Your brand is more than just a logo and a tagline. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It defines the complete experience customers have with your company, and how they perceive your business and its services or products. A branding solutions for small business also helps in differentiating yourself from your competitors, putting your unique features in contrast with others.
Building a strong brand is essential for your business to grow. It will not only help you drive more sales, but it will also help you in your marketing efforts and SEO strategies. It will transform you from a small business or online store to a well-established business that will attract a wide range of customers.
But building a brand can be tricky. We’re basically shaping the perception that people have about you, by feeding them little pieces of information of your company. This can take place in simple ways, such as a fitting logo or emotional colours, but can get a lot more complex when it comes to brand personality or coherent brand stories.
In order to send you in the right direction, we created a Branding Guide for your business. We’ll walk you through some main elements of branding and we’ll explain the basics of how to build a strong and coherent brand.
What is branding?
Let’s start at the beginning. A brand can be defined as the name, logo, colours, design or other unique features that people relate to your goods or services. It’s the idea people have when they think about your brand.
Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
However, a brand doesn’t just consist out of physical cues that people recognise, but it also entails emotional cues or certain feelings people have towards your brand. It’s often the connection of the two – so the feelings that get triggered when they see one of your physical cues – that defines your brand recognition. Think for example about the golden arches that rise high about buildings, which will give kids a happy feeling. Branding is all about connecting with your customers on an emotional level.
Building strong brands
Building a strong brand should be a key target for every small or medium-sized business. See it from a customers’ perspective. Let’s say somebody wants to buy running shoes online. They will probably enter a search query on Google looking for running shoes, and in the Google Shopping results, they get to see a pair of Nikes and a pair of a generic brand that they’ve never heard about. Which pair do you think they will choose?
The chances that your product beats the competition are higher when you have a strong brand behind it. Studies even show that 82% of the customers will pick a brand that they’re already familiar with. So getting your brand on the map should be one of your main objectives.
To finalize our introduction, we want to point out the many ways people will get exposed to your brand. As we said, a brand is more than just a logo and a tagline. It’s also your brand colours, your tone-of-voice, your social media posts, your emails and even the way your employers behave. Since there are so many outlets, you need your brand to be consistent – so users get the same experience across all channels. And in order to build a consistent brand, you need to start by creating an engaging brand story.
- What is a brand story?
- The importance of storytelling
- Powerful brand stories
- How to create a brand story
What is a brand story
“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
A brand all starts with your brand story. A brand story includes what your brand stands for, what your purpose is, why you do what you do, why you’re different than your competitors and how you see your impact on the world. It’s important that it clearly states your core values and shows how these are different from the rest of the world.
Your brand story will be the backbone of all your branding and marketing efforts because it shows the characteristics that make your company unique. Let’s say you’re a cafe-owner in the competitive hospitality scene in Melbourne for example. In order to beat your competition, you realise the importance of a strong brand.
When you ask yourself why you do what you do, the answer is that you want to teach people about good coffee. But this goes further than just making people a good coffee. Your brand story continues everywhere: from educational flyers in your shop to detailed blog posts about different coffee types on your website. But even your employees can greet people in the store by giving them a fun fact about your delicious coffee.
‘People don’t know much about good coffee, so I want to teach them about this by giving them inside tips’ is a brand story in a nutshell. Your brand story should include a simple statement, following the problem – solution – success formula. However, it’s recommendable to elaborate a little bit instead of just sticking to this simple statement, and that’s where the importance of storytelling comes in.
Importance of storytelling
Storytelling for brands is becoming increasingly important. And this has a simple reason: people love stories. It reminds them of their childhood fairytales or even TV-shows they follow today. They’re also easier to remember. And most important of all, it gives them the chance to emotionally connect with your brand.
A story is a perfect format of telling your audience who you are. It gives you the opportunity to explain how you originated and what drives you. It’s the text that will be shown on your About Us page, but it’s more than just some strategically chosen words put together. It’s the story that you should integrate into your marketing strategy and should be translated into every piece of content that you make.
