Hi! Today I had the honor of speaking at BSB's September Babes + Coffee Event! If you aren't familiar with 'Babes Support Babes,' it is a really wonderful community of women in San Antonio who support one another in entrepreneurship and all things business and friendship. (www.babessupportbabes.org)
Each month they feature a topic and this month I lead a discussion on building a brand. In case you missed it, I wanted to make sure everyone could access this information so I will be adding my presentation here along with some of my notes. Please reach out to keep this conversation going!
If your audience feels a stronger connection with your brand than your competitors then they will choose to buy from your business. Branding is all around us and we don't even notice. I like to think of it as the emotional side of business. It's what makes you feel gravitated towards a certain product or service. It honestly is how we inspire people. People shop based on the lifestyle they have and want. It's a way we express ourselves.
Branding is the art of expressing what you represent, from its personality to its purpose. And one way to express your brand is through design. Graphic design isn't just a logo, it's everything you see in a brand. Signage, Patterns, Colors, Typography, Illustrations, Social Media, Presentations. And no matter what you are effected by everything you see. Your brain immediately judges the brand based on how it looks.
Business is about making money, but branding is about making a connection. And that connection is how you create a community and grow.
So step one to building a brand is to define your brand. You cannot be everything and you cannot fit every audience. Your business will actually do better if you create a target market and speak to them.
This slide has a list of ways to start defining your brand. What is your purpose? Think of what your key differentiator is and what sets you apart. Think of what you specialize in the most.
You also need to be speaking to a target audience. Relate to them, whether its by humor, kindness, edgy-ness. Attached at the end of this blog is a handout with a chart on it that can help with that. This is called a brand archetype chart. You can google it to get full descriptions but basically, you are assigning one or two of these archetypes to your brand. It's like if your brand was a person it would be this. And knowing this really helps you know what you're all about and who you are speaking to.
I know it's intimidating and really hard if you're indecisive. I want you to think of this handout like a journal. Don't put a lot of pressure on these questions but let it come from the heart. These prompts are supposed to help you get started. After you know your purpose, target audience, and brand archetype you can take this one step further and jot down your values. What are some key bullet points that back to your brand purpose?
We're going to talk about establishing a visual identity next. This basically means creating your style, your logo, your brand guide, and all the elements you need for a holistic, well-rounded brand. All these design assets should relate to your purpose and values.
And then finally, staying true to your brand. You can always evolve and change your business. You can change up your services or products and you probably will. We can never really see it coming, but we all evolve and grow. What's important is that you stay true to your core. Why you started this business and how you want to help people.
If you google each of these brand's mission statements you will see they have a clear tone of voice and visual style. SunBum sells a lifestyle, not just a product. They tap into their audience by inspiring them to get out and enjoy fresh air. People fall in love with their beach vibe and resonate with their products because they have a story.
Magnolia's core value is centered around home and family. No matter what they do (cooking shows, books, home decor) they have a strong base and their design style and message always tie back to home and family.
Life Water found a unique advantage by connecting with rotating artists to offer more than just a bottle of water, but an art canvas. They add value by making this connection to a completely different industry and people buy their bottle because it has a strong aesthetic.
What if you already have a logo and a brand? That's okay! The beauty with branding is that it is always growing and evolving. There are two routes you can take to evolving your brand.
The first scenario is that you like your logo, your colors, your branding and you just want to make sure you keep up the good work so it doesn't feel stagnant. That's awesome! I would brainstorm ways to keep it interesting while living in your brand style. Every big brand does this. Look at Starbucks, they have a solid brand that works but every time you walk into their shop they are doing something creative and fun. Right now they are playing up their season menu with cute pumpkin graphics. Make sure you are changing it up every few months. Create new web banners for your landing page and new illustrations you can use for merch and presentations. Make sure your social media doesn't look repetitive.
Scenario 2 is that you aren't happy with your current brand and want to rebrand. The sooner in your business's life that you establish a great brand the better. It's ideal to do it when you are first starting or before you get really big because you don't want to confuse people but that being said you can always rebrand. Don't feel like you are tied to one brand your whole life just make sure you don't rebrand every year. Do it once and make sure you love it!
