on small business branding.
Five key areas to help clarify your branding:
Before diving into your branding strategies you’ll want to explore the five topics below to get a clearer idea of who you are, or want to be, as a business.
- Target audience
- Brand personality
- Core values
A brief example of how these questions might be answered is shown below. For this example we have chosen a web design company:
- Mission – To provide professional, quality web design services that reflect the unique personality and values of our clients.
- Vision – Our vision is to be the most sought-after web design company in the state, known for our unique creativity, quality work, and excellent value for the services provided.
- Target audience – We target small businesses that sell residential services such as landscaping, painting, renovations, and pool service.
- Brand personality – We want our small business to be seen as creative, professional, reliable, and approachable.
- Core values – We believe in working hard and delivering quality work on time, every time. We believe in treating our existing customers, as well as our potential customers the way we like to be treated: with respect, honesty, and integrity.
You’ll use these ideas to build your branding through value propositions, a tagline, slogans, tone, messaging, stories, and more.
Once you have a clear idea of what sets your business apart, you can start to create your logo, marketing materials, and customer service policies that reflect those values.
Step 2: Design your business logo
The foundation of your brand identity is your logo, which should be integrated into all aspects of your business. It should be memorable, unique, and instantly recognizable. You may also want to consider using taglines or slogans that are associated with your brand.
Before you begin creating your logo think about your company’s “personality”. Is your company—edgy, upscale, fun, casual, serious? Your logo, marketing materials, even your social media posts should all reflect the personality of your company. A successful brand has a personality that resonates well with its target market and is distinct from other brands.
A mistake new brands can make is not understanding how directly their logo communicates to their potential customers. For example, review the images below. All are logos for hotels and resorts but it’s obvious each group has a different marketing strategy.
The grouping below are luxury hotels and resorts. They have a certain look—clean lines, simple colors, minimalistic approach.
This next group are also hotel and resort logos. These logos have a more casual branding. They, too, have a distinct look and feel but in this case colorful, artistic, and high-energy.
Compare The Tamarack Resort logo to the Four Seasons. Both logos are similar in the context of changing seasons, but by their logos, you can instinctively tell their target customers are not the same.
Bottom line: Your logo should reflect the “personality” of your business and be created with the specific target audience in mind.
Should you DIY your logo or hire out?
Good question! Let’s break it down:
Option A - Hire a graphic designer to do it for you:
Of all your marketing tools your logo is not one you want to skimp on. Since your logo goes on so many things—business cards, brochures, ads, vehicles in some cases, etc— it can be quite expensive to change it later if you didn’t get it right initially. Plus, it’s the face of your business! Getting it right, versus getting it wrong can affect your bottom line.
If you hire a professional graphic designer to create your logo be sure their portfolio contains many logos, and that you like what you see. It’s also helpful to verify their work since people (not just designers) have been known to “borrow” work from other websites. One way of verifying is by using Google image search and, once the search results appear, confirming the logo isn’t on another designer’s website.
Crowdsourcing sites like Upwork, 99 designs, and Fiverr are possible places to look for a graphic designer who specializes in logo work.
Option B - Do it yourself
If you are skilled in graphic design you can try your hand at creating your logo yourself, but keep in mind, you’ll need to put in enough research time to ensure you’re not creating a logo too similar to someone else’s.
The logo creation program you use needs to be vector-based so that you can enlarge your design without it becoming pixelated. Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, and Corel Draw are all examples of vector-based programs you could use.
Some AI design software programs such as DesignAI can also be helpful to create your logo or just brainstorm for ideas.
If you use a raster-based program such as Photoshop you’ll run into problems when you need to enlarge your logo. For example, what if you want to create a banner for a trade show or to promote an event? With raster-based programs, your logo will look more pixilated and less clear the larger it gets. Photoshop is an amazing program for many things, but it isn’t ideal for logo design.
Step 3: Choose your colors, typeface, imagery, and style
Well-done branding strategies present a consistent, familiar identity to customers. Items such as typeface and font, imagery style, and color palette should be clearly defined and adhered to. Even the photos and videos you use on your website and social media should deliver a cohesive message. Your customers might be confused if some of your videos are presented in a quiet, measured tone and others are loud and garrulous.
When selecting a typeface for your branding strategy, be sure to consider the “feel” you want to project. Sans-serif typefaces are typically seen as being more modern while those with serifs have a more classical appearance. Along with the typeface you’ll need to choose your brand’s font style.
