Overwhelmed with where to start for branding your business, or looking to give your branding a facelift? Here’s a guide with the best beginning steps to start building a successful small business brand aesthetic.
Let’s face it: branding a business is a huge undertaking. It takes a lot of thought, strategy, and oftentimes research to piece together the perfect elements. It isn’t something that should just be thrown together. To define a brand’s voice, you want your target audience to understand your brand in more ways than just a written mission statement– it needs a visual standard to live by, a consistent tone of voice, and a foundational mission statement to keep it in check. Whether you’re a creative taking on a new role at a start-up company or an entrepreneur defining your venture from the ground up, you will need to become acquainted with key branding strategies to keep your brand consistent, visually on point, and understood by the people you want to draw to your business.
For seasoned entrepreneurs and newbies alike, the guide ahead will give you a great starting point to get your branding off the ground with a focused take to get the inspirational juices flowing.
First, You’ll need to…
USE YOUR MISSION STATEMENT AS THE FOUNDATION
Your mission statement is the foundation of your brand. It sets the ideals, principles, and values that you intend to uphold. Mission statements can be revised and tweaked as your brand evolves in order to keep up with your changing operations.
If you need a refresh or have never written a mission statement before, here is the Ultimate Guide to Creating a Standout Mission Statement.
Your product and service may change over time, but say for example, your brand’s purpose is to focus on supporting environmental initiatives (this should be found somewhere in your mission statement if it is a big part of your brand’s focus). Reflecting on this foundational value can help you compare it to your current business practices and also holds the brand accountable to maintaining this value. This is a great place to get started on the branding process because you can deep dive and ask questions that keep your purpose and important values at the forefront.
For an environmentally conscious brand, for example, you can ask yourself the following:
- Are you still taking strides to preserve the environment? How? If not, you can brainstorm with your team on how to bring it back to be a focal point.
- Does the brand voice reflect the brand’s purpose and principles to help the environment?
- Is there anything visual about your brand that signifies this stance?
Factors like these can serve as a starting point to evaluate what you want your brand to look like for your target audience.
CREATE YOUR BRAND’S TONE OF VOICE
A brand’s tone of voice is important to lock down and keep consistent. Early on in the branding process you’ll want to define your target audience and tailor your branding to attract this market of people. The tone of voice you create for the brand should be targeted to this audience, be something that is relatable to the consumer, and pairs well with the product or service.
Here are two examples to compare– both personal care brands owned by Unilever, with completely different tones:
- Dove soap focuses on building its consumers’ confidence level and promotes natural beauty. It’s tone is soft, uses positive affirmations, and makes the consumer feel like it genuinely cares. This brand’s tone makes sense because it reflects its purpose to build womens’ and girls’ self esteem. Dove has been running a Self-Esteem project to build around this goal, and using campaigns like “WashtoCare” in response to Covid-19 for handwashing promotion, and #SelfEsteemAtHome for body positivity. This tone reflects the brand’s purpose and overall intentions, which is clear for its audience in its mission statement paired with actual actions.
- Axe, on the other hand, focuses primarily on its targeted male audience, to make them look, feel and smell their best. When it began, Axe aimed to break up the dullness that the men’s personal care had traditionally been known for by adding its own touch of sex appeal, promoting individuality and testing the boundaries. It highlights in its marketing efforts how the brand will make the male consumer more attractive. This brand’s tone is bold, in your face with a cheeky sense of humor. Launching a “Find Your Magic,” program, which promotes individuality, the brand stays consistent in its brand tone by also naming its products things like Non-stop Hustle Antiperspirant, Better than the Hype Antiperspirant, and Adrenaline products.
Both brands above keep the tone of its marketing efforts and overall branding consistent. When I mentioned the brands above you were probably able to immediately envision its product, the tone, and all around branding style- whether you realized the branding techniques or not.
Think about what your brand stands for, and what it wants to say to the world. Build the tone off of that. It’s important to establish a consistent brand tone of voice so that your audience understands who it is as a whole and what it wants to say to consumers. Once this is established, building the rest of the branding will become a natural process.
DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF WITH COLOR
Now that we have your brand’s tone of voice– it needs to have a color palette! First, think of your brand voice for a second. The voice should match the branded colors. Does that seem like a strange concept– voice + colors matching? Let me give a few examples that should clarify….