What to include in a brand story
A brand story should include different aspects. As said before, the reason for your existence is important to describe. Furthermore, it should be very personal, since people connect with people. It will be the reason why they will trust your brand. But it shouldn’t be the biography of just one individual. It should reflect the personality of your brand. It should show that you can relate to your customers and that you can understand them. Because in the end, people don’t buy your product, they buy a part of that story.
Powerful brand stories
Let’s get a bit more concrete by showing some examples of powerful brand stories. When you look at the brand stories of the ‘big guys’, you’ll see that they were able to translate this message into everything they do.
Take Coca-Cola for example. They don’t just sell a soft drink, they sell happiness in a bottle. And it’s the happiness you’d like to share with everyone. All of their marketing campaigns are created with this message in mind – think about their Santa Christmas truck that adds joy to the Holiday period, think about the names printed on cans or bottles encouraging people to share a coke with someone, or think about the “open a coke, open happiness’-campaign.
Or look at Airbnb, where they don’t just offer people cheap accommodation, but they sell an experience. They offer a local experience in people’s homes, where you get a unique chance to get to know the place you’re visiting in the most authentic way. And they found a great way of letting their customers tell the stories with them.
When we look closer to home, Koala is a good example of storytelling. This Sydney-based start-up redesigned our idea of sleeping and offers mattresses for the digital age. Their mattresses come in a box, are easy to set up, and offer the comfort you would expect from a mattress. Their tagline is no worries, and this is translated into their easy delivery policy, the fact that you can try the mattress without any cost and that you can send it back for free. But it also takes shape in the fact that you can say goodbye to worries associated with other mattresses – like back pain or waiting for the delivery guy to show up.
How to create a brand story
So now we know how powerful a good brand story can be, it’s time to think of your own company’s brand story. There are a couple of things you should keep in mind when you’re establishing your brand story.
Keep it simple
A brand story should be simple so it’s easy to remember. It makes no sense to elaborate on every little detail or decision that you made while establishing or growing your company, but you should focus on the key factors and why this is important for who you are.
Keep it honest
Don’t make up a brand story that isn’t in line with what you do. Don’t go around stating you care about the environment if you can’t live up to that. People will know when your brand story is authentic and honest and if this is not the case, it will have the opposite effect.
Reflect your brand core values
Your brand story should reflect your core values. A good starting point is your brand’s mission & vision. Once you have a statement where you sum up why your company exists and where you see yourself, you can start developing a story around this.
Pull those heartstrings
Brand stories give your customers a chance to connect with your brand on an emotional level. So it goes without saying that you should focus on the emotional aspect of your brand story. Your story should touch people, move them and even inspire them. Think about the founder experiencing (a relatable) problem, and then creating an awesome product to fill this need.
Now we have our brand story in place, it’s time to think about the more tangible parts of your brand. This is the collection of all the elements your company can create to portray the right image of yourself to the consumer, which is called your brand identity.
First of all, your company needs a name. Deciding on a name can be tricky, especially since it’s something you won’t change that quickly. So you want to put some thought into this, and there are a few things you should keep in mind when finding a name for your company.
Easy to remember
First of all, keep it simple and make sure it’s easy to remember. Finding the right combination of vowels and consonants makes the name easier to pronounce, and thus easier for people to recall. You can either stick to a word that already exists, use a pun or create a new word. Don’t go too far in being creative though, because it might result in mispronunciations or difficulties to find you online.
Reflects your business
Choose a name that relates to your business or the products that you offer. Try to avoid general names or stuffing your brand name with keywords, such as ‘Melbourne Accounting Company’, but try to find an interesting twist to it. Alternatively, you can also choose to reflect some core values of your business, like choosing a name such as ‘Green Hotel’.
Keep it scalable
When you think about your business or its services, it’s important to also think about the future. When your company grows, either because you’re going to explore new geographical markets or include new products into your collection, it might happen that your business name won’t fit anymore. Think of a travel company called Aussie Adventures, that all of the sudden offers trips in South East Asia, or a book store called Melbourne’s Book Lovers, that decides to include music records.
