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Brand Development: Everything You Need To Know
Brand development is an essential part of any business, no matter the size. Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t prioritize their brand. Most businesses think a website and logo are enough, but without coherent branding, you miss out on a ton of exponential growth potential. Developing your brand helps to create recognition and trust for your product/service and business. In fact, I would argue that branding is the most important component in building credibility and authority for a business. Effective branding is there to make sure your company stands out from the competition and is easily recognizable.
What is Brand Development?
Brand development involves the creation and refinement of a brand’s identity, message and mood. Mood is an important variable most articles on the internet don’t talk about. We will shine some light on this topic throughout this post.
Essentially, brand development is the aspect of creating a look, a personality and an emotional feeling for your business so your clients can relate to it, recognize it and are more likely to trust it.
The reason most businesses don’t work on branding, or brand coherence, is that they don’t think it will make an impact. Without brand coherence though, your social media, community-building activities and search engine optimization become nearly useless and cannot hold the compounding effects they would with an effective brand.
What is brand coherence?
Brand coherence is simply making sure your brand is consistent across and within platforms. If your branding is different depending on where it is seen, you break the consistency needed to be recognized and trusted. It creates what I call a Frankenstein Company because your brand is patchy and not put together. Let’s take a look at two companies in the ghostwriting space and compare their branding.
As you can see, Reedsy has a very consistent brand. The company has similar colours, the same fonts, image styles and an overall soft feel to it across different platforms. If you were following their social media, you would likely recognize the company by looking at their website and vice versa.
The Urban Writers on the other hand has a bold black logo with light whispy drawings on their website and the bottom image of a social media post, is red text on a blue background with an apocalyptic theme. This brand, although established in its own right, will likely find it more difficult to build awareness, and promote across channels than Reedsy.
We talk a lot about building an audience in this article, but this is critical for advertising too. When you click on an advertisement that feels different than the landing page it takes you to, it is counterproductive. Not only is it jolting for you to expect one thing and see another, but the aesthetic or message that resonated with the person clicking the ad is lost on the landing page. This results in higher bounce rates and lower conversions.
Market Research For Branding
Now that we understand branding best practices, let’s put it all into context. In most cases when a business or entrepreneur is looking into brand development, they already are incorporated with a business name. Your name is the true first step to your brand, but in an ideal world, it shouldn’t be. Research should always come before your decisions. Let’s dive in.
Determine Your Target Market and Audience
Always remember the goal of your brand, to resonate and speak to your audience. Let’s take an example from two beauty brands:
In this example, we have two companies selling the same product with two very different target markets. One is earthy and natural. It might be catering to an outdoorsy or organic-loving consumer. It is also not distinctly masculine or feminine and can target either audience on a mass scale. The other is very feminine and might target a younger audience based on the colours and fonts used. This is a perfect example of different brand moods. It is the feeling you receive when looking at each brand. Both of these brands feel very different, yet might carry the very same products.
Different colours, fonts, textures messaging and characteristics cater to different demographics and psychographics. A trained brand development manager or brand designer can distinctly tell the target market of a well-designed brand. I am not a designer and cannot reverse engineer a brand as well as the creatives on my team, but it does not take a specialist to feel the difference between these brands.
If you are an established business, make sure your brand caters to your audience. Do some surveys and testing, talk to your sales reps and know what your audience is looking for. If you are a new business, do some research on niches in your industry that are not well-catered to. It can take some trial and error to find the right niche and your brand may pivot a few times before you get it right.
Positioning and Messaging
Once you’ve determined your target audience, you can begin crafting your position and messaging. Your positioning determines what your business stands for, not just where you are in the market.
Your messaging is a result of your positioning, it is how you communicate and act in the marketplace. Let’s take a look at our positioning, messaging and voice:
A simple, yet perfect description of who we are and who we are not. This determines how we present ourselves on social media, our website and even on this blog post. It’s not all you need though. You need to narrow down how you want people to perceive you. Do you want to position yourself as a bubbly and fun business, professional, but personable or sleek and on the cutting edge? The examples of the beauty products above have answered this question perfectly.
Designing Your Logo
Your logo is the first design element of your new brand. A good logo carries the rest of the design process and provides a guiding light through your colours, textures and the like. The current trend for logos is simple with fewer elements. A flashy 3D logo is almost unprofessional in today’s age, however, may still be effective in certain areas such as kids’ toys or extreme sports. Let’s take a look at a few logos and how they evolved.
