There is a lot of time and thought, that goes into branding a business. While every business is unique and has its specific requirements, a simple but effective process, will make for a successful outcome.
The First Step
The first step in the process, has little to do with the business itself. The first step involves the potential customer. Whether a new business with no current customer base or an established business seeking to improve your brand, it is important to identify, understand, and analyze your potential customer. You want to ask questions like, “what is the average age?“, “what do they have in common?“, “are they hipsters, athletes, musicians etc..?“.
You want to know everything you can about your customers demographics. The more you know, the better you will understand how your brand should be focused.
If you are able to distinguish your customer base, you can use your branding to compliment them. For example… If you are a candle shop at the mall, your customers are probably majority female. Considering your location at the mall, your customers will more than likely be on the younger side, ranging from young teenagers to seasoned soccer moms. Knowing just this alone is enough to consider a few things like a potential color schemes, fonts, you can even start thinking about imagery and logo concepts.
The more you understand your potential customer, the more you can tailor your brand to suit them. When a customer is comfortable with a business, they are more likely to spend their money, recommend their friends and return again to spend more money. The key is to make sure while you are dialing in on your targeted audience, not to exclude those that fall outside of it. So the first step, is to get to know your customer.
The Name Game
Once you have identified your target audience, you can start to turn the focus back to you business, while keeping in mind who your customer are. By no means is it completely necessary to change your business name. However it can lead to a more customer friendly brand. If you are a new business or an established business looking for a major overhaul, the next step in the process would be your business name.
If your business already has a name, it is not unheard of for businesses to change their names completely, or play off of the old name. It all depends on the whether or not the current name suits your brand. This links back to your customers. You want to make sure the name is something that your potential customer would find appealing.
If you are a new business you have nothing but freedom. With the only real restrictions being your hidden brand. I like to say that… here at ScioMark, we do not create brands, we reveal them. Knowing who your customers are makes this a little bit easier.
When trying to come up with a new name, no idea is a bad idea. You want as many ideas as you can possibly come up with. You want to brainstorm, and don’t be afraid to get creative or take risks. Once you have come up with every possible option that makes sense for your brand, you can start eliminating options by taking away anything that does not work perfectly for you targeted customers. Eliminate anything that might come off offensive or overly exclusive. While you want to focus on your target customer, you don’t want to exclude the exception.
Once you have determined the perfect name for your brand, it’s time to focus on your visual identity.
Always keeping your customer in mind, you want to determine the perfect color scheme for your brand. Colors can have a major impact on how something is perceived. There is a lot of meaning hidden in color. Colors can change how someone feels. Colors also speak about your brand. It is important to keep these things in mind when determining your brands color scheme.
One of the most vital aspects of your brand is your logo. Your logo is how your customers will remember you and set you apart from the rest. This is why it is so important to make sure your logo meets certain guidelines.
One of the most important guidelines is simplicity. It is extremely important that your logo is not overly complicated. Your logo needs to be simple and memorable. It needs to be unique and representative of your brand.
Logos are used on many different mediums. From signage to letterhead, it is vital to make sure your logo is responsive and displays well on any platform. This usually requires different layouts and icons. Your logo is the core of your identity. Right next to your customers. It needs to be well thought out, unique, and simplistic.
When designing a logo it is a good practice to hand sketch different ideas. Be creative, just as we spoke with the name creation. There are no bad ideas at this stage. Use word play ideas, name origin ideas, negative space, Sketch out as many as you can. When you feel you have quite a few great ideas, start eliminating as we did previously with the names. Use your potential customer as a guide to determine which ones you should take to the next level. When you are down to 3 or 4, bring them into the digital world and start working on ways to improve them. Don’t be afraid to work out any fresh new ideas that might come to you while you are working. Some of my best work was a result of working on something completely different. Keep working until you have created the perfect logo for your brand. Make sure it represents your brand and your customers.
Often overlooked, stationery is a very important aspect of your brand. From letterhead to post envelopes, these items represent your business, in and outside, of the office or store. Anytime you send a letter to a potential client, or hand someone a business card, you are handing over a first impression. Even if it is not a first impression, it is still an impression, and it needs to match the brand. Keep in mind, branding is just as much about your customers as it is your business. You want to show them professionalism and consistency so that you can build trust and loyalty.
In many cases stationery is not much more than adding your logo and business info on an office document. However you have the opportunity to add much more in the way of brand value. You should do your best to portray your brand on these items, not just your information. This can be achieved with colors, fonts, sometimes imagery. As it is with everything about your brand, it is important to do it in a simplistic subtle way.
Once you have the basis of your brand. It is important that you develop a style guide so that you can keep your brand consistent. This step can be done towards the end of the branding process, but I find it better to establish the guide before getting in too far with the process. Defining your style guide early can help you with other elements of the process later. It will keep you consistent and make sure your brand is as well.
The style guide can be really simple or extremely detailed. While a detailed guide will be very specific, I tend to keep the guide a little more relaxed to allow for some creative freedom. The important thing is that the brand is defined in a way that it portrays your business as you have revealed it with your research and design, as well as display how to keep the brand consistent.
Key elements of a branding style guide include:
- Logo – Show the correct logo usage. Show all permitted layouts.
- Colors – Show the color scheme, pantones, CMYK, RGB etc.. Include any gradient usage.
- Typography – List fonts used throughout the brand. (website, print materials, erc…) (*Tip keep it to a minimum)
- Brand Values – Define a mission statement that describes your brand in just a few words. List the characteristics of your brand. Display a mood board.
- Imagery – Any photos or imagery, specific to your brand.
If you are not on social media you are missing out. Social media is a great way to interact with your customers and form a bond while representing everything that your brand encompasses.
When it comes to social media, your brand consist of a profile image, and a cover photo… but there is another key factor that does more for your brand than a logo ever will. And that is you. Or the person that runs your social media accounts. It is important that the person interacting with customers on social media, is an ambassador of everything your brand represents. Branding does not stop at your graphics. It continues in every employee. It is in how they talk, how they smile, how they dress, their grammar. Your interactions on social media are the ultimate brand marketing tool. While your graphics are very important on social media, so are your interactions with the public. Make sure while designing your social media presence, you consider the personality of the account. And that that personality matches your brand and the customers you are trying to appeal to.
A business is not complete, without a beautiful website. A website is like a magic portal that will connect you with the millions of people that search the web every day. When your website is well representative of your brand, you have the opportunity to reach potential customers that would have never walked into your business otherwise. You will want your website to be consistent with your style guide. Use appropriate fonts and imagery.
If you follow through with this simple process, you will have covered most of the key basics of branding. If done properly, your business can only improve. The primary goal in branding, is to appeal to your potential customers. understanding who your customers are is the most important part of this entire process. If you do not know who your customers are, you may still appeal to them, but the goal of branding is to optimize that appeal, so that it attracts others that seek that same experience.
My name is Dennis Bosher. I have been a designer for over 12 years. My focus has been branding and web design. There is a lot that goes into branding a business. It can be tideus, expensive, and even nerve racking. In the end, if done right, the business is happy and the customer is happy. It is a win win situation that I love to be a part of.
If you need a qualified professional, to make your brand known, ScioMark would be more than thrilled to help. Feel free to get a request a quote and lets start peeling of the layers to reveal your successful brand.