Check domain name
When you’ve found a fitting name for your business, it’s necessary to check the domain name availability. If the domain name is already taken, you probably want to change the name before you start creating any marketing material or promotional documents with the wrong name on it. Make sure to check different countries, such as .com.au and .com, with an eye on your future expansion plans.
A logo is the visual representation of your brand. A logo is a very powerful branding tool, so choosing the right logo for your business is something you can’t underestimate. Here are a couple of aspects that will help you with the creation of your company’s logo.
In line with your brand story
A logo is often the first thing people see when getting exposed to your brand. Be it on your website, Facebook page or as a tag on one of your products – your logo should represent your company and fit in with your brand story. Even when you keep it abstract, try to create a symbolic representation of what you stand for. A vegan restaurant in Melbourne, for example, could include some leaves or veggies in their logo – so people know in the blink of an eye what the business is all about.
Keep it modern
Your logo won’t be able to stand the test of time. Logos go out of fashion and brands have to go through rebranding processes all the time to keep up with the latest logo trends. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow these trends – since modern logos will speak more to your audience and will often generate certain positive connotations related to your brand. Create a logo that has a modern feel to it, but be prepared to follow new trends in the future.
Think about colours and fonts
Colours are very important for your logo. In fact, 80% of the consumers state that colour increases brand recognition. In addition, colour psychology is something to consider as well. Studies have shown that different colours evoke different feelings, so ensure these colours match your brand. Another important thing is the typography for both your logo as your tagline. Your font shouldn’t just be chosen because it’s easy to read, but it also reveals a bit of your brand personality. Some fonts are proven to be seen as more trustworthy, while others represent fresh and modern brands.
Use a professional design
Creating a logo might be a bigger spend than you would hope for, but because it has such a major impact it shouldn’t be something you want to save money on. Logos created by an automatic logo generator, for example, will often work for the first months of your business but will have limitations when it comes to creativity or usability when you’re expanding your business. A professional logo design is necessary because it guarantees that your logo is in line with your brand story and your strategy. A branding and design company will be able to create a logo with the right tools, so it can be used for all your further communication.
Research shows that up to 85% of consumers see colours as their main motivation to pick a particular brand or colour. Colours are an important tool for your branding strategy, and choosing the right colours can make the difference between building a successful brand or not.
Colours can create powerful emotional reactions with people. Even more than a logo or a tagline, which can often only contribute partially to your brand story, brand colours function as a shortcut to your customer’s heart.
Colours give you the chance to influence how your customers feel about your brand, just like logos, fonts or stories give them the chance to influence how they think about you. If you combine this with the fact that different colours evoke different emotions, you can understand the importance of using different colours when you’re shaping somebody’s perception of your brand.
Psychology of colours
As we said before, certain colours have been proven to evoke different feelings. Blue, for example, is often related to a trustworthy brand, while orange symbolises a more energetic and fun company. Colours tell a lot about your brand, so it’s up to you to decide what you want to tell them.
Most of the bigger brands have picked brand colours that are in line with the psychology of colours. Companies as Coca-Cola and YouTube understood the excitement brought by the colour red, while companies as Ford and Samsung want to position themselves as trustworthy businesses with a blue colour. Black and white symbolise sophistication, something brands as Chanel or Apple know as the best, but bringing cheer is best done in yellow colour, like social media giant Snapchat or fast-food chain McDonald’s.
Colours as brand recognition
Colours are not only important because it might trigger certain emotional feelings towards your brand, but it also helps in creating brand recognition. Seeing your brand connected with powerful colour will help customers identify it in the future. Think for example of the Coca-Cola red, which did such a good job with this that it even turned Christmas red.
Brand personality is best described as a set of human characteristics that people connect to your brand. By assigning these characteristics to your company, your brand will get a more human touch – which is necessary for your branding strategy. After all, people relate to other people, so it will be easier for your customers to develop a connection with your brand.
A brand personality basically offers you a framework to shape the way people feel about your brand. And the closer this personality comes to your customers’ own characteristic, the more inclined they will be to purchase your products or services. That’s why you should always start with comprehensive research into your target market, something you can easily do by developing buyers personas.
