Developing your business can be daunting. Figuring out your why, message, services and look is time-consuming and requires a lot of brain power. On top of that, you now have to research a bunch of terms and concepts that brand designers throw out at you? Ugh! I know, but don’t despair, I’m helping you clear all that up so there’s one less thing on your to-do list.
I always aim to make everything on my site as easy to comprehend as possible, but in all my years in the industry, I have grown accustomed to certain terms and concepts that I sometimes forget are not day-to-day lingo to the people who come seeking my services. In today’s post, I’m going to demystify some of the broader design & branding concepts for you.
Often times people confuse branding and logo design. They’ll ask for a brand, expecting only a logo and then get confused when a designer’s package includes “all this other stuff” like style guides, alternate logos, typography and color schemes. Conversely, someone might request a logo and then not really know how to best incorporate the graphics they received into their brand elements.
Brand / Branding
“Branding what people say about you when you are not in the room”
– Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
– Seth Godin, best selling author, marketer and entrepreneur
Your brand encompasses various elements, not just your logo. In fact, your logo is only a small part of your overall branding. Brand elements include:
To have a successful brand, you want to have given all these things some careful thought. Having a clear strategy, at least as a starting point, will help keep your brand consistent.
Your logo is a symbol or word that can be used to represent yourself or your business. Think of the Apple logo, Nike swoosh, Danielle LaPorte’s iconic signature, the little M. on the bottom corner of each of Marie Forleo’s videos. If you place these elements on a sheet of paper, you know exactly who they represent.
Often people starting out want “just a logo”, but once they have it, they find it hard to style their materials in a way that looks as professional as their logo does. They don’t know what fonts to use, or what colors work well with their logo. That’s why it’s important to look at your brand as a whole and not consider your logo as the end-all, be-all marker of your business.
Identity / Identity System*
Your identity system incorporates the logo itself, but also builds upon it. It includes things like your business card, letterhead, newsletter header, email signature… Anything in which your logo, color scheme, typography and other brand elements are used together to represent your brand.
Collateral or sales collateral are materials developed by a company to assist in the sales process. This can be physical printed materials or digital files. It can include whitepapers, brochures, ebooks, checklists, digital presentations, FAQ sheets, etc.
*I tend to think of an identity system as more of an aid to your branding style and overall look, and collateral as more as an aid to your promotional and marketing strategy. That said, in my own packages, I’ve grouped both identity system and collateral elements under “collateral” for ease of communication.
Strategy is a plan developed to help you achieve your goals. While strategy in itself is a broad term, I’ll briefly address the 2 main aspects that relate to your branding.
A brand strategy will help you get clarity around your business. It will define who you are as a business and what your message, voice and delivery might be. You’ll want to ask yourself questions like: What are my core values? How do I stand apart from others in my field? What feeling do I want to leave my clients with? You’ll also touch on visual cues like color and typography. This all has to do with defining who you are and how to best represent that to others.
Content & Marketing Strategy
Once you have your brand clearly defined, you can then develop a plan to get your brand noticed. You’ll want to consider what vehicles you’ll want to use to spread your message (blog posts, podcasts, webinars, live events) and how often you’ll want to do this (daily, weekly, monthly). Are you launching a product, if so, what steps do you need in order to make that launch successful? This all has to do with promoting the brand you have created.
“A target market is a group of customers towards which a business has decided to aim its marketing efforts and ultimately its goods and services”
Having a target audience is important in developing a clear, consistent message. I’ve said it before, but specializing and defining your ideal client is not about excluding, it’s about targeting the people you want to work with. If you focus on a core group of people, it doesn’t mean that you can’t work with anyone who’s outside of that. All it really means, is that you have a focus in your message, so you can better attract the people who are the best fit for you (and you are the best fit for).
Most often used in reference to your website or sales collateral, content refers to all the text, images, videos, audio files, etc. that will be used. The text for your bio page, your headshots, any downloadable files you might offer, call-to-action text… Content helps communicate your message, values and offerings.
I talk a lot about creating a consistent, cohesive brand. It’s not just me, a lot of designers and brand strategists say the same thing. Having an authentic and consistent brand is what allows your brand to be recognized among all other businesses.
Consistency comes by clearly defining your brand and sticking to a set of styles and rules you have set for yourself. Using a similar color scheme across visual elements, keeping a distinct voice & tone across your written and verbal communication and developing trust with your audience are all key in brand consistency.
Hopefully this is a first step towards better understanding branding a little better. If I missed anything, please comment below and I’m happy to address them.
Ps. Stay tuned for my next post, in which I’ll delve a little deeper into specific design terminology (such as typography terms, resolution, submarkets and contrast).
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