3 Key Practices to Building a Strong, Coherent, Trustworthy Brand
Sometimes, we associate “good branding” with a pretty logo, striking images, or cool packaging. Though interesting, unique identity elements are a part of a powerful brand strategy, it’s important to remember: your brand is more than just “a look.” Sure, you may attract an audience by visuals alone; but, if you neglect the other pillars of quality brand building, you’re limiting your brand’s lifespan. In order to build a brand that generates interest and can hang for the long haul, commit to these three practices.
1. Define your clear purpose.
Just like a brand is more than how it looks, a brand is more than what it does. At sejo, our purpose isn’t to design branding products. Sure, that’s what we do, but our purpose is bigger than that. Your purpose is what drives you, it’s why you do what you do. We design branding products because we want to help makers establish, maintain, and grow a brand around their service, product, or passion project.
How does defining your purpose promote your brand’s health? First, it’ll allow you to discover your niche. Your niche is what makes your brand unique and helps you stand out in a crowded market. There are a lot of branding design studios out there. If we worked to serve everyone who might need to build a brand, why would someone choose us over our competition? We’re the new neighbors on the block–if we were just carbon copies of other branding agencies, how could we attract clients? However, since our purpose is to help makers build their brands, it sets us apart from other companies that also operate in the branding space.
Knowing your niche also helps you to know your audience. If you know your audience, you can target your offerings to meet their ever-changing needs. If you exist to simply offer a particular service or product, what happens when that service/product is no longer needed? Right now, makers might need a logo, marketing collateral, and a website. Tomorrow, websites might be obsolete. What would happen to us if our sole purpose was to design websites? Well, we’d have to close our digital doors because our audience only knows us for what we do–web design–and don’t need that anymore. On the other hand, if our purpose is to help makers build brands, our “what we do” can adapt to what makers need at the moment.
A strong brand outlives trends, and defining your purpose helps you to understand your niche and your audience, garnering brand attention and brand sustainability.
2. Design your brand’s identifying elements intentionally.
I may have given brand identity a hard time in the introduction, but it was only to illustrate that deciding on your brand’s look is just one stage of the brand-building process. Of course, it’s still important. Oftentimes, your brand’s identity elements (logo, typography set, color palette, etc.) is someone’s first introduction to your brand and, as such, must be designed intentionally.
Intentional design means that your brand’s visuals and identity elements should point back to who you are, what you do, and why you do what you do. 90s pop art might look cool and be in trend, but does that make sense when you sell soy candles and your brand is all about promoting a relaxing, minimalist peaceful lifestyle?
I’m not suggesting that you should have illustrations of all of your baked goods in your logo if you run your own bakery (please don’t do that), but what you do decide on should reflect how you want to be perceived. Even if you’ve never taken a design course before, I’m sure you know that different colors carry different moods. If you want your brand to have more of a light, fresh feel you might opt for lighter colors, pastel even. If you’re an all-naturals brand, you’d be inclined to select earthy tones like greens and browns. If you have more of a modern vibe, you might go for bright, bolder hues.
Of course, fonts and textures carry their own weights as well and demand the same careful consideration. Once you’ve defined your brand’s purpose and figure out who you are as a brand, it should be easier to understand how your brand should look and feel.
An intentionally-designed brand promotes a coherent brand experience. It’s what ties all of the pieces together and makes you feel familiar to your audience. When you’re designing your brand and establishing its look, be sure to ask yourself, “What does communicate? Does this logo design/font option/color choice fit who I want my brand to be?”
3. Develop consistent brand messaging.
I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I love Supernanny. If there’s a marathon on television, I’ll say that I’ll only watch one, but I’ll be on episode four or five before I know it. My YouTube “Watch Next” recommendations are littered with three-minute excerpts from the show; and, even if I’ve seen the full episode before, I still watch the snippets. I can’t explain my obsession with the show, but Supernanny preaches one concept more than anything to parents with unruly children: consistency. Everything from morning routines and meal times to expectations and discipline, kids need consistency. Kids need routine. And that doesn’t change when they grow up to become adults. In our house, we have pizza on Friday night. I associate Friday nights with pizza; and, if we miss it, Friday just isn’t the same. As much as we might change it up from time to time, there’s comfort in consistency.
People respond similarly to brands because consistency breeds familiarity. We like to know what we can expect. If I’m purchasing an Apple product, I know I’m buying a simple, user-friendly machine with a sleek and minimalistic design. I know that if I’m reading an article or watching a video by Gary Vaynerchuk, I know he’s going to compel me to stop talking about it and just do it (or something along those lines). When I walk into Moe’s, I know I’m going to be greeted with a “Hi! Welcome to Moe’s!” just like I know they’re going to respond to my “thank you” with a “My pleasure!” at Chick-fil-A.
To be consistent in your brand messaging is to be consistent in how you look (brand design), what you say (brand language), and how you interact with your audience (brand experience).
After you figure out who you are and the visuals that complement that, create a style guide, outlining your logo(s), your font families, and the proper RGB/CMYK/HEX/Pantone codes for your brand-specific colors. Include your key messaging–mission statement, vision statement, tagline, and any alternate/condensed versions–and any guidelines on how you want your brand to interact with your audience.
For example, I used to work at a nonprofit that served children with serious medical conditions and their families. In our style guide, we had the basics (the logos, fonts, and colors associated with our brand, and our mission/vision statements), but we also included guidelines on how we talk to and about the population we served. It was very important that we focused on the child first and the illness second, so we always used people-first language. We would never say “sick children” or “hemophiliac.” Instead, we worked with “children with serious medical conditions” or “a child with hemophilia.” Everything–from our look to our message and how we worked in the day-to-day–pointed back to our brand and how we wanted to be perceived.
After you develop this style guide, you must stick to it in every audience interaction, including and certainly not limited to your marketing collateral, website, social media accounts and posts, emails, phone calls, etc. People trust brands that are consistent in all of their messaging. If they trust you, they’ll keep coming back.
I’m not going to lie to you–it’s a lot of hard work trying to figure out who you want your brand to be, developing visual elements and language to match that, and sticking to it as your brand grows. It’s not fun combing through your website to make sure you’re using the same mission statement throughout or filling your Instagram feed with branded, thematic images. It’s tedious and challenging at times but vital to the longevity of your brand. I want to know: what’s the hardest for you to accomplish? Drop a comment below, and I’d love to help you out!