Since most people use the word “font” even when they mean typeface, this might be a good point to explain what a typeface is. A typeface is a collection of fonts that share certain characteristics.
For example, the typeface Times New Roman is made up of four fonts: regular, italic, bold, and bold italic. The text below illustrates this example.
When it comes to colors, there are no hard-and-fast rules, but you’ll want to stick with two or three colors at most. Too many colors can be visually confusing. You’ll also want to make sure the colors you choose work well together and create a pleasing palette.
Some businesses prefer to use color as their main branding tool, while others use it in conjunction with typeface and imagery.
Tiffany & Co. is a good example of a business that uses color prominently in its branding efforts. The shade of blue first used by the company in 1945 and known colloquially as Tiffany Blue is instantly recognizable as being associated with Tiffany & Co.
Target Corporation is another example of a company that brands well with color. From logo to ads, signage, and even their employee’s dress code, red is the predominant color. If their website suddenly started sporting blue, it would be an obvious inaccuracy to their brand identity.
Branding guidelines for imagery
Your business branding should also include a specific style for your images. This might be something as simple as using all black-and-white photos or limiting yourself to only using certain types of photography, like close-ups of people’s faces.
Apple is a business that has always had a very specific photography style in its branding. All of their product images are shot against white backgrounds which gives them a clean, modern look.
For example, take a look at the sets of images below. Can you see the congruency in each set?
Nike’s marketing campaigns, brand voice, and other marketing details all feel congruent with each other and their other marketing efforts. Even their brand logo gives the impression of action.
To Victoria’s Secret’s loyal customers the types of images represented above feel exactly like what they’d expect. It’s become a recognizable brand, not just because of Victoria’s Secret marketing strategies, but because the company conveys a cohesive brand story in every marketing effort.
The language you use in your branding should be consistent and appropriate for your business. You don’t want to sound stuffy and formal to your target audience if your business is casual, or vice versa.
Again, Tiffany & Co. provides a good example of this. The language in their branding is very formal and high-end. Words like luxury, artistry, and craftsmanship are used frequently connoting their affluence-focused brand identity.
Conversely, Old Spice uses humor and a more laid-back tone in their branding. Slogans like “The man your man could smell like” and “I’m not saying I’m a player, but I am a captain” use informal language to create an engaging and funny brand identity.
Step 4: Create a style board for your business brand
Once you’ve decided on all of the elements that will make up your business branding, it’s important to be sure the guidelines are being followed.
One way of ensuring this consistency is to create a style guide. A style guide is simply a document in which you compile all of the different elements together so you can see how they look and work together. It’s essentially a mood board that includes images, typefaces, colors, and other visual elements that represent your brand. A business branding style board can also include specific instructions on how to use all of the elements correctly.
Example of a business branding style board:
Thyme + Lemon’s image board shows their brand font, color palette, logo variations, and imagery. Even their use off an off-white recycled paper is indicative of their branding style. This is actually a mock-up board, not a real company. If you like working with mockup boards to get your creative ideas flowing Etsy and Canva are good places to search them out.
Another example of a business branding board:
Royal Mail, similar to the branding board above, goes into detail showing color palette, font, logo variations and even logo placement for company vehicles.
How to create a business branding style board: DIY or hire out?
Option 1 - Hire a graphic designer to do it for you
If you don’t know a good graphic designer to hire ask for referrals from business colleagues or hire one from outsourcing platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr, or 99 Designs.
Option 2 - Do it yourself
You can create your logo and business branding board from scratch or use one of many templates offered for sale on Etsy and similar creative platforms. Be sure to read the template requirements because you’ll need to use a design software program that works for the template such as Canva, Adobe Illustrator, or Photoshop.
Programs and platforms to help with your branding efforts:
Software for building your logo yourself:
- Adobe Illustrator
- Affinity Design
- Corel Draw
Crowd-sourcing platforms to hire a graphic designer:
- 99 designs
Templates for laying out your branding board
- Businesses need branding to create a unique and recognizable identity in the marketplace.
- Branding should be consistent across all marketing channels and convey the business’ story, values, and mission.
- A style guide can help ensure brand consistency.
- There are many ways to create your logo and business branding style board, but hiring a professional graphic designer is often the best option.
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