It is a common misconception that branding is the sole effort of a company’s Marketing Department, tailored to create a clean, message directly to their audience. The truth is that branding is created by consumers almost as much as by executives in a boardroom.
Every decision that a business makes shapes its brand. From your logo, to your business card, to your website design, to the quality of your product or service; every aspect of your business has an effect on the overall message. For large companies that support a substantial audience, managing these decisions can be an overwhelming and all-consuming task. Fortunately, as a start-up, speaking to your audience with a focused, clear and consistent brand voice is much more feasible.
Before you get started, it’s helpful to have a general understanding of branding. As a term, branding is often understood to be a company’s logo. In truth, a brand encompasses all aspects of a company, as perceived by the public. This can include everything as (deceptively) simple as a logo, or a tradeshow booth, to elements as complex a product’s smell or a history for customer service. Your brand is what your audience sees, thinks and feels about your company.
Where to start
Figuring out where to begin is always the most difficult part. When beginning the branding process from scratch, it is essential that you know what you want to say. This requires that you—as the business owner—ask a lot of hard questions and then come up with some concrete answers. It should be noted that your brand message should conform to your business’s core values. Despite the effort involved, this step is essential as it allows the people who will help to shape your brand make informed decisions that are congruous with the brand message.
Speaking a visual language
After you feel that you have a good handle on what your brand message is, it’s time to bring in a designer. Your audience will immediately come to conclusions about your brand depending on your visual presentation. You won’t always be there to give your elevator pitch when consumers are introduced to your brand. Instead of you speaking to your audience personally, it will be your logo, your advertisements, your website and your products themselves that all project your brand’s image.
While the visual impression that your brand makes can be unified, focused and clear in its message to the consumer, it can also be scattered, erratic and nebulous. By choosing to cut corners with your identity and visual presentation, you devalue and dilute your message.
Treat your brand like your body (only better)
The analogy of a brand as a living thing is quite apt. Your brand is always changing, and if nurtured, will continue to grow. You can’t develop your brand, leave it alone, and expect that it will flourish without your attention. Like your body, good brands are built around solid skeletons.
In the world of branding, your logo is your skeleton. It’s what everything is built off of, and what holds it all together. While no formula always works for a logo, having a good identity is essential for the health of a brand. A good logo is often the quickest, easiest way to reinforce your brand across a broad range of visual media.
It is crucial that the logo—or identity if we’re talking in broader terms—be the first step in the branding process. While it is true that the logo should be an extension of the brand message, it should also inform any and all brand decisions that come after it. Designing and choosing on a logo is rarely easy. Once you have decided on one, however, it becomes a tool for your brand.
You have the tools, now make something
While the logo is the beginning, it’s not the end. There are many facets to a brand, and they are continually changing. The good news is that as a start-up, your efforts can be more focused than a large corporations might be and your tasks more manageable. It’s easier for you to talk directly to your consumers, and get feedback from them. Use your size and flexibility as an asset to create a strong brand, from the ground up.
Written by Aaron Belyea of Alphabet Arm,