Depending on the people you’re trying to reach, you can then choose characteristics such as sincerity or excitement. It might be a bit challenging at first to find the right characteristics, but it will help if you try to see your brand as if it was a person. Would it be male or female? Would he/she like to joke? Or does he/she represent a more serious organisation? Thinking of the main characteristics often contributed to brands will also help you to define which one will suit you best:
Once you’ve decided on what brand personality will contribute to your brand identity, it’s necessary to stick to these characteristics in all your communication. Creating a consistent brand personality will be more convincing for people, and thus establishing a trustworthy relationship with your clientele. This means that you can’t be the exciting brand on Snapchat, while you go for a sincere brand in your LinkedIn campaigns. Stay true to yourself, and don’t just change your approach to whatever fits.
Your brand personality often takes shape in your tone of voice. The way you communicate with your audience is very defining for a brand. This is because words and languages are powerful tools for shaping your identity. A language is not only used to phrase things in different ways, but we can also make use of connotations or word plays to express ourselves.
Finding the right tone for your company is a big task. You should consider word lengths, the difficulty of speaking, tempo, jargon, buzz words, colloquial expressions and even the fact if you’re willing to break the grammar rules or stick to professional language use. All these factors should be decided upon with your brand story and your brand personality in mind – so the talk fits the walk.
Mind your brand personality
We figured out what kind of person our brand would be, now it’s time to decide how this person would speak. Of course, it’s key that these two line up: don’t let your serious company use slang stuffed with buzz words. Think about characteristics that fit your brand, such as passionate, authentic or quirky and try to brainstorm what tone would fit that.
Think about your audience
Just like when you were thinking about your brand personality, it’s also important to keep your target audience in mind when developing your brand voice. Do you own a new social media app that focuses on young people? Or do you have an accountancy business that focuses on B2B marketing? It goes without saying that both would require a completely different way of speaking.
Whatever brand voice you decide upon, it’s important to not exaggerate. Don’t use cheesy language or overdo it in the youth slang. Don’t use jargon or difficult words when you’re focusing on big corporations. You want to target a certain audience, but this doesn’t mean you want to scare the rest away.
So, we’ve covered the basics of branding. Like you can tell, building a brand has a lot more to it than just picking a colour and a logo. It’s a complex process, where we almost shape our brand as if it was human. Now we have all our characteristics together, it’s time to work on our brand distribution and brand positioning.
Distributing your brand will happen on many channels, which we will review in the following chapter. But before we start thinking about all those possible outlets, it’s important to underline the importance of omnichannel marketing and how this relates to your brand.
Omnichannel marketing refers to a multi-channel marketing approach as an integrated experience. When we want to focus on a certain marketing campaign, for example, we realise the benefits of using multiple channels to get our message across (this is called multi-channel marketing). That’s why we post on Facebook, place an ad on Google, send an email and have a banner on our website. The more people will get exposed to your brand, the more likely they will be to convert. With omnichannel marketing, we go a step further by integrating and connecting all these different channels with each other.
Examples of omnichannel marketing
- A customer sees an ad and visits your website, which will trigger a retargeting ad on Facebook to remind them
- Your website visitor leaves an abandoned cart on your website and will get an email with a reminder and a discount code
- One of your prospects sees Instagram ads based on products he/she has viewed on your website
- Your happy customer has bought a certain item and will get related content, updates and offers in emails
- Your customers in your brick-and-mortar store will be able to scan a certain code to find more details on your products (which will then trigger retargeting campaigns)
All these examples have one thing in common: the whole experience, on whatever the channel might be, should be seamless. Your core message should be the same across all these channels, so your customer gets a heightened sense of familiarity. And one of the best ways to do this is by creating a seamless brand experience.
How it all fits together
Creating a seamless brand experience, or focussing on omnichannel brand experience, will help customers to recognise your brand. If they see that your Facebook post, your product page, your newsletter and your YouTube ad all have the same brand identity, they will have an optimised buying experience where they connect everything with your brand.
To create such a seamless branding experience, it’s important that we start with a healthy brand. A healthy brand is a brand that is a living and breathing entity. This means it has a brand story, colours, a logo and a brand personality, or in short, all the items mentioned in the first chapter.
Once we’ve defined all the characteristics that make up our brand, it’s time to show the world. And in order to make this experience as consistent as possible, we should start by bringing everything together in a brand standards toolkit.
Your brand standards is a set of guidelines to follow in order to create a consistent brand. It contains details about different aspects of your brand and it will function as the glue to keep your brand identity together.
By bringing all your branding aspects together in your brand standards, it will be easier for all your employees to stay in line with your branding. That’s why you should create an easy file, with as many details as possible, that you make available to everyone who communicates with the outer world.
What do include in your brand standards
- Your logo, with exact measurements, background uses, colours etc.
- Core values, mission and vision statement
- Brand story
- The fonts of your name, tagline, headings and paragraphs
- Colour palette with exact colour codes (both for designers and web developers)
- Your brand voice
- The characteristics of your brand personality
Creating these branding guidelines can be a tricky process, especially if you don’t have any professional designers on board. A design agency will be able to help you out with all the graphics-related stuff, but they often offer branding services with a strong focus on consistent brand experiences too.
Let’s first look at the digital side of things. Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store or your products and services are only found online, your company will have a place in the digital hemisphere. And wherever your business is, is your brand.
We’ll start with your website. Your website functions as a window to showcase your brand and represent yourself online. Branding on your website is extremely important and there are a few key branding elements your website just can’t go without. First of all, make sure your logo is displayed and functions as a return button to the home page. Secondly, your company’s name should be included, both on the page as in the URL. And thirdly, make use of the colours and fonts you chose for your brand.
These items might be no-brainers, but there are a couple of other elements you want to think about as well when it comes to branding on your website. Your website should give an outing to your brand voice and brand personality, both in your copy as in your visual presentation. But there’s more. Think about your user experience and how you can optimize this with an eye on what your brand stands for.
Let’s say you have an ecommerce store that focuses on beauty products, and you want to establish yourself as an honest and trustworthy ecommerce brand that offers advice to real people. In this case, you might want to include a chat function so one of your employees can help people in browsing through your products and finding the skin cream that matches their needs exactly.
Another example could be that you own a childcare centre that aims to have a fun and modern approach to daycare. In this case, you want to share happy videos with your customers, or even include a little game on your website.
Also when it comes to branding in social media, it goes without saying that your profile picture or avatar and or cover photo should be in line with the rest of your branding material. It’s even more important here since you don’t get to choose your own colours or adapt other branding elements, so make sure that you use the little real estate available. Think for example about your Instagram bio, where you get a couple of lines to introduce yourself shortly.
Of course, your brand voice plays an important role as well. Since social media is by definition a more personal platform to communicate with your audience, you need to make sure you have your brand personality on point and, more importantly, that you stay true to it. This means you should be consistent when it comes to your topics and make sure you post regularly to maintain the relationship.
A third thing to keep in mind is the difference between the different platforms. Sure, LinkedIn and Snapchat require different strategies but don’t forget your brand consistency and the importance of it. In the end, you want your audience to recognize your brand – no matter what platform you’re reaching them on.
Branding also continues in your email strategy. Since most of your emails will include Call-To-Actions (CTA) or links to your website, or they will be sent after a website visit, it’s highly recommendable to create the same experience on your website as in your emails. Make sure colours, fonts and spacing are the same – so customers recognize your brand and have the feeling they go through the whole purchasing experience with the exact same company.
A good way to give your brand a voice online is by creating fitting content. This can happen on a blog, as video content or through engaging social media post. By creating content you can share your vision and mission with the world – just make sure your content also carries this message with it.
Especially when you’re going to spend money on your marketing campaigns, you want your brand to be the big winner. There are certain campaigns that even focus on brand awareness only, and it would be recommendable to create one of those when you’ve just focused on a branding or rebranding strategy. But even in YouTube ads or Google Display ads featuring certain products, you want to make sure your brand is recognizable for your audience.
Of course, there are a lot more outlets for your brand online. Think about your brand name in the search results when it comes to your SEO efforts, or review sites like Yelp where customers can leave their opinion on your brand.
Branding also happens offline. Think about business stationery, flyers, posters, brochures and other printed material. But also signage, floor stickers, menus or price lists, TV ads or radio spots. All of these materials should be designed with your brand identity in mind including the right fonts, colours, taglines and brand voice.
Offline branding can also take place in events or the way your employees behave. Think for example about your accountancy business that wants to position itself as an authority, then it might fit your brand to organise an event where you invite a speaker that is an expert on taxes.
The offline exposure to your brand also happens when customers get in touch with everyone who represents your brand, ranging from your HR manager, sales executives or customer service point. In order to make sure they fit in with the brand you created, you need a strong brand culture – and good communication.
Your brand culture refers, just like your brand identity, to the brand values you’re carrying out in every brand experience. Your brand culture goes even further than just your online and offline branding but includes every interaction people have with your brand – be it your customers, employees or stakeholders.
Let’s say you defined your brand as a modern, hip and fun company that sells shoes online. You want to adapt your website, social media strategy and brochures according to the brand personality you created, but you also want to think of your overall brand culture. When people try to reach your customer service, will they have that same experience as they have on your webshop? When you’re dealing with department stores that want to carry your line, are you still a hip and fun company and will this get translated into their store? Or even just on the work floor, do your employees have the same core values as you and do you organise events or workshops to boost this?
A strong brand culture is something you have to work on, but it all starts with good communication.
First, make sure that your everyone that works for your company knows what your brand stands for. We already mentioned the brand standard guidelines, that should summarise the key points in one handy sheet that is easily accessible for everyone.
But to guarantee that your brand message will stay consistent, you might need some extra guidelines. Organise a presentation with your whole team where you explain your mission, plans for the future, what your organisation values and how everyone can take part in this. In order to make your employees feel more included, it’s a great idea to conduct a small survey so you can discover how they see your brand and what they expect from your company.
Furthermore, we would recommend having a meeting with your department heads in order to translate your brand culture into different divisions. This way, you can talk with your HR specialist how your brand personality takes shapes in job interviews, and you can discuss with your office manager how your brand culture can influence your office. Your social media managers will know what words they can and can’t use and your graphic designers will never misuse your logo or colours.
In line with having clear guidelines accessible to everyone in your company, you should also focus on the new employees. A good onboarding process will take you a long way. Make sure that employees who start within your company get an overview of the most important parts of your branding, and have immediate access to the brand standard guidelines and previous work so they can get to know your identity.
When you’re hiring a new employee, it’s also important to make them feel at home. Once they’ve found their spot within your company, they will be more likely to fit in with your brand culture. And don’t forget that your employees are your best ambassadors – so keep the spirit high!
Customer retention & ambassadors
Not only employees will help you to tell the story of your brand. Customers are great to include and will guarantee your story continues everywhere. By letting your customers become a part of your story you will create a brand that is more authentic. Furthermore, you will gain trust from new customers when they go off online reviews, referrals or word-of-mouth advertisement.
To maintain strong relationships with your customers, it’s important to focus on customer retention. Don’t let their purchases be the end of your story together, but try to hold on to them by sending them emails, updates, discounts and surveys. Make sure you listen to their feedback and implement this into your strategy.
Your most loyal customers could eventually become your brand ambassadors. A brand ambassador is somebody who has tried your product or services and loves it – and who isn’t afraid to share this with the world. Brand ambassadors can be normal customers, experts or celebrities, but they should always have enough credibility and be related to your brand in some way. A famous example of brand ambassadors can be found in influencer marketing, where you use influencers to promote your products on different marketing channels.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your office handyman talking about your brand, an online review describing your service or a YouTube star giving a tutorial about your product – all of these experience should be in line with your brand image. And when everything aligns, you are sure you’re on the right track to building a strong and consistent company brand.