You can evolve your logo so maybe your logo's main symbol is a flower and you really like that but you don't like the style. Keep the flower as your core symbol but rebuild the style.
Or you can completely rebrand and have a totally new mark. If you aren't happy with your logo then please do this. I want you to really love that logo! It's so much more motivating and fun. It makes a huge difference! Magnolia completely rebranded. The only thing they kept from their original shop is their name. They told their audience they were rebranding and turned it into exciting news. It probably made people feel like they were in the know because they've been around since the original brand. They invited their audience to be a part of it. If you're scared your audience will be confused by your rebrand just tell them.
You also need to do it at a good time for you. A lot of people can't afford a huge brand budget in the beginning and maybe want to put more into that later. It can be expensive and I totally understand that! Maybe your brand purpose or audience has changed and you are ready to commit to a new one and want a logo that reflects that. At whatever time is right for you then do it and make sure that you are totally confident and in love with your brand.
Every part of your logo should reflect who you are. When I create logos, I try to find the most clever way of saying something. Your logo cannot be overwhelming. We all have seen logos that are just doing too much. I understand they want to say as much as they can within this little mark, but being subtle is so much easier on the eye. Your brain picks up on cues that you don't even realize.
This goes hand in hand with my last point. We all feel something when we see logos, especially women. Again we don't even realize it. We don't even realize how much that affects us. I bet you can look at each one of these logos and pick up on the vibe.
Last point I'll make on logos, please create a logo family. You are going to need to use different logos for different reasons. You at least need a vertical and horizontal version. I usually do a monogram and a logo symbol, too. You need a version that can be an inch big and still legible and a logo that could be as large as a billboard and still interesting. Logo families are also a great way to have a consistent brand without being repetitive or stagnant. if you want your logo on every social media post or every product on the shelf, you probably want to have different colors and versions to show it so it's not repeated over and over.
I wish more people knew the magic of brand guides. This is encapsulating all the design elements within your brand. It's one deck that has logos, colors, fonts, patterns, icons, etc. A lot of people skip it because it's more for internal use but I think it's as important as a logo. It will save you so much time and it keeps you true to your brand.
Branding is so much more than just your logo. This is the north star that guides your design. Before starting your brand guide make a wish list of every personalized design asset you would want. Also list out where you want to use these (example - packaging, merch line, social graphics, etc.)
Think about what exactly you need. And look at similar industries and what they do. If you are brick and mortar you will want to invest more in your physical store whether that's signage, wallpaper with your custom patterns, packaging shelf signage, etc. If you are online and mainly speak to your audience through social media, get some cute graphics that pair well with photos, and create a photography style in your brand guide.
Figure out what you want and need. Doing this will help ensure you have the right brand guide for you. And remember you can always add on to this later. Your brand is always growing.
Step one is that your brand guide has a strategic and consistent style. Brand Guides lay out the basics so you are organized and have one personal style.
You should always be using the same color palette and fonts on your social, website, packaging, etc.
I always ask clients for their wishlists before starting a brand guide because all the different design assets in this guide should help you save time designing in the future. Balance uses a lot of these custom illustrations in their space. We have some of these framed and it's great because it isn't competing with the logo but showing some of her values in a visually appealing way. You can also use these for merch, throughout the website, social media, etc. If she didn't have this then she would have no starting point when pursuing these projects and probably spend way more time trying to create social media and website graphics from scratch.
It's easy to want to follow every new design trend and mix and match different styles but a good brand follows one personal style. You can always continue to grow and play with new designs but they need to relate back to your base style.
Ensolum uses geometric lines and shapes throughout its brand. There are a million ways to play with their logo shape and squares and different lines but what's important is they don't start messing around with flowy organic shapes and circles because it's trending. They stick to what they established but have fun finding new ways to do that along the way.
Below is a handout I shared during my presentation and I highly encourage you to download this as a first step towards defining your brand.
I am so thankful that I was able to share some of my knowledge on branding. If you have any questions or want to continue this discussion please reach out! I would love to hear from you. I do offer free consultations and love to jump on the phone and help you determine the best steps towards enhancing your brand.
Thanks for following along!