Building a brand is no easy feat - to create a living, breathing, well-rounded brand takes time and energy. Before you begin to communicate with your audience, or even - if applicable - your employees, you must have your brand fleshed out. Your brand dictates pretty much everything: your message, which media you use to advertise, which font you use, your tone of voice, positioning, target audience, colour palette, the style of photography or images you use, mission statement, even your name and logo. So we’re going to run through all of these basics, so you can build a long-lasting, multi-faceted brand that will resonate with your audience.
Warning - mild levels of ranting ahead.
Your brand message is what you want your company to say. You should have three clear ‘audiences’ for your brand messaging: your employees, your competition and, of course, your customers. Brand messaging ties in all of the other elements of a brand, which are all listed and explained below. Every element must align with your brand’s messaging, and all fit together.
Name & Logo
Your brand name and logo go hand-in-hand. You can tweak your logo to fit your name, and you can make amendments to your name to work with your ideal logo. In Marty Neumeier’s The Brand Gap, he explains the etymology of the word logo: “The term logo is short for logotype, design-speak for a trademark made from a custom-lettered word (logos is Greek for word)... a logo, or any other kind of trademark, is not the brand itself. It’s merely a symbol for it.”. Creating a brand name and logo takes time and consideration - it’s usually the first thing that your audience will see of your brand, and needs to encompass your brand values.
Your brand values are the things that are important to your brand - not you, your brand. Your brand values should be impactful and simply-phrased. Don’t fluff them up. One of my favourite brands, Ben & Jerry’s, has fantastic brand values:
“Our Product Mission drives us to make fantastic ice cream - for its own sake.
Our Economic Mission asks us to manage our Company for sustainable financial growth.
Our Social Mission compels us to use our Company in innovative ways to make the world a better place.”
They’re honest - they want to be a successful company and make money; they’re driven - they want to make high-quality products; they’re socially aware - wanting to do what they can to make the world that bit better. When developing your own brand values, you have to drill down to the fundamental reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing, and be true to them in everything that you do.
Your mission statement simply explains what your organisation does, how it does it, and what your goal is. For example, IKEA’s mission statement is: “At IKEA, our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Our business idea supports this function by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”. I believe that it is important to make your mission statement more tangible so that you can set it as a precedent and appear more transparent and honest with your audience. An example of a mission statement which I don’t think does this well is Coca-Cola: “To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions. To create value and make a difference.” - it’s wishy-washy and non-committal. What does ‘refresh the world’ mean? And how does Coca-Cola create value? Value of what? If your mission statement leaves people with too many questions, they might just lose respect and trust for you.
Brand positioning is where your brand sits in your target market - how your audience perceives your brand, and where that appears in relation to your competition. Brand positioning can be determined by researching your audience and your competition and developing your USPs (unique selling points). You should know where you want to appear with your competition and audience in mind, and work towards getting to that place. Do you offer products/services that your competitors don’t, or work in a location where they aren’t, or can you market a similar service in a different way to appeal to a new customer base?
Tone of Voice
Where brand messaging is what you want to say, tone of voice is how you want to say it. It’s useful to have a guide to your tone of voice, for you to use across different platforms, such as social media, email, in advertising, even face-to-face. Is your brand more authoritative or approachable? Serious or funny? Your tone of voice may also vary between B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business). Developing your tone of voice is a lengthy process, something that you’re likely to always be working on, but a good starting point is looking at your brand values and writing/speaking in a way that adopts
Simply put, your target audience is who should be buying your product/service. If you are running a car valeting service, for example, your target audience would be, in a very general nutshell, car owners. There’s no point in marketing your brand to people who are not likely to purchase from you. You can have different segments of targeted audiences as well, so you can tailor your message to suit them, so they’re more likely to buy from you. For example, a gym membership could appeal to a variety of target audiences: hard-core bodybuilders, professionals looking to exercise more, people looking to lose weight, or even parents looking for swimming classes for their children.
I can’t stress this enough. Use very few fonts for your brand. If you use too many, they will clash, and look messy to your audience. If possible, use one font in a few different weights (experimenting with italics or boldness). The font(s) you choose should be easy to read (both in your colour palette and in black and white/greyscale) and consider your brand messaging. For example, the brand positioning of The Financial Times (FT) would be drastically different if they were to use Comic Sans or Papyrus throughout their website.
Media, Photography & Images
Media and images are so important to brands - they can have more of an instant impact on your audience than words. So it’s important to make sure that they follow your brand messaging. This can take some investment, particularly for multimedia, like videos. Don’t skimp on your media - it will have a detrimental effect. Colour coordination can also be impactful, and something to consider, especially on platforms with lots of images and other media, like Instagram. Just make sure it’s suited to your brand messaging. For example, while a meme might work for a company like Netflix (for specific campaigns), it wouldn’t work well as an image for a B2B company such as Sage.
So that’s it - the basics of building a brand!
This is such a huge topic, so stay tuned for more in-depth articles about branding from NSC soon.