Building a brand is about more than having a library of assets and an aesthetically pleasing color palette. Your brand identity is the secret sauce that differentiates you from your competitors. Take one glimpse at iconic brands like Coca-Cola or Target, and you’ll realize there’s nothing more critical to the success of your business than your brand identity.
Thumbing through corporate brand guides can be like wading through a sea of colorful logos and typography, but that’s not the best place to start when building a brand identity. To craft a presence that gets your business recognized, you’ll want to include the following nine items in your overall brand identity.
1: A Brand Strategy
Like every good product or service, every brand starts with an idea, and uses it as a foundation to build a marketing powerhouse. To solidify the “why” behind your brand, ask yourself a few clarifying questions, and begin to articulate your company’s mission. What makes you different? Why should consumers choose your brand over the competition? What value are you providing to your customers?
Your brand strategy should not only be about why you started the company and what’s important to you, but also about where your brand is going in the future. A brand identity doesn’t just capture who you are but also who you want to be.
2: A Unique Voice
Before you can raise your voice to get attention, you must figure out what it sounds like. One of the first steps to developing a brand voice is to conduct market research and dig into the details. Don’t just parrot what you think customers want. Figuring out your targeted audience’s unarticulated needs and desires is the secret to getting your brand voice to resonate.
Secondly, develop a persona for your brand that will help everyone on your team visualize who you are. This isn’t about physical attributes or assets but rather tone of voice and character. Your brand identity is the face of the business that you show to the world, but the brand voice conveys your message.
3: Tantalizing Typography
The devil is in the details, and when it comes to branding, that’s precisely where you should start. Whether you choose serif, sans serif, or script, typography matters. Sans serif fonts can convey a modern, minimalistic feel while serif can seem old school. Most designers advise choosing 2-3 complimentary fonts within the same typeface so you can stay consistent across all your assets.
4: Specific Shapes and Lines
Before you begin slapping together logos, take a step back and think big picture. You want to maximize your brand’s visual impact so that elements of the design work together seamlessly. It’s also important to be practical and create something flexible, easy to apply, and has the ability to evolve as your business grows.
You may not have noticed, but different shapes and lines create different impressions. It’s a particularly effective element of brand design that marketers often overlook. Think about whether you want shapes with rounded edges or if your brand is better encapsulated by vertical or horizontal lines. Round shapes communicate inclusion, while straight-edged shapes provide the comfort of control.
5: Inspiring Color Palettes
For marketers and designers alike, this is where the fun starts. Picking a color palette appeals to the artist in all of us but take care that your choices reinforce your brand identity, not personal preference. Color invokes a powerful emotional response that is often subconscious but will have a significant impact on how your brand is perceived by customers.
There are lots of tools online to help you dial in your brand color palette and suggest complementary shades you might not have considered. Start by creating a mood board on Pinterest and see where your eyes take you. Generally, reds, oranges, and yellows communicate action and intensity, while greens and blues convey tranquility and trust. Whatever palette you end up painting with, make sure the color choices not only create an aesthetic to appeal to consumers, but also communicate something crucial about your brand identity. For example, below is Facebook’s Branding color palette which we see consistently throughout the website and app.
6: A Compelling Logo
Logos are like visual shorthand for your brand identity. They become a representation of your business and the trademark of your company. Designing a logo isn’t just about coming up with something clever. Logos should also communicate what your brand values. Whether it has a clean aesthetic, a classic vibe, or drips luxury, your logo is often your first chance to make an impression.
Check out the competition before you give it the stamp of approval to ensure your logo is unique but doesn’t veer too dramatically from industry expectations. For instance, a bank logo probably shouldn’t have flowery script and a hot pink background unless it’s intentionally conveying something about brand identity. For some tips on how to create beautiful typographic logos, click here.
Remember that your logo needs the ability to change and evolve with your business, take a look at how the Apple logo has changed over the past 40 years.
7: Library of Assets
Now that you’ve got your design components in place, it’s time to build a library of assets. Design assets are manifestations of brand identity, and every interaction with your branding is an opportunity to continue the conversation with potential customers. Certainly, your library of assets should include logos of various sizes and backgrounds, typography, and color palettes. But it should also encompass branded product packaging, business cards, email and newsletter designs, internal and sales presentations, photography, illustrations, and infographics. It’s also important to consider how your marketing team will manage all of these branded assets, and what solution will be the best fit for your business.
Many companies leverage the power of digital asset management systems to help bring their brand and digital content to the next level. A digital asset management solution is a one stop shop that has the ability to house all of your branded content including photos, videos, and documents. Inside the DAM you can easily find, edit, and distribute content to the right people, at the right time. Think of it as a virtual archive of all of your branded assets, with the ability to quickly find the content you need, there’s no doubt a DAM solution will save your team precious time.
8: Consistent Website Design
Once you’ve built out your brand identity and applied it to an army of assets, don’t forget about your website. Your online presence is your face on the internet, and it should reflect your brand identity both in design and content. If you’re starting from scratch with a new website, think about finding a platform that reflects the aesthetics of your brand. For instance, WordPress is known for plug-ins and customization, while Squarespace has a passion for white space and visual presentation. Choose a virtual sandbox to build in that aligns with your brand identity. It’s important to be sure that your website design is compatible and can be navigated on any device.
9: A Brand Style Guide
Building a brand identity isn’t worth much if it’s not applied consistently. The key to keeping everyone on the same page is a brand style guide that clearly articulates each component of your brand’s visual representation, persona, and voice. Include dos and don’ts for the use of various assets, terminology, and even editorial guidelines for social media and content marketing. The more clearly defined each detail is, the more consistent you’ll be in the application of your brand identity in every facet of your business.
Once you’ve solidified your brand identity, step back and behold the thing of beauty it becomes but don’t rest on your laurels. Branding needs a frequent refresh to stay relevant both to the market and to evolve with your business. Aim to revisit your strategy yearly and update assets to make sure your branding continues to demand the attention it deserves.
It’s safe to say that your brand identity will serve as the foundation to your business. It’s important to consider what kinds of supporting solutions you will need to run your business and keep your brand strategy consistent. Building out your MarTech suite should be part of your branding journey. Consider how you will manage all of your branded content and marketing materials. Could a DAM solution be the right fit for the volume of content you have? Learn more about MerlinOne’s Digital Asset Management solution.