- Dove, with a soft tone of voice, uses soft colors like white, gold, light pink and light blue for example. It matches it’s “caring” tone.
- Axe, with its bold tone of voice, can be seen using black, with bright blues, reds, and orange. It matches its masculine, individuality-focused tone.
Whether your brand voice is bold and playful or soft and quiet, find the right color scheme that is a good fit. I recommend using between 4-5 different colors that sit well together and can be used interchangeably between marketing materials, logos, web design, product, social media aesthetics and more. It needs to feel like a packaged product at the end of the day.
Build a color scheme that will be recognizable when you build up your branding. When someone lands on your website or social media page, they should be able to immediately feel the branding reflects your tone of voice and colors that the brand lives by.
A great free tool to use to choose colorways is Coolors.co. You can play around with this color generator and create as many color palettes as you want.
For branding consistency when choosing the 4-5 colors for your brand, make note of the hex codes. A hex code is a 6-digit alphanumeric code that specifies the actual color when you’re creating branding materials. That way if you’re choosing a light green color, for example, you have the exact version of light green that you want instead of some slightly different variation.
Down the line, you’ll want to create a brand book with this information. All employees and contractors creating materials for your brand will have to abide by the brand book standards for consistency. But for quick reference now as you’re just starting the brand out, I recommend creating a document with the colors in one place- a one-sheet document showing the colors your brand will be using. The consistency of color usage and brand tone of voice will make your branding look intentional, and your audience will start to gain an understanding of who you are.
IT’S SUPER IMPORTANT TO…
ADD KEY GRAPHICS TO PUNCTUATE YOUR BRANDING
Similar to the color palette and brand voice, it’s helpful to have a graphic that is also used repetitively on marketing materials as an extra branding touch. A small shape or texture to give your branding depth is a simple element that does a lot.
- Dove uses a metallic color for texture and depth, along with a swoopy “breeze” type of graphic behind its central graphics on products. It makes it more dimensional.
- Axe frames its labeling with a border color that matches the specific product. When you see the bordered graphic with bold pop of color, you immediately recognize the branding.
On that handy one-sheeter you’re going to make that has your color palette, I recommend adding a graphic or two, along with a textured color to give your branding a more in depth element.
Feel the branding starting to come together?! Woohoo!
ALSO IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE…
The cherry on top– aka the last key element for this beginner guide– is choosing and focusing on fonts that work for your brand. Think about your brand tone of voice and what your brand message portrays. If you’re an architect, a structural font would be fitting. If you’re a shabby chic boutique, a feminine cursive font would make sense. Really think about what would fit well together as a whole– as your brand messaging will be written in these specific fonts.
Chances are, you will probably want to expand your font options outside of the generic fonts provided on your computer. Google Fonts is an amazing free tool for this part of the process. If you go to their website, you can scroll through font options and even line up different fonts side by side to see how they look together. You can download the fonts for free and add it to your one-sheeter.
I recommend selecting about 4 fonts (or a variation of a font– like bold, italicized, etc). On your branding reference sheet, specify how each font style is used. If one variation is used only for headlines, write it down on your reference sheet. Be specific on how you want to use these so that your product and brand looks cohesive as a whole. If one is for body paragraphs, write it down. You’ll be able to see what looks characteristic of the brand you’re building, and creates more consistency with the rest of the branding palette you’ve been making.
IF YOU’VE GOTTEN THIS FAR ON YOUR BRANDING…
YOU SHOULD FEEL AWESOME!
Now that you see allllll of these elements coming together, what do you think? Do you love it? Do you feel confident about the packaged look of what you’re putting out in the world?!
Like the mission statement, branding evolves and changes over time as your brand grows up (like a preteen to teen, ya know?). Make necessary revisions as it evolves, but try to keep it in line with the branding you’ve been putting forward so your audience still has brand recognition. Something too drastically different may scare your consumers away. Chances are your target audience will be evolving as well, so stay in tune with what your audience wants and see if it’s the right opportunity to grow with them.
Remember: consistency is key!
Drop a note below and let me know how your branding journey is going!
hi there, I'm blaire!
I’m an expert at marketing & entrepreneurship, and completely obsessed with helping business owners transform their dreams into booming success stories. Sometimes it just takes an extra set of hands and another person’s perspective to make the business magic happen. Contact me today and let's talk shop!
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