There are certain businesses that when you hear their name, you instantly associate them with their products, or their strapline, or their logo. Coca-Cola. Nike. JCB. John Deere. Right away you’re seeing the red of Coke or their other soft drinks. You’re thinking “Just Do It” and seeing athletes. You’re picturing big yellow diggers or tractors on a farm.

That’s the power of a brand. And every business – big or small, start-up or established – needs a good brand behind them.

Is yours up to scratch?

What’s in a brand?

The term ‘brand’ is a wide, confusing one. It covers lots of different areas. But the easiest way to understand what a brand is, is to think about it as a person.

Your business is all the internal workings of your body. Your brand is your identity. It’s how you look and act. How others perceive you.

The key parts of a brand are:

  • Your logo

This is the primary visual representation of your brand. The thing that customers should always see first. Make sure you’ve got a logo that you love, that really sums up your business, what you do, and what you’re trying to achieve.

See also: The basics of designing a logo

Then make sure you put that logo everywhere. Anywhere your customer might interact with you, make sure your logo is there.

  • Your mission

This is what you’re all about as a business. What is your goal? What’s your main offer and proposition to your customers? What do you want to do for them?

Ideally, this is the big vision for your business. Something that you can always refer back to, and something that will always guide you.

  • Your values

Your values are exactly what they’d be if you were a person. What’s important to you and your business? What matters? They’re the rules you’d like to live by, the things you always want to try and do.

Many businesses have several values that give them structure with their branding.

  • Your target audience

An important, but often overlooked, part of your brand is your target audience. Who are you trying to sell to? Who do you want to help?

See also: Identifying your target customer

You need to know who your target audience is so that you can make sure your brand is aimed at them. If your target audience is all farmers, you don’t want a brand identity that’s full of city centre images.

  • Your strapline and messaging

Your strap or tagline is that one single sentence – maybe just a few words – that sums up exactly what your brand is and what you want to communicate to customers. Nike’s “Just Do It”. McDonald’s “I’m Loving It”. Mastercard’s “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Mastercard.”

A good strapline gets the key benefit of your brand across to your customers. It stands out and is memorable. It forms part of your key brand messaging, the main points that you want to get across to potential buyers.

  • Your tone of voice

Your tone of voice is not what you say, it’s how you say it. Do you like to tell stories and paint a picture, like Jack Daniels? Or are you more straight talking and to the point, like Ronseal?

See also: Getting the right tone on different social media platforms

You’ll want to pick a way of talking and writing that sits well with your brand. If you’re in a professional service like law or finance, being fun and silly won’t go down well with customers. But if you’re advertising children’s parties or events, that’s exactly the kind of tone you’ll want to use.

First impressions count

When you’re planning out your new brand – or enhancing your current one – it’s important to remember that first impressions count. Although you might get the chance to put your brand in front of potential customers several times, you only get one chance to really stand out.

Your brand needs to jump off the page. It needs to get noticed. It needs to look amazing.

There are hundreds of thousands of brands out there, many of them your competitors. You want yours to be remembered.

But that doesn’t mean using the boldest, brightest colours you can think of. Your logo, your website and your entire brand need to work with your business. It needs to support what you do, not fight against it.

So take the time to plan out that look and feel of your brand. Use mood boards, get inspiration from lots of different places – online and in real life around your business and your community.

Keep it consistent

Once you’ve got your ideas and developed a professional look and feel with a brand logo, brand colours, brand font and brand tone, you then need to use it correctly.

One of the main problems businesses face when pushing their brand out is inconsistency:

  • A logo that changes – different sizes, angles and dimensions
  • Colours that are used in different ways at different times
  • Missing parts of the brand – sometimes the logo is present, sometimes it isn’t
  • A strapline that changes or is forgotten about
  • A tone that shifts – one moment it’s warm and friendly, the next, it’s blunt and formal

Your brand will never be remembered if it’s inconsistent. Your business will look very amateurish.

Take the time to get some solid brand guidelines in place, rules that must be followed whenever you are doing any marketing or anything that involves your brand. These might be instructions on where to place a logo, which versions of the logo to use when, what colours should and shouldn’t be used, etc.

It’s also worth investing in design templates too so that you’ve got all the basics in place, standardised across every bit of marketing materials and communication pieces. This could include letterhead paper, business card designs for all your team, a template for flyers or email campaigns and so on.

Be true to your brand

With all that in place, your brand should be looking amazing. You’ll have a great visual look which is consistent every time your customer interacts with your business.

They’ll recognise your logo and your colours, and they’ll know it’s your business talking whenever they read any marketing or information.

Then you can start to get creative. You’ve got the foundations in place so you can push your brand out there. You can try new marketing campaigns, new advertising channels, new products. You can get custom shopping bags printed or design your own branded competition.

You can try anything. As long as you remember who you are. As long as you know your brand.

If you’ve got the identity sorted, then all you need to do is remember it. Refer back to it. Keep it front and centre, and stay true to your brand.

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