In today’s over-crowded digital space, it is important to be unique. But it is more important to communicate that uniqueness to your audience. Creating your brand identity is the first step towards effectively communicating your uniqueness.
What is branding?
Apple, Google, CocaCola, Microsoft, Toyota – Even if someone woke us up in the middle of the night and asked us what products these companies sell and what industry they represent, most of us will answer them correctly. No matter where you are in the world, you have heard of these names and seen their logo in some context. That is branding. (By the way, these are the 2015 World’s Top 5 Brands as per the brand report by Interbrand.)
Branding is the art of occupying mind space in a market, using a unique identifier called a Brand – which can be a name, symbol, sound, design, reputation, speciality, and more. A brand is something that differentiates you, and sets you apart from others. It is who you are, your identity and your uniqueness in some form.
The Gap in Digital Brand Building Process:
I started my career in the traditional advertising and brand building industry. When a client hired us as an agency, we followed a 2-step process for brand building: First, we created a brand identity for the client. Second, we promoted the brand using various media like TV, Radio, Print, Outdoor campaigns, etc. Engaging an agency to do these 2 steps needed a big marketing budget and only larger corporations could afford it.
Today, thanks to social media, search engines and online advertising, small businesses and startups are also able to afford brand building activities. But often, we find businesses jumping straight into the second step of the process – promoting the brand, without taking time and effort to work on the crucial first step – building their brand identity.
This often reduces the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.
In this digital world, the audience are exposed to multiple types of content from a brand – blog posts, social media posts, images, videos, slides, infographics, etc. If these promotional content pieces are not well-aligned with the brand’s identity and do not fall within the branding guidelines, they might not create the kind of impact or results that a business is looking for from the campaign.
For example: Have a look at the following promotional content that we created for a single campaign. Even though each of it was created for various channels, you see a visual and written content pattern. And this pattern aligns with our branding guidelines. This means when our followers on social media come across our content, they know it is from Open Minds Agency. It has a particular flavour and uniqueness. It has a character. They can feel it. This helps them consume and interact with the content knowing that it is from a trusted source. This trust increases the reach, share and engagement of the content.
Creating your online brand identity: 3 simple steps for beginners
Your brand is who you are in the eyes of your customer, vendors and prospects in the market. It is good to define and document that identity. Where can you start?
The best way to get started is to create a set of brand identity elements/documents. If you have a budget for brand building, we recommend you hire a brand consultant or agency to help you create these elements/documents. Sometimes having a fresh perspective from an expert can help you think differently and ensure that you are not missing out on any crucial aspect of branding. But if you are a Startup or a Solopreneur with limited budget, do not worry, you can work on 3 essential brand building elements by yourself and start your brand building journey.
- Logo – Create a logo that represents your company. A logo is the visual identity that people remember. There are no rules on how to do it. Apple has a symbol of a fruit, while Google just has the letters of its name in a particular design. Both work. When you choose your logo, one thing you should make sure is that it represents who you are and what you do. Keep it simple. It makes it easy for people to recall simples logos.
When you have the logo make sure it appears in all your online assets – website, mobile apps, social media channels. All your visual content should carry your logo. Make it part of all your online marketing activities.
- Style Guide – A style guide is simply a document that records how you like your brand to be visually represented in the market.
For example, you can decide to use a specific set of fonts whenever you create a written content, image or advertising copy. You can select a set of colors that you like to use whenever you create a visual content. Colours are a powerful ways to build a brand. Google always uses the multicolour layout, while Facebook tries to stick to their blue shade.
Once you have these specifications in place, put them in a word document and you have a simple version of a style-guide ready. Some of the key elements of a style guide are:
- Visuals of the Logo, in different shapes, sizes, colors
- Tagline, if any
- Typography with details of the fonts for headline, body, etc.
- Color palette with various colors that align to the main theme of your brand
- Visual palette, which has the types of icons, types of images, layout etc., that you like to use in your campaigns
You could share this document with your design team or agency.
- Brand Identity Document – This is a document that has answers to all the key questions about your brand. This is a work-in-progress document that you will continue to tweak as you go along. It will serve as a reference document for your entire team to know how your brand needs to be represented in the market.
This document answers questions like:
- How would you describe your brand in 5 sentences?
- How would you describe what your brand stands for in 140 characters?
- What are some of the attributes or characters of your brand?
For example: Some attributes or characters of Open Minds Agency are: helpful, serving, educative, learning, focussed on digital space, curious, obsessively preoccupied with helping clients.
- Write down an elevator pitch describing your brand to a stranger in 2 mins.
- What would you like to see represented in the home page of your website, the description field of social media channels and in SEO search column when someone looks for your company?
- What is the uniqueness of your brand?
- What is your vision for your brand and how it will evolve in the days to come?
With these simple steps you have started building your brand identity. Evolve this process as you go along by updating the documents regularly based on customer feedback and growth of your business.
Hope this helps. Leave your thoughts and inputs in the comments section. We appreciate it.
All the very best!