A logo needs to represent something. It needs to show what your company does and who you are in a single, simple image. Twitter above has a bird, representing a ‘tweet’. Nike’s ‘swoosh’ represents movement and speed. If we take a look at the IGS logo, we have a bar graph on an upward trend that melds into the ‘I’. This represents growth. This is a great way to evaluate your messaging and distinguish yourself from the competition.
Parts of a Logo
A logo has two definitive parts. As mentioned in the photo above, we have an emblem and a logotype. An emblem is the imagery in your logo while the logotype is the written piece in simple terms. There are brands that predominantly only use their emblem, while some almost always use both. Logotype may also include a variation with your tagline as well.
It is important to outline where you use each variation of your logo. This speaks to the consistency part of branding. You may also have variations of your logo in white and your company’s colours.
Logo design is as much an art as it is a science. I highly recommend you use a professional brand development agency to help with this. If you have a solid background in graphic design, I hope this guide is useful enough for you to get started without one. My main point is simply to make sure your logo is high-quality. It is the very face of your brand after all.
Colours, Textures and Shapes
This section is where the ‘mood’ starts to come together. Where you can start to see all the elements combine into a proper brand, not just an image or symbol. This is also where things get tricky. Let’s dive in.
Generally, a brand consists of 3 main colours, all with various use cases. This needs to be specific. Choosing blue, green or red is not detailed enough. Colours have to work together in perfect synergy with each other.
At IGS we list the specific colour, such as ‘leaf green’ and the hex number so it can be found on a colour pallet. We outline where and why the colour is used and what each colour represents. Colour theory is very important here. When the wrong mix of colours are used together, it is not pretty.
It is important to note that brand development is not stagnant. No element of the brand should stay the same forever, but it also should not change quickly or drastically. When changing elements of your brand, you should still be recognizable to your audience. We are currently transitioning away from our midnight blue for a new blue. Nike removed their logotype but kept the same emblem, small tweaks are going to happen over the years, but big changes should only be used if absolutely necessary.
Textures and Shapes
Textures and shapes are critical elements of brand development; they are what gives your brand life and personality. These elements when combined with your colours and messaging determine the feeling you bring to your clients. This is the part that brings it all together.
Let’s take a look at Crayola
This screenshot of their website shows a crayon drawing texture as their main background with 3D and cartoon-like shapes. This comes together to bring a childish, but memorable feeling to adults and an excited and creative feeling to children.
Your brand development agency or manager should pay attention to brands in your industry and what resonates best with your target demographic. Generally, you don’t want to stray too far from your industry’s general feel, but you want to be seen as unique at the same time. For example, a toy company may also be colourful and childish, but might still look very different from Crayola’s brand.
The best way to learn about textures and shapes is by example. Do some digging in your industry and really pay attention to the shape conventions used.
Branding Your Website
For most businesses, their website is the most important medium for communicating with customers. Your website’s design should have an effective user experience and be set up to meet your business objectives. Your website is an ever-changing asset, but it does not change as quickly as you post on your social media. Brand your website to your liking and mimic the mood on your social media accounts and other channels.
Your website is the face of your business while your brand is its culture and personality. Bringing these elements together is the first step to bringing your brand to the public. Base your website on your brand characteristics and your other channels on your website.
Brand Awareness Strategy
Congratulations, you have made it through all the steps of developing your brand, but the work has just begun. Many businesses don’t think they are big enough to think about brand awareness. In reality, even the smallest businesses benefit from brand awareness strategies.
Retargeting advertising is a perfect example of this. You only need a few people to come to your website to retarget them. People are much more likely to purchase after seeing your brand or website before. At IGS we are constantly making an appearance at events and engaging with our community. The startup world is not a big one, which allowed us to become a known marketing agency in our community extremely quickly.
Find the best way to engage with your audience and retarget potential clients. Consistency in your brand and your targeting is critical. Strengthening your community on your social media or blog is a great example of organic brand awareness.
Brand development is all about resonating with your target market. It is about speaking to the demographic and psychographics of your audience. To create the perfect brand you need to bring together all the key elements starting with your messaging and ending with your awareness strategy.
Branding is a complex art that should be done by a brand development manager or an agency. For those with a graphic design background, it may be a good idea to take a brand development course to understand the elements we talked about in this article.