So, you’ve finally decided to take a look at your brand image. Whether you’re a fresh start-up or a small business that’s been putting off your branding for a few years, your brand image is one of your most valuable assets. It’s the first impression you give potential customers and how your current customers will recognise you for years to come. From awareness to recall, there’s no doubt you need a clear brand image. While it can seem like a costly investment of both time and money to begin with, long-term good branding should earn back it’s investment many times over.
Whether you choose to hire a professional or you’re diving into your brand image solo, here are some of our top professional brand image tips for start-ups.
Some comprehensive research will underpin all your other branding decisions. From tone of voice to logo design, without the right research, these decisions are random guesses. To get your branding right, you’ll need to research three key areas.
The target audience
The customer is always right, so put them at the centre of everything you do. Selecting and researching your target audience will give all your branding a clear focus which will help keep everything consistent. The more niche your target audience, the more focused and targeted you can make your brand image. Avoid trying to be all things to all people and instead concentrate on directly answering the main problems and needs of your target audience.
Next up, your competitors. These are any of the businesses targeting the same customers as you and collectively they make up the market landscape. By researching, not only will you be able to benchmark prices and make sure you’re including all the must have’s, but you’ll be able to identify what competitors aren’t offering. This will find a gap in the landscape, an area where no one is standing out and that you can leverage. However you decide to differentiate your brand, make it the main pillar of your branding.
If you are taking on your branding solo, do a bit of research before you start. With so many useful resources out there for free, you don’t necessarily need to hire an expert to tell you about colour psychology or logo design best practices, but you should brush up on it yourself. Not only will you pick up some important advice and tips, but it will help you to distance your own personal taste and feelings from your branding. Remember, your brand image is for your customers, not you. Don’t rule out a colour scheme just because you don’t like it. After all, your customers might think it’s perfect.
Be authentic and transparent
Everyone respects honesty and customers are the first ones to sniff out a fake company. The best thing about authenticity and transparency is they go hand in hand. If you’re authentic and honest from the outset, then you won’t even have to try to be transparent. With so much to be proud of, you’ll want to tell everyone exactly what your brand is about.
If you consider yourself a bit of an eco-warrior and your brand is making real commitment in this area, then great. If you’re not, then don’t pretend to be just because you think it’s what your customers want to hear. Try and find a way to differentiate your brand that is still authentic to who you are, but if you can’t find a gap in the market landscape and still be authentic, then stick to your guns. After all, the most authentic brand will always win.
Keep it simple
One thing all of today’s biggest brands have in common, besides lots of money, is simplicity. Google, Apple, Nike, Amazon… All of them keep it short and sweet, from their brand name and tagline to their logo and colour scheme. More often than not the simplest designs are the best because they’re easy to understand straight away, which makes them easy to remember in the future. Recall is the biggest measure of brand success, so coming up with something your customers can easily understand and recognise is key.
Simplicity is also fairly timeless. Although brands can update their logo and look from time to time, the big brands do this rarely and usually always stick to just upgrading their current look. They can do this because they didn’t fall into the trend trap when choosing their brand image to begin with. Design trends like drop shadows, bevelling and other whacky effects can quickly rise and fall in popularity. While you may be trendy today, tomorrow you may find yourself in need of a costly and time-consuming facelift.
Think about all your ‘touchpoints’
Touchpoints are all the areas your potential and current customers come into contact with your brand. Whether you’re based solely online, welcome customers into the office or have a brick and mortar presence, you’ll need to think about how your brand is represented everywhere.
It’s important to list all your touch points before you go ahead and start making your brand ideas a reality because where you put your brand might influence the design. Social media profile images, for example, often look better with a stacked logo. This is a sort of shortened version of your logo designed for a small square space, and not considering your stacked logo to start with could mean you end up with a final logo that is awkward to fit into certain spaces and isn’t easily edited.
A good example of this is with uniform or promotional clothing. Many businesses find themselves needing branded clothing at some point, whether its t-shirts for an exhibition or hospitality uniform for restaurants and hotels. For new businesses who haven’t thought much about their logo or branding before, printing can be a real eye-opener. Some detailing simply isn’t possible in certain types and size of print, while other logos or fonts just don’t look as good. This usually comes down to our previous tip, simplicity. Complex branding can be a serious pain to print, whether it’s clothing or business cards.
Need help deciding on a logo that looks just as good on your shirt as it does on your website? We’re always happy to give corporate wear advice.
Plan and establish your brand guidelines
Our final tip may seem obvious but is often overlooked or purposely ignored by many start-ups. While it can be time-consuming, putting your final brand image guidelines down onto paper is essential to keep all your future branding focused and on track. Consistency really is key, and deviations from your regular banding can be confusing and off-putting for customers. Plus, it just doesn’t look very professional.
As your business grows you’ll be thankful to have some official brand guidelines to refer to, especially if you begin working with agencies or other outside businesses that might not know your branding off the